Posts tagged control
Posts tagged control
The Death Of a Thousand Cuts
In Galatians 6, Paul writes, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
I’ll bet you think this verse is about you, about how you’re always taking on everyone else’s work, doing too much, taking up space, hogging the spotlight without being the kind of flawless creature the spotlight was made for.
It’s about the forces that contorted you into believing that every rebuke is directed at you. About believing that, when you are rebuked, the speaker is trying to make you even smaller and weaker than you already are.
That’s not who I am, but I know you have those people in your life. In truth, today’s posts apply not only to me, but to more of my followers than any posts I’ve ever written.
It’s been said that help is the sunny side of control, and Paul is talking to the “helpers” in our lives. The ones who, when you are 25 or 30 or 50, ride you until you make your bed in your house with hospital corners. The ones who say you smile too big, play too loud, talk about Jesus too much. The ones who sulk if you don’t do your work their way.
Paul says those people need to stop carving on you, and start working on themselves.
“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
Paul uses circumcision as a metaphor for rule-keeping that has nothing to do with following Jesus. While it’s true that more and more of us (me, too) are being hounded to shut up about Jesus, this verse also applies to those who nag you into following some Byzantine set of non-religious do’s and don’ts so you won’t embarrass them. Those who, when they get you to walk the line, brag only on themselves.
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” (Verses in this post from Galatians 6:3-5, 12-15 NKJV)
When those people start getting to you, remember who you are, and that the God of the universe died to make you who you are. That said, if you suspect that someone is trying to control and manipulate you by preaching the Word, read Monday’s posts for tips on how to deal decisively with the preacher. Then, come back to today’s posts for some hints about how to concretize your identity in Christ in your daily life.
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How the Devil Grinds You Down
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
The devil makes us think that perverting the gospel is done only by those sins we would never dream of committing, the ones with marquee value, like fornication, drugs, gambling. Those are sins, to be sure, but the devil deceives us by getting us to start small.
“Don’t run the garbage disposal every time you put food down there; you’ll wear it out.”
“Don’t order things through the mail; shipping costs too much.”
“Don’t eat in the living room; you’ll get crumbs all over everything.”
If you bow to this bogus authority figure when the garbage disposal, the money, and the living room are yours, you’re perverting the gospel of Christ. When that bogus authority figure uses the (shared) garbage disposal at will, orders things for herself through the mail, and keeps the house so filthy that you can smell it, you are not only perverting the gospel, you are worshiping a hypocrite.
You are not loving your neighbor as yourself or submitting to one another. How can you be when the relationship is so one-sided?
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
He may never mention Jesus, never quote Scripture, never invoke spiritual authority, but the person who controls you by “helping” or “correcting” is preaching a false gospel, and is cursed. If you obey him rather than Him, your efforts will be cursed, too. Jesus is both asking and permitting you to disobey and walk away.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (All verses in this post from Galatians 1:6-12 NKJV)
See, you don’t really believe you’re submitting or loving when you obey these frauds. You believe you’re buying security and acceptance. That’s a lie from the pit of hell. At best, you’re buying time between outbursts and we-need-to-talk talks. Jesus has freed us from that bondage AND the consequences of walking away from it. If it didn’t come from Jesus, it ain’t the Good News.
Grist Mill, Norris Dam State Park, Tennesse
Success Strategies From Paul
“I went [to Jerusalem] because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.”
Look carefully at this passage. Paul is not asking whether he should read Epicurus, whether it’s still cool to like Bill Monroe, or whether he looks fat in those pants. He is asking the most acknowledged experts this side of Jesus to ensure that he will not, by his preaching, imply that the church is divided. He is not quibbling over rules, but ensuring that love rules.
“And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile. Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.”
That’s how true leaders roll, no matter who’s in the audience. Our identity in Jesus Christ entitles us to wield the same authority no matter who’s trying to trip us up. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. That means you, and Jesus wants you to think like it, talk like it, and act like it.
“And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.)
Paul is talking about Peter, James and John here. You are hereby freed from kissing up to anybody — anybody!
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”
Idolatry is contagious. If Peter had trouble standing up — even after receiving the Holy Spirit — we will, too. Let the danger of infecting others and returning them to bondage motivate us to stand strong and build each other up in Christ.
“When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow Jewish traditions?
Loving confrontation is one of the hardest skills we Christians have to master — so hard that it can feel like dying (I speak from experience). Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13 NKJV)” This is the kind of death He meant.
“Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (All verses in this post from Galatians 2:2-6, 11-14, 18-20 NLT)
If you opt to follow the “experts’” and their laws, you are not only sinning, but building your own prison and your own gallows besides. The problem is you’re used to it. Some little tin god barks an order, and you shift into survival mode without thinking. How do you break the cycle?
Training wheels. The fact of Christ living in you sounds like so much jargon if you’ve never experienced it, and you can only experience it by asking Him in. Every. Single. Time.
“Use a serrated knife to cut those tomatoes!” Breathe. “Jesus, does it matter?” Listen for the answer from the Holy Spirit within you, and proceed accordingly.
Do this over, and over, and over, every single time some control freak gives you an order. Every time you fear condemnation or rejection. Every time you’re tempted to act on something you’ve been told in the past. Your ability to hear and obey the Holy Spirit is like a muscle: It only gets stronger when you exercise it, and you function optimally when you do.
You’ve been stuck in this powerlessness for too long. You deserve better, but trying to resist in your own strength is only making you weaker. Call on Jesus, and let Him use His strength to give you the victory.
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Just Ignore It
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
“But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” (Galatians 4:6-9, 17 NKJV)
Who says the Bible is irrelevant? Have you ever seen a more cogent explanation of emotional manipulation? Certainly not from me today, LOL.
Congratulations, you’ve given your heart to Jesus. You’re keeping His commandments, not because there’s a threat hanging over you, but because you love Him (John 14:15). You feel at peace, ready to take on the world for Him, and confident that there’s a purpose for you because He made you one of a kind.
Then, he calls, your former god. You feel the familiar pull toward intimacy, toward trusting too much and telling too much. Just like that, you’re in bondage again.
Perhaps you’re a little further along in your Christian walk. You’re eager to share Jesus with your tormentor, who suddenly remembers a very important date.
What to do, what to do?
Relax! Your old god hasn’t changed, but you can.
Paul says you need to stop letting this guy influence you. If you’re the second type, that’s easy: all Jesus, all the time. He’ll cut you off, be less available. You’ll have a party, and invite all your real friends. Fun!
If you’re the first type, please understand that this passage is a commandment to distance yourself for your own good.
What? You want the Holy Spirit’s power, and Paul is explaining that you’re in fact repelling it when you let this vampire back into your life. He is telling you to stick up for yourself. You won’t get that kind of love from your little tin god. Isn’t that what frustrated you about him in the first place?
Some people like advice, some don’t, but I won’t leave one follower helpless to avoid offending another, so here goes:
You are a child of the Most High God, and you don’t have to cross the street to avoid anybody. If you meet him, be non-committal on personal matters. Don’t give out details about anything. Be busy and distracted. Don’t lie and say it was good to see him and you must get together sometime. Move on. If need be, use the ignore button on your cell phone — a lot. Reconfigure your permissions on social media.Be happy and be yourself at long last.
Oh, and don’t manipulate and control your new relationships the way that others controlled your former ones. When you get the urge to nitpick or criticize — and you will, because you’ve associated those behaviors with power your whole life — call on the Holy Spirit who will guide you in the right thing to say.
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Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know
“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
Paul is perhaps too on-the-nose here, but he speaks the truth: Trying to earn anybody’s love by obedience is foolish. Still, it’s hard to separate yourself from the mythology that others have constructed around you. If you weren’t so … you, she’d be happy. If you’d only follow his advice, you’d make him proud. You step out of line, and somebody’s world stops spinning. My, what power you have.
“In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.
“Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.”
The funny thing is, you almost always feel powerless. You bend over backwards to make her happy. Her law is your guardian. Months, years, decades go by, but she still finds fault with everything you do. So, you simmer. Behind your cheerful, helpful demeanor, you are working up to a full boil. Then, one day, you explode, and all the suppressed frustration, hurt, betrayal, and anger comes flooding out.
You’ve spent all that time keeping your cool through every sharp word, false accusation, and ugly tone of voice from her. Now, she squares her shoulders like some ’40s movie queen and holds open the door, intoning, “Leave, please.”
The implication is that you are so explosive, so dangerous, so out-of-control that you’re too vile to be around. The truth is that you’ve been treated shamefully by a sociopathic control freak, but you have made her God in your life, and without thinking, you fulfil her every prophecy about you. You lapse into self-hatred or self-injury. Maybe you retire to brood, working yourself into a rage that leaks out in drunkenness, drug use, wreckless driving, or even physical assault.
After that, you’re so ashamed that you try to shrink yourself down so the monster doesn’t come out again. You flub the big career, the big dream. Maybe you never even try for it. You find a job out of the spotlight, unremarkable little hobbies, stuffing the pain of being some counterfeit but manageable version of yourself. If that sociopathic god of yours is still in your life, you experience a brief lull. Then, she resumes inflicting the death of a thousand cuts.
You’re so invested in her godhead that you have no idea what someone else means when they say that Christ died to set you free, that you are a child of the Most High God with all the rights and privileges that entails. That you are loved.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (All verses in this post from Galatians 3:2-3, 6, 12, 24-26, 28 NLT)
Nobody ever explained these things to me. It took me three years to believe that God loved me. I spent three years before that discovering that it was safe to love Him. During the course of this blog, I have felt as though law and grace were playing Crack the Whip with me. I would get a word that seemed to contradict something I’d posted the week before.
Then, one day, Jesus said that, for the next little while, He would not be coming to me every day. I was frantic. I didn’t know how to behave toward the people I’d been preaching to. Law or grace? “What do I do?” I cried. “One day you have me preaching law to them, and grace the next.”
“I never change,” He said. “You have continued in my Word. It’s not your fault. They want grace, but they don’t want to extend it. Therefore, they’ve put themselves under the law.
Jesus is a haven of rest from spiritual whiplash, but resting in Him means dethroning everyone else in your life. You can’t even do that under your own power, but that’s okay. God is all-powerful and you are His child. That means you have access to His power. Or, as it says in 1 John 4:4, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
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They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19 NLT)
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