Asserting Your Individuality

 

a silhouette of a man with fists raised in victory

The devil tempted the first man by trying to convince Adam that God is not the final authority over each individual. He also tried to get him to believe that man is his own god. When Adam fell for these temptations, he also fell from his position with God. Ever since then, there is no part of the human personality that has not been negatively affected by his fall. The mind, the will, the emotions—all have been affected. Man’s inner personality has been warped so much by sin that we cannot even trust ourselves anymore. There is, therefore, no need to look anywhere else but inside ourselves to find the source of all sin.

We think of freedom these days as being independent, having no master over us. But for the child of God, our first obligation before our heavenly Father is not to convince Him that we are free agents now, but that we have found a new Master we can willingly submit to. No Christian should submit to any of his former masters any longer, particularly sin and the Law. Paul declared himself a willing slave of Jesus Christ, because he realized that the only way to find the freedom we all desire and need is to submit to our new Master in Heaven.

The devil also attempted to deceive Jesus, the Second Adam. But Jesus did not come to Earth to represent Himself; He came to represent all mankind. The devil tried to convince the Second Adam to proclaim that He is the Son of God, to assert Himself before mankind because He had special rights, privileges, and powers. This was his central stronghold when he tempted Jesus. He told Him to remember who He is and to make use of His divine power. Then the world would fall at His feet. But Jesus replied that He did not come to do His own will, even though He is the Son of God. He came to Earth at this time for one purpose only —doing His Father’s will. “…not My will, but Thine…,” He said (Luke 22:42).

Anyone who becomes a child of God is set apart unto Him. He then becomes a target for this same kind of temptation. The devil wants the child of God to declare that he has achieved something to be grasped for—something he has a right to be proud of. But what was God’s purpose in saving us and setting us apart unto Him? so that His will could be done in us—like it was in Jesus. Jesus walked this Earth totally dependent on His Heavenly Father. But the devil kept trying to move Him away from this attitude to one of independence of God. Thankfully, he could not lead Jesus astray. Jesus displayed to us instead a perfect example of obeying, submitting to, and depending on God.

assertive woman writing

In some situations we may feel a strong need to be self-assertive. Feeling this need shows that we are struggling over who is going to be in charge. But if we continue to go around asserting ourselves, spiritual progress will end in our lives. What it all comes down to is—who will rule my life—Jesus, or me? We often try to raise our attitude of independence and stubborn self-will to the level of God, but without wording it that way. We say things like “strength of will,” etc., as if that was good. God does not see it as good, but as a disgusting weakness. The Man with the greatest will of any who ever lived on Earth was Jesus, but He never used His will the way we think of it. He led a life of gentle submission to God instead. Never did He act independently of God the Father. Never did He assert Himself or demand that His own will be done. Instead, He said, “…learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29).

A personal life merged with God starts displaying His characteristics, but not so with individuality. It only shows natural characteristics and they mock His meek and lowly Son. We learn from His Sermon on the Mount that individuality needs to be destroyed, while personality needs to be lifted up. How very important we think we are!—until God’s Holy Spirit gets hold of us. When God becomes all-important to us, we cannot totally abandon ourselves to Him until our own self-importance humiliates us. Human nature was designed by God for Himself. But when we declare our own individuality, our human nature is brought down to the selfish level of being just for me. Personality is a different matter. It involves being merged with someone else, like a young man who is totally changed when he falls in love. He is transformed from being someone out to please himself, to suddenly wanting to please his beloved in all things. He desires to be merged with the one he loves, as if they were one new person together. The two no longer remain as two, insisting on being separate individuals. Love changes all that.

What is the natural man’s main characteristic? Individuality. The spiritual man’s? Personality. Becoming a Christian means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator, which can never be an individual act.

Jesus never mentioned a need to be an individual, but only a personality, so “that they all may be one.” His own personality was a perfect copy of His Father. Once we become born again, God’s Spirit enters our personality and we receive strength and life from Him. He transforms our old selfish motives and desires into His own pure ones. Our personality is set free as we are changed from being an individual into God’s intended purpose for us. How does He do this? The key word is love—in becoming personally, passionately devoted to Him. Then we are able to extend this same love to others. We have not yet arrived at what we are going to become, because God’s grace is still working on us. He is altering our flawed old personalities. He does this by taking our human personality and merging it with His own power—just what the Gospel is all about! Our business as Christians is to make our individuality conform to God’s Son in us. If we truly want to be disciples of Jesus, we will cut the ties of individuality that hold us back and go forth with unsparing zeal toward our Savior, and Master—Jesus Christ!

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The Anchor is Secure

ship on rough night seas

As a seafaring veteran of over thirty-five years, Captain Reginald Clarbonne knew his vessels and waterways well. The forecast that day was for a mostly sunny afternoon with some clouds, moderate winds, and slightly choppy waters, but Captain Clarbonne still sensed that volatile conditions were ahead. He ordered First Mate Lisbon to have the crew batten down and secure all on the ship’s deck. Lisbon, although a very experienced officer himself, looked at the sky incredulously and again at Captain Clarbonne, who countered the glance with a slight scowl. Even the crew, who dutifully worked the deck as directed, maintained an air of disbelief. The skies were sunny, the temperature was very warm with the wind blowing rather strong, and the clouds showed no sign for impending concern. In spite of their reluctance, the ship’s crew and officers maintained a fairly solid respect for the captain, knowing that he only erred on the side of caution.

The Bernelle Collette was a sturdy and sound commercial vessel that had traveled frequently throughout much of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Clarbonne really enjoyed the ease of navigating her to the many ports of Europe, Africa, and North and South America over the past eight years, and he knew that she could handle most of the severe conditions that might come her way. His diverse and rugged crew was equally qualified for the task at hand.

For several hours the skies were spectacular, as the sun streamed through a varied assortment of clouds and the temperatures remained at a very warm level. Even though the wind was steadily increasing, there seemed to be little to warrant any concern. But Captain Clarbonne still remained adamant that rough seas were ahead.

Around three in the afternoon, the clouds, no longer a collection of odd floating shapes, had turned into one ominously dark, massive cloud that was slowly bearing down on the Bernelle Collette and her crew. Within an hour the temperature dropped significantly and the crew no longer remained skeptical about Clarbonne’s prior warnings. The ship’s radar showed severe storms approaching, with reports rapidly coming in from other vessels nearby of their very intense properties.

Captain Clarbonne well knew that common sense would say to turn around and go full speed ahead away from the fury that lay ahead.

Yet he also knew that the storm’s constantly evolving characteristics, as reported by some of the more distant vessels, could engulf him and create an even worse condition. He seemed to remember a small safe harbor some distance away. But he wondered—could they make it in time?

By five o’clock, the storm’s outer edges had already passed over the vicinity of the Bernelle Collette. Waves were cresting at five to six feet and starting to lash at the bow. The crew was growing anxious as the sky took on the appearance of nightfall, and crashes of thunder greatly vibrated the gear on the upper deck. They were reminded again not to question the captain’s judgment, even when conditions seemed to indicate otherwise. Captain Clarbonne ordered the ship hard to starboard, and then to proceed full speed ahead. He knew they had very little time left to reach the safe harbor.

At twenty minutes after five the storm’s fury was steadily increasing, with wave heights now cresting at nine and a half feet. Lightning was vigorously dancing all around the Bernelle Collette and the thunder was almost deafening at times. The strong heeling of the vessel almost threw Limmer, one of the few crew members still on deck, overboard. At the captain’s request, Lisbon ordered all of the crew below deck until further notice.

After alternately studying the radar and reviewing the navigation charts, Captain Clarbonne concluded that they were not going to reach safe harbor in time. The men around him knew what this meant—they would now have to ride out the full fury of the storm. When word reached the rest of the crew, many reacted glumly, full of anxious concern. Some grew angry and shook their fist in the general direction of the ship’s bridge where the captain remained stationed. They wanted to know why the captain couldn’t have turned around sooner, or why he pressed forward when he knew that horrendous and now deadly conditions were fast approaching. Yet a few crew members did not let their shipmates’ pessimism overtake them. They knew that the captain would, somehow or other, get them to port all in one piece.

A short distance later, Captain Clarbonne reviewed the charts again and determined that they were now in just the right place. He ordered the vessel to face the waves, then come to a full stop and drop the anchors. After the crew accomplished the captain’s directive with much difficulty, the vessel was at rest (if one could call it that). At five forty-five, the waves crested at over eleven feet and shook the huge Bernelle Collette with each passing blow. The officers and crew tried to remain somewhat calm, but worry still kept a strong grip upon their weary bodies. With the winds howling and the waves pounding the bow, many feared that they might not see tomorrow.

lightning at night

With the exception of intense flashes of lightning, the cloudy night sky and the ocean appeared to be one dark mass. Wave after wave kept crashing over the bow and draining off the sides of the deck. With each blow, it felt like the ship was gradually coming apart, even though it actually continued to hold quite well. Inside the hull shudders and groans grew greater in volume, and the cargo began to shift from its resting places as the vessel angrily rocked back and forth. The crew grew more and more concerned that the cargo might break free and upset the balance, causing the Bernelle Collette to list greatly and possibly sink.

In spite of the turmoil and danger, Captain Clarbonne continued to exhibit a sense of calm.

He had been through storms of similar intensity before, and he knew what the breaking point of his vessel would be. More importantly, he knew the density and strength of the rocky floor beneath the Bernelle Collette, and was therefore assured that the anchor was holding secure. Due to his long experience with the characteristics of various violent weather systems, and his knowledge of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Bernelle Collette, he was able to maintain full confidence that they would adequately weather this latest storm.

Although the storm lasted only an hour and a half, all on board felt like most of the night had passed by. By eight o’clock that evening, the wrath of the storm was well behind them. The clouds began breaking up in the night sky, where an abundance of stars had begun to peer through, along with the rising moon that illuminated the formerly restless sea. The air was much cooler and the wind continued to subside, dying down to only a very strong breeze. With a weary cheer from the crew, the Bernelle Collette weighed anchor and, with a slight starboard turn, proceeded once again standard speed ahead to her destination. Captain Clarbonne, a cup of coffee in hand, stared out over the gentle moonlit waterway and quietly eased forth a sigh of relief. He mentally chalked up this episode as he added another successful accomplishment to his seafaring repertoire.

In the great sea of life, storms are constantly battering our lives. Waves crash against us and we often struggle just to stay afloat. We try to fight, but we often end up being swept farther away from the shore into deeper and more intense water. Safe harbors we want to reach seem to constantly move more and more away from us, in spite of all of our determined efforts to reach them. We look for help from a nearby vessel and see none in sight, or one that is even worse off than we are. We naively fall prey to the storm’s lulls as victorious breakthroughs, only to be lashed even more when the interlude ends and the storm returns with greater fury. We seem to continually find ourselves adrift because we lack the energy to propel ourselves against the powerful waves that come against us.

Yet it does not have to be this way. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Actually, God brings these storms upon us in order to test us, to see if we will yield to Him, or continue on trying to navigate our lives by ourselves. No storm is too great for Him to handle, but every storm can become too great for us if we try to overcome it by ourselves. We need to stop doing the fighting and place our anchor in Jesus. Our anchor is always secure, no matter how difficult the storm may be, when it is fastened in Him, the Rock of Ages.

anchor underwater

Victory in life will only come when we place our complete faith and trust—“our anchor”—in Jesus and His victory at the cross. His sacrifice of His own life on the cross, which brought us victory over sin and death, was complete and final. When we fight against various problems and circumstances of this life (the by-products of sin) on our own, we are, in essence, trying to get victory over sin by ourselves. But He already fulfilled all of God’s requirements for the forgiveness of sin on our behalf. We must place our burdens, cares, problems, worries, sins and sinful habits, etc., into the arms of Jesus, and let Him take care of them. We must yield and let Jesus be the ruler of our life. We must ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him and then stop committing them. When you “draw nigh [near] to God…he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a).

It doesn’t matter whether you have been a believer in and follower of Jesus for decades, or have just found out about Him. He needs to be the rock you anchor your heart and life to. Storms will come and go. They will batter you, sometimes even tocapsized ship the point of death. But when you are anchored in Jesus, your anchor will hold secure, and you will be able to safely weather any storm. You cannot fight the storm on your own and survive. Jesus has already fought the storm of all storms on the cross for you, and He was victorious! Now claim this victory for yourself by placing your faith and trust solely in His victory at the cross. Don’t let the storms of life cause you to break away and capsize or just hopelessly drift because your anchor was in an insecure foundation.

Upon life’s boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,
I’ve fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul;
When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath’ring o’er,
I rest upon His mercy and trust Him more.

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

Click here for additional information about obtaining this victory Jesus has won at the cross.

Ask God

two women praying

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).

So what point is there in asking, if God already knows what you need? What we think prayer is—and what God says prayer is—are not always the same thing. Is prayer just a way to convince God to give us something? We should not come to God like spoiled children, demanding more treats and goodies from Him all the time. We should not expect Him to indulge our every lust or desire. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3). The real purpose of prayer is for us to get to know God, so He can have a chance to reveal His presence to us.

If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Jesus said to pray in His name. This doesn’t mean that we are to tack “in the name of Jesus” on the end of our prayer every time we pray. It means we are to pray “in His nature.” First we need to be born again, and then the nature of Jesus will be spread extensively in our heart by the Holy Spirit. When Christians call a prayer meeting together, they assume that Jesus will be present. But He said that He will come “…where two or three are gathered together in My name…” (Matthew 18:20 emphasis mine) or nature. They do not necessarily have to gather for a prayer meeting in order for Jesus to be present, because He is already present in each believer through the Holy Spirit (who lives inside each of them). Praying together does not have to be limited to a formal meeting. It can be just you and another believer or two and God will hear and be present.

woman praying

Jesus also said, “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). It is not lofty words, or majestic religious talk, or repeating our prayers over and over that move Jesus on our behalf. Nor is it all about how serious we portray ourselves as being to God either. The way to get in touch with God, the only way, is through acknowledging and accepting the life-giving death of Jesus on our behalf. Come on that basis and we will get God’s attention. Then we can be certain He will be present and will hear us when we pray.

“Ask, and it shall be given you…” (Matthew 7:7). Some complain before God and then apologize, while others remain impassive or indifferent before Him. But none of them actually ask Him for much of anything. Children certainly know how to ask their parents for something! When they want it badly enough, they make sure they know about it! They don’t complain or act indifferent. They zero in on what they want their parents to give them, and they ask, and keep on asking, until they get it. Jesus said, “…Except ye…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3).

Why not give God a chance to answer your requests? But if you maintain excessive confidence in your own worth or ability, you will not think that you have to ask God for anything. We wait until we are powerless and then we are ready to hear what Jesus has to say. Then we are ready to do what He wants. “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:15).

man in prayer

Our Lord said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will…” (John 15:7). This refers to what our will wants. We do not put our will into much when we pray or intercede for others. We often do it mechanically. Then we wonder why God does not respond. Pray for your brother or sister in Christ and ask God to help them with their present difficulty. Do not go up to them yourself and talk about it. Turn it over to God and keep on asking Him to work on their behalf and He will do it.

Come to God the way you are. Present your problems to Him, especially the ones you do not have a clue how to solve. If you ask God for your desires, wishes, and requests, Jesus promised that He will answer. Prayer does not really change things—prayer changes you. Then real change can begin!

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).

The Ultimate Temptation

cross against blue sky

Jesus was tried, tempted, and tested throughout His ministry here on earth. In order for Old Testament prophecy and all of God’s laws to be fulfilled, His Son had to go through the most awful agony and torture anyone in history has every known. Jesus, as man, could not dodge or skip anything that was sent His way. He had to be brought through all of this to fulfill His Father’s will. But He was never worried, perplexed, or concerned, because He knew that He was doing His Father’s will, and He knew that His Father would never send Him into something that He could not handle or that would cause Him to fail.

On the other hand, the devil (the ultimate deceiver) had deceived himself into believing that he actually could cause Jesus to fail. He was determined to find an area, one little place, where he could cause Jesus to slip and fail. He tried with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He tried with each of the groups of religious leaders. He tried through Jesus’ own family. He even tried through Jesus’ closest disciples. Yet he could not seem to find the right place. Then he saw what he perceived to be a potential weakness, when he saw Jesus praying in the garden. “And [Jesus] went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:35-36). If these verses are read quickly at face value, they make it appear that Jesus did not really want to go through the agony that was to come. And that He did not want to die (at least, not in the manner foretold). But read the verses carefully again. The last part of verse 36 stands out: “…nevertheless not what I will, but thou wilt.”

Jesus never did anything except what His Father told Him to do. He never cared what the people thought of Him, whether good or bad; He only wanted to please His Father. He was never out to fulfill His own will.

This did not stop the devil from trying to persuade Jesus to do otherwise, and he proceeded step-by-step to try to get Him to beg His Father to deliver Him from enduring the cruelty that was to come.

The devil also used one of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples, Judas, to deliver Him up to the religious leaders. When they came to arrest Him, Jesus could have slipped away, just like He had done at other times when His life was threatened. But He resisted and stood strong against any temptation or desire to flee. Another disciple, Peter, tried to use violence to prevent Jesus’ capture. Jesus stood against this temptation also, saying to those present, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Jesus knew He could give in and save Himself, but He also knew that if He yielded to any kind of temptation, His Father’s Word would return void.

Then the devil had Him tried illegally before the Jewish leaders in a trial that was rigged before it even began. With His vast knowledge and His connection with His Father, He could have easily confounded them with the truth and set Himself free. But He continued to stand against this temptation too. Even when He was sent before King Herod, and then Pilate, who found no guilt in Him and had full authority to set Him free, He remained mostly silent. Throughout all of this, despite the beating, mocking, scourging, and being forsaken by those closest to Him, He still stood by what He had prayed earlier: “…nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

Jesus’ ultimate temptation came when He was hanging upon the cross at Calvary. The devil knew that time was running out for him to get Jesus to fail. Up to this point, all of his attempts had been thwarted. Yet he still held onto the belief that Jesus just might give in. Jesus was physically beaten by order of the Jewish leaders, and then once again by the Roman soldiers. He was scourged to the point where most individuals normally would have died, and then had a crown of thorns shoved down onto His head. He also had to haul a heavy wooden beam for quite some distance. Finally, He was hung on that beam with nails (spikes) driven through the area of His hands and feet. He refused anything to dull the pain or lessen the suffering and agony that He had to go through in order to redeem every man, woman, and child from sin.

Not only did He have all of this physical agony, He also had the indescribable burden of bearing all of the sins of the whole world—past, present, and future. Yet He continued to stand steadfastly against the temptation to seek His Father for just a little relief from all of this.

Even with the scoffers and skeptics railing against Him as they passed by, He did not succumb to the temptation to leave the cross and the agony. “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43). His intimacy with His Father and His desire for the world to be able to freely have this same close relationship was greater than all of the temptations He endured.

Finally, Jesus reached the point where He knew that all that needed to be fulfilled had been accomplished. After exclaiming, “It is finished” (John 19:30b), He willingly gave up His life. Note that He gave up His life. He did not take His own life, as in suicide. Once again the devil failed. Not only did Jesus withstand the ultimate temptation, but three days after He was taken down from the cross and buried, He rose victorious from the grave and ascended (returned) to His heavenly home and His Father, God!

Jesus defeated the power and control of sin over our lives through His sacrifice of Himself on the cross. He made it possible that no temptation should ever overcome or defeat us.

He demonstrated the absolute necessity of prayer and knowing God’s word in order to avoid succumbing to temptation. When we yield to Him and develop an intimacy with Him, then whatever we are tempted by will no longer hold the appeal it once had. Instead, He becomes our greatest desire, and we will want to please Him. Jesus told us several times in the Bible to watch and pray. When we ride a raft down a swift-moving river, we should not wait until we are being thrashed about among the rocks and rapids to start looking for the paddles or oars and the guide on how to safely navigate through rough waterways. In the same way, we should not just wait until temptation comes and then desperately seek God for victory and deliverance from it. Jesus wants us to be prepared by continually trusting and following Him.

We are most vulnerable when we wander away from Him. When we take our eyes off of the cross and put them onto our self, our temptations then become more than we can bear.

Jesus’ success came because He did the will of the Father, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, our success will only come when we do not do our own will, but our Heavenly Father’s will also.

Powered by The Light

Electricity created from light is an amazing source of energy. If we were to stop and think about what causes this to happen, it just doesn’t seem logically possible that a light source, such as the sun, or even something as simple as a desk lamp, could recharge a phone, operate a calculator, or cause a small motor to spin. On a much larger scale, light from the sun can generate enough electricity to provide power for a single home all the way up to a small city, and even more. In fact, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to find something that does not have light as a power source.

While solar power is a rather cost-effective energy source, it lacks the large volume of power that more conventional sources of power (such as coal, gas, or hydroelectric) could generate for the same amount of physical space. Since the output of a solar or “photovoltaic” cell (the component that converts light into electricity) is not powerful enough, it cannot be directly connected to the device that needs power. A common method to accommodate this shortfall is to use a battery. The battery becomes the actual power source while the solar cell recharges the battery. This allows the device to continue operating for a limited period of time when there is no light source.

car battery

A similarity exists between solar cells, batteries, and true believers in Jesus Christ. When we yield to Him and allow Him to work in our life, He becomes the light source that recharges us spiritually, by means of the Holy Spirit. As long as we desire to be in His presence and do the will of our Heavenly Father, we are made strong spiritually. But when we do our own will, and manage in a way that we feel is best, we then move out of His light and into darkness. The more we are in darkness, the more that we are working in our own strength and power. Furthermore, we are not able to generate or produce enough of our own light to keep ourselves charged.

The result?—we soon run out of power and become spiritually dead.

The solution?—stay in The Light.

The means?—through prayer, reading and dwelling on God’s Word (the Bible), and by being obedient to it.

Therefore it is imperative for us to yield to Christ in a real relationship. The more we yield our self to Him, the more we are able to walk in His light. This will, in turn, keep us fully charged with His power and will enable us to carry out God’s will. A solar cell must be in a good source of light to generate electricity. In a similar manner, we must remain consistently in His Light for the Holy Spirit to work through us. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Let us walk in His light and keep ourselves out of the darkness.