Breaking The Chains
The refining process - ridding yourself of your old nature has traditionally been very slow. After we're saved, time passes, and gradually our old habits and bitterness fade and we can forgive.
"Get in the rocket and we'll see the world changed!"
I liken it to being in an oxcart: all our problems and old nature are heaped inside. All our chains are dragging behind quite often, attached to our ankles. This is the way we come into God's Kingdom. But many of us just enter and say, "I'm saved. Don't talk to me about changing another thing because I'll get really angry with you."
There are some who are more open minded. They get in the cart and plod along through the Kingdom. As time passes a few chains fall off, a few things drop off the cart.
Now in renewal, God seems to pull up alongside our oxcart in a rocket! Jesus calls over to us in the cart and says, "Time is too short! We have a big harvest to bring in before I come back. You can't stay in your chains and be part of my harvest. Why don't we just get rid of them right now? I'll break them all and set you completely free. Get in the rocket and we'll see the world changed!"
That's my experience with renewal. It touches the way people think.
Spirit, Soul & Body
In a spiritual sense, there are three parts to man - spirit, soul and body. The body is the temporary dwelling of our spirit and soul. It is the part of us that relates to our physical world. It is also subject to degenerative forces, which are common to everyone as a result of the Fall of mankind. Our spirit is the eternal part of us, which relates to the spirit world, both of God and Satan.
Our soul is our personality. It is the part of us that relates to other people and is the result of our accumulated life experiences, both good and bad. The soul contains a dragnet of experiences that shape our relationships and attitudes.
Before we are saved, we are part of Satan's dominion due to our birth in sin. We are subject to his influence as he molds our soul into his image. The longer we are in Satan's dominion, the greater is the accumulated damage to our souls.
When we accept Christ as Saviour, our spirit immediately changes ownership and becomes part of God's Kingdom. God then begins a relationship with us for the purpose of conforming us to His image.
The miracle is that God accepts us as we are "damaged goods."
At the time of salvation our bodies change very little unless there is an act of divine healing. If we wore glasses before salvation, then we are likely to wear them after. Our bodies remain subject to degeneration and disease until they are transformed in heaven.
At the time of salvation, our souls are damaged and full of hurts, scars, wounds, sins, habits, dysfunctional relationships and bad attitudes. This is the essence of our old nature. These characteristics are chains on our souls which have been placed there by Satan. The miracle is that God accepts us as we are "damaged goods". He does not expect us to change before salvation. He does, however, expect us to change afterward.
It is God's plan to clean us up through the "refiner's fire". This process uses the truth of the Word of God with the power of the Holy Spirit to empty our dragnet of scars and pain from our old nature. He wants our new redeemed spirit to control and change our contaminated and wounded souls. This process is known as sanctification.
This cleaning process is voluntary. We must permit it or we will remain fully attached to and influenced by our old nature. Our churches are full of Christians who have refused this process and remain controlled by fear, bitterness and anger. This causes paralysis of the individual and of the local church.
Satan doesn't want us to change. He opposes everything that God wants to do in our lives. Even though we are lost to Satan's dominion, he can still harass us by using his influence on our old nature to resist change. It is Satan's intention to use our old nature, which he shaped, to overcome the new influence of our redeemed spirit. It is God's intention to use our new spirit to overcome Satan and his influence on our old nature.
This battle is fought in our minds. The battle is to control the thoughts which shape our behaviour. For example, when God wants you to speak or act on His behalf, Satan will dig up something from your old nature which will remind you of past failures and overwhelm you with bitterness or anxiety so you don't obey God.
We cannot deal with our old nature alone. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to change it. The more damaged our souls are, the more tools Satan has to work with to oppress us. As we are healed by the Holy Spirit, the old nature is changed and Satan loses his foothold and flees. As we become free from the chains of our old nature and thinking patterns, the fruits and gifts of the Spirit begin to appear in our lives.
The Role of Renewal
This refining process of sanctification has been a slow, lifelong process for most people who allow it to happen. Renewal appears to be accelerated inner healing. But then, how do many of us respond when Jesus calls to us from the rocket and says, "Get in!"
"Alright! How do I get in the rocket?"
"Well," we hesitate, "I've never seen God in a rocket before. I don't think he even owns one. I know what God is like, and he doesn't do that. Oxcarts have been the tradition in our fellowship and they've worked fine for my ancestors. They'll work just fine for me. I don't think we should change anything. And you rocket guys, you're nuts. I don't even see in the scriptures the word 'rocket'." Some of the oxcart crowd adds, "We're going fast enough. We couldn't handle anything faster."
Others hear Jesus' offer and answer, "Alright! How do I get in the rocket?" Their lives are transformed, their chains fall off, they're empowered for service and they have fruits and gifts. But you know what rockets are like. They're loud. They shake.
And yet, this is a more intense refiner's fire than we've ever seen. That's been my observation of people I've watched go through renewal. That's what happened to me, my wife, and my church. This is a historic visitation of God to transform the Church so we can get on with the harvest.
The physical manifestations are merely the result of the refiner's fire coming with such intensity that it makes flesh react. But the manifestations aren't the goal. They're just a little yellow indicator light saying, "God at work; God at work; God at work." Everyone has a different sort of response. The point of the renewal is not what people look like during ministry time. The point of renewal is that people THINK differently afterward.
This is why the renewal appealed to me as a mental health physician. People are letting go of bitterness, they're letting go of their old nature, and they're becoming changed so quickly that suddenly, debilitating bitterness evaporates. They're saying, "It doesn't bother me anymore. I forgave him. The pain's gone. Now I just feel warmth and acceptance by God and I want to serve Him."
This is the refiner's fire of God available to you to see your life changed and your soul set free. Do you want to stay in your oxcart or do you want to get in the rocket?