We are created in the image of God; but we spend a lifetime taking on the likeness of God. At a genetic level we are predisposed to have God - like characteristics but the reality that that we experience in our lives in very different.
This tragedy plays out daily as we choose to be self-centered rather than God-centered. The fundamental struggle for control is what Jesus spoke about most often in his teaching. There are two kingdoms vying for loyalty and dominance - two emperors seeking to extend their empires.
The empire of ME is where I get my way. Every decision is made by me for my glory, comfort, power, and control. I will use every resource available to bend circumstances to my will. This empire is run by the laws of self-interest and is what Paul calls the deeds of the flesh.
The empire of GOD is a kingdom where God's will is done. God's will is often in conflict with my will making it impossible to serve two masters. I must choose. Not choosing is a choice.
Learning to walk in submission to God is a lifelong journey. It begins with a decision to follow Jesus whereever he leads, but that is only the start. Daily we are tested we opportunities to betray our God and revert to living the Kingdom of ME.
Spiritual formation is the process of learing to walk we God as our supreme ruler. In his empire he gets to call the shots and we follow his lead. His Spirit is forming our character so that look like Jesus.
The goal of this transformation is that we would be created in both the image and likeness of Christ. We are created in the Image of God, but we seek to take on the Likeness of God. Spiritual fruit is the evidence of transformation.
There are three major areas of spiritual formation needed to achieve wholeness. These transformations work together and result in us looking and acting like Jesus.
Integrity is the character to meet the demands of reality. Without the Spirit's work in our lives we will never be able to meet the demands of reality. We will relapse into selfishness and seek only our own benefit.
Apart from the Spirit's influence in us we become obessed with wealth and power. We seek only our benefit and lack compassion for others. Character flaw gradually destroy our lives and we do not experience God's will any longer. This is the nature of the kingdom of Self. We can never serve to masters. We must choose.
Health requires integrity, which happens when all of parts of our character are combines to create a Spirit-controlled personality. The opposite of integrity is disintegration, where the various aspects of our lives are at constant war with each other.
You can’t fake spiritual transformation. The move from disintegration to integrity takes us from brokenness to wholeness. It begins with acknowledging how broken we truly are. Then the Spirit works within us to transform us into wholeness.
The result is complete health and wholeness that can be seen in every area of our lives. Our emotions, relationship, and behavior must be touched by this process. I there are areas of life that remain untouched then it means the transformation is blocked at that point.
Core Emotions - the brain automatically triggers neuro chemicals that signal strong feelings
The brain is four times more likely to trigger negative emotions rather than pleasure. In other words while our brains signal both pleasure and pain. The pain sensitivity is far greater than it is for pleasure. This explains are why it is so difficult to remain happy.
Our physical bodies are looking for an excuse to trigger negative emotions. Therefore to be emotionally healthy means to take control of our thoughts and feelings. We our responsible for the thoughts and feelings that we entertain.
Depending on our tendency to slide into a emotional death-spiral we need to engage the antidote as quickly as we become aware of what is happening.
Each negative emotion has solution that involves inviting God's presence into our pain. The pain we feel is far greater and lasts far longer when we feel cut off from the his presence. Therefore gaining emotional healing is always an act of repentance.
Let's look at each of these negative emotions and see how they work. I have learning about this for the last couple of years and believe that I have stumbled on some truths that might be helpful to your.
The core emotion of anger is expressed in many different ways and levels of intensity... Irritation, impatience, rage, disgust, jealousy, and hostility. The cause of anger is typically related to being prevented from getting something that I really want.
Because I feel entitled to get my way it makes me angry when I am deprived. I can be angry with myself, other people, or even God.
A righteous anger can be an important thing to help us battle injustice. What distinguishes a righteous anger is that is applied to someone else's benefit.
Selfish anger is always about us being the victim and not getting our way. Our prayers my look something like, "MY WILL BE DONE, IN HEAVEN AS IT IS ON EARTH". Notice the all caps.
These attitudes have a distinct lack of humility and require repentance. Next time you feel the anger rising stop and ask yourself why. Do you feel that you are entitled to be in control? Is is the lack of control that is causing the intense feelings? Is there a humility issue at play?
The core emotion of fear is also expressed in many different forms, but the physical response is measure in a adrenaline and cortisol spike. Anxiety, nervousness, neurosis, horror, and terror are all example of this lovely emotion.
It is possible to be completely controlled by our fears. This is the worst kind of slavery imaginable. A person controlled by fear has lost faith, in themselves, in others, in the world, and even in God.
They believe that fresh tragedy is waiting around every corner. The answer to fear is a renewal of faith. Reading scripture and rehearsing stories of how God saved me in the past is a great way to allow me to see through eyes of faith.
The core emotion of fear is also expressed in many different forms... depression, despair, grief, resignation, and self-pity. All of these emotions are so powerful that they can completely dominate our life, leaving no room for anything else.
As we experience loss, we can lose hope in the future. It becomes difficult, maybe even impossible for us to imagine a good life at any time in the future. Our thoughts grow dark and we become obsessed with all that we have lost.
In these times, we must welcome God's presence into our life. Only God can give us the hope that we need.
Shame is the feeling that we are not good enough and will never be. This feeling isolates us emotionally from all other people, from ourselves, and even from God. Shame is a killer of relationships. It can lead us to sabotage our connections with others and withdraw from all human contact.
We feel shame when we are not giving and receiving love. Humans require love in order to even survive. When we are feeling rejected, ostracized, shunned, and banished from healthy interaction we are in need of love.
We need to both give and receive love in order to be restored to health. When we feel shame a quick fix that is bound to help is to do something kind for someone else. This simple act can turn around what we feel. Giving love may make us feel more able to receive it as well.
Each form of pain has its own solution. Each disease has an antidote. As you suffer the problem look to God for the corresponding solution.
It is tempting to medicate our pain. While this does offer some measure of short-term relief it can create far larger problems in the future. We all have our favorite ways to self-medicate, but be warned "There be Dragons Here".
Seeking God's presence in our pain can produce true solutions with no downside. It is what I call a "Win/Win/Win/Win". Lean into Humility, Faith, Hope, Love. Whatever you need most is what you should pursue desperately with God.