Written January 13, 1998
God’s amazing renewing work
My beloved children,
I’m up early because I want to share with you a glimpse into a very special and penetrating work that God’s Spirit has been performing in my life in the last week or two. It’s really nothing short of a divine miracle and I am just so encouraged and blessed. And because you precious kids are all a part of my life, I want to share these things with you so that you can also be encouraged.
The work of the Lord began at the Family Conference in Hungary (Dec.27-Jan.2). I wasn’t so enthusiastic about going but Mum thought in her wisdom that we both needed to get away from our normal surroundings and work (I thought I needed to keep on working!!) and spend time with other people in our mission. I went there feeling very weary both in body and spirit.
God’s work began at this conference but it hasn’t stopped there. Since returning home, He prepared the way with a relatively uncluttered schedule and opportunities to reflect quietly to work through all that He had been teaching us through the Bible studies and discussions at the Conference.
In this time, the Spirit has continued to put His finger on more and more issues in my life. It’s a true cleansing and renewing time in my spirit. And I’m sure there is still much more for me to hear and receive from God. But the Lord’s work is just so amazing and beautiful to witness. I almost feel like a spectator, watching God’s divine work going right to the core of long-standing issues in my life and then leading me in the renewal process.
The speaker was Hilary Dockery, a missionary from the States who’s been serving in Dublin for the past 11 years. The essence of his ministry was around the theme of the Gospel of God’s grace and how these truths can impact our everyday lives and thinking.
At first, I kept myself at a safe distance. I had heard these truths many times before, and have even tried to speak about them to others. But this moment was God’s moment for them to change my life rather than just be truths that I knew in my head. God used these days to penetrate the wall of spiritual dullness and resistance and began the process of setting my spirit free. That’s just what it feels like. Truly like I’ve experienced God’s grace delivering me from my “self” in a way I’ve never experienced before — after just on 50 years of being believer.
Let me now share with you briefly (if Dad can ever be “brief”!!) what God has been showing me and using to bring about this wonderful deliverance:
1) God showed me the sinfulness of my heart. I saw myself as a Pharisee who was seeing sin more as external acts than what is in the heart. He showed me the root of many weaknesses as SIN and rooted in SELF — not to be called “my personality
weaknesses” but what they are, e.g. unbelief, pride etc. Over the past years, through doing a number of personality tests, I have come to excuse away areas of sin by giving them new labels. As I have called a thought what God calls it (= confession!), and
asked for God’s cleansing and forgiveness, the effect has been powerfully freeing and renewing.
2) God has shown me that I have been living on two different levels in my Christian life for all these years. The one level is what I would call “theological” (or the knowledge of God in the Scriptures which I have always believed strongly to be the inspired Word of truth and still do of course) and the other level I would call in my case “the inner life or the subconscious” (the thoughts that go on within one’s self and one’s true belief systems).
On this lower level, I have come to recognise how so often I have been thinking thoughts — which naturally have led to definite habit patterns — which have been totally contrary to the Gospel.
We have read some of Leanne Payne’s writings over the past few years and she calls this “the diseased self”. Yes, I have seen it before, but this time there was a true breakthrough when I was able under the powerful working of the Spirit to allow this fact to penetrate deep into my heart.
Here are some specific areas where my inner thought life has been so off the mark of the Gospel:
** in the area of “rules” and laws.
I have come to see how my inner life has been strongly dominated by what I now call a rule-based spirituality. I’m not talking here about God’s laws which are absolutes. Rather I’m referring to the many thoughts
that have controlled my life over the years that are rooted in a fundamental OT law mentality: “If I do this, then God will do that” etc. (Obviously with each of these points, I could write in much more detail but I must finish this email before leaving
and so I’ll just give you the basics — mercifully for you 🙂
** in the area of fear.
God put His finger on a fundamental fear of failure and a fear of displeasing God. The liberating thing was to openly admit to our speaker, Hunter Dockery, what was reality rather than running from it. Since then I have been quite aghast as the Lord has shown me again and again how I have doubted His goodness in many situations of life. For example, yesterday He showed me so vividly how it’s been a life’s pattern with me to often think or expect the worst in a given situation, and how in thinking this way, I am in reality saying that my God is just waiting to do for His children some awful and terrible thing. He has also shown me yesterday how even in my prayer life, I have sometimes been praying out with a root motivation to keep bad things from happening. Dreadful stuff. Evil. A blight against the name of our good and loving God. But praise God for His work in my mind and spirit to bring this muck right out into the open.
** in the area of inner freedom.
God has made my eyes open to see that in so many areas of my life, I have been a “slave”, not a “son” walking in the true freedom of the Gospel. For example, in the area of ministry, I have so often just been driven on almost non-stop at times going from one thing to another as a “slave”, bound to get through work, bound by the demands and expectations of people within my mind and heart, bound by the desire to gain the “well downs” of people through doing a good job. By God’s grace, He has worked a radical change within my thinking. I am now beginning the long and probably hard road to reprogramme my thinking and acting / reacting so that I live in these areas as a free man. I know you will pray for me as I allow God’s Spirit to lead me through into an increasing measure of freedom. But I can assure you that I have taken the initial steps to make some radical steps and changes in my attitudes and my planning. I need your prayers that God will keep me on course, not backing down when I face the expectations of my leaders or when some of the old feelings begin to resurface. But I am already enjoying the “fruit” of the changes. No longer am I worried at the end of the day whether I finished all I wanted to do or not. No longer am I driven by doing more and more work or correspondence. I’m truly enjoying the changes, and I think Mum is also!!
** in the area of “control”.
Our brother, Hunter, after listening to my unveiling of some of my ways of thinking said very simply yet pointedly that I was a person who needed to be in control. My initial response was just to receive his word but then since then God’s Spirit has helped me see over and over again the areas of my life where I have not been truly living by faith under the Lordship of Christ, being at peace in His powerful working out His glorious purposes in a given situation or circumstance. Rather I have unconsciously or subconsciously (never know which of these two words is correct 🙂 sought to control what is going on around me, or the lives of people around me instead of quietly allowing God to work out His higher purposes in His own way and in His own time. Dearest kids, I openly acknowledge to you this sin of not trusting in God as I raised you — how so often I must have even with the best of intentions sought to control your ways and almost force you to think or follow what I thought was right. Please forgive me. Again pray for me as I now work out this change in daily life. It’s so liberating really when one lets go of one’s desire for or need to control others around you and allows God to work or speak in His own way. Pray for me as I work out this in my teaching and my leading and my counseling. Truly some very radical changes are on the horizon in this area — which will change my attitudes and approach from being heavy and at times harsh unconsciously taking over from the Holy Spirit to a spirit of resting in whatever God wants to do or say through me. How I grieve now, dear ones, at how often I must have been harsh and judgmental of you in the past, so quick to condemn — because I was feeling condemned myself in my own spirit because I had not yet entered into the real joy of being delivered from this blight of self-condemnation and hidden fear or anxiety about God’s displeasure and even the possibility that He could put me on the shelf if I didn’t live up to what I saw as being His high demands.
** in the area of holiness.
You may or may not know that my master’s thesis at Westminster Theological Seminar in 19976-77 was around the theme of holiness. So I have done quite a lot of study into this area and also done a lot of teaching about holiness over the past ten years. However, God put His finger on the fact that in practical terms, my way of thinking about living a holy life has been far more dominated by negatives than by positives. Through our brother Hunter, God showed me that my whole focus is to shift from looking within my self (an spiritualised form of self-centredness) to looking without — especially looking for ways to serve others. God is powerfully setting me free from focusing on a concern not to be impure for example to thinking about loving others, e.g. how I can show love to my beloved mate or my staff. Another way this truth has been impacting me is to stop asking the question: “What can I do now?” to “In what way can I serve now?” Of course, work and ministry is all a part of serving, but in practice a focus upon my self or my work has caused me to miss or resist serving opportunities that God has brought my way.
** in the area of my standing before God.
Probably this is the most foundational and fundamental of all the areas of change. God’s Spirit has opened my eyes to see that Christ and Christ alone is my righteousness, and that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to win His favor. On the one hand, of course I have known and preached this all these years. But when my theology is undermined by my inner beliefs or those condemning negative voices, then I am not living out the Gospel. I have often in the hidden recesses of my mind and heart feared God’s displeasure or punishment — as if God is always looking for opportunities to punish me for not making the grace — specially the grade of the demands I have placed on myself or the expectations I have had of myself or that I have allowed others to place on to me. God has spoken into my life and has helped me to see that Christ is everything to me (to us!) — that He looks upon me with such incredible love each moment rather than with judgment or condemnation. Yes, again I’ve preached and taught these truths all these years but I have not myself been “brain-washed” by them when it comes to the way I perceive reality or the way I think when I feel quite unlovely etc. In my work, I can make big mistakes and do, and in my relationships with others also. But to realise anew that in my relationship with God, what I do can NEVER change who I am in His sight. By God’s powerful working in my heart and mind, I have begun the long journey of allowing this truth to work its way deep into my inner life. I can now much more
easily accept “failure” in work or ministry or even in relationships knowing that my standing before God is a given, something that God Himself has fixed and is certain. He loves me regardless because He has accepted me unconditionally in Christ. What an amazing thought and truth.
I must stop. I could go on and on telling you of what God has been doing and continues to do. But I want to close off by saying to each one of you — please, dearest ones, forgive your dad for all the ways that he has missed the mark (= one way of defining sin!) in his parenting related to any of the above areas. And without doubt there are still other areas that God will show me in the coming days, so I ask in advance that you will forgive me for these as well! I know I am forgiven in God’s sight — for sinning against you by living as a slave instead of a son, by living in
fear instead of faith, by trying to be in control rather than allowing God our Lord to be sovereign and in control.
Please stand with me in prayer as the work of God’s Spirit continues. I am excited about what He is saying and doing and very expectant of His goodness and kindness and faithfulness filling our lives in the coming days.
Isn’t God so amazingly good and wise? Isn’t His timing so perfect? I have wondered often over the past week or so: Why in the world have I been sooo slow to lay hold of these truths and allow Him to penetrate my heart and mind a long time before this? But God’s timing is not a minute too early or too late. I’m now deeply thankful that He doesn’t give up on us but prepares the way and moves in at just the right moment. For me it was indeed the right moment. He had set the stage by allowing me to be weighed down heavily by many things in my life, even to the point of feeling “trapped” and without joy in my Christian life. A real sense of defeat and even despair at times had set in. BUT GOD! Yes, He stepped in at just the right moment and has set me free.
Rejoice with me, and join with me also in the process of entering into the joy and freedom of not just knowing the truth but allowing it to work its way deep into those hidden areas of our minds and heart. He will help each one of us in the process.
It’s time to quit, shower and shave. And off to Mosbach. With much, much love and deepest appreciation for each one of you, my own beloved children.
Your affectionate DAD.