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Teri Summey

From Bondage to Freedom

 

God's faithfulness in each of our lives is His very own personal love letter to every one of us.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to share with you a few chapters of God's own love letter to me.  My purpose in sharing this testimony is to lift up and magnify the Lord Jesus Christ by focusing on what He has done.  I'm just the recipient of His amazing grace and mercy. It's all about Him and His wonder working power.  Sadly, I spent many years thinking that it was all about me.  This is God's story of His faithfulness in my life.  Let me begin by backing up to 1980 when my spiritual life in Christ began.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS saved me by His marvellous grace when I was twenty years old.  Even though I had gone to church all my life, to the best of my remembrance, I had never heard the Gospel of Christ.  I thought I was going to heaven when I died because of church membership, trying to live the golden rule, and I felt that my 'good' outweighed my 'bad'.  A seminary student that my sister had met opened the Word of God with me and shared from scripture the claims of Christ.  I think that was the first time I ever heard the Gospel.  A verse from Isaiah 64:6 was then shared where God said, "We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous works are like filthy rags".  I had based everything on church membership, the golden rule, and good deeds, and it suddenly dawned on me that all my good works didn't measure up to anything with God.  The rationale of my good outweighing my bad didn't hold water anymore.  If my good, my very best, was nothing but filthy rags, then my bad was way beyond what I could even imagine.  I saw my sin for the first time in my life as God saw it, and I knew it was against God that I had sinned.  I could no longer rationalize my sin as just bad, it was extremely bad.  At that point I knew that I desperately needed a Saviour who could forgive my sins, and the only One who could do that for me was Jesus.  I knew about Jesus, but I did not know Him.  I had never heard that I needed to receive Him and be born again.  By God's grace He gave me the faith to believe and receive Jesus Christ as Saviour.  "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were bornÖof God." (John 1:12-13).  That seminary student and his wife who had shared the Gospel with me, also shared it with my three siblings, parents, grandmother and two cousins, one by one over a ten month period of time and all of us were saved, my mom and I the same afternoon together!  That's the power of God unto salvation!

Early on as a new Christian I knew that God had saved me from myself and that the Christian life had to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, but I didn't know how.  I thought it would eventually come with spiritual maturity.  So out of gratitude for all that God had done for me, I set out to show Him how much I loved Him by doing my very best to live the Christian life for Him.  I stopped doing many things that I knew were not pleasing to God, and I started doing many things that I now knew were pleasing to Him.  I was trying so very hard to please God and be good enough for His acceptance of me and to earn His love.  Also along the way, circumstances that I felt were unfair and had little control over kept coming into my life.  I thought these circumstances were of the Enemy, so I kept fighting against them and resisting them.  I asked God to change these things for me, but nothing changed.  So I thought He expected me to try harder at changing them myself; I tried very hard for a long time and still no change.  I was frustrated and had exhausted all my own resources, and at this point I begged God to change things because I was at the end of my rope.  I tied a knot and hung on for dear life, because I thought thatís what I was expected to do.  After all, I had heard 'God helps those who help themselves'.  But I couldn't help myself any longer.

In desperation I cried out to God, ĎHelp Me!  I Canít Do This Anymoreí!  When I cried out to God for help, I wasn't prepared for how He would answer me.  I was holding on with all my strength and He said, ĎLet Goí.  I had asked God for help, and He told me to Let Go???  It was hard enough for this perfectionist to ask for help in the first place, because it was admitting failure.  I thought He would strengthen me with new power to hang on, but that wasn't what God had in mind.  I knew that to let go would mean to let go of my control, and that would be very much out of character for me.  But I also knew that I had no other choices.  Somehow though I sensed that by God saying ĎLet Goí, it was an invitation for me to trust Him in a brand new way and everything was about to change.  The instant I let go, God's strong arms enveloped me.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS began to flood me with His love and truth, and brought several avenues of teaching His truth into my life.  The common thread running through each one of these avenues of teaching is the Word of God.  I was introduced to a discipleship counselling ministry called ďLiving Free Ministries"; "Freedom in Christ Ministries"; Bible studies from "Living Proof Ministries"; along with many wonderful books God led me to.  God has also blessed me so much with our church and several close friendships that have been and continue to be a huge encouragement and prayer support as I have journeyed on with the Lord in freedom.  God began to use His precious and powerful Word to speak truth and to woo me to Himself.  I was beginning to have a true glimpse of who God really is, and I was beginning to have a true glimpse of who God says I really am in Christ.  Two verses of scripture that God was impressing upon me were, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." (Isaiah 43:1).  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; in loving-kindness I have drawn you to Myself." (Jeremiah 31:3).  I was beginning to realize that God is for me, not against me!  He really does Love me!

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS began to reveal truth about myself and sin.  I had known that God saved me from myself, but I had no idea as to the great depths God would take in revealing my true self to me.  In the Garden of Eden, Satan caused distrust of God in Eveís mind when he said ĎHas God saidÖí, by implying that God wasnít considering her best interest and was withholding His goodness from her.  Satan then lied to Eve and told her she would not die if she disobeyed God, but she could be like God.  Eve was deceived by Satan and both she and Adam sinned as they willingly disobeyed God.  We also willingly disobey God because we doubt Godís goodness to us and donít trust being under His authority.  Because of sin our nature was bent toward disobedience, and we become our own god by usurping Godís authority and exalting ourselves instead as the ruling authority of our lives.  This is the true essence of sin which cast the whole human race into rebellion against God, and the epitome of sin is unbelief, distrusting God, which is at the root of disobedience.  Just as God had warned, the result of Adam and Eveís disobedience was death, both spiritual and eventually physical death.  Because Adam represented the whole human race, his sin was passed on to all people, which left everyone helpless and hopeless without God and spiritually dead in sin.  As stated in 1 Corinthians 15:22, ďfor as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made aliveĒ.

What we could never do for ourselves, God did for us through Jesus Christís sacrificial death on the cross to satisfy Godís wrath against us because of our sin and to reconcile us to God.  Because God is Holy, He couldnít just overlook our sin, it had to be atoned for.  Jesus Christ, Godís own Son is the only One who could be that sinless, atoning sacrifice for us.  Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, and as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:22, ďfor God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in ChristĒ.  So now, because of Christís atoning sacrifice, when we speak of our sin we also speak of Godís redeeming grace.  Ephesians 2:4-5, declares ďBut God, who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, He made us alive together with Christ, for by grace you have been savedĒ.  Godís mercy is His not giving us what we do deserve, eternal death; Godís grace is His giving us what we donít deserve, eternal life.

Fallen human nature is at enmity against God and worships the creature instead of the Creator.  This is so visible in the way we go about building our own kingdom as we play Ďlord of the ringí in real life.  God alone rightfully deserves to be in the centre of our lives, ruling on the throne of our lives.  We are to revolve around God, the sovereign Creator of life, and not the reverse.  For that reason self rule with its self centred life has to be dethroned.  It must be all of God and none of self, and only when self is dethroned can God then rightfully be everything that He is so deserving of in our lives.  Just as distrust led to disobedience, so does trust lead to obedience.  Salvation by faith in Christ redeems and reconciles us to God and re-establishes our trust in God as we yield to Him and obey Him.  May we never get over the amazing reality of what God has done for us and may we live each day in full view of the Cross of Christ and His empty tomb, with an unceasing attitude of gratitude.   

God has set eternity in our hearts, and as Augustine says, our soul is restless until it finds its rest in God.  We were created for Godís own pleasure, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  As the Westminster catechism so clearly states, manís chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. John 17:3 says ďThis is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sentĒ.  God takes pleasure in us when we know Him and believe Him and understand that He is God (Isaiah 43:10).  We were originally created in the image of God, but sin severely marred Godís image in us.  When we turn to the Lord though, the Spirit of God manifests the life of Christ through us and we are being transformed into the same image by ever increasing glory.  God restores us to the way He originally created us in His image and God is glorified in us, enabling us to enjoy Him forever.  God is so worthy of all our worship and we have the capacity to bring pleasure to the very heart of God, as all that we are and all that we do is offered in a lifestyle of worship to Him.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS began to reveal the lies of Satan that I had believed.  First, my concept and view of God was very distorted.  God was not angry and displeased, demanding and stern, condemning and critical.  God said of Himself in Exodus 34:6, that He is merciful and gracious, patient and slow to anger, and abounding in goodness and truth.  Secondly, God revealed that I wasnít living under the yoke of Christ, but instead was living under the yoke of bondage called the law or legalism. Under legalism a person's identity is based on the law instead of grace, rules instead of relationship, doing instead of being, trying instead of trusting, living the Christian life instead of knowing Christ.  Legalism is a lifestyle of   performance based love and acceptance, and of joyless drudgery in trying to live up to an impossible standard.  It's being saved by grace but trying to live by the law.  Grace mixed with the law doesn't work because salvation is by grace alone, not works.

Just as self craves to have a role in our salvation, self also craves a role in accomplishing our sanctification, growth in grace.  Both of these great works are by God; our salvation is all by Godís grace and the lifelong process of our sanctification is all by Godís grace.  He does it all; He bestows on us the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness!  Under the new covenant of grace, the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ is to all and on all who believe.  Our role is to believe by faith and receive from Him.  God didn't want me to perform or work for Him to gain His acceptance and earn His love.  I already had all of it because of Christ's finished work on the cross, and there is not one thing that I can do to add to what Christ has already accomplished for me.  He wants my heart and for me to love Him and know Him in an intimate relationship!  My trying to be good enough was all pride; I was trying to be righteous in my own strength.  But on my own apart from Christ I can do nothing, I only produce filthy rags.  I had spent thirty-eight years trying to live the Christian life by self effort, but now I know that Jesus Christ is my righteousness and He will live the Christian life through me if I just stop trying and trust Him.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS next began to reveal truth about my circumstances.  They didn't come into my life just by chance, but they were actually sent by God.  Nothing can come into our lives that has not first been Father-filtered, because it has to be allowed to touch our lives by the sovereignty of God.  It was God who custom designed my circumstances and caused me to come to the end of dependence on myself so I would begin to depend on Him.  God never created us to live independent of Him, but to live completely dependent on Him for everything.  God wouldn't change my circumstances because He was using them to change me!  I evidently never got the memo!  But in my arrogance and pride I thought I knew better than God did, so when He wouldn't change my circumstances, I dug my heels in so to speak.  My resistance then caused a very deep root of bitterness, resentment and an unforgiving spirit to take root in my heart which eventually calloused my heart into stone.  I was in bondage, a prison of my own making with no way out.  Bitterness will strangle you and eat you alive!  I became obsessed with my circumstances and they literally became bigger than God to me.  Bitterness and not able to forgive grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.  We can't be filled with the Holy Spirit and at the same time filled with an inability to forgive.  I wanted to know why God allowed the circumstances to come into my life, as if God owed me an explanation.  God very clearly revealed to me that He is God and I am not!  I could either self destruct from an unforgiving spirit because it's a spiritual cancer, or I could forgive from my heart.  Plain and simple, if I don't forgive then God won't forgive me.

Forgiving from the heart is to choose to suffer the pain and consequences of another person's sin even if that person or the circumstances never change.  A key part of forgiving from the heart that I kept missing was acknowledging the hurt and pain.  I kept suppressing the hurt and pain, but I needed to deal with it by going to the emotional core which is not only where the damage was done, but also where God's healing takes place.  God's amazing grace which enabled me to forgive set this captive free.  I am so thankful to God that I donít have to see what a self destructed Teri would look like.  When I forgave, God applied the oil of His Holy Spirit to my heart.  He cleansed it and began to make it soft and tender to Himself.

God accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us in that condition.  God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, and God works all things together to accomplish His foreordained purpose in us.  God often uses trials to remove whatever is not Christ-like in our lives, and our trials prove as stated in 1 Peter 1:7, ďthe genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus ChristĒ.  James 1:3-4 also speaks of the trial and testing of our faith produces patience and endurance, which are used by God to develop Christ-like character.  God has eternal purpose in the trials He allows into our lives, to cause the impurities in us to surface so He can then skim them off.  Itís all part of His purifying process to accomplish the refinement of our character and genuineness of our faith.  The whole purpose is so God can then see His own reflection in us, all for His honour and glory!

Because of the difficulties, disappointments and sufferings often associated with our trials, we can know our Lord in the most intimate of ways as we lean on Him more than we ever had to before.  There are aspects of Godís character that can be known and experienced only while we are alone with Him in the valley, and there are aspects of our character developed by God while we are in those valleys.  Itís down in the valleys of life, not up on the mountaintops, where we are most changed by God.  A depth of oneness develops when we enter into the fellowship of Christís sufferings and we experience His resurrection power which enables us to press on and not give up.  God uses the lives of people who persevere in their difficulties and sufferings as displays of His splendour and all sufficient grace.  Godís grace is sufficient for us and His strength is made perfect in weakness; for when I am weak, then I am strong, as stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  God promises us, ďFear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right handĒ (Isaiah 41:10).  The nearness of Godís presence and His sustaining grace are such needed comfort and reassurance especially in our trials, and our trust in God grows as we experience His continual faithfulness to us.  We would not be able to understand the sufferings of others if we ourselves did not suffer.  As we experience Godís tender compassion to us in our difficulties and sufferings, we can then comfort others with the comfort God has given us.  God has future glory in mind also, as stated in Romans 8:18, ďFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in usĒ.

There is a warning though mentioned in Jeremiah 6:29-30, where if we resist and stubbornly refuse Godís refining, our trials can be in vain.  The impurities that were supposed to surface to be skimmed off werenít, but instead were consumed by the fire, and God calls it reprobate silver and casts it aside.  That is how our resistance can stunt our growth and the life of Christ from being formed in us.  And that was my condition for several years due to my resistance, partly because I didnít understand Godís purpose in the trials He had allowed into my life, and partly because I wanted God to make life work my way.  Godís thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, and He does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.  He is God, He alone knows His perfect plan for each of our lives and He is in the process of weaving a beautiful tapestry.  God sees the beginning from the end; we only see the here and now, but through the eyes of faith we anticipate the day when God will reveal to us that beautiful tapestry and we will then know how God used the Ďall thingsí of our lives.  I thank God for His patience and forgiveness, and for teaching me to trust by faith His sovereign purposes in what He allows in the way of trials to bring about the refinement of character and growth in faith.  I didnít need to know why anymore because it was enough to know that God knew why, and only by acceptance of His will through trust in Him came rest and contentment of soul.  There isnít anything as wonderful as the privilege of having Christ live His life through us for Godís glory, but there isnít anything as devastating as having a resistant heart and not allow Christ to live His life through us.

The only right we have or even need is by receiving Christ, God gives the right to become children of God as we believe in His name.  It was when I surrendered to God all of the rights I had assumed were mine, that God revealed the perceived right of expectations was at the root of all my bitterness and unforgiveness.  Whether they are realistic or unrealistic expectations of people or circumstances isnít really the issue.  The issue is if the focus of our expectations is on people or circumstances to meet our needs, we then become dependent on them.  And when expectations go unmet, it becomes a prescription for bitterness.  People and circumstances were never meant to meet our deepest needs; they are incapable of doing what only God Himself can do.  As Paul said in Philippians 4:19, ďAnd my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ JesusĒ.  God is to be our only expectation, as stated in Psalms 62:5, ďMy soul waits silently for God alone, for my expectation is from HimĒ.  When God is our expectation and we depend on Him to meet our deepest of needs each day, then any other needs we may have that God chooses to meet through people or circumstances become added blessings.  And we have the privilege of being the channel of those added blessings as God reveals His love through us to meet the needs in so many tangible ways of those people He has placed in our lives.  As we depend on God to meet our deepest needs, He will most certainly also take care of the rest.  Being rightly related to God and being used of Him to meet the needs of other people is Godís prescription for joy!

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS revealed truth to what Jesus said  in Luke 9:23-24, that if anyone desires to come after Him, we are to deny ourselves, by letting God rule; take up our cross daily, by walking in daily obedience to Him; and follow Him, by going with Him wherever He leads.  For whoever desires to save his life, by living it for selfish ambition which glorifies self, will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake, by surrendering it to God and living it for His glory, will save it.  We were bought at a price and it cost the precious blood of Christ.  We are God's purchased possession and also His treasured possession.  We not our own anymore and our lives are not our own anymore.  Surrender of our will to God is actually the surrender of our control, the giving up of our right to ourselves and surrendering in entire abandonment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Itís when our will bows to God's will in wholehearted obedience, and only then does He have all of us. Our whole life purpose then becomes doing God's will, and the Holy Spirit works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.  This is the yoke that Jesus invites us to take upon ourselves, and in so doing we find rest for our souls.  When we're self willed we have no peace or rest because we're under our own authority; nothing is really under our control because we are subject to human limitations.  But there is such peace in knowing that nothing under God's control can ever be out of control because God has no limitations and He has all power to keep what is under His control. We show our surrender to God by our obedience and trust, by having faith that God knows what is best for our lives.  God already knows the future because He's already there, and our future can be completely entrusted to His care. 

Jesus Christ is the best example of humility and surrender demonstrated by His obedience to God.  Every second of His thirty-three years on earth He humbled Himself and was surrendered to His Father's will.  His words and actions were constantly in obedience to His Father's will, ďNot My will, but Yours be doneĒ.  Even when Jesus faced crucifixion, knowing that to die as a sacrificial sin offering for our sins He would actually become sin, all of our sin.  This caused His Father to temporarily turn His back on and forsake His Son so that all of God's wrath could be poured out on Christ, the sin offering, to redeem us.  As surrendered to God's will, how did Jesus view the cross?  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, ďfor the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shameĒ.  The joy set before Him was us, in His bringing many sons to glory!  ĎAmazing love, how can it be, that You my God did die for meí.  Our only response can be, ĎLove so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my allí!  Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice, He gave All.  How can we give Him any less?  We must never forget that what Christ did on the cross, He first and foremost did as an act of loving obedience to His Father on our behalf.  And Jesus is our example for our loving obedience to God in all that He calls us to do.

Until God breaks us we still trust ourselves and have confidence in ourselves.  But when we have been broken over our sin, often through our failures, our lives will begin to be marked by humility.  Humility is having our confidence placed in God and not in ourselves.  It is the loss of our self confidence for the eternal gain of God confidence.  Brokenness and humility cause us to see ourselves as we really are.  Sometimes God just has to give us a real dose of ourselves, and when He does we will never trust ourselves again.  It will make us run to Jesus for safety.  The centre of God's will is the safest place in the entire universe, and once there I don't even want to step one toenail outside of His will.

Even though the years surrounding 1998 were the most painful of my life because of God bringing me to the point of brokenness, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  There is a definite moment of brokenness when we surrender our right to ourselves to God, and then there is the lifelong process of brokenness in our lives where Godís purpose is to replace the self life with the Christ life as we obey God instead of self more and more each day.  Itís only when we see God for Who He truly is through His Word that we see ourselves and our sin for what they truly are, because Godís holiness exposes our self centeredness and sin.  Only in our dying to the self life by surrendering it to God can we truly live; we begin to become   God centered and He becomes our whole reason for living.

The true test of humility is being the servant of all, to serve others considering them more highly than ourselves and doing all as unto Jesus. What matters is faith expressing itself through love.  Jesus gave us a new commandment in John 13:34-35 and said we are to love others as He has loved us; by this the world will know we are Christís disciples if we have love for one another.  God would never command us to do something that He has not given the enabling grace to do.  When we are born again we receive the Holy Spirit and are given a new spiritual nature by which we can love as God loves.  As we draw on Godís supernatural reserves of love that He has poured out in our hearts by His Spirit, our love for others is the overflow of the love of God in our hearts.  Godís love is always demonstrative and His love is demonstrated by acts of self sacrifice as we lovingly give of ourselves to others.  May our lives be characterized by the indelible marks of the love of God, so others will see Jesus.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS took me back to the cross of Christ to reveal the other half of the gospel, because I had only understood the first half.  I knew that Jesus died on the cross to save us from the penalty of sin, eternal hell.  What I didn't know is that Jesus also took us to the cross with Him to deliver us from the power of sin, the old nature.  As amazing as the truth is that Christ is in us, an equally amazing truth is that we are in Christ, both now and also when He hung on the cross.  This is explained in Romans 6:3-11, ďDo you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Ē

By our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, the power of sin has been abolished and we have been set free from the controlling power of sin.  We now have the ability not to sin, but we do sin when we choose to, and each time we choose to sin we fall back into flesh patterns we have used to get our needs met and make life work for us apart from God.  We go back to living life as we did when we were separated from God by reverting back to thinking and acting according to who we once were when our identity was according to the sinful nature before salvation.  But at the moment of salvation our dead spirit was recreated into a new spirit, and our new identity is according to our new spiritual nature in Christ.  God speaks of this in Ezekiel 36:26-27, ďI will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within youÖI will put My Spirit in youĒ.  Also in 2 Corinthians 5:17, ďTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become newĒ.  Our part is to believe by faith and continually consider ourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And this is lived out in our lives as Paul says in Galatians 2:20, ďI am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for meĒ.

GOD IN HIS FAITHFULNESS began to reveal truth about Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind".  Our mind is not born again with the new birth, our spirit is. Throughout our lives, our mind has been conformed to the world's way of thinking and it needs to be transformed and renewed to God's way of thinking.  The power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God transforms us into what God has purposed for us to be.  The more time we spend thinking about God and His Word, the more power and ability we have to do it.  As a man thinks in his heart, so is he and so does he become, because right action will always follow right thinking.  Our behaviour won't change until we change our thoughts, so we must determine to choose right thoughts.  When the way I think changes, my mind is renewed and that changes my emotions and the way I feel, and that changes my behaviour and the way I act.  We are to put off the old man with all its wrong thinking and be renewed in the spirit of our mind by putting on the new man which was created according to God.  It is a choice, this putting off and putting on, a deliberate act of our will, and our ability to choose is the greatest power God has given to us.  We are also told to set our mind on things above, not on earthly things.  When our mind is stayed on God because we trust in Him, God will keep us in perfect peace no matter what kind of storm we may be in the midst of.  In Peter's storm when he was walking on the water to Jesus, the only reason he began to sink is because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to fear and doubt as he looked at the storm.  Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and keeping our mind focused on Him is the only way to live above our circumstances and the storms of life.

Our mind and our heart need guarding, because the things we think on will come out of our mouth.  My mouth and my tongue have caused me more trouble than anything else.  I once asked God to place a guard before my mouth and a watch before my tongue, and that worked well for a week or so.   But then all the junk was stopped up and festering in my heart; it's my heart that needed cleansing.  We need a transformed mouth and tongue just as much as we need a transformed mind.  A safeguard from God to keep my tongue in check is to think before I speak, and ask myself two questions.  Will the words Iím about to speak build up and edify, or will they tear down and destroy?  Is what Iím about to speak in accordance with who I am in Christ?  If the words arenít going to edify the hearer or reflect Christ-likeness, then I need to keep quiet and ask God to deal with and cleanse my heart.

Every word and action originates from a single thought, so if Satan can control our thoughts he can control us.  That's why we need to know the Word and have it in our mind more than anything else.  I was such an easy target for Satan because of my ignorance of the Word of God.  We need to know the Truth so we can recognize the lies and not let them in.  The lies themselves can't hurt us, but when we let them in and believe them, they become active in us and then we are in bondage to them.  We need to renounce the lies of Satan and choose the truth of God.  The Word of God is our offensive weapon, ďcasting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of ChristĒ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Through this whole journey with the Lord, it is His life-changing Holy Word that He has used each step along the way.  As a new Christian, I had spent a lot of time in the Word of God for the first few years.  But when the circumstances of life began to crowd in, little by little I began to neglect the Word and the habit of neglect continued over the next several years.  I've since learned that it was my unforgiveness that caused me to leave my first love of Jesus.  It was only when I forgave that I was drawn back to my first love and He once again gave me a hunger and thirst for His Word.  I cannot overemphasize enough the importance of God's Word in our daily lives.  Each of these areas of deception and bondage that God revealed to me and then delivered me from was through the truth and power of His Word.  In order to live in the radiance of God's presence and have victory we must saturate ourselves with God's Word.  True joy flows from Christ when we abide in Him and His Words abide in us, and it is our joyful obedience to Godís Word that enables us by Godís strength to abide in Christ.

The evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is the result of abiding in Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, is the very personality of Christ and when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, His personality becomes our personality.  When I was first saved I knew that the Christian life had to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, but I didn't know how.  By God's grace I now know how, it's by our choosing to yield and surrender control to the Holy Spirit.  I used to think that it mattered how much of the Holy Spirit I had, but now I know that it only matters how much of me the Holy Spirit has.  We can have as much of Him as we want, but He works only through those areas that we have surrendered to Him where He has been given unhindered access in our lives.  So now every morning I surrender myself to God and ask Him to be my life and for the Holy Spirit to express the life of Christ through every area: my will, mind, heart, emotions, personality, body, thoughts, words, actionsÖeverything, and to fill me with the Holy Spirit.  We are filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit to the very same degree that we are emptied of self and yielded to His control. 

We are indwelt with and sealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation and He is our guarantee.  We are told by Paul to be continually being filled with the Spirit, moment by moment throughout our daily lives because self is always trying to have us walk after the flesh instead of the Spirit.  When we choose to walk after the flesh, we break fellowship with God and we are disconnected from our Source.  The disconnection becomes apparent to us by the absence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  But God is as near as a whispered prayer and as we confess and repent of our sins to God, our fellowship with Him is renewed as we reconnect to our Source and are once again filled with His Spirit.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit is the key to the victorious Christian life.  It's been said that victorious life is the sum of many victorious days.  We are as close to God as we choose to be; as we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  We must seek Him, and He promises to be found.

Prayer isn't about getting things from God, it's about getting alone with God to know Him, growing in oneness with Him, and drawing on His limitless supply of grace as we intercede for others.  For a long time I only sought God's hand, but now He has given me the desire to seek His face, not just thanking Him for what He has done but praising Him for Who He is and for the absolute pleasure of knowing Him.  I am so thankful that the blood of Jesus Christ, Godís Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin, and He removes it from us as far as the east is from the west!  God works through cleansed, empty vessels that He can fill with Himself.  We are so blind to our own sin, and much of the time we deceive ourselves.  We can be doing the right thing but for the wrong motives.  God knows the motivations of our heart and He will shine a spotlight on those hidden areas of sin in our lives and reveal them to us, just as He will also purify our heart with right motives if we ask Him to.  God is the Potter and we are the clay; may God forever continue to change us and make us conformed to the image of Christ.  We are all in a lifelong process and we won't arrive until we really do arrive and see Him, face to face.

God desires that we find our complete satisfaction in Him.  For a long time I did not really think that God could meet all of my needs, but I've learned by experience that He alone satisfies, everything else is a broken cistern and a cheap substitute.  For a long time I was clueless as to Who I was dealing with, but when God gave me a tiny glimpse of His glory as He revealed Himself through His Word, He took my breath away!  And He continues to do that regularly because Godís Word is God breathed and alive.  When we really see God we see all of life differently and life takes on a brand new meaning; it's all about Him and for Him!  God brings us to a place of realization that everything in this life is subject to change, everything except God; He is all we really do have for keeps.  When that is understood we discover that God is all we have ever really needed; He becomes our treasure, our exceedingly great reward!  God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of God, and our part is to allow Him to appropriate it in and through us.  The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is the incomparably great power that God works in us who believe to accomplish all of this for us.

Jesus isn't just a part of my life anymore, He IS my life, and He has become the all consuming desire and delight of my life.  God took the distorted concept and view that I had of Him and reshaped it by revealing Himself to me, not just in my head but in the deep recesses of my heart!  It is of such vital importance that we have an accurate concept and view of God and His awesome attributes from His Word, because only then can we have a   reverent fear of Almighty God.  Until we understand and embrace Godís sovereignty, that it is His right to rule and that His rule is right, we will never trust Him enough to place ourselves under His authority.  But by placing ourselves under Godís authority, we surrender our self rule and we can then abandon ourselves in loving, obedient devotion to God.  And by abandoning ourselves in loving, obedient devotion to God, we can then experience the great satisfaction of oneness and intimacy with God which enables us to abide in Christ.  God becomes our all, and we become all His.  The more we know God, the more we want to know Him.  To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him.  Godís love is truly better than life and as we know Him as our very life, we canít keep silent.  As Jeremiah said, Godís Word became a fire in his heart and bones, and we also canít help but to speak of our Beloved to others.  Godís good news of the Gospel is the greatest news in the whole world that God wants everyone to hear.

God speaks to each one of us all the time through the language of our circumstances.  God uses our circumstances and even our weaknesses to show Himself strong on our behalf.  Let me close with something that happened in early December 2002.  I was going to fly down to Florida to visit my parents for a long weekend.  I had been sharing a lot of these truths with them over the phone for a few months and they just wanted to sit down together and have a long talk, one that wasn't long distance.  I had not flown since before 911 so I was a little bit apprehensive, especially since just the week before it was reported that a stinger missile was shot up at a passenger plane overseas and they said it wouldn't be long before that started to happen here in the U.S.  So as the airplane took off I trusted myself to God's safe keeping and knew I'd be safe and secure in His will, whatever His will was.  It was His continual faithfulness to me over the past few years that had brought me to that point.  I was His and whatever His will was, it was okay with me.

But as the airplane got up to cruising altitude the Spirit of God brought my thoughts to my husband and our three children who were at home.  I thought of one particular family that had been in a tragic car accident a few years ago and only two children out of their whole family of eight survived the crash. That still really bothered me and I still couldn't understand how God could've allowed that to happen.  I thought of my husband and our three precious kids again, who are my 'whole world' on this earth.  Then the Spirit of God asked me, 'Will you trust them to Me?  They are not yours, they are Mine, just as you are Mine'.  Even though I was several thousand feet above the ground, the floor of that plane became holy ground.  As God led me, I trusted my family to Him.  I knew there was a question I had to ask God next.  I asked, 'Would I be able to make it through life, if You took my whole world away?'  God through His Spirit spoke so tenderly to my heart and said, 'I am enough, I am more than enough for anything you will ever be asked to walk through in this life, because I am with you'.  Godís promise that He will never leave us or forsake us became mine at that moment!

 A stinger missile did not hit the airplane I was on that day, but a heavenly stinger missile sent by God did pierce my heart on that flight.  God showed me that the most wonderful gifts He had given me were as much or even more precious to me than the Giver of those gifts.  God will not share first place with anyone.  God had put His finger on idolatry in my life.  But when I trusted those gifts to God, then God rightfully became The Most Precious to me.  It is only because God has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again in the last few years that I can trust Him and rest in Him like that.  God does that for each of us and His faithfulness to us is how He proves Himself completely trustworthy.  The faithfulness and trustworthiness of God that compose His love letters is what causes us to have ever growing believing and trusting faith in God.

I don't know where you are in your walk with the Lord.  Have you trusted Christ as Saviour?  It all begins there.  Are you wandering in the wilderness of legalism or in your circumstances frustrated, defeated and in bondage? Please learn from the many mistakes Iíve made.  Let go and surrender your will and your right to yourself and everything else to God.  You will begin to live the adventure of a lifetime in a living, breathing relationship with the God of the universe.  He is the only One who can truly satisfy and meet your every need.  He will prove Himself faithful to you beyond all your imagination.  He truly is the Lover of your soul.  Trust Him.  

Teri Summey

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