by Fred Pruitt
For me, the greatest obstacle to seeing who we are is a behavior orientation we cannot let go. I’ve been at this for years now, and consistently, from my own struggles in the beginning years, to everyone I’ve ever given out to, “What about my behavior?” is at everyone’s forefront. And as such, it continually remains an outer what-we-can-see approach, and it is the hardest thing for people to give up, but it must go, for full liberation. Otherwise the outer behavior wheel keeps turning endlessly without satisfaction.
We find a good illustration of this in the story of the “rich young ruler”:
“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18-25).
The young man thought like most everybody else. He saw his “salvation” on the terms of what laws he kept, even brashly telling Jesus he had always kept those laws. But Jesus knew that was just surface deep. So He went straight to the heart of the matter – the young man’s deepest attachments! Jesus was not against money; he had many rich friends among his followers. So it was not the money or the abundance of his possessions that caused young man’s problem. The problem was that he had an inordinate attachment to them.
However, that is just the starting place. Because the real problem is the self. Every “thing” the self possesses or desires is a self-manifestation. What do I mean? I mean that all of that which we call “ours,” whether material or immaterial, is really just the extension of ourselves into the outer world, where, outside of Christ, we are looking for personal validity through the images we project. Whether we possess an abundance of this world’s goods or not, we were all as this man at one time. Rich in self-relying, self-responsible, independent self! All of that is squeezed out of us as the Spirit takes us through that needle’s eye (which is the outworking into our daily reality of “the finished work of the Cross,” as well as the transition in consciousness we have in moving from Romans 7 fully into Romans 8.)
The answer is within, but that cannot be used as a trick to fix the stuff we do not like about ourselves or our behavior. Whatever is our treasure* is where our heart is. If our treasure is “these damned stupid things I do and wish I didn’t,” then we will forever be lost in an endless miasma of those “damned stupid things I do that I cannot quit doing.” (*Treasure = object of greatest focus)
The only answer for me is to fall headlong into Christ, without solid behavior supports whereby I might chart my progress, as did the young ruler.
Let me throw something out, since we’re (or at least I am) being speculative. Perhaps it’s hypothetical, but it seems to fit our situation. Here is a question: HUMANLY speaking, could Jesus have succumbed to the devil’s temptation in the desert — and — did the possibility exist that Jesus would give in to His temptation to flee in Gethsemane and not go through with the rest of it?
This is very important, because it is part of the necessary tension in this life, what makes us persons, and that is this “risk” we take called “life.”
Now I know, theoretically, that Jesus was upheld by the Father (Is 42:1). From God’s side, Jesus could not fail. He would accomplish His mission. I take that passage also to be applicable to me as well, and to you. The fact that He holds us up and not we ourselves, IS rest.
However, Jesus was also the Son of Man, meaning he felt everything men could feel. And I really don’t think he saw himself as Superman, who was invulnerable and bullets bounced off his chest. Superman had no fear because there was nobody else like him and nothing anybody could do could hurt him (unless they had some kryptonite, but let’s not go there.)
So Jesus, as a man, was at bottom simply a human man like you and me. The point I am trying to get to here, is that there would be no teeth in a temptation, there would be no bite in it, in fact it would not even be temptation, if, from his point of view, He could NOT succumb.
Like I said, it is already settled and done in heaven. But Jesus wasn’t up in heaven resting in the bosom of His Father. He was pulled to and fro, and the tension in Him was so great He sweated blood! There was a tremendous battle going on. I don’t think we can perceive the depths of it. But what made it difficult and so hellishly stressful in His soul was the fear, which is part of the temptation, that He could fail, that He could succumb to the temptation, that He could have tried to prove He was the Son of God (for His own satisfaction and “test” of God) as the devil tempted him to do. The very nature of temptation MUST include in it the possibility, from the human side of things, that we might not prevail. Temptation has a very important part in our lives and God for now has placed us in Temptation-ville.
I know that in true sight we are more magnificent and shine with the light of God beyond our imagination. But there is a reason God keeps that hidden from us now, for the most part, and requires us to live by faith, not by sight. And while we are in the devil’s camp (the world), he has the right (and job) to shoot his arrows at us. There are times, for our sakes, that the Spirit looks the other way just for a moment and one of those darts slip through. Oops!
Good practice! Good examples are Abraham and his twice-repeated “she’s my sister,” episodes. Humanly, those were not his most shining moments. But interestingly, when he left Egypt and also when he left Abimelech, he was increased. He came out with gifts, even though for all practical purposes to our eyes he seemed willing to sell his wife out for his own protection.
So what were these goods he came out with? Oh, Genesis puts it in terms of livestock and earthly wealth, but since God’s main concern isn’t that but the new creation by the Spirit, we can see that Abraham left with the riches of Christ! He was increased in Christ, each time he had his little slips.
We must not be afraid of such things. In the mid 80s I had an infatuation with a woman in our fellowship who was not my wife, but the wife of someone else. I thought I romantically loved her. The feelings were mutual, which really stirred the fire. I didn’t stop loving my wife, and I did not have an affair, though it could easily have gone that way with only a slight change in circumstance. It was very powerful and I was unable to suppress my feelings. I can’t tell the whole story at this point but after this infatuation subsided, I was left with awful condemnation and the “feeling” (but not necessarily the truth) that I had sinned. Perhaps I did. Not an issue now.
That was before I went off to my cave. When I came back in 2000 and we moved to Louisville to live with John & Luli for 6 months, I had a final Waterloo, which I have not repeated since then. All I can tell you is that I was out in the Bunting’s garage, and it came to me by the Spirit the total “ease” of this faith proposition we teach. It was my final (so far) letting go, a whole tossing of myself in a more final and total way into God, telling God I would make no attempts to restrain myself, control myself, etc., that I trusted Him implicitly in sort of a final rock-bottom way. As I kind of “slid” into that rest, a thought that struck terror in me came roaring up from the depths, “What if you have another infatuation?” I could not say, “I will keep myself from going that way if it comes.” I could not say that. And God is invisible, and sometimes visible possibilities look much more powerful than invisible certainties. So there it was back, the fear, right after I had fallen fully into Him.
But then peace came on its heels, as I really knew it was in the Father. There was the possibility of that, or of other things, looming out there in the land of possibility, but what overtook me at that time, was only to live in the present moment and to trust God in the present moment. Only moment we’ve got so it is good to make the best of it.
Long story short — this stuff is a Spirit walk and there is tension every single day over this and that, and the only way through, and I know you know this, is one step at a time. We were in Redding, CA a few years ago meeting with a group. Our friend, David Heisler, was recounting his “salvation” story as an answer to someone’s question. David in his talk said that he felt himself wrapped in the arms of Jesus, “and sin left me.” Everything was fine until then. Another fellow there (the leader of the group, but we did not know it at the time), actually accused him of saying he never sinned (he didn’t say that but a guy thought he did and it made him real mad and broke up the meeting finally). But before the man got so angry, I thought David’s initial answer was to the point. The guy asked him if he sinned and David said, “Well, as far as I know I am not sinning now.”
Why are we talking so much about sin?
Another person expressed concern because he thought we were putting out a doctrine of sinless perfection. I said, “No, that isn’t what this is. Please don’t look at what we are saying as a ‘doctrine’ that is binding on everyone, but rather as a place of faith we come to.” We come to believe He is our permanent “keeper” and personal upholder. He got that!
This only comes from the Spirit. And honestly, I’ve never heard the Spirit say to me that I cannot commit sins. I almost never think of it. It isn’t part of my all-the-time consciousness, this issue of sinning, but it is there in the background, and I rely not on a principle I learned in scripture but rather the Spirit, so it is a spirit walk that we encourage others toward, but I’m short on guarantees. That’s between you and God. I cannot make guarantees for you (except perhaps prophetically, but that is not what we are speaking of here).
What About Inner Healing?
Here is how I look at that “inner healing,” etc. Everybody has “stuff” in their past that hurts for one reason or another. Some people are able to hear the truth of Who they are, and immediately begin to see all of that “past” now belongs to Him, and His to do with as He pleases.
I am not of those who believe in gradual improvement of the soul. I suppose it does work out that way over time, these things settle in, and we become “a little quicker at faith” than before, as Norman used to say. Patience and other things grow over time, not due to some self-improvement program, but the experience of living life works those things into us. We become “seasoned.”
And yet at the same time, there are some things for pretty much every one of us, that do not go away. We still seem “weak” or “blind” in some areas. That is another thing we learn over time to have faith and patience with. It is part of “maturing” which is a natural process like it is in our physical lives. Assuming nothing comes to stop it, our human selves grow into adulthood along the same lines for just about everyone. We do nothing to make ourselves grow up except live each day and go through whatever challenges life has for us, which of course are different for all.
Since I ran into Norman and all the other folks and got with them, I suppose the basic message we have shared since the beginning until now is to see yourself perfect as God sees you perfect, complete, whole, filled with Him, and that is is no longer “I” running things, but Christ, and the life which is inside me is He living it! And yet, everyday in the flesh I am looking, talking and acting like “me.” Rather than taking the Romans 6 advice, “Yield your members to righteousness,” as something everyday I have to figure out, and then “yield” whenever righteousness comes for me to do or respond, but to take it that now in Christ I live, by faith, in a permanent “yielded” state, so that my “members, (my humanity) now belong to and expresses righteousness. It becomes our “normal.”
That, in my mind, can and does include any “messed up psychological baggage” I might be carrying. As far as I am concerned, whatever it is, by faith it is now the Lord’s and belongs to Him, to use or do with according to His desires. I know lots of people in the Lord who have some odd or strange idiosyncrasies, including ME! I believe for those who can receive and take this by faith, they can go on and live Christ in fullness, and can skip all that “fix-up” stuff a lot of Christians get into.
I do believe, however, people can be in a state of mind or understanding that must be dealt with, before they can see certain further truths. Back in the church I started out in, the Pentecostal one in California, we started “organizing” more around specific “ministerial offices,” one of which being the “pastoral.” We described one “pastoral” function to be counseling. So, we had a fellow who was the head “Pastoral” minister, David, and once the counseling ministry got started, David hardly had a minute to himself. Everybody had problems and wanted to be counseled, so they were always lined up at his door, and kept coming back over and over because they either didn’t get better or found more self-problems.
Why was that? Obviously, everybody thought they had “problems” that the normal “prayer and Bible study” (our two main sacraments) wouldn’t take care of, and needed to “improve” to get rid of their problems. But they never improved. Counseling is forever for lots of people! Why? It might not be the only answer, but probably the main answer is that people never arrive at faith. Once we come to a proposition in true faith, it is answered, done.
I was in my early 20s back then and I had recurring ingrown toenails on one of my big toes. I didn’t really know how to deal with them myself, so I think at least twice I had to go to the doctor to get him to cut out the offending nail, and if you have never had that experience, let me encourage you to avoid it. But here’s the thing about an ingrown toenail. It is not a very serious matter, at least at first. I mean, it’s just pain in the toe, right? If you’ve ever had a real problem with one of those, you know IT DOMINATES YOUR WHOLE PSYCHE WORSE AND WORSE EVERY DAY until you do something about it. Life cannot go on with any kind of quality of life until that toe is dealt with!
And some people are in situations like that with some of their problems. They are so overwhelmed by them, they cannot see anything else. So for those people, counseling etc. can be a good thing. We respond according to need, not necessarily according to the highest aspect of our teaching. We could tell a person with an ingrown toenail to “just see through to God,” but they probably won’t be able to until the toe is healed. So if we have a situation like that, we do what is necessary.
But not for a minute would I tell anyone they need to go through any kind of process of “inner healing.” We ARE healed! And if we consider ourselves at least still partly broken, then let’s be bold and say God uses my partly brokenness for His glory.
As far as that healing the “generational curses” stuff, I only ask these questions to those who are into that: “How is it this is not included in the work of the Cross? Does the Cross not remove all curses, because it has removed US from the realm of curses? How can one whose “conversation is in heaven” (Phil 3:20), who walks in the Spirit, who lives not, but Christ lives in them, be under a curse? Heaven, and those in it and of it, cannot be “cursed.” Can Christ be cursed? I do not have a milliliter of patience for generational curses. Might as well say, “unbelief” to me!
“Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” (Num 23:23)
“The prince of this world comes, but he has nothing in me.”(Jn 14:30)