I thank the Lord for all the blessings which He has poured out on my over my life, and that He continues to do so. One of the blessings which I learnt to appreciate enormously, are the brief and occasional moments when I can see myself as others see me. These glimpses of myself which the Lord has granted me are certainly not the whole picture; more like trailers for the main movie. They provide “snapshots” of the self which I cannot see, and which most of the time, I forget about.
The secular world is obsessed with external appearances, so it is often a shock when we see ourselves in unflattering portrayals, being just us. These occasional gifts of seeing myself, were first and foremost, humbling. There is no other word for it. They pricked the bubble of pride big time, and left me totally deflated. I soon learnt that I had a lot to be humble about. Seeing oneself in a mirror and being unable to recognise the face staring back, is a grounding and unsettling experience. Hearing how others view our work, view our work ethic, view our actions, and their personal comments of us, even when given in love and open honesty, can be hard swallow and hard to align with our own view of ourselves.
However, like it or not, being unaware or our inner selves, is not a position for any Christian. I am still a work in progress, but I do realise that what is inside me, is more important to the Lord than what is on the outside; that which cannot be seem with earthly eyes, is more important than that which can.
The Lord made us primarily as eternal spiritual beings and gave us a temporary suit of flesh for our short pilgrimage time on earth. The flesh we can see, but the spiritual components, we cannot. As a result, we wash our flesh, but tend to ignore that which makes us unique, that which is inside of us.
Jesus was aware of this as he lambasted the Pharisees in Matthew 23:24-28 saying:
“Blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of extortion and excess.
Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders for outwardly appearing upright and holy, but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed. Living our Christianity merely as a show for others is like washing only the outside of a cup. It is only when we are clean on the inside, that our cleanliness on the outside won’t be a sham.
The Prophet Samuel, despite a life time of training under the tutelage of Eli, had still to understand how the Lord sees us; as he was corrected by the Lord in First Samuel 16:7 when on a mission for the Lord, to anoint the successor to King Saul:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’“
King David, on the other hand, when the Prophet Nathan came to him after he has committed adultery with Bathsheba, understood the will of God for us as he prayed in Psalm 51 for mercy, forgiveness and cleansing, recognising that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (v17)
Our hearts and minds control us and what we do is a direct reflection of that which is within us. As Jesus says in Matthew 15:10-11“Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
In Matthew 16:26, Jesus asks two questions:
“For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Our soul is important to us, though it cannot be seen. First Peter 2:11 warns us, saying that those who worship the outward appearance of worldly things are subject to fleshy lusts which war against our soul while Hebrews 6:19 tells us that the Hope of Jesus is the anchor which holds us on the right course when temptation arrives.
When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence within us; as Paul asks the Christians in First Corinthians 3:16“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
While our earthly fleshy body will one day return to the dust from which it came, our Spirit (the real man), will enter eternity – be it heaven or hell. Our Spirit, which we cannot see, possesses a soul (mind, will, intellect and emotions) and that is the real us. It is that soul, which Satan wants. Whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell depends on how we lead our lives today, and on the grace of God. What is going on inside us is very important to God, and ought to be very important to us as well.
When the Holy Spirit enters us, we are changed. We may not be able to see the changes in ourselves, and certainly not in the mirror, but the changes which the Holy Spirit bring out in us, will be clearly seen by others, and eventually, recognised by us too.
I have listened with incredulity to Pastors leading deliverance courses who have reported to be able to see the changes in the faces of the attendees as the Holy Spirit sets them free and their faces glowed. Then some 18 months ago I delivered my wife from a demonic attack and sat in awe as her face changed from ‘black’ to a warm inner golden glow. Yes, when the Holy Spirit is inside us, His Glory can be shine on the outside for all to see.
In Exodus 3:6, God describes himself saying “… I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob …” Thus, when Jacob says to Isaac “…Arise, I pray you, sit and eat of my game [venison], that your soul may bless me,” we are seeing something important. Displayed there is a clear understanding in Jacob of what was important in life. Jacob did not ask Isaac to bless him with gold or silver or cattle or goods, the material possessions of his father, but he asked “that your soul may bless me.” Jacob wanted that which was within his father, for he knew that if he possessed that, all the other possessions would flow to him in due course.
Similarly, when we seek the heart of God the Father, and seek what is in God, we can all that is His. On the other hand, we need to recognise that when we allow God to access all we have, all that is within us, He has all of us!
It is important, that we as Christians actively consider and have concern for our Inner Selves. This is where the Holy Spirit resides and where the battle for our souls is taking place. We can delude ourselves and say that because we are Christians, Satan will flee from us; but Satan did not flee from Jesus, but tested Him. Peter, in First Peter 5:8, wisely warns us to “be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour …” When we are sensible and vigilant we are in control, but when we are not, we leave the door open for deception, pride, unforgiveness and bitterness to enter our lives and drive a wedge between us and the Holy Spirit.
Just because we cannot see that which is inside us, does not mean it is not important to us, or to God. God gave his only begotten Son for us, and that makes it very serious for Him. As Christians, we do well to have the same opinion.