Owning it- Bringing Times of Refreshing
Own it! Now there’s a phrase. I hear it fairly often, and have used it many times as well. I am sure the vocabulary to convey that very sentiment will soon change if it hasn’t already. Each generation enjoys taking a phrase from a previous generation and changing it to suit their own. What that might be now I am unaware, but I would like to think we all can wrap our minds around the idea of what it means to own something.
Owning it is universal. It is simple, and it clearly means make it yours. Claim it! Declare it belongs to you!
The amazing thing about owning something is that there are some things we are glad to own, and some things we wish we didn’t. For instance: We are proud to own the things that are nice, that can boost our reputations, or that can give us a good first impression with others. But we are reluctant to claim ownership of things for which we might be ashamed. We do not want to own our broken things in life. We do not want to own our failures, our wrongdoings, our mistakes, and our thoughtless moments that led to someones pain or offense. We do not want to own dysfunctional family situations and the like. We prefer that picture perfect image that sells well. But in life, we often find we are the owners of things both good and bad, and beautiful and ugly. The problem for us though is that when we fight against owning what is ours to own we enter the game of denial.
Denial can be very dangerous to us spiritually, emotionally, relationally, physically and practically. Denial in any area of our lives is like playing Russian Roulette. It’s only a matter of time before the consequences of our denial discharge. When it comes to our spiritual development this is most important to understand.
Denial can be like a cancer in a persons spiritual life. The inability to be honest about oneself is a deterrent to genuine repentance and refreshing. Taking ownership of our brokenness, our disobedience, and our failures allows us to approach God in sincerity to find mercy to help us in our time of need. Fact is, no one can repent of something they are denying. Clinging to denial reveals deception. Denial and deception are the twins of sin. They go hand in hand. I have good news, no one is required to continue in deception and denial.
In the Book of Acts The Apostle Peter stood and spoke to the people after he and John had just been used of God to heal a man who had been lame from birth and begged every day at the temple gate. The people were amazed and curious and it gave Peter an opportunity to speak to them. They were a people who up to this point had refused to take ownership of their wrongdoing and as a result had been engaged in denial and deception. They lacked peace, and joy, and any experience of the presence of God in their lives. But in their current condition Peter still speaks of hope and promise that can be found if they will hear it and act.
Acts 3:17 “Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. 18 But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. 19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.
Notice how Peter seeks to get these people free from the snare of denial and to a place of owning the truth. I love how Peter offers hope as he calls these men and women to turn away from the sins they genuinely own and instead turn to God. Peter promises times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. But to get the refreshing from His presence they had to become vulnerable. They had to first take ownership of their ignorance and wrongdoing and then be willing to sign the title of that ownership over to God! In other words they had to be willing to say, “I own my sin and see it clearly as being my own, but I do not want it any longer and I turn to You oh God and ask You to take it from me and give me You!”
Taking ownership involves becoming vulnerable. It is vulnerable because anytime we become responsible for something we are being vulnerable. This is so important when it involves navigating relationships. For your own personal discovery, I invite you to honestly answer the following five questions quietly within your own heart and mind:
1) How quick are you to say I’m sorry to someone?
2) How easy is it for you to ask someone to forgive you?
3) Is making an excuse your default first option when confronted with having offended someone or
having done something wrong?
4) Have you been offended recently?
5) Do you feel attacked when someone disagrees with you?
I realize that championship football teams and basketball teams are usually characterized as having a strong defense. But in matters of relationships with others a strong defense can be a person’s downfall.
Jesus gave some very sound advice that can be difficult at times to follow, but His grace meets us when we are willing to believe and apply His wisdom. He said,
Matthew 5:25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.
In our modern culture agreeing with an adversary has been made difficult due to so many false accusations, law suits and character assassinations. Many are honestly afraid of the outcome were they to practice this. But Jesus was actually speaking this advice in the context of our relationships in life. This wisdom comes in the midst of the need for relational reconciliation and healing.
When someone accuses me of hurting them it reveals they have an offense, whether justified or not. Their offense may be due to a misunderstanding on their part and an innocent mistake on my part. Here’s wisdom though, humility is a gift that can disarm an offense that exists for any reason and diffuse it. Our great struggle is that we have become a guarded generation, and as a result, this has become a more difficult practice to consider. This practice takes trusting in God, it is a faith act to do this. The more a person becomes secure in their relationship with and trust in Him the more they can implement humility. We are able to own even a misunderstanding knowing it is no big deal with God because mercy is always activated by humility.
But we should be advised. Humility on the part of the one willing to lead in the situation does not automatically bring reconciliation. Reconciliation is not a one way practice. Reconciliation is always a two way street. There is a leader in the process who takes the path of humility so the other party can lose the sting of offense. But then it is incumbent on the offended one to humble themselves and release the other party from the accusation and welcome them again into relationship.
How can we know this?
Philippians 2:5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus led the way for reconciliation. He did so by first humbling Himself. Mind you, Jesus did not humble himself because He was wrong or had done any harm to anyone. He humbled himself so that humanity that was under sin and death would have a way to turn to God. But not all welcome this offer. Not all recognize this humbling Jesus was willing to embrace.
Jesus led the way by being humble and vulnerable although He was not guilty in any way. He did not fight with his accusers, He did not fight with His oppressors, He did not embrace an offense. Instead He welcomed the process, rejected protecting Himself, accepted the punishment as if it were His own, and then forgave those standing there watching Him hang on the cross. Why? To launch the process of reconciliation.
Now for those who believed and realized it was their own sin that sent Jesus to the cross, and turned to God for forgiveness and life, they received new life and were refreshed by His presence. Those who would not humble themselves after such a witness perished in their sins, and they never experienced times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
Many today want a refreshing from the Lord, but do not want the humbling that involves ownership of the not so beautiful parts of life. They wish to pretend to be okay and have the longing of His presence satisfied without having to admit or own anything displeasing, or shameful. Such is often the case with our walk with God and our walk with others.
In my earthly relationships I hope to own what is mine in the failure department just as much as I want to own what is mine in the success areas. I want to be able to admit my faults, my mistakes, and my selfish tendencies, and allow the one it hurt the opportunity to forgive me as I humble myself to them. I want to be able to be vulnerable. I want to be free of me.
Many want forgiveness and good things but have yet to experience the signing over of the title of ownership. They do not understand that it all comes as one complete package. Before the new life Christ offers can occupy your vessel, the title of ownership must be signed over to Jesus. That was what the cross was intended to do for us. It is the power of God to revoke ownership on any level other than God’s. It is the basis of a legal transfer so that the earthly vessel can be occupied by the life of Jesus. According to the Apostle Peter Jesus paid a costly price to have us belong to Him and He desires that we live affectionately to please Him.
1Peter 1:13 So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” 18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. 22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
The Apostle Peter moved by the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit at work in the ministry of Jesus, desires that our relationship with Jesus and with one another be healthy and full of the presence of God. For that to really be our experience a transfer of ownership must be recognized. We are now moving from owning our sin in humility to releasing our claim of ownership of ourselves. When humility comes it is meant to help us realize that we are no good at managing ourselves and running our lives. That means someone else needs to take up that role. That starts with humbling ourselves and owning up to what we’ve done wrong, but then there’s an even greater step, handing over the title!
I have a ’97 Ford F150. It has a lot of miles on it and it is getting really old. If I wanted a new truck I would need to trade my old one in. To do that I would need to hand over the title to my old truck and relinquish ownership of it. If I refused to do that I would not get to drive off the lot with a new truck and enjoy all the great opportunities that come with having a new truck.
When reconciliation to God is reduced to only being forgiven of my sin and feeling better about myself a change of ownership never takes hold. In other words new life is left on the table so to speak. This tendency to not bring to completion things that matter plagues humanity in all levels of relationship. We are broken and dysfunctional in so many ways. But Jesus has made it possible for us to be made new. He offers us a more abundant life, but this offer is made on His terms not ours. He says all that we own, all that we have been, good and bad, are to be let go. Then we are to be wide open to His taking ownership!
God bought us with the precious blood of Christ! Ownership is to be signed over for the purpose of occupancy. We became His holy temple! Our relationship with Him runs as smoothly as we are in submission to Him in life. Our peace is disrupted when we live in a contradictory manner. Many a believer has experienced a season of living conflicted and disrupted because they failed to understand this. Some may even be living it right now. Things just do not go well for those trying to defy His ownership in their lives.
To get free we must take ownership of what we have done to refuse His way, and offer that to Him as we turn back to Him. If we try to practice denial and make excuses we will only be all the more miserable for it. The way of the sinner is hard, but times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord await all who will humble themselves and surrender to Him. The Holy Spirit invites us to humble ourselves, and turn to the Lord for times of refreshing. Remember the price Jesus paid and look to Him and live! May all our relationships be marked with His presence in 2017 as we learn to handle them according to His wisdom and grace.