This is part 3 of the series, Go and See. These posts are designed to give you tools to "go and see" the ways God has designed you for impact right where you are, right now. If you are new here, head back to part 1, Stones of Remembrance, for the purpose and context of the series, along with the steps for creating a timeline. Then move to part 2, Thematic Labeling of Experience.
Recap: Purpose & Context of Go and See series
Go and See, Part 3: Introduction
Because of God’s grace and sovereignty, we can choose bravery to go and see how, even out of painful experiences, we can be led to our greatest calling. This may require some wrestling with hard questions and emotions, along with facing hindrances, but when we let the Holy Spirit in to clear our conscience we can run our race with confidence.
There are a few overarching themes I would like you to keep in mind as you journey through Part 3 and Part 4 of, God and See:
Reflection & Application
By faith we are saved and washed with the blood Jesus poured out at the cross. Yet, we are still prone to stumble and live in patterns of sin or lies that hold us back from fully living out God’s purpose for our lives. It can be difficult to find time and space to open our hearts up in front of the Lord and ask him to reveal, heal and set free. But this is essential to our going and seeing what we have. We best remember, write and operate out of a place of freedom. The alternative is to operate out of fear: fight, flight or freeze, which literally blocks our brain from higher level thinking and learning.
To remember, write and operate out of a place of freedom requires some reflective space and actions on our part. Consider the actions mentioned in the following verse and the instruction they provide for us:
Clearing of the conscience is a process (The priesthood consecration ceremonies took seven days: Exodus 29!) that starts with asking some hard questions of our hearts and souls. And asking the Holy Spirit to come in as our teacher and guide:
Another area to consider: We can genuinely repent and turn our backs on the sin and seek forgiveness from people we hurt and still carry the terrible burden of guilt for years on end. Until we let Christ’s work on the cross not only save our souls but cleanse our consciences, our own self-destructive tendencies will unwittingly team with the devil to bully us with bouts of mental torment (Beth Moore, The Entrusted Study).
Take some time to reflect and write down answers to the following questions:
Knowing your God-given purpose and God's plans for you can be helpful in motivating you to persevere in living out of a faith rooted in a clear-conscience. Ephesians is a marvelous book to study when trying to understand the call of the body of Christ, and the command to the individual to share God's plan for the world, to serve and to love with power and clarity of purpose and mind. For this session, let’s dive into Ephesians 3:7-11 and glean some wisdom from how the Apostle Paul encapsulate the purpose and vision set out for him by God. You will see his calling is not that different than yours and mine.
“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV).
Note the following based on Ephesians 3:
Let’s look at a couple more passages that demonstrate God’s purpose being written into your story before it was even revealed to you or comprehensible to your soul. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (Go and read it and come right back.), Paul again shows us, He did not call himself. In addition he states, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” In other words, my past and my present are not outside God’s hand of grace and calling. So also for you! The scars or mishaps of your past don’t cast you outside the calling and purpose to “preach” the Gospel to the people God places in your life. All who claim the name of Jesus as Lord and savior have a divine appointing and anointing because Christ’s death on the cross made each of us members in the royal priesthood and the Holy Spirit’s ascension gives us the power to do all things.
Let that sink in for a little bit. You are called. Your life has a divine and holy purpose. Because it was written on your heart and soul before the beginning of time. Now is the time to go and see how to use your gifts, time, talents and experiences to live it out for such a time as this.
But why is that so hard to do?
Because we live in a fallen world and we have an enemy who likes to entangle us in snares, knock us of course, and steal the gifts we have been given to bring Jesus’ name and saving grace to the lonely and hurting. In my life, and possibly in yours too, this wrestling match starts in my mind so it is hard to detect the attack. Secondly, “I am a human, raised by human” (the movie, Elf). In this human condition I am prone to faults, failures, and sins that cloud my vision, inhibit my motives and have the potential to derail me from the path marked out for me. The human condition has it's hold on all of us while we walk on this broken planet.
As a result, we have to work at pursuing and maintaining a clear-conscience: persisting in not allowing faults, failures and sin to inhibit us from faithfully, joyfully and powerfully living a life that utilizes all the God-given gifts provided to us as a means for reaching the world around us for the glory of God and the love of all he has created.
In the book of 2 Timothy (Go read the whole book. It will take you approximately 11 minutes. I timed it for you.) you will see that Paul teaches us that serving with a clear-conscience comes from not taking credit for our accomplishments or our failings. In addition, that a clear-conscience is formed out of believing we have a divine calling and being equally convinced we did nothing to earn it. Consequently, we are neither powerful enough to ruin God’s plans. Admitting that even in what seems to be our time of greatest failure, He can make all things work for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) requires faith, humility and trust. Getting to this place in our believing is to land in our sweet spot. Operating out of this sweet spot is our flourishing. We will never fully arrive at this place this side of heaven, but in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we will experience it on the days we need it and God stoops down and offers grace to us. And on the days when we fight for it with all the armor of God provided to us to do battle.
Fighting for a clear-conscience is doable and necessary for us to run with assurance and confidence the races marked out for us. Therefore, taking the time sit with and reflect upon the past and present choices, actions and thoughts of your life and mind is a needed step in this process of going and seeing how your God-given gifts were intended for such a time as this.
To further explain and clarify, let’s take a look at a passage in Hebrews 10:19-24. In this passage we see both how our conscience is set to cleanliness and the result of letting the Holy Spirit come in an clean house.
"Therefore, brothers [and sisters], since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his [Jesus’] body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [by the blood shed at the cross] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope [of our purpose and calling] we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (NIV).
These verses make it clear that we are already cleaned and given a clear-conscience because of the atoning work of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for all mankind. So, it isn’t that we have to work to gain a clear-conscience by doing this or that. It is that we have to work at remembering, seeing and admitting the ways we have fallen short, made choices out of fear or envy, participated in actions that harmed ourselves or others, or perhaps let doubt win over belief. It is taking the time and space to let our hearts break for what breaks the heart of God and admit maybe what breaks his heart hasn’t been our priority.
It takes sitting in that grief long enough to feel the weight of the consequences of our sin. Not so that we feel shame or condemnation, but that we are able to feel, know and understand what we have been saved from. True humility, the kind that brings our soul and heart to understanding deeply a right posture toward God, is found in going and seeing some of those dark places of our hearts and minds, admitting that we see them and THEN letting the light of Truth, the power of the Spirit, and the cleansing power of Christ wash it all clean.
Sit with that image for a minute or two: your heart, your mind, your soul, your ambitions [strength] gently and lovingly having the purest of waters being dumped over them to wash them clean.
Tool 3: Stone Washing Activity
Tool Defined: Washing Your “Stones” (tactile learning): Research shows that we learn best when we experience the intended lesson with our five senses: touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight. This activity is designed to allow you to engage in as many of those as you can, so that your brain can hold onto the memory and your heart can sense God’s touch.
In addition, our ability to recall is increased when touch, smell, taste, hearing or site are associated with a memory. In particularly difficult memories, these senses can trigger negative emotions. But God is the great healer, and he wants to come into those broken and hard places of your heart's memory, and establish clean memories and replace sensory triggers. But it may require some effort on our parts to invite the Holy Spirit into those places and give our brain some new wiring systems to work with.
As you work through the steps of this activity, imagine that it is God’s hands washing over the words on your stones. Imagine that he is taking rocky parts of your heart and turning those stones to flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Get to a quiet place and let him wash over your heart as you wash these memories. Ask God to heal the negative sensory details with the ones that are in front of you: warm water, fragrant soap, clean hands, erased words. Let His grace come in and reveal what needs revealing to provide a clear conscience with which to run forward in your purpose and calling.
Exposing what isn’t hidden anyway still has a way of summoning up fear and trepidation. The author of Hebrews clearly understood this because he opens this passage with assuring us that we can draw near with the assurance provided to us through our faith, believing that laying before him all that has been trapping us in guilt, has been overcome and cleansed. We need only to draw near, admit those things that are chaining us to guilt, and then believe the cleansing is in His hands, literally. The nails in his hands took that guilt for us so that we could hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, and the one who is faithful.
You and I, we have access to a “true heart” fully assured and confident because of our faith. Yet, the daily toiling of life in this world can sometimes hold us back or trip us up. This is not new (Consider some of the “heroes” of the Bible the actions they took: Jacob, Noah, and David to name a few. ). Nor it is surprising to God. Yet, if we don’t let God come in and deal with the guilty conscience that has resulted from our failures or unbelief, we’ll lack assurance, hemorrhage faith, and default to condemnation that could cripple our walk with Christ.
Our hearts are already “sprinkled” and our bodies “washed” by the atoning power of Christ, but we need to make sure we take the time to recognize exactly what poor choices he has redeemed, what broken relationships he has restored and what condemning self-talk and lies he has set us free from. The chains have been broken, but if we only see them locking up invisible, unnamed things, we will not fully realize all that he has done for us, and our conscience will not fully understand the clean-state in which we live.
Links to all the, Go and See Study, sessions.