There are two big necessary steps to the process of transformation of the heart. The first is ruthless honesty which brings us out of our denial. In order to find serious change to our make-up, we must see our inner person as it really is. Many of us shy away from such analysis as being emotional or touchy feely, but sensitivity to our hearts and discernment is foundational to any spiritual progress. Steps must be taken for us to become aware of the hidden realities of our emotional and spiritual state. We must properly diagnose our condition and this is not easy. We must learn to practice ruthless honesty and grow in discernment of our inner life.
The second step is actually far more difficult and far more important than the first. Many, many people know their feelings and stop there. These poor folk do not find newness of life. We must go beyond just knowing our spiritual condition, we must become convicted of our sin. By conviction of sin, I mean not just our sins, but the sinful condition of our inner person and the need for a true transformation of the heart.
This looking for our "part in the matter" is the step that separated Christianity from other therapeutic models of the transformation of the soul. In the more therapeutic models, the subject seeks to understand the “wounds” he or she has received, and then proceeds to position themselves in a social or spiritual environment to be properly nurtured. The therapeutic model creates in the heart a message something like the following: "If I am only treated correctly, by God and others, and, if I experience love as God intended me to experience love, I will in turn feel more positive about life, God, and myself".
There are huge problems with the therapeutic approach.
1. We cannot ever put up enough boundaries to prevent pain. We will actually continue to be victims of our circumstances if we attempt to be healed through kind nurture. As we experience real life, people will continue to hurt us, and we will continue to defend and protect ourselves. The result is that we continue to be hurt. We continue to be victims, and we continue to be frustrated and dissatisfied with life.
2. The therapeutic method is contrary to the cross. The power of Jesus in us is that Jesus was treated poorly and yet was without sin. Our solution is not to be treated better but to learn how to respond to life with the unconditional love of God. Difficult circumstances merely brought our anger and fear to the surface. Our alienation from God and our judgments against life were exasperated by our suffering. The answer is not to find comfort from life but to find the life of Jesus Christ.
The discipleship method of Jesus teaches us to take a different approach to transformation which is altogether different from the therapeutic path. Our approach is to find our sin and our unbelief which manifests itself in a thousand forms of self-centered fear. These sinful responses to life have only served to keep us sore over the injustice of life. Therefore, the path to sanctification is to combine awareness of our suffering (honesty) and then to embrace the cross through faith in God’s sovereign care. As we embrace this path of the cross, we will learn to enter into His will of unconditional love toward all.
PART 1. So I suggest the following method of journaling. – Discovering our frustration with life.
List every person with whom we are even the slightest resentment or frustration.
Allow these names to come up onto the list for at least a few days. It is quite normal for there to be many people on this list possibly 100. Include on this list people, ideas, and institutions.
Next list what they actually did. “He joked about my looks” “She broke up with me for no good reason”. “He hit me and called me names.” “She gossiped against me and told people I was unkind or proud”. Notice in these examples that we are being specific to actual things that happened, specific events actual or perceived.
Now look at the way that they injured us. Our social relations, our finances, our self-esteem, our sexual relations, our emotional balance and health.
As a result of this time of looking at our inner life, we should realize, much to our alarm, that we are filled with real anger and that to some extent anger has motivated and controlled our perspective on life. Anger effects and blocks our conscious contact with God. I have never found a person who was not shocked by the level of anger that was in there heart. Anger is the root of almost all our problems. Our path to meekness and mercy, the keys to the kingdom, must teach us how to rid our hearts of anger. This leads us to return to our list but from a totally different perspective
II. Now, we are to “look at the list from another perspective”. – Conviction of Sin
We ask ourselves a few questions
1. How have my own short-comings actually been at the root of the conflict or my disappointment.
She actually broke up with me because I was too needy or aggressive or self-centered. (fear/selfishness/greed for sex(lust), greed for approval (pride)
I didn’t get that promotion because I was lazy and didn’t do a good job. (sloth)
I am mad because my spouse will not follow my direction and he or she disrespects me. But is not the reality that we are not helpful around the house or that we are controlling or lazy and therefore we make it hard for our spouses to respect and follow us. If this is only true a little bit it must be accepted as a sincere character fault rooted in sin. This is what I call the 1% rule. (Even if it is only 1% my problem it is the 1% that I am responsible for).
How has my own fear, pride, inordinate desire for social status or sexual relations or pleasure or money been actually at the root of my anger? Why did I get angry? What does it bother me that so and so hurt me (actually or perceived)? What is my self-centered agenda?
I am frustrated with my boss or my customers or with my work but is it not possible that the root of our frustration is that we are greedy and desire more toys or luxuries.
Are we workaholics? What is the motivation for this lack of balance in our lives? We are frustrated with others but have we made ourselves too busy and is not the root of this fear or greed or pride.
Am I actually dissatisfied with God’s provision? Do I live to please others or to obtain social status? Do I fear of rejection?
We now are not only aware of our anger, but now we come to realize our actual character defects and heart sins that made us self-centered and was the actual cause of our frustration with life as it comes to us. For some of us, this frustration based in sin and fear created such unhappiness and resentment that we medicated our lack of peace with compulsive behaviors like TV watching or sex or alcohol. For some we are compulsive gossips or talkers in general because we cannot control our uneasiness about life. All of this is driven by our self-centeredness and our lack of care for our inner person.
Could not the cross, self-denial and unconditional love, solve all these problem? If the Spirit or God filled me and I was solely seeking God's glory and to express His compassion, would I not be free to live in self-giving love?
Yes, this path is attainable.