Perception is Reality

The phrase “Perception is Reality” was originally stated, I believe in the Reagan era, to describe a lack of honest and complete communication in national politics.  Then it was stated literally.  And some accept it as literal.

Jesus was and is no stranger to politics during his life, death and resurrection. And the distorted communication of the past lives on to today.

I invite you to read the post, https://i-m-4-u.com/2013/09/11/perception-is-reality-lee-atwater-is-mr-atwaters-statement-a-perception-or-reality-jim-mcnaughton/

In it I try to describe the difference between the “official” public perception and reality.

Nobody’s perfect (part II)

I am part of a team of people starting “HOPE” for Mental Health at Kentwood Community Church.  We are part of Celebrate Recovery founded by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.  This group of courageous people, who admit their imperfections and trust Jesus to deliver them, have been a catalyst to me being able to confess my sins to another trusted person (or small group).  I read my Nobody’s Perfect post from August of 2013 tonight and realized I had promised to get back to you when I had put this into practice.

Much better late than never.

I had told Jesus my sins but telling another person with skin on freed me from most of the grip of satan in my life.  No amount of prayer has freed me as much as telling my sin to another person.  Sin loses power when exposed.

I have known for years that I was “supposed to” confess my sins to another.  But I made excuses and told myself it really didn’t matter.  I lost years of my life to satan’s influence simply because “I know more than God.”

God is not mocked.  I reaped what I sowed.

But I have learned.

Hopefully.

Jesus can make satan’s lies tell the truth

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

My mental illness doesn’t present itself as voices, either inside or outside my head.  What I contend with are feelings and thoughts.  Painful, hopeless, anxious feelings that sometimes leave me thinking that I should give up.  I call them satan’s fiery darts.  And I used to give in to them.  Then I battled them unsuccessfully.  Now, after thinking about the preceding verse, I ask Jesus to take these thoughts captive and make them tell the truth.

The truth is that Jesus loves us.  He has taken care of everything.  We do not have to perform up to standards for Him to accept us.  He accepts us just as we are.  When we trust Him to save us from the punishment we deserve, we become His children.  Two thousand years ago He took our shame and blame and suffered the punishment for it.  There is nothing else to pay.  He freely gives us His righteousness, Spirit, and life.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

The evil one, satan, attacks us when we are weakest, and attacks the weakest part of ourselves.  That’s different for each one of us.  What is a constant though, is that satan’s attacks are lies.  They may contain some parts that are true, but the message that he conveys is always a lie.

Before I had a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, I thought I was “pretty good”.  I thought I was a Christian, which was a lie of satan (I liked Jesus’ philosophy but I did not know Him personally).  I thought the few sins I had were no big deal, which was a lie of satan (they were not few and they were a huge deal).  Satan had me completely deceived and so satan just kept telling me I was “pretty good”, I kept believing him, and so he didn’t need to do anymore to insure I was going to hell.

But once I surrendered to Jesus satan went on the attack.  I was now a threat to him.  He couldn’t change my new eternal destination (heaven with Jesus) but he could try and stop me from taking anyone with me.  My experience has been that the more closely I follow Jesus, the more I notice satan’s attacks.  And it seems like most of the time those attacks are thoughts and feelings, that is, satan’s fiery darts.

Jesus dealt with satan by appropriately quoting the Word of God, the Bible.  We can too.  Next time, I’ll post some verses that I’ve found helpful.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.