Amen guys. In my own limited experience of death to self I have found that the circumstances that surround me in my life are the means by which I am called to die. I wrote this piece one time trying to explain what I could see in my own life. It was called " The Cauldron of my afflictions."
Heb 12:5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons, “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father does not chasten? But if you are without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then you are bastards and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
The Cauldron of our Afflictions
How does the Lord chasten us? If, the Scriptures say, we are without chastisement, then we are bastards. Is that not the strongest of language? It literally says that we are bastards and not sons. Should this very Scripture not give every genuine Christian a strong desire to be chastened of the Lord. If our lives are without this, then should we not examine our lives? The Scriptures go on to say that He scourges every son he receives. How many sermons do we hear on this subject? To be scourged in Biblical times was to have the flesh ripped from your back. It peals open the flesh and exposes the nerves and it could be so horrific that it often led to death. And yet the Scriptures here say that every son of the living God will be scourged.
How is this to be reconciled with a loving Father? The Scriptures give us this example “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? ”
So what does this “scourging,” this ripping of the flesh look like to us Western Christians who seemingly live a life without persecution? How are we sanctified? How is our flesh killed in these modern days? When we gave our lives to Christ, when we came and gladly laid down our lives(one can come no other way) we gave ourselves over to Him. We were forgiven of our sins, we were justified in the sight of God. And so, justification having been attained, how now are we sanctified, how are we shaped into the image of our Lord and Saviour Jesus?
A man commits a murder and is sentenced to life in prison without parole. After a year in prison, he lays down his life, he discovers Jesus, he is born again. His sins are forgiven, he is justified, his eternal soul is secured. Is he now released from prison? Does he not continue to suffer the consequences of his actions from an earthly perspective? Yes he does, and why should he not? He has found redemption and will live forever in the presence of God, but this has no bearing on his earthly actions. Perhaps by some miracle , at some point, he may be released, that is certainly a possibility if the Lord had a plan for him outside the prison walls, but generally he will not be released. He owes a debt to society and it will be paid. The debt that he owed to God was paid by Jesus.
He is required to act in a Godly way and according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, regardless of the fact that his circumstances are harsh. His circumstances are harsh because of his actions, yet God will enable him , in the yielding process, to overcome his circumstances. His cry should not be, “Lord deliver me from this place,” his cry should be that he would be enabled to die to his flesh and become more like His Lord.
A man lives the homosexual lifestyle. He contracts aids. In the midst of his battle with the disease, he discovers Jesus Christ and is saved. He is justified in the sight of God. How is he now sanctified? Does he still have aids? Yes. His salvation has no bearing upon his disease, unless the Lord wants to heal him for His own purpose and glory. Untreated, will he not die from his disease? Yes, this is a natural consequence of his own actions. How then is he sanctified in the midst of dying? His very circumstances are the means of his sanctification.
Now there are many means to sanctification. We are sanctified in our daily interaction with people and how we respond to them. Do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we forgive ? Do we not take offence? Do we allow or not, bitterness to take root as we are mistreated in the course of our lives in general? All of these cause us to grow more like Christ or stunt our growth depending on our responses in every given situation. This is common to every Christian. Yet, where does the scourging come from? How do we get to the depths of who we are and die to that?
Your life lived will determine your scourging. The sin and the dysfunction of who you were, is the fire of your affliction. The cauldron of your afflictions, your scourging’s, is filled with the life that you led prior to coming to Christ and decisions that we make after coming to Him. The natural consequences of every action that we take, every decision that we make will become the refining fires of our lives. We can blame no third party for this. This has no bearing on forgiveness.
We know that He is faithful to forgive us of all of our sins that confess to Him. This has no bearing on His love for us, for He is a loving Father who wants only the best for us. This has no bearing on our eternal security, for we know that no force can snatch us from His hand. Let us then submit to the trials of life. Let surrender be the order of the day. Do not bemoan your outward circumstances, only embrace Christ and walk in the Spirit of the living God. Only in this will you allow your flesh to die and move deeper into Him. This attitude is the antidote to self-pity and self-justification. Under no circumstances are we justified in un-Christ-like behavior. When we move in this direction, when we understand the nature of our scourging’s, we can truly position ourselves to surrender and death and with that comes peace.
This peace which surpasses all understanding comes within the circumstances themselves, and not when we are alleviated from them. It can only come in the midst of the fire. The question is, do we really want to be more like Christ? Do we really want this peace? Or, do we simply wish an escape from our circumstances, most of which are of our own making. God is a God of perfect justice and the scope of that perfect justice is a frightful thing indeed, but only to those who seek to justify themselves.......bro Frank