Sunday, September 16, 2012

Slave Trade, Pt. 3

     Although we are capable of mastering sin, we are not called to dominate people.  Dominating others is truly uncalled for.  The spiritual dominion we were created to function in (Genesis 1:26-28) has to do with putting our own flesh, sin and the devil in their place, as well as utilizing earthly resources to further the kingdom of God.  Never in the Scriptures are we told to dominate our fellow man.  This is where ungodly control comes into the picture.  People who attempt to control others unjustly are often those who have failed to overcome sin in their own lives and who use other people as scapegoats for their own internal frustration with sin.
     When people exert effort to dominate others, they step outside of the God-ordained guidelines for healthy relationships and they open up the door for the devil to bring people into bondage through the means of racial injustice, gender abuse, religious control, soul ties and the like.  Not unlike our responsibility to gain control over sin in our lives, we are also given the task of managing our relationships so they produce their intended results.  This involves making sure we don't come under the influence of ungodly control and that we exercise godly control in the lives of others.  And the Holy Spirit is more than willing and able to help us with these things.  
          I Corinthians 7:23  "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men."
          Galatians 3:1  "O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?"
          I Peter 5:2,3  "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."
     What makes things difficult in this endeavor to manage relationships appropriately is the fact that they are very much dynamic.  Not only do individual people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but the nature of relationships changes too.  What begins as a healthy relationship can sometimes evolve into a one-sided oppressive relationship, and this can happen so slowly that the ungodly control is difficult to detect at first.  And with the grace of God at work to restore human hearts, unhealthy relationships can be transformed back into fully functioning ones.
     We don't need to go about our lives being paranoid about the motives and ambitions of other people, but we do need to be aware of what is happening in the hearts of those around us.  This discernment is made possible by being attentive to His voice in the midst of everyday life.  If we have a steady diet of His Word, our minds will be trained to recognize truth and error in the context of real life situations.  
     Because of the dynamic nature of relationships, very few go the distance in our lives.  Most relationships are temporary so we need to make the most of them.  Knowing who has your best interest in mind is critical to your emotional well-being and pivotal to prioritizing relationships in your life.  Life requires a constant adjustment of who you allow into your life, the depth those relationships take in your heart and who you keep at arm's length.  Always be open for new people to come into your life and always be ready to exit relationships if need be.  And be sure to adjust your existing relationships to appropriate levels of involvement so you and the people you know can both be better off.  Without periodic evaluation of your relational health, ungodly control can easily set in without you recognizing it.
     There are a number of ways that we can protect ourselves from ungodly control, but the number one way is by maintaining a close relationship with the Lord and by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in the development of our relationships. (John 16:13, I John 2:27)  God gives accurate discernment to those whose hearts are pure.  As long as you maintain a strong spirit and focus your attention on what really matters, you will be positioned to receive the wisdom you need to respond to people who may be trying to control you in an unhealthy manner.
     The proper response to controlling people in your life will vary based on the type of relationship and the depth that relationship has in your life.  But rarely is walking away cold turkey the right thing to do.  The tendency to shy away from this type of conflict because of fear will either keep you restricted in existing relational bondage or will cause you to develop a cyclical pattern of dysfunctional relationships where you find yourself on the short end of the stick.  The refusal to recognize ungodly control in your relationships and the outright withdrawal from it without properly dealing with its conflict are equally as harmful.
     The first thing you need to do if you suspect ungodly control is at work is to pray.  Take the initiative to strengthen your spirit and ask God for accurate discernment.  If you have been wronged in the process ask the Lord to help you forgive that person.  Then you need to begin praying for that person.  If you feel God has confirmed to you that there is indeed witchcraft involved, you would do well to confer with those in your life who are more spiritually mature than yourself.  They may be able to give you some wisdom in regards to dealing with this situation as well as keep you in their prayers. 
     Before approaching the person you feel is unjustly controlling you, you really need to seek the Lord for wisdom and follow His leading.  You also need to make sure your heart is at peace and your motive is love.  Proceed with honest conversation that is fueled by the sincere desire for healing in their heart and restoration in your relationship.  Exercise your faith in God's ability to turn things around.  Although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, you need to believe God for the best but prepare for the worst. 
     Prayer can absolutely change situations but let me assure you, controlling people don't like being told that they are controlling, even if you communicate your concern in a very gentle way, which you should.  Be prepared for a negative reaction, at least at first.  Nobody likes to be challenged and people usually resist the intial thought that they are wrong.  That is human nature.  But give God time to work in their heart.  He can turn things around, so don't give up just because your initial thoughts are not received as well as you would like them to be.
     Keep in mind, not all situations require you to verbally express your disapproval of how your relationship has been conducted.  Sometimes you might just need to step back a little or make a slight adjustment in your dealings with people so you can maintain your personal freedom and still keep the relationship moving.  This is especially true with family relationships that you can't simply walk away from.  However, you may need to pull back altogether for a season while you regain your mental and emotional composure.  Taking time for personal healing can posture you to re-enter relationships from a position of strength, knowing what to avoid and how to proceed.
      Make a commitment now to move forward in life by managing your relationships with the wisdom of God.  God intends for us to be social creatures that find fulfillment in life through our relationship with Him and with others.  So make it your aim to maximize the relationships in your life right now and those God will present to you in the future.  And don't allow ungodly control to hinder you in this process.
     Value your freedom enough to contend for it at all costs.  Life is too short to remain in a ditch of dysfunctional relationships that suck the life out of you.  Opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others are available all around you.  Seize the moment by not allowing ungodly control to limit who you are and your effectiveness in your ministry to others.  Join the ranks of President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the like by standing up for your freedom and that of others.  Allow the love of God to overcome the fear of man inside of you.  You will never be the same.
     For those who feel there is no way out, look up.  Without God's help, you may be driving down a one way street with a dead end in sight.  But with God all things are possible!  Start by connecting with Him and trusting in the ministry of the Holy Spirit inside of you.  He knows exactly where you're at in relation to sin and ungodly control.  And He knows how to navigate you through the storms of life to a bright tomorrow.  Allow the wind of the Spirit to thrust you forward, out of the house of bondage and into the freedom He has destined for you.
     You are called to master sin, so don't allow it to reign in your life.  Focus on obeying His voice, trusting in His grace to live in victory.  Jesus is your Lord, so don't allow anyone else to control your soul or actions contrary to His will.  Recognize His lordship in your life that comes in the form of godly leadership and influence.  Receive ministry from others that stems from the love of God.  Give to others what you receive from your Lord.  Progressively walk in His freedom and live a life in love with Him.  Nothing else satisfies.  Nothing else matters.

praying for your freedom and fulfillment in life,

Bo Salisbury   

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