Friday, October 03, 2008

Taming the Tiger

It’s fascinating to see a new tiger kitten—so small and cute and harmless. They sometimes appear on TV news shows and late night comedy shows. Guests can pick them up and cuddle them in their arms….but in just a few months, they can become deadly. Some have tried to take them home and make them pets, trying to tame the wild nature of an animal whose nature was designed to kill. Sometimes believers play the same kind of game with Satan and his temptations. They take home the ‘tiger’ of temptation and stroke it and feed it and play with it until it grows into a deadly killer.

There are all kinds of ‘tigers’ in our culture today. There is the ‘tiger’ of selfishness that often results in a broken marriage and shattered family, destroyed when the spouses focus on themselves and their needs, instead of on the needs of each other and the children. Humanism has taught a generation that ‘my’ needs come first. They tell themselves “What about me? I deserve something!” What they have failed to recognize is the Biblical principle taught in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." When we are tempted to be selfish, we risk the gradual development of a wild tiger in our homes. To destroy this tiger once and for all there is only one sure! Giving is the exact opposite of selfishness.
But most folks don’t want to give when they have been trained to be takers. Takers spend lots of time developing the fine art of seeking out the best of everything around them, and filling their lives with things that make them feel good and give them comfort . They inadvertently teach their children to do the same. They model for them a ‘taker’ mentality. Christianity teaches a giving mentality, yet some believers continue to respond to their carnal nature and continue taking, thinking that they are doing what is right and proper. But Jesus in Luke 6 chose his 12 disciples and one of the first things He taught them was the principle of giving. The unselfish giving of Jesus originated in love. Jesus also taught them to love their enemies. "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6: 27-28
But how often do Christian couples today divorce on the terms of incompatibility, when they have refused to follow the teachings of Jesus… The apostle Paul taught that husbands are to love their wives and wives are to be submissive to their husbands, and Jesus taught that we are all to love our enemies. When the ‘enemy’ lives in our own household, we are to continue to love. Loving does not mean becoming a doormat to abusive physical behavior, substance abuse or any behavior that would endanger a life, but it does demand that we treat each other with respect and maturity. It means learning to discuss problems and work through them to a resolution.
The situation can change when each person involved begins to start giving. They must begin acting like Jesus. And they must start treating the “enemy” like you would treat Jesus. If Jesus lived in your house, how would you treat Him? Knowing what Jesus did for His life for your sin, motivates most believers to be willing to give Him whatever He wants….serving Him with absolute unconditional love, just as He loved us as gave Himself for us.
All sin begins in selfishness. It demands its own way. It seeks it’s needs met without considering the needs of others. But love is the opposite. Just read the familiar 1 Corinthians 13 passage: “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.” Yet how often in a heated situation do Christians allow their emotions to be aroused to the point of rudeness, rage and rebellion. They begin to tally up a list of grievances—wrongs, unmet expectations, and the moment selfishness shows it’s ugly face, trust is destroyed again and again until the relationship crumbles into oblivion. I often wonder if just one person had begun to act like Jesus, had chosen to love when the other was unkind, or had chosen to be patient when the other lost patience, or chose to be humble when one became arrogant and pride filled—could it have changed the dynamics of the confrontation? The love chapter teaches us that genuine love looks beyond the sin and protects...reaching beyond what it sees to what it believes God will make through the power of love. He promises us that love NEVER fails.
Some have the worldly notion that love is an emotion one feels on the inside, and when they don’t ‘feel’ loved...that love is gone. But this is a lie from the enemy. Love is not a feeling! Love is a choice. It is not an adjective, but a verb. Love is something you do. Love is not that tingly feeling you have when you first meet a person of the opposite sex to whom you are attracted. Love chooses to love regardless of what it sees, hears, thinks or feels. That is how you can tame a savage tiger. With the love that God gives us, modeled by Jesus Himself, genuine love transforms the tiger into a kitten. How? Well, in Christ Jesus, when we yield ourselves to Him, He makes us new creations. He kills the old vile nature and makes it into something altogether different. It chooses to love, seeing the possibility of change in others who also need to become ‘new creations’.

“I’ll never forgive what they did to me!” How often have you heard that phrase? Somehow we think if we don’t forgive, it will punish our ‘victim’. But the reality is it hurts you far more than your victim. It places in you, that seed of bitterness that grows and sours your life. Forgiveness tames the ‘tiger’ in you and places the weight of responsibility on the perpetrator. When you choose to forgive, a load lifts, freeing you from a lifetime of hurt and pain. But where do we begin? It starts to change when we do what Jesus did.

Self Denial
Jesus practiced love and unselfishness to show us how to do it right. He began with self-denial. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me…. (Matt. 16:24) We begin doing this when we look at others with humility and see them as God’s very own blessing in our life. God placed them there to teach us something we lack. Humility is a must. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “ God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) and Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. ( Phil. 2:3) Humility is something only you can do. No one can do it for you. You must choose it, and know it will make you a better person.

Self Control
To bring healing and closure to any heated situation requires that believers learn to exercise self-control. Unfortunately they all too often spend time trying to control each other. Self-control begins when we recognize that the only one who has control of anything is God. We can never control other adults, only ourselves. As obedient children we must subject ourselves to Him, allowing His Spirit to control our uncontrolled lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control….24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5:22-24) So it is not getting our own way that matters, but yielding to His, killing our selfish desires. The person who exercises Godly self-control is one who brings every thought and action into conformity with the will of God. What is His will? His will is found in His Word. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)and that will includes refraining from fornication….  For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; (1 Thess. 2:3,4) Self control will keep you from falling into sin’s traps made by the enemy. Every person who falls in sin, failed in the area of self-control.

Self Sacrifice
Jesus gave the ultimate self sacrifice. He died. He chose to lay down his life for those He loved—us. He expects us to do the same.  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1) Self sacrifice means doing what your carnal flesh tells you not to yield to God, to yield to the Holy Spirit, to listen to His voice and obey what He tells you to do. We are to place our lives on the altar of God and yield to His control….come what may. It means not getting ruffled when others criticize or fail to appreciate. It means patiently dealing with repeated annoyances and walking in humility when others rise in arrogance…. knowing that God is working a higher good. Paul recommended that husbands love their wives this Christ loved the church.
Each of these ‘tigers’ requires respond. Others cannot do it for you. You must choose as Jesus would choose. Spiritual maturity must rise up within us. You are called to a role others may never attain. Yield your life to Him and let Him help you tame your tiger….by transforming you.
J. Johnson