The Magnificent Obsession – Chapter Six

The Magnificent Obsession – Chapter Six

Cast Everything Out
“Have you ever failed…again? Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do, then asked yourself, Why did I do that? Have you guiltily suspected that there must be something uniquely wrong with you? I know I have. And so, to me, Abraham’s failure is exactly not only a story rich in life’s lessons, it is also an encouragement.”

The Magnificent Obsession, p. 164

Failure hurts. Repeated failure can be devastating.

I’ve just come from watching the outcome of the trial of Casey Anthony, the young, single mom from Orlando, Florida who’d been accused of premeditated murder in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Throughout the past 3 years, and in these last 3 weeks of testimony, the repeated failures of Miss Anthony have been broadcast and tweeted around the globe. While the State of Florida apparently did not produce sufficient evidence to convict Miss Anthony of murder, there was a tremendous amount of evidence to convict her of a lifestyle of repeated failures that includes immorality, lewdness and profanity, along with lies, lies, lies… and more lies. Lies about her whereabouts, lies about her lifestyle, lies about her family, lies about her finances, lies about her employment, and lies about her little girl. You might say lying was her “default setting”. In fact, it was on 4 counts of lying to authorities that Miss Anthony was found guilty as charged. Sounds like she got off light? Well, not when you think about the total devastation that remains in the wake of all her lies. Those consequences will be with her for life.

Sin habits- they take us farther than we ever intended to go and cost us more than we ever imagined we’d have to pay.

The inner-conflict of our “inner-man” is a battle that wages war within us daily and believers are not exempt. You would think that the closer you draw to the Lord and the longer you walk with Him, the less you’d struggle with that inner-conflict. Not my experience. In fact, it seems to have gotten more intense in some ways. But I’m encouraged and comforted to know that the Apostle Paul struggled with his the sin nature of his inner-man as well, so much so that he addressed it repeatedly in his letters to believers who struggled with the same. Just recently the Lord has had me walking deep in Romans 7 where Paul writes:

    “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.”
    (Romans 7:20-25 The Message)

You’ve probably heard the story of the country preacher who explained Paul’s inner-conflict in the above passage as “…two dogs who are just a fightin’ each other!” When one man in his congregation asks him, “Pastor, which dog wins the fight?” the preacher responds, “Whichever one I feed the most!”

And that is precisely it: The Ishmael in us wins when we indulge (feed) that thought or behavior linked to our sin nature. The problem is that it usually doesn’t take much indulging to get it going; most of us have developed some “sin-habits” that we’ve grown quite comfy with; so comfy we’ve convinced ourselves “they’re not really sins at all”. Hmmm… have some sin habits become your “default setting”?

Sisters, if we are going to embrace the Magnificent Obsession and get some v-i-c-t-o-r-y over our flesh, then we have got to quit fooling ourselves and take the necessary steps to cast everything out that is feeding that sin habit and form some new ones with the help of the Holy Spirit. He’s here to help you. He IS “The Help”… and He knows just exactly what gets in and stirs your pot. Tell Him about it. Cough it up to Him and don’t hold back! It’s time to get free of that Ishmael stuff! Yes, the answer, praise God, is that Jesus Christ can and does help us in our weaknesses!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Walking in true freedom happens one step at a time, one choice at a time. Once you start trading in the poor choices from your old nature and making the wiser, healthier, freer choices, you will begin to really experience the freedom and live in the freedom that Christ died to give you. Step by step, choice by choice.

Reset your default setting to “freedom”~
xo – P

Scripture Reading: Genesis 20 & 21.
Read Chapter 6 – Magnificent Obsession

Questions for Small Group Discussion and Blog:
1. What are some “triggers” that set you up and make you more susceptible to sin?
• What or who should you avoid in order to help you overcome the temptation to sin?
• In what areas of your life have you developed “sin habits” or become comfortable with sin?

2. On page 164 Anne writes, “The drama in Abraham’s home was preceded by repeated failure in his life. After twenty-five years of pursuing God… Abraham failed…again.” What are you repeating that is possibly preparing you for another failure?

3. “Ishmael” represents for us the “old nature”- the old life and ways of doing things. Ishmael also represents Abraham’s biggest mistake, his greatest sin and failure. God asked Abraham to cast Ishmael out in order to have His full blessing. Abraham loved Ishmael, but God said he must go. Wow… think that through. How about you? What’s your Ishmael? What is God asking you to let go of, to cast out? Is there something you’re still clinging to, crying over, or feeling guilty about… maybe if only in your memories. Whatever it is may be the thing that is blocking the path of God’s greater blessing in your life.

4. In order to put of the old ways (habits) we’ve got to develop some new, healthy, wise habits to take their place. What do you need to replace that old Ishmael habit with or “put on” in its place?

5. What are some practical ways that you can develop those new habits?

For Personal Prayer & Reflection:

Cast Everything Out~

Think specifically about the habits you need to break, as well as the habits you need to establish in order to fully embrace the God-filled life. Record them in your journal and spend some time in prayer as you ask God to help you break the cycle of sin in your life. Go back to your choices from the previous chapters. Is there anything you want to add or delete from these lists? Is there any other insight you’ve received since making those lists? Write that down.

Remember- walking in true freedom happens one step at a time, one choice at a time. Once you start trading in the poor choices from your old nature and making the wiser, healthier, freer choices, you will begin to really experience the freedom and live in the freedom that Christ died to give you. Step by step, choice by choice.

Read Galatians 5:1 and meditate on this verse. Committing it to memory would not be a bad idea either.

Going Deeper Still~

In Anne’s reference notes on page 277 (point 36), regarding “Ishmael” she writes: “Although Ishmael represents an old nature, he also can represent something else worth nothing. Ishmael was Abraham’s greatest mistake, his greatest sin and failure. God told Abraham to let Ishmael go if Abraham wanted to experience God’s blessing on himself, his home, and his sons. What is your Ishmael? Is it an abortion or involvement in one? Is your Ishmael an illegitimate child? What is the biggest mistake in your life? Are you still clinging to and dwelling on memories through your attitude of self-pity, regret, or guilt? Maybe your Ishmael is a live-in lover to whom you are not married. Is God saying to you, “Get rid of your Ishmael”? Before you truly can enjoy your new life in Christ, do you need to acknowledge and confess your mistake, sin, or failure to God? Accept His cleansing and forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). Put out of your life the sin, memories, guilt, and self-pity. Forgive yourself because God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.”