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August 20, 2017

On Friday night, out of the blue, we received an email from someone who had hurt us when we were on our journey of homelessness. The email was kind, however, and seeing a God connection in this email Wanda and I decided to visit. Our visit was cordial and polite. We were able to extend grace and love to this person even though we had been hurt by them in the past. As we left, this person pointed to a Crown of Thorns plant they had on their porch. It was, as you see in the picture, full of nasty sharp thorns that would cause a great deal of pain should anyone come up against it. The visual God gave us was clear and precise. It was yet another stunning example of what the ‘self’ nature looks like.

When I was working at Staples the staff would often get cardboard cuts from opening the boxes of products we had to put on the shelves. The cuts were somewhat frequent and painful. All of the staff would get them and routinely one of us would have to run to get a bandage to stop the bleeding. Pain was a constant companion in that job as it was part of the environment. This kind of pain is not new to me as I have grown and picked many raspberries in the past with their short sharp thorns. I have also raised hybrid tea roses and have cut myself many times on the thorns that grow on these plants. As a farmer I have seen whole fields overrun by thistles as they choke the life out of the crop that was planted. No other plant could compete and no animal would eat the nasty thorny plants. So, in short, I am quite used to having to deal with the prick and prickles from thorns and thistles in day to day life. I am sure most of you would have similar experiences with everyday objects you deal with that prick the skin and cause pain. It is normal in our world for the world is full of objects that have the power to hurt still in them. The wounds that come from thorns and thistles are usually not serious but the pain they cause can be nasty. Most of the time we do what we can to avoid such needless pain and suffering.

Now what in the world do thorns, thistles, pricks, pain and a Crown of Thorns plant have to do with the ‘self’ nature you may ask? Well to answer that let us look at Song of Songs 2:1-2 “[She] I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. [He] Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” One way of looking at this verse is to see Jesus saying to His Bride that she is like a ‘lily among thorns’. Basically what the Lord is describing is a person that has no thorns. They have no power to hurt in them. They are thornless, like a lily. So the Bride of Christ is thornless so that means the power to hurt has been removed from her. That begs the question; what is it in any person that has the ‘power to hurt’? The answer is simple, the ‘self’ nature. It is the ‘self’ nature that carries and lives out the desire and power to hurt. The ‘self’ nature wants to prick the flesh of others, to cause them pain, to make them hurt as they are hurt. It is the ‘self’ nature that wove a crown out of thorns and stuck it on the head of One who had no thorns in Him. If the ‘self’ nature is not removed from you then you too will hurt others with your thoughts, words and deeds.

Thorns are unpleasant and plants grow them for self-protection. These plants keep people and animals away by inflicting pain and injury. This mechanism protects the plant from possible injury or death. Unfortunately, when a person gives way to their ‘self’ nature they too will inflict pain on others to keep them at bay. The ‘self’ nature not only acts like its own god, protecting itself, but often will try to proactively hurt others to preempt any perceived attack. ‘Self’ uses pain as a defense but also as a weapon. Those who do not deal with their ‘self’ nature will find their thorns and thistles too much for others to bear as they actively wound those close to them. It is a lonely and solitary existence. Even in a crowd a person with a thorny ‘self’ nature will drive away anyone around them.

We are not born with the maturity of thorns and thistles even though we all are born with a ‘self’ nature. As we pass each day in this life, however, we accrue pricks and wounds from dealing with the ‘self’ of others. Parents and siblings are the first to make the wounds on our souls which is then followed by relatives, friends, strangers, teachers, employers, officials, spouses, children, etc., etc. All around us are people full of their ‘self’ nature, full of thorns and thistles that cut and wound our spirits and make us bleed on the inside. Since we do not know how to handle this pain as children we absorb it and then learn to hurt back. We grow our own thorns and thistles and soon we are causing as much pain as was done to us plus more besides. We join the ranks of humanity escalating the hurt and pain in our world. We cannot stop it. We may not want to do this but as long as we carry the ‘self’ nature we will have no choice in the matter. A rose cannot stop being a rose, thorns and all.

The only way to stop the pain caused to others by our ‘self’ nature is to have God destroy our ‘self’ nature, and its power to hurt. Only then will we become a ‘lily among thorns’ and will receive Him as their reward. If we do not allow God to change our character and remove from us our ‘self’ nature, then God will let us separate from Him. God’s judgement is clear in Scripture that people who continually bear thorns and thistles will be cast into the fire. “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume His thorns and his briers.” Isaiah 10:17. “For the soil which has drunk the rain that repeatedly falls upon it and produces vegetation useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated partakes of a blessing from God. But if (that same soil) persistently bears thorns and thistles, it is considered worthless and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” Hebrews 6:7-8. God’s nature and the ‘self’ nature of man cannot coexist. One must die. Our continual daily prayer should be like King David from Psalms 139:23-24. “Search me (thoroughly), O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Keep in mind not all pain that happens is caused by the ‘self’ nature although a large majority is. There is pain that also comes from spirit. This pain feels much the same way as any pain does but the point of this pain is to bring us to repentance. The Holy Spirit may allow pain into our life for our redemptive purposes, so that we will repent. My life is full of stories where I have made mistakes and hurt others or have been hurt by them and the Spirit has led me to humble myself and repent of my ‘self’ nature. This kind of pain I welcome for it brings us to confront our ‘self’ and release it to God so we do not inflict needless pain on others. There are other times when God has tasked us with confronting others with their ‘self’ nature so they could repent as well. Most times it is not understood and their ‘self’ nature reacts in fury. If God ever does confront you with your ‘self’ keep in mind that it is His hand of mercy being extended to you. He always is looking to grow us up, mature us and have ever deeper relationship with us. Getting rid of ‘self’ with its uncanny power to hurt is key to that growth. Look to Jesus who had the Crown of Thorns pushed into His brow and died for the power to hurt in us. He can grant us the exchanged life in our inner man from a thorns and thistles nature to being a rose without thorns; like the Rose of Sharon.

One of the most difficult aspects of the ‘self’ nature is its ability to hide itself from our view. We have no ability to see ourselves and are no good judge of whether the ‘power to hurt’ is still in us. It is like halitosis. It may come from us but only affects other people. So the best way to determine if the power to hurt is still in you is to ask others if you have hurt them with your words and actions. Be careful with this as you may get a nasty surprise back, the truth. Unless you are prepared to let your ‘self’ nature die this will be a very loaded question to ask others. The question is good to ask though because we have no ability to see ourselves clearly and correctly. With the revelation you receive back you may be surprised just how far you are from being thornless. Don’t give up though. If you have asked the question it means you are serious about destroying ‘self’ and are one step closer in becoming the Bride of Christ.

A prickly message in this blog today but with a hope that all who read it understand the nature of ‘self’ and how much it hurts others as well as ourselves. Yield your ‘self’ nature to God and let Him make you a ‘lily among thorns’.


Homer and Wanda