ADDENDUM

A couple of posts ago I talked about how I realized that I am all the things 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not – I envy and boast, I am arrogant and rude, I insist on my own way, I am irritable and resentful. 

Yesterday it came much more clear: in light of what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments, I am not just failing to love – I am in sin!

I know most of you are saying, “Well, duh!” but I don’t think I have ever looked at it that way before. It is sin just as much as adultery and gluttony and lying and all the others that seem so obvious. In fact, if I am honest, it should be considered the greatest sin since it directly breaks the greatest commandment – to love God, and the second to love my neighbor. 

I confess (agree with God that I am in sin) and repent (turn away from my sin), and purpose to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit!

George

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BROKENNESS AND OBEDIENCE

Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?

I have. Plenty of times.

On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.

On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”

That version doesn’t really fit scripture.

Have you ever really read the Great Commission?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.

Earlier, Jesus said:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

and

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)

and

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.

THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!

Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.

Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)

God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”

I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.

The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

and in John:

“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)

He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)

So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.

You have to decide.

The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!

George

BROKENNESS: WHERE’S THE HOLY SPIRIT?

So, you’ve become a Christian…walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, spoken in tongues, experienced miraculous healing, received Jesus into your heart – whatever your starting point might be. The point is, you are a Christian, and now you’re wondering why you are not automatically walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Why do I keep sinning? Why doesn’t God do something to stop me?” I know – I have had the same thoughts, the prayers of, “God, please help me!”

I don’t want to give the impression that God doesn’t give us power and strength to resist sin, but for a long time I didn’t really latch onto God’s answer to my cry: “I already did help you. My Son already died and rose again to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again – it’s all in there. You don’t have to sin. You’re free from slavery to sin!”

I didn’t want to hear God’s answer. I wanted Him to give me brokenness – to force me to obey. I didn’t want to have to choose not to sin, to discipline myself “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)

Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just because the Holy Spirit is living in me does not mean that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, to guide me, to shape the way I think and act. There is a constant battle between the flesh (the lustful desires and actions laid out in 5:19-20) and the Spirit. God does not force us to obey Him – he leaves it up to us to decide to love Him and serve him and to choose to walk in the Spirit. It is all our choice. God lays out the gift before us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us when we become Christians, but we still have to choose to obey. He won’t force it.

If we keep feeding the flesh, keep choosing to give in to temptation instead of choosing to humble ourselves and accept the Holy Spirit’s help, we won’t live godly lives. If we continuously choose to disobey God, then we have to wonder whether we were ever saved to begin with, since a true Christian is not characterized by the continuous choice to rebel against God (as opposed to desiring to obey, and failing because I am not accepting the help God is holding out to me).

It can be confusing, and lead to despair if we let it. Satan wants to convince us that we can never really follow God, and that he doesn’t really love us because he doesn’t make us obey. We need to be like Paul, who perseveres even though he sounds discouraged and frustrated with his own ability to follow God: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25

Paul does not give up the fight, and neither can we! We must be determined to follow God, and focus our hearts and minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh, fighting hard with every weapon we have; prayer, scripture, fellowship, etc. That is why openness is so key: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9

Note how John ties together openness (walking in the light) with fellowship with the verse we have all probably memorized about being forgiven when we confess our sins. It all goes together. Without openness, no brokenness. No brokenness, no confession. No confession, no forgiveness and cleansing.

So, all that is to say, just because I am a Christian does not mean that somehow I will automatically walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and be devoid of sin. Instead, it means that my greatest desire will be to love God and obey him, and that even though I still sin I keep bringing it to light, keep confessing, keep changing into the man he wants me to be. Everyone seems to know Romans 8:28, but 8:29 gives the purpose: “For to those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.”

I hope that helps, somehow.

Blessings,

George

THIS IS NOT BROKENNESS

Psalm 36:1-4 (HCSB)
1 An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked person: There is no dread of God before his eyes,
2  for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to discover and hate his sin.
3 The words of his mouth are malicious and deceptive; he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
4 Even on his bed he makes malicious plans. He sets himself on a path that is not good and does not reject evil.

This passage is key in my own journey toward Christian brokenness. Not only have I had to discover my sin by admitting it is sin (masturbation, gluttony, misuse of money, deceitfulness), but I also have to learn to hate my sin. Until I have done both of those things, I cannot break free from bondage to my sin, and I cannot set my family free from the effects my sin brings into the home.

I cannot lie – I still have areas where I have not learned to fully hate my sin. I don’t hate gluttony enough. I don’t hate my lifestyle of living in debt enough to pursue being debt-free with gazelle-like intensity (Proverbs 6:5). I am still malicious and deceptive in my speech, even though I try very hard not to be. It takes a long time to change habits that developed over 40 years.

The main point is, I can’t give up! At least, not if I still claim to be a Christian, seeking after God, becoming more like Jesus each day.

It is not easy, but you can do it! I can do it! By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Blood of the Lamb! Openness and Brokenness! For God’s glory!

And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. – Revelation 12:11

Under His Blood,

George

BROKENNESS VS. SELFISHNESS

I am selfish, self-centered, self-sufficient, and lazy. None of these character qualities lends itself to brokenness. It is always amazing to me that my wife continues to stand by me, continues to love me, continues to forgive me!

It is all too easy for me to take my eyes off myself and start thinking, “Why am I always the one who has to be wrong? It seems like I am doing all of the apologizing. I thought this relationship was supposed to be equal participation, both giving 100 percent!” Then come the whisperings of our one true enemy, Satan…”You know she doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to fulfill her every desire – you’ll never be good enough.”

Is it really true? Are we both supposed to give 100 percent? Yes! However, is my behavior predicated on my wife doing her part, and am I relieved of my responsibility if my carnal flesh says she doesn’t? Not if I truly love God and love my wife like Christ loves the Church! (Note that I know my wife loves me and honors me, and that she fully gives 100 percent to our marriage. I am the one giving less, and the log in my own eye is what I see projected onto her)

Ephesians 5:28-33 (HCSB)
28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church,
30 since we are members of His body.
31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.
33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

When I really think about it, I have to look at Jesus Christ during the hours before His crucifixion. He was beaten, the flesh ripped off his bones, ridiculed, vilified, and hung on a cross. At any point during He could have looked around and said, “Forget it! If you’re not going to love me and treat me with respect, I’m not going through with it! You can figure out how to appease God’s wrath on your own, you ungrateful wretches!”

Jesus didn’t give up on His bride. Instead:

Romans 5:6-11 (HCSB)
6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die.
8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.
10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, ⌊then how⌋ much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!
11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.

Praise God! How can I, who profess to be a Christian (a “little Christ”), strive to do any less? I am weak, and sinful, and overly ruled by my flesh, but I also have the unlimited power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me! Halleluiah!

So, brothers, never give up the fight. Don’t sit there, staring into your navel, wishing things were better or different. Get up and fight! Love with all God’s strength! Unite with your wife against your common enemy! God will be glorified if you do!

Peace,

George

BROKENNESS IS…TRUSTING GOD

These verses gave me a lot of comfort today:

In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me. Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Psalms 31:1-5 NKJV)

I was reminded that a huge part of brokenness, choosing to obey God’s will rather than my own will, is trusting Him!

May you be encouraged, as I am,

George

WHERE’S THE BLOOD?!?

It has been at least a couple of years since I’ve heard her say it, but when I would confess my sinful moral failures to her in the years after coming clean, she would ask me, “Where’s the blood?!?”

She references Hebrews 12:4, “In you struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (ESV)

You may say, “That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean literal blood…that stuff about pluck out your eye and cut off your hand is just figurative.” (Matthew 5:29,30;Matthew 18:8,9;Mark 9:43-47).  I don’t see any evidence to indicate that Hebrews 12 is talking about figurative blood.

Maybe I have a different perspective.  Back in the day (it’s been a few years) I would take part in Pankration – full contact martial arts mixing striking, kicking, and grappling for knock-out or submission (nowadays, MMA).  When I fought, sometimes I’d win, sometimes not – but I was a dogged fighter.  I never gave up easily.  Whenever I did lose, you can bet there was literal, red blood on my gi as testament to my resistance.

That is a mere earthly, flesh and blood struggle. Our resistance to sin is in the spiritual realm, and has another model – Jesus Christ.  You say, “He is the Son of God! He can’t sin!” True, but He was tempted:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)

Also, when dealing with temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, He shed real, literal blood:

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:41-44 (ESV)

So, dear friends, the next time you are tempted…

Shed some blood in the struggle! Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, and don’t give in! Be like Christ and say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done!”

Peace,

George