It’s an awesome testimony.. and it isn’t mine.
*shrug* It sounds an awful lot like an awful lot of books I’ve read. Pretty much every self-help book I’ve read. “I used to struggle, and now I don’t.” Their stories almost seem too good to be true. It seems that everybody writes from a platform of having arrived. And why not? Who wants to read a book by somebody who says “I tried real hard, and I still am, and the story’s not over yet” ? …I do. I want to know that I’m not fighting out here alone, that I’m not the only one who still faces temptation.. that I’m not alone here on what feels like the bottom rung of a relationship with Christ.
My tendency is to try to write like those people, and act like I’ve arrived… only it doesn’t work very well if you’re writing once a week. It seems to me, though, the most awesome books I’ve read are the ones about Jesus and what He’s done in peoples’ lives, and what He’s done in the Bible.
The problem is, if everybody writes from the perspective of “I was where you are,” who will write from the perspective of “I *am* where you are, and I’m struggling too… so join my journey”? If we’re all perfect, what good is church, and who needs this Jesus? Why God, and why is it important that He loves us undeservedly if we can earn his loving?
Maybe love isn’t earned. Maybe it’s lavished on one person who doesn’t deserve it for no good reason whatsoever, and then returned, in attempts that aren’t always (or even usually) perfect, or close to perfect, but makes the lover smile anyway.
What if God is a loving Father?
What if the law is protection – protection from slavery to sin, no less?
“Sin’s an awful thing. You go outside the fence God built, thinking it makes you free. You enjoy it, and because the religious people have told you that Christianity is all work and no joy, and the devil agrees with them, and you fall for it. You go further and further in, and then one day, if you’re lucky, you wake up and realize you’re a slave to what you thought was freedom. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. They spend their whole lives as slaves, and never know it, or when they find out, they can’t get free. I know. I’ve been a slave. I’m one of the blessed ones that called out to God for help, and He answered.”
What if the law is protection?
What if the law is freedom?
Ok, theology time! 🙂
LAW VS GRACE : THE SUPPOSED FIGHT
I fear the law.
I don’t “fear” it in the way the Bible talks about fear… i’m afraid of the law. I find people who are (I hope) further along in their walk with Christ, and they tell me that I *should* be doing this, or I *should* be doing that… and I feel the burdens kinda stack up. I fear the feelings of guilt that come with “not doing” what I “should be doing.” I give up. Take feelings, for example. If the feelings are strong, and I can justify them, I go through a pattern of guilt, then either repentance or justifying myself, or often both, in that order.
I’ve got a lot of self-control, I think. If I fight enough, I can go for a long time without doing actions that are wrong. But the heart? That’s a different thing altogether. And since life is lived from the heart, what am I to do? How does the heart change?
What to do? Why, don’t live from the heart, of course! Live by the rules. Don’t do what the heart longs to… do what MUST be done. I don’t buy that, though sometimes that’s necessary, until the heart follows. After all, we want to love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. All of them, together… and they are connected. Where the strength goes, the heart follows. Where the mind goes, the heart follows. Where the heart goes, the soul follows, and many times the mind and strength also trail the heart. Where the soul goes, the heart, mind, and strength invariably follow eventually. They’re all connected to each other – unlike this paragraph, which is connected to nothing around it.
But back to the question: how does the heart change? How do you stop… desiring something? How do you stop wishing for something?
I certainly hope that you weren’t hoping that I had The Answer. I don’t… but in a way, I do. I’ll try to explain.
My new pastor, Mike Stahl, has said on several occasions that the answer, when fighting sin, isn’t necessarily to fight sin harder, but instead to press in to God. I think he’s a wise man. After all, sin and God are different. If you press in to one, leave the other. As the mantra says, “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.” Going to sin pulls us from God, and going to God pulls us from sin. We cannot go in both directions at once, at least not for very long.
So where does that leave me and the Sins of the Emotions Problem? Prayer.
When I wonder and ponder about my future, it’s best if I pray about those questions. And if I don’t get answers, I guess I assume that I don’t need to know, or that I haven’t asked with enough faith. I pray, and if I have no answer… I have to rest in the knowing that GOD knows, and that He cares about me and my life and my future – not only cares, but has each day written down.
I flipped through my prayer journal the other day, and imagined my handwriting on the blank pages. In God’s reality, they’re already written. Every single page has ink on it, in my handwriting, telling the story of what He will do. But because I’m a writer, too, and have a pretty good imagination, I always try to guess the ending and move toward it. And I keep getting stymied.
For example, I thought I’d found the right church (Life Church), and I had already started writing out in my mind how I’d get “plugged in” there, how I’d really get involved, and go to picnics, and get to know people, and everything like that… and then one day, a girl would show up, and we’d fall in love, and I’d marry her, and we’d raise a family in that very church, and go there all our lives.
Didn’t work out like that. I guess you’d say I got a little disillusioned with the church and the nature of that church and switched over to *victorious* life church. I decided that the best option would be *not* to try to write out the story of my life from VLC in my mind… you know, the plug-in, the involvement, the church picnics, the girl, the wedding… It could happen, but I decided not to try to write the story here.. ’cause I like it, and I don’t want to mess it up. I may not meet the girl I’m supposed to marry at VLC. Anything could happen, honestly… she could be one of the girls from word of life, or she could be Kara, or… just some girl I meet on the street, or at work… or who knows where.
The point in this is, like Eric and Leslie Ludy, I have a tendency to take the pen out of God’s hand. I guess my problem is that I come from a guilt background. I feel guilty when I take the pen out of God’s hand… as if I have done something abhorrent and God doesn’t love me anymore because I’ve been a disobedient child. It sounds strange, but I feel that way. Or I did. Sometimes it’s a tricky line. I have to recognize that this is for my good because my Father loves me so much.
I guess the guys from New Life would call it “reframing.” Giving God the pen.. surrendering control… isn’t so bad. We just try to make it hard, and impossible, and make it seem like God’s going to mess things up if we hand over the story of our lives to Him. That’s what I’m afraid of, sometimes. Listen to this, though: Paul refers to God as “the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine.”
The New American Standard translates it this way: “Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
The guys who translated the greek for King James thought this sounded right: “Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and Darby put it “far exceedingly above all which we ask or think.”
I’m shaking my head. This doesn’t sound like *mock voice* “surrendering our lives unto almighty God, who doth all things well yada yada” (no offense if your pastor talks religious)… This sounds like trading in a mucked-up, horribly written disaster for the incredible adventure of a lifetime, to be written by someone who utterly enjoys doing things that would make your head explode (thanks Glenn Beck). This sounds like.. Moses, for example.
Any forty-year-old prince of Egypt could’ve started a revolution, rallied the Israelites around him, then delivered them out of Egypt with great force.
But only God would send an 80-year-old, sheep-watching, slow-talking old man to walk into Pharoah’s court with his brother and a stick and announce to the king of the toughest superpower of the day that God said to let his people go. People wouldn’t have invented that, I’m sorry.
Imagine the scenario. Pharoah’s up on his throne, discussing the price of oil and why the slave population is still growing, and in walks this old dude and his little brother.
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel.. let my people go.” Pharoah’s eyebrows are raised.
“Guards, get these jokers out of here.” Think about this for a minute! God sends an eighty-year-old man, with no army, and no big schemes up his sleeve, to stand before Pharoah… and ten plagues later, Pharoah’s telling him to leave, and take God’s people with him.
Any leader could lead a people out.. but only God would plot it just so that Pharoah’s soldiers would get drowned in the Red Sea so they’d leave His people alone once they got to the promised land. ‘Cause it’s not that far.
And so we come full circle. Should and should not are different questions now than they were before. Good is no longer good like *being* good, a certain framework and set of rules to follow, but good like ice cream. Good like a cool summer evening with iced tea and a whole house filled with grins. Sin is no longer bad like guilty-bad, but bad like MAKES you feel guilty. It’s bad like getting run over by a car, or getting cancer, or leprosy. It’s something you don’t want, period. Solomon tried to sum it up in Proverbs 5:3 and 4:
“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey And smoother than oil is her speech; But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword.”
Sounds good to start out, sounds bad to finish. God’s way is best. Best like eating mud vs. drinking coffee best.
So that’s the answer. The gospel, no less. God takes bad and makes it good beyond all imagination. How do we fight this war in the mind?
Faith. Trust. Pressing in to God, because He’s good. Prayer, and asking about what we don’t understand. That doesn’t sound like the right answer, or like evicting wrong thoughts… it’s just taking the wrong thoughts to God and asking for help.. ’cause we can’t fight sin very effectively anyway. That’s a God-sized job. Let Papa do it.
I haven’t arrived, I assure you. God has, though… and He’s my only chance. The path to “greater holiness” is paved with NEEDING God more, instead of needing Him less. And before you get started worrying that you don’t need God much… *shakes head* leave it alone. If you don’t, you will. Might as well start this relationship thing with Him now, if you haven’t already. Trust me… if you don’t believe me, read through my archives. You’ll need Him eventually.