October 05, 2006

For Merrily

…I am asking where young men’s minds dwell in Christ, and are they willing to lead a lost world to Him. I just want to see into the heart of a man that may be 'working out his salvation with fear and trembling' (Phil 2:12)...

  • work out your salvation with fear and trembling (nasb)
  • continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (niv)
  • put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (nlt)
  • Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God (msg)
Somewhere in the neighborhood of ‘fear and trembling’ and ‘reverent and sensitive’ my heart does lead me as I walk through the choices and action I am offered in my new life with Jesus. And that in itself, is a transformation I often need to recall when I what some of my old life back. Once I opened my heart to Jesus, and then came to a place that I freely offered it (although conditionally at times) the real work began. It is for me, not always selfless pursuits; but also time to reflect on who I really am, and looking for the courage and wisdom to allow Jesus to work through me – and change me.

That is not to say that I do not occasionally feel I am living a life of penance now and again, for a life I led before; but that old life, is further and further way. And I almost don’t recognize that selfish boy acting as if he were a man. I find I am simply compelled to work outside of myself, and in community; to drop those desires of my past; and discovery the joy and contentment in His will for me.

I have only recently gained some perspective on the difference between setting boundaries, and simply asking, ‘what is the Father doing?’ There is a huge difference in doing right and good things, and following the Lord’s will. Although they can, and do, overlap for a time, we can find ourselves ‘working’ with the wrong motives.

…I was thinking, regarding you, this guy might give me his take on practical working agape, humility and freedom in Christ from a man's point of view in this post Christian culture…

Given to my own pursuits I’d spend long periods alone in the desert, and between the emotional highs of the grand discoveries in nature, I would sit disappointed at the lost opportunities to truly share it with someone else. Presently, I find contentment in simply being available to share time with others, getting to know them, and speaking about those things in which we may find some importance, struggle, or enjoy. And this is generally not to somehow solve problems, but rather to simply walk through some of our life together in friendship.

My angst, my hardship, what irritates me now, is not the time with people; but the management of my time with which people. This is where I become a doing rather than a Spirit-led being; but what a blessing to have problems like these over the anger, guilt and shame of years past.

Simply being available, without an agenda, has always been attractive and fulfilling for me in the few relationships of my past that afforded this type of friendship. Again, it is a matter of the heart. Do I want to serve my needs and desires, or can I pursue opportunities to share in the fullness of community. We are so often instructed by the world around us to be self sufficient…and the truth is, we are not.

...I'm curious about your take on Galatians 5 regarding 'lawlessness', ie 'liberty', ie the freedom we have in Christ, and also regarding the fruits of the selfish flesh verses the fruits of the Spirit, where motives are at the core, and good or bad behavior is inevitable via the motive…

Galatians 5:4-6

  • You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (nasb)

  • I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. (msg)
Our faith is to be expressed in and through love. Our faith is not a shopping list used to fulfill our spiritual tummies, much less our material desires. When we spend our energies searching for that special someone that is willing to offer a proper and correct to-do list, we will fall short of finding true contentment in the Lord. But we will be sure to have a scapegoat for not trying to pursue God in our own lives. “It didn’t work, so I’m done with that. And you told me, so you must be wrong.”

We have a personal relationship with God the Father, Son and Spirit. The sticking point for me is just that, it is our personal relationship. If I look to follow directions, to satisfy some cost for an item I feel I can procure, I have missed the boat. God can’t be bought like groceries.

If I find myself trying too hard to figure something out that doesn’t appear to fit, looking for some sort of fix-it instructions for the heart…I’ve made a wrong turn. This usually takes the form of some extended internal dialogue in which we get to argue with our personal ideal of someone with which we have a difference of opinion.

As the majority (if not all) of our sin does in some way effect those close to us, how I interact with my neighbors and the motives behind this become quite important. Am I so dense to believe a score card can guide me through this? I cannot play other people like they are a game, as if they are only fully charged and on when I’m around. The solution is Jesus – to walk my faith out in love. The center from which all that is good and true flows from Jesus, and unless He’s standing on my shoulders, I am no where near the center of the universe.

Galatians 5:13-15

  • For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (nasb)

  • It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (msg)

We are free of the law. But the price is to die to self. Are we focused on what the Father is doing as we love our neighbor? Am I often offended by the people around me? If my heart is in such a state that I can be offended, God will see to it that I am. It is difficult to come to the understanding that where we may find ourselves right now is not the center, not the place where we may brush up against the kingdom. Do we try and pull the kingdom toward us, or do we see the changes we should allow God to do in us so that we may move toward Him? So my freedom, it would seem to me, is not that I am allowed to do what I wish; but I am free to have more of Him as I am willing.

And again, this is not done alone. Though we celebrate diversity in God’s Kingdom, we need one another to remain accountable. It is here that I get to pursue the Lord though the service of others, but also allowing myself to submit to authority by simply keeping someone in the body aware of my heart, and not reacting to correction defensively. If I become defensive with regard to someone’s comments, I need to check my motives.

Galatians 5:16-18

  • But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (nasb)

  • My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? (msg)

Who am I following? I am surely following someone or something in all that I do. Am I so proud and vain that I see myself especially unique in all my problems and triumphs? If I choose to at least lean into the Spirit, God will have the grace to allow me to stumble toward Him. I will, deep down in my heart of hearts, have movements of clarity in which I am aware of His presence. How will I respond to His presence?

It isn’t a matter of will I struggle, but when and how hard. Am I willing to share my life, and even those bits of my super secret thought life, with someone else simply in the pursuit of God’s will for me? Some fine moments in a few of my days I respond to this in a resounding “you bet!” Other days, I recoil back into “not right now, I’d like to get a bit more holy on my own first.”

Eventually I will discover how silly I am, share my heart with someone I can trust, and realize I’m not alone. Though we could just agree that we both are sinners and stop right there, we instead work to move away from our selfishness. Friendships grow, and we can move through correction together. And that in itself is fruit enough for me, but there is always so much more when I look back with just my small bit of perspective.

…With Jesus, I don't think it's about rules ~ I think it's about liberty. With Jesus, I do think it's about Authority and I believe the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…

1 comment:

Steve S. said...

"But of course!" said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. "That's what we all find when we reach this country. We've all been wrong! That's the great joke. Theree's no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living."

CS Lewis - The Great Divorce