I thought this was worth sharing. It is always good to be surrounded by people who strive to remain real.
Originally posted on theologyisdead:
Insert random shit saying in the vain of ‘it wasting time to regret…’
While struggling to see the meaning/point of life I HATE stupid optimistic people’. Quite frankly how I see the world is out of my control, genetic disposition and experiences that effect me are not within my control. IE Charlie browns and Lucy’s reality off kicking a football are completely different. As such it would be idiotic to tell Charlie ‘If at first you don’t succeed try, try again’. A saying such as this would not only subject Charlie to undue bodily injury it would solidify and confirm all of his worst fears, that he is inadequate and life will always deal him a short hand.
My second case study is that of Donald Duck. Donald is often framed as a lunatic, flying off the handle at the slightest inconvenience. We laugh at his ‘over reaction’ to problematic situations that we all face. The thing that I relate with is that the majority of Donald’s problems start as those such as common to man; getting rained out of an event you love, getting lost, having a camping trip ruined or a sailing mishap. However they are made exponentially worse by either happy go lucky types or the pranks of those close to him.
“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”
- Joseph Addison
It has been a while since I’ve sat down and written anything with any thought what-so-ever. Life, if you will, has sort of interrupted my life. But it is this very statement upon which I write today. I found myself today writing in confusion; fighting the person I am with what little of the Spirit of God have I left within me. I say all of this with brutal honesty. Even now I couldn’t imagine a better adjective for the beating I am giving myself but than to let it be pure brutality.
As Christians, we go through life drinking the most pure, plush, and posh poisons put in our cups; then after it is all said and done, we blame the devil, we blame the flesh, we blame everything but ourselves. How ignorant can a follower of Christ be? Jesus, the Gospel is right there at our fingertips and we flick it off in disgust in the same way a child flicks the slimy, green nose bacteria off their fingertips; not knowing where it lands, just that its gone until the next time. I know, disgusting picture, but it is true. It is truly how we treat the only Person that should matter in our lives.
Today, the most beautiful thing happened to me: I experienced the act of forgiving. However, this broke me: The pure stupidity on my part to waste every moment and minute of my life harboring disgust, hate, malice, etc. towards the persons involved. The Christian life is complicated because we make it complicated. We make it beyond unbearable. We waste so much time trying to pin-point the problems with everyone else; and even the most humble of Christians waste time pin-pointing their own problems. What we really need to be doing is letting God pin-point the problems. This reality became true for me today.
I bathed myself in dung for so many years, washing behind my ears making sure everything is clean and pure before the eyes of God. I bathed myself in dung; the absoluteness of that statement manifested clarity as a familiar stench in my nostrils today. My focus has always been on the abominable actions and behaviors I allow to creep in and out of my life. These things break me, they shatter me. However, being faced with a choice to revel or embrace, I took the latter and it fragmented me.
The recurring theme in my life has been missing the most gracious opportunities to boldly go before throne and weep at the feet of my Creator. I’ve realized in the recent hours that I have been nothing but a jester in court of the King. I have missed every waking opportunity. What a fool I have been. What an absolute fool.
Myriads of lessons learned today. Lessons in Clarity. Lessons in Forgiveness. Lessons in Forbearance. Lessons in Love. Lessons in Peace. Lessons in Humility.
“If man takes the glory of it [salvation] to himself, he thereby will be in the greatest danger of taking the glory to himself that is due to God, and of setting up himself as standing in competition with God, as vying with the Most High, and making himself a god, and not a man.”
- Jonathan Edwards from Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 XI, Chapter IV
“[…]Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life.”
- Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale from the novel THE SCARLET LETTER
In recent days, I have found myself engrossed in the fictional life of the Reverend Aurthur Dimmesdale. A minister in adultery with the, later, impregnated Hester Prynne. Throughout the story she is ridiculed for her sin never revealing the father of the child during the ridicule. Dimmesdale, in his meticulous way, wants her to reveal his sin even though he cannot do it himself. His convictions weighed on him so relentlessly causing his health to diminish, ultimately killing him. So many times have I wanted to scream out the pain of my deepest, darkest sin but could not. Not to anyone I know. All abominable sins aside, no one would confess the murder or lust in their heart toward the people they encounter daily. It is human nature to feel shame. No Christian person would stand in door way of their church and declare their atrocious acts of lust or hate. Humanity makes it nearly impossible!
I deeply admire the character of Dimmesdale. He, in my opinion, represented a true Christian in deep sin. He hid his sin (as any proud person would) but did not allow the convictions of the sin to escape his conscience. It sounds easy to do, but it is not. Especially when one commits a specific sin repeatedly, it becomes routine and overlooked. One begins to rationalize why they do what they do and do not look at it anymore with righteousness and conviction, but instead regard it as truth rather than the lie it always was.
People get this sort of idea in their mind about suffering for Christ as if it has to be an array of physical beatings, martyrdom, or ridicule; but what about taking hold of the flesh, fighting it and then losing? What about the kind of suffering no one can see but you? The suffering dealt with in the deepest, darkest, most dank corners of your heart. How anyone can put on a Sunday face for so long with no spiritual infirmities is far beyond me! You may not be getting battery acid thrown in your face in the middle of a jungle somewhere or being called a “Jesus fag” at school. However, if you are dealing with pain of regret, asking God daily to forgive you of this sin or that sin, already knowing he throws it out as far as the east is to the west, you are suffering. No amount of apologies, no pool of Bethesda, no laying of hands could take away the guilt if you wallow in it. You will be like Dimmesdale; nauseated to death.
I realize now the approach to secret sin Dimmesdale made was truly the death of him in more ways than just the physical. I admire his convictions and character as I have said earlier but his approach was shameful in the eyes of God. To not allow God to build in him a stronger foundation was wrong. In times of sowing evil, when the harvest of rotten fruit is ready for the picking, just pick the fruit. There is no use standing around staring at it. Pick it. It’s yours.
“…God sent Nathan to David. Note, Though God may suffer his people to fall into sin, he will not suffer them to lie still in it.”
- Matthew Henry
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
Without going into an elongated theological dissertation on free will, I would rather share some of the thoughts passing through my mind as of lately. Those of you who are close enough to me to have had some sort of deep theological conversation/debate, probably already know where I stand on the topic of free will and how it is used in human nature. To understand the next few paragraphs, I will give the reader a brief summation of how I ended up where I am today.
I was raised in Calvary Chapel, with Calvary Chapel thinking, Calvary Chapel music, Calvary Chapel “distinctives” ingrained in my mind. Before I go on, please note this is not a blog made to bash the Calvary Chapel ‘non-denominational’ denomination. If anyone is not very familiar with the theological stance of Calvary Chapel, the backbone is clearly Arminian. At the time, did I have a problem with it? No. Was I satisfied by what I learned? To my knowledge, yes. Most of the errors throughout my life made at church were because of two separate things: 1. ME. 2. The nature of the [Christian] church (which is a separate discussion all together).
Over time, as I faced different obstacles, I started falling off of the Christian “grid”, if you will. How could this be? I said my ‘sinner’s prayer‘ when I was 5. I got baptized at 15. How did I end up being so evil? And when I say ‘evil.’ I really was. Anyone who has known me all my life will attest to the things I am capable of doing. More time passes and I just became a person without a conscience. As my spirituality declined, my sins escalated into greater sins. Note, for this instance, I put sins on a scale in order convey my message a little more clearly. Being raised in church, being subliminally taught by my church peers, I was able to fool many people into thinking I was still on the “path” God wanted me to be on. It’s easy to live two lives: Church on Sunday through Wednesday and Party Thursday through Saturday. You just talk the right talk, show up when you have to show up, and people think you’re “saved.” It was almost too easy. However, it got harder play the part when I stopped caring about what I was doing and what people knew I was doing. More time passes, a series of life changing events (divorce, drug addiction, sex addiction, alcoholism, near death experiences, etc, etc) occur and then finally, it happened: I realized I wasn’t saved, even though I made the choice to get saved, I was not a true Christian. I had realized I was influenced by my peers into doing something that I was bred to do. I did it all before: I said the sinners prayer, I cried at retreats, I prayed for crying teens, I memorized John 3:16 and all of the other “greatest hits” of the Bible. Fortunately for me, I was later saved on my own, in my bedroom, on my knees in a sea of tears, filled with the darkest of confessions from the heart. The reader may say in Christianese, “Oh no, you were saved! You were just ‘backslidden‘ for a very, very long time.” I would respond to the statement with this passage:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)
To say something like “he/she is backsliding” is not giving God the fear he deserves. I used to sit in these Bible studies where people would be so upset over someone they loved whom they thought was a Christian, just living in the world. I mean deep in the world. Not just accidentally getting pregnant or getting a DUI because when Christians are in sin and accidentally get pregnant or get a DUI, it just supports the idea that no one Christian can sin successfully. When I say they are “deep in the world,” I am expressing concern for their spiritual well being because they are people who demonstrate the nature of those described in Romans 1. I wish back then I knew to say, “NO! They aren’t backslidden! These people might not even be Christians! You should be praying for their salvation! And you need to repent also!” Of course, what did I know then? I wasn’t even born again myself.
The idea of ‘free will’ is widely misinterpreted throughout the church on both sides of the fence (Calvinists and Arminians). I know for myself, I was raised with a very light hearted view of the salvific process, including what happens after the process. The modern idea of free will not only states the obvious problems, giving man power over every choice, good and bad; but it also doesn’t give God the praise or fear he deserves. It sort of leaves God powerless, in my opinion. I do want to raise some questions in the minds and hearts of those who have spent their lives speaking Christianese, playing the part, singing the songs, quoting the scriptures, side hugging your brethren. They are the people believe the choices they make are theirs only. Here they are as follows:
- If you say you have free will, why do you say, “My flesh is stronger than me” or “don’t give in to your flesh”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you say, “Satan got a hold on my life”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you recite, “Let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you pray, “Holy Spirit, reign over my life”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you cry, “Lord, help me to not sin again”?
I hear Christians all around me say these statements verbatim all the time. A service I was at a few weeks ago had an altar call and in the “sinners prayer” were some of these very ideas. Lately, I’ve been thinking about these very questions; not in a theological sense, but more in a concerned sense. We can all agree what separates us [human beings] from the Angels in Heaven is the very gift of being given the power to make choices. Would one be able to define having a choice as being free will? One could, but ask yourself, what influences your choices? Your flesh, the Holy Spirit, Satan, your mom, Jesus, God..what? Something or someone has to have an influence on every choice you make, whether you like it or not. In fact, if you speak Christianese, you agree by the things you say when you ask someone to pray for you, or when you confess a sin to another person in the church, or when you praise God for giving you the power to “make the right choices in the midst of temptation.”
I have to conclude here because again, this could turn into a theological dissertation. At this point in my life, I want to throw my arms in the air when it comes to taking a theological stance on anything! I side with one thought and God shows me the opposite. However, since the inception of my regeneration, I have always felt the urgency to open the eyes of the sleeping church. I was asleep in the same way and I look around and see the same thing in churches everywhere. As much dismay I express towards the church, I love it with all my heart. I love the people in it. I love the people that surround me. I love the people I grew up with. I go back often to the church I was brought up in and the people I knew as a child are still there, growing old, having families. I love them all! In the church with all the different denominations, doctrines, verbatim, methods of discipline, and so on; these things become blinding and worse, binding in hearts of men and women passing through church life. Church, give God the fear and reverence He deserves. Don’t just mind the vulgar things you say, but mind the holy things you think you are saying. Be vigilant of everything around you. Do not be haughty and proud of your own choices because most likely, the choice you made was not your idea in the first place.
“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” – Jonathan Edwards
31Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
- Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV)
There comes a time in the Christian walk when the Christian walking realizes what an utter failure they are. Sometimes the evolution of it all takes longer than others, but other times, it is instant. At that point, the Christian then finds himself/herself grovelling at the feet of Jesus. “Please Jesus,” they cry, “Please take this affliction from my life!” They try everything: throwing items out, throwing people out, AA, NA, SAA, etc., etc. Nothing seems to work. Then of course, they encounter substandard Christian counseling and get the old, ‘You were made that way‘ lecture. At the end of it all, nothing is solved and the Christian walking has been lessened to a crawl.
In this short excerpt from Matthew, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him. Peter then exclaims he would never deny Jesus. As the story goes, he later denies Jesus. During my morning reading in this passage of the Gospels, I found myself enthralled by Peter’s pride. I know for myself, I thoroughly related. Remembering all of the unspoken prayer requests after Bible studies, those people I am sure, could relate. How many times have we found ourselves promising God we will never do something ever again? What happens? One day, two days, one month, three months down the road; we find ourselves back to square one. We did it again. Even worse, we broke our vow with God. In the moment, it seems as though breaking the vow is worse than the actual sin itself. From then on, it becomes this downward spiral into darkness, away from God who you thought was going to help you out of this mess. Instead, one hides in the darkness. He makes the darkness his home because the shame is too much to deal with.
Jesus knew what Peter was going to do before he did it. Peter’s response was just as convincing when he exclaimed he would never deny Jesus. The problem was this: Peter was in his flesh. Not only was he in his flesh, without knowledge, he was relying on his flesh to keep him from denying Christ. I believe, if Peter’s response was the opposite, he would have been spiritually prepared for the chain of events leading him to the denial. In the end, his shame and sorrow would not have been the bitter pill it ended up becoming. That bitter pill nearly choked Peter right out of the ministry, had not Jesus kept His promise by returning.
Brethren, we need to be cognizant of our own flesh. We cannot rely on our flesh to fix a problem. You can throw away the computer, set porn blocks up, break up with that person you know is bringing you down, avoid the bars, and so on and so forth. But you cannot avoid what Jesus already knows is coming to you. Instead, just listen to what He has to say to you personally through His word. Know that your failures are all apart of the process.
“Many Christians seem to understand the concept of being saved by grace, but they have missed the concept of being sustained by grace. ” – James D. Mallory, Jr.