Category Archives: 27. Letting Go

Letting Go (Sunday)—Genesis 22:1-19

Having experience with both following and leading, I often think about the nature of authority; Where does it come from? How does it develop? Today’s passage will help answer these questions. We will focus today’s MwM exploration on the idea of legitimate authority and launch from this inspired sentence:

 Take now your son…and offer him as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:2)

The scripture do not record any reaction by Abraham other than his prompt obedience. There just had to be a “You-Can’t-Be-Serious!!” moment in there somewhere, “Slay Isaac! But God, he is the miraculous fulfillment of your promise to Sarah and I. And—need I remind you? He is the means to the fulfillment of your promise to make nations from my seed. Isaac has brought laughter into our lives, replacing the sorrow of Sarah’s barrenness.” It is recorded that Abraham is God’s friend. Has it ever bothered you how God treats His friends? How about His children, each of whom He scourges?

Words like scourging and discipline sound so Old Testament. But it is the New Testament writer of Hebrews who goes so far as to call us illegitimate if we are without them. Here is a question for those of us who lead; What have we said, by way of our words and our lives, that have helped clarify how discipline works itself out? Or, have our notions of grace undermined the place of discipline?

Legitimate leaders are those whose lives and teachings help clarify this challenging aspect of following Christ. By teaching on pet themes (which often exclude correction), we fail to equip would-be disciples with this essential part of the vision that should be forming in their hearts. Without this understanding of God’s ways, how will the would-be disciple react when the path becomes steep with some discipline from the Lord or narrow with some challenging circumstance?

We should appeal to our pastors: “Please do not just share from the latest book you’ve read (or whatever source of inspiration you depend upon) and expect us to prosper as his disciples.” True disciples will balk at that voice. Unless it is lived truth, it remains a potentially lifeless proposition. Second hand truths do not fan cold embers into fires, nor can they sustain the fires that already glow within hungry hearts.

Speak to us instead from your legitimizing experience with God, those seasons where the Word, through trial and testing, has become flesh in you. Model for us what life with Him and each other is to look like. There are many who are looking and longing for those who can speak to them and live along side them with the authority that only come from life-experience, shaped by God’s Word and His Spirit.

In his becoming a friend to God, Abraham had to let go of the thing that was most precious to him on this earth. Contrary to every fiber of his being, he had to relinquish his rights to God’s promise and entrust that promise back to Yahweh to do with as He pleased. For Abraham and for the author of Hebrews, it boiled down to this:

It is God with whom we have to do. (from Hebrews 4:13)

Those who enjoy friendship status with the Father have been weaned (often through discipline or pruning) from their earthly ambitions. Having let go of their ego-driven agendas they have become equipped with the legitimate authority found only in broken men and women, saints whose false foundations have been demolished, disciples who are progressively resting in Christ alone as their life and are now living for His larger kingdom-agenda.

Father, please raise up authentic spiritual fathers whose lives and words will honor the whole counsel of scripture and help us to understand Your loving heart so that we may process life as You intend us to, so that we might grow up as legitimate children, accurately representing who You are to the world around us. Amen.

 

Letting Go (Saturday)—I John 2:15-17

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

The scriptures teach us that we are temporarily located in a body which is located temporarily in a temporary world, so, its not too surprising we are powerfully conditioned by temporariness. This is a real problem since, created in His (eternal) image, we are anything but temporary. The apostle John, an intimate friend to Jesus, knew it was in man to give his affections either to the temporal or the eternal. His Master had taught Him that men are either going to love one or the other and that “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.

Religion recognizes worldliness and addresses it by way of laws. “Thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” are the spirit of all systems of religiosity. Consequently its portrayal of the fear of God is centered on what may happen to them if they run afoul of these laws. Contrastingly, those who are resting in Christ’s righteousness are also in this world, but they recognize the futility of religion in dealing with it. They are focused on a promise: “And this is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23)

So how are we to live out our lives as eternal spirits in a temporal world, one that is passing away before our very eyes?  All of scripture speaks to this in one way or another but John gives us a keen insight with 1 John 2:29: “Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

The scripture tells us that Satan has some authority in this temporary world, which he wields through deception. By leveraging the temporal, as if it were all there was, the prince of this (temporary) age, reigns over a network of ideas, which are designed to distract us from the eternal. But… “The anointing (gift of the Spirit) which you received from Him abides in you…. His anointing teaches you about all (these) things” (1 John 2:27). And in verse 17, John tells us if we will do the will of God, we will abide forever. (parentheses mine)

We will succeed in “not loving the world” best by not turning this apostolic command into a law. We will succeed best in loving God by simply abiding in His promises and abiding in intimate fellowship with Him.

 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

Father, may we hear and respond to the anointing of Your Holy Spirit within us, Who is helping us renew our minds where we have been conditioned and conformed to the temporal. Holy Spirit, please teach us to reinvest our affections in You. When Jesus appears once again may our abiding have been highly visible. Amen.

Letting Go Friday) – Philippians 3:1-14

Hopefully you can pause and read Philippians 3:1-14, a description of a transformed heart.

In this passage we see the words lossesgains, and counting. Why is an apostle using CPA language? In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus tells us we must all do some critical math in calculating the cost of following Him. In today’s scriptures, the Spirit gives us a peek into Paul’s heart. We get to see how he processed Jesus’ commands and how the accounting within Paul’s heart worked itself out.

Why did the Spirit include in scripture such a transparent view of Paul? Was it to display his heart as an exception, a bar set so high it could only be cleared with apostolic muscle? I don’t think so. I believe Paul’s heart is intended as a reference point for all Christ’s followers. The apostle’s story, like our own, is intended to be a catalyst to others as we work out our salvation (i.e. living our life).

Paul’s pre-Christ balance sheet was loaded with what he had thought of as stout assets; he was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee blameless regarding Law-based righteousness, and he was a zealous persecutor of the Church. Yet, by the time he wrote this letter, Paul’s balance sheet had flipped! Whatever he had experienced since those days as a Pharisee had completely undermined the value of his former assets. His pre-Christ life had become, in his counting, worth less than nothing. It was as though he had experienced a joyful sort of bankruptcy, suffering the loss of all things. Paul lived in awe of his windfall–Jesus Christ, alone.

With Christ Himself as his only remaining asset, Paul has become a benchmark for transformation, capable of assisting us in the calculations we each must make. What happened in Paul’s experience that transformed him from proud Pharisee into the humble chief of sinners? What events, what process, took place that left Jesus as Paul’s sole asset? Just how did God bring about this transformation?

If we are making claims on the name of Jesus, the calculation Jesus instructs us to make must eventually include question like these: In what ways has my own heart been transformed? Am I becoming less and less while He is becoming more and more? When the books are finally opened, will Jesus appear as my sole asset? As my Lord, have I given Him the combination to my heart?

Note. If you believe God held Paul’s heart, in its apostolic-ness, to higher standards than he does yours, please read the balance of our passage. Also note the consequence for those who had replaced the cross with their own preferences.

 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:15-21)

Father, on that day when you ask us to give an accounting of ourselves, may our books be in order—may our righteousness be that which comes from you alone on the basis of faith, and as it was with Paul, may You alone be our treasure. May we encounter You in our circumstances and may we see Your strong, loving heart’s efforts to transform us and to reveal Christ to us and though us. May Your eyes soon see Your Bride pressing on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Letting Go (Thursday)—Romans 12:1-3

 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  (Romans 12:1-3)

Paul, as one of the natural Jewish branches, is writing to the unnatural Gentile branches who, by a mysterious and extravagant gesture of kindness and grace, God has grafted into Jesus, the deep and rich root of the olive tree. This was a big deal to Paul:

 Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! …For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. (Romans 11:33&36)

Anyone who goes from chief detractor to chief advocate, with suffering as his or her anticipated reward, wins my attention. It is doubtful to me his words are mere hyperbole; I believe he stretches language to its limits in an effort to describe even the shallower reaches of Jesus Christ, who has become his all-consuming passion. He is urging us to listen as he explains how this can happen for us as well. Paul carries the burden of a man consumed; by the strength of Christ in him, he proclaims Jesus with all deliberation and all zeal.

When people in Paul’s era heard the word sacrifice, their minds recalled images of sacrificed animals whose blood was offered to appease some god. Paul throws the Romans a major league curve ball when he tells them they are now the sacrifice. He tells them in their living they would become sacrifices, fulfilling their calling as worshipers. No longer was the primary act of worship going to be limited to the attending of ceremonies or observance of rituals. Worship’s primary expression from this point forward was going to be the living of life.

 Take your everyday ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering. (Romans 12:1 The Message)

Paul goes on to reveal a major roadblock to this transformation God desires. Our hindrance is the false ideas we hold about Him, the world, and ourselves. This collection of beliefs represents our reality. That is why change is so difficult. Our “reality” is our foundation. It is what has become familiar and therefore sacred. From here we have learned to make life work out to some acceptable degree. Threaten these core ideas with new ones and we tremble and retreat, lest our whole superstructure be shaken and topple.

This is another reason Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended with Me.” Jesus’ words and the words of His apostles run counter to the philosophies of this world, which have infected us without our even knowing it. This is the strategy of this world’s prince who oversees a vast network of well-coordinated lies. This is the kingdom of darkness out of which God is calling the children of Light.

But how am I going to abandon the foundational values I have come to terms with and operate by? It is by the renewal of the mind (i.e. repentance) and by that measure of faith which God has allotted to each man. In God’s unsearchable wisdom, in His unfathomable ways, He has given us faith to embrace the values of His kingdom that may first appear to us as unnatural and even threatening.

Father, may we not forget there is still an original place in Your heart for the natural branches, that we gentiles have a season of grace to respond to You. As the beneficiaries and heirs of such extravagant grace, may our daily, walk-around lives bring about your good and acceptable will. May our new lives in You radiate so brightly as to be an attraction to the Jews and a validation of Jesus’ rightful status as Messiah. And may we not so quickly run from the ideas that may both threaten and save us. Amen.

 

 

Letting Go (Wednesday)—Mark 8:31-38

 Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him because he was plainly stating that he must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:32-33)

How does this scene grab you? Previously, I have read this and thought, “Peter, what in the name of all that is holy, were you thinking? This was the Son of God and you had the hutzpah to take him to task! Who did you think he was? And who did you think you were?” That reaction is now mostly historical. My pointed questions are fewer today and I carry around fewer stones to throw.

One of my good friends is faithful to pass on adages, especially ones with wry humor as their basis. One dovetails nicely with Peter’s experience with Jesus: “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” I suppose we will have to amend this now to read: “If you want to hear God’s rebuke, give him your opinion.”

That’s not as funny is it? Buried inside my older attitude was this question, “Lord, why did you associate Peter’s shot at candor as Satanic?” I believe Jesus anticipated this question and answered it when he followed that tough get-behind-me-Satan comment by:

 Summoning the crowd with His disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Mark 8:34-36)

Another adage (with humorous intent): “Don’t believe everything you think.

Although it didn’t come about in a face-to-face encounter, I believe I have had similar experiences with Jesus, where circumstances, scripture, and wise, truthful brothers and sisters weighed in, confirming that my thinking was askew. Quite honestly, I find zero humor in these occasions. In fact, discovering I am wrong slams the needle on my worst-nightmare scale. “I’m wrong? You mean to tell me I have been expending my life’s energies based on lies? This cannot be!” This is a major crossroads where we will say to God, either; “Unacceptable,” or, “Please remove any hurtful way from my heart.” I believe what Jesus is saying to Peter (and to all who call him Lord) is:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. (Isaiah 55:8)

Isn’t Jesus saying to us that if anyone wishes to call him Lord, he must deny his right to be right? That by having rigid inflexible positions we preserve our lives as we have learned to live them? It is no wonder my experience with God lacked humor. When we find the ideas we are living out of are false, it’s the equivalent to a powerful earthquake in our souls.

How counter-intuitive it is to let go of our convictions, as the solid rocks on which we stand, so that Jesus can have that rightful place. Even when I write, I am frequently compelled to add, “I may still be clueless on this, but then…(my 2 cents worth).” Reporting on my explorations and experience as a sojourner is the primary intention of MwM. I don’t want to pontificate with certainty on matters. However….

Neither am I writing from a total vacuum. Most of what I am sharing is born of a previous earthquake–occasions when I believed everything I was thinking. My expectation is that following Jesus as Lord will include numerous episodes of this nature—each one providing opportunity for repentance (i.e. the changing of the mind) and transformation (i.e. the changing of my heart). I believe following Jesus is to live within a mobile classroom in which all that touches us is intended to educate and to transform. He uses circumstances (external and internal), people around us, His Word, and His Spirit to lead us deeper into the Truth, which liberates us and gives us joy.

I don’t believe Jesus just came to save our souls from an eternity of hell. I believe that he came and died to save us, through his life, from the collections of ideas we hold so firmly, thinking they, in themselves, are what sustains our lives. I believe Jesus invites us to take up our cross, an act in which our human explanations die. Only at the cross will he himself become the replacement for the other convictions we use to make life work. He knows we will forfeit abundant life if we succeed in living out of a collection of ideas as opposed to his own resurrection life.

I believe Jesus was harsh with Peter and that he permits harsh things to touch us at times because he knows our thoughts and ways are destructive to us and counter-productive to his kingdom. He wants us to let go that we may live. If we die by letting go we live in Him; if we try and live by holding on to our thoughts and ways, tragically, we forfeit life.

Father, when all is said and done, we are left with You – our sufficiency and our abundance. Thank you that class is always in session, that you remain our patient counselor and teacher even when we think we have it down pat. Help us to let go of and die to all the idols we have placed our trust in. Amen.

 

 

Letting Go (Tuesday)—Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

What does this divine audience have to do with our battle with sin and the outcome of the race? How will we become any more or less motivated by playing to this crowd? Who were these people anyway? You have to read all of Hebrews 11 for the answer. One thing we discover about them: they were above the crowd before they became the crowd above.

Their acts of faith are what distinguished them, set them above the crowd…an act of faith is what God noticed and approved as righteous. They believed both that he existed and that he cared enough to respond to those who seek him. Each one of them died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believed. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world.

What do we envision on the horizons of our imaginations? Is there something out there we are intentionally pursuing? Hopefully it is Jesus. In Jesus Christ, who has become our life, we have in hand what these saints were running toward by faith. This audience is applauding our faith, this faith which makes us sojourners as opposed to squatters. Our Hebrews 11 audience is our example. They remind us that in our race there will be much to endure. While our race may become grueling through some stretches, it will really be much shorter than it may seem in those moments. And, regardless of the cost, running it will win divine applause.

Jesus too is our example. He persevered in sufferings more severe than most will ever know. In the midst of them, he overtook the joy that was set before Him. Jesus continually did the math: “Whatever I encounter is mine to conquer or endure.” In our running some of our greatest hurdles will be questions, such as:  “What bearing on my race does the life of Jesus have?” “Will a mental inventory of Christ’s sufferings somehow fortify my stride?” I have tried this. I won’t say it is useless. I will only say that I think there is more to it than mere reflection and volition. I believe the Holy Spirit is integral to our race in ways the author of Hebrews assumes we understand.

God’s Spirit has breathed Life back into our mortal bodies, raising us from the dead. His Spirit rarely comes upon us as it did in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit has now come to dwell in us. So the same Spirit, which is God’s Life, is what equipped Jesus and the Hebrews 11 crowd. He will equip us as well for the long haul of our journey. And once again, at the risk of wearing the point thin, our journey is not really that long. The Spirit’s presence has altered our nature. It is our nature which animates the thinking and the choosing of our running. It is really no longer about God’s part and our part as if they were separate tracks. In Christ, a great mystery exists. In Christ, God and man have merged. The exertion of running is now a commingled partnership with Christ as the controlling partner.

We must continually rest in Jesus’ promise that he will complete what he has begun. As our controlling partner (the head), he is the originator and perfecter of our faith. We will each be tempted to grow weary and loose heart but in our malaise we must discover, in our own experience, God’s Spirit within. It is in these moments when the winds of inspiration are absent, where temptations are so tangible, that Hebrews 12:1-3 is most helpful. It is here in the unwanted place of our doldrums that His best faith-perfecting work is advanced. Isn’t it just like God—that His ways and His thoughts are so unlike our own? While we think we may be perishing, we are in reality being perfected!

Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Father, may you train us to run our race well, persevering by faith, putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that you are the ground beneath our feet and the very path we are traveling. However fraught our race is with discouraging circumstances lead us again to the realization that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Right now, in the midst of our inspirational vacuums, breathe endurance and vision into us. Succeed wildly in your mission to perfect our faith. With our eyes fixed obediently upon You, may we each cross our finish lines in full-stride. All to your glory. Amen.

 

 

Letting Go (Monday)—Colossians 3:1-17

We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Newness of life! Paul clearly anticipated a believer’s victory over sin because of what Jesus had accomplished. He taught that since we have been crucified with Christ, we have been liberated from sin as our old master. Neither sin nor death has any further authority over us. In our inner most beings we have been liberated from their tyrannical reign. In light of these truths, has it been your experience that sin no longer reigns in your life? For many of us the answer will be, “No, sin still seems to reign.” Why is this? Let’s explore this question and another related one.

Since coming to believe in Christ nearly four decades ago, I have kept an ongoing question before the Lord. It has been, “What is Your part Lord? And what is mine?” I’ve never heard the Lord say, “Robert,” (that is my legal name), “This is My list and here is yours.” His answers to my question have come slowly through an ongoing process of living continually in His presence in the light of His Word. If that sounded super-spiritual let me comfort you: it has also been messy! The fact is we can never escape His presence, even if we were to go to the remotest part of the sea. As to hearing God’s voice, this dynamic has been a moment-by-moment, day-in-day-out affair of living with Him. This experience has been far more intimate than hearing an occasional string of words, which He is more likely to speak if I pray adequately or get real, real quiet.

As I read Colossians 3 this morning, I could not help but see Paul’s consistency in the way he addressed these questions. His comments dovetail perfectly with Romans 6 where he put it like this: “Keep doing the calculation. Recall as often as necessary the irreversible fact that Christ is our new master. Now that we have been included into Christ’s very own death and His resurrection, our ties to sin’s regime have been permanently severed. Once for all men, once for all time, to all those who trust in Christ.” (My paraphrase).

So…. what is our part? In Romans 6 Paul says, since you are now serving a new Master, having become slaves to righteousness, “present the members of your body to God as those alive from the dead as instruments of righteousness from God.”

If he were standing here among us, what would Paul have to say? Would he see us doing our part? I believe he might think we had misunderstood some things about grace, which have led us to an unhealthy passivity. I think he might wonder where our zeal and intentionality were in the doing of our part. He might wonder where are all the testimonies of those who have been liberated were. He might be so bold as to say, In case you missed it, here is your part…

 Persevere in the calculation. Realize continually that the members of your earthly bodies are actually dead to sin; set your mind and keep thinking on the things above. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you. And while you are doing the math and regularly calculating that it is no longer you who live but Christ lives in you and that Christ is now your life, live like this… Put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.Put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the word of Christ rule in your hearts. Be thankful. Admonish one another. In summary, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (my paraphrase of Colossians 3:1-17)

Note; I do not paraphrase to improve upon the scriptures. The condensing of ideas required by paraphrasing helps renew my mind. It rescues the scriptures from remaining just words upon a page – somebody else’s revelation.

Back to our original question—why then does sin still have stroke in our lives? Is it because we are just like Paul and have found that the principle of evil is present in us, making us slaves once again to sin? When we stumble and sin (and we all do), what calculations do our minds perform? If we do depravity-math (see Friday’s MwM post, Grasping–Romans 7:14-25), can’t we excuse ourselves from any victorious life he seemed to have been proclaiming and anticipating in Romans 6?

Let’s just fast forward to that moment when we have stumbled and have sinned. Shall we do depravity-math?  I’m of the flesh + I’m sold into bondage to sin + Sure enough, I practice the very things I hate + It’s not really me doing it + It’s sin indwelling and reigning over me + There is nothing good in me + I practice evil + Again, I remind myself, I’m not the one doing it = What a wretched man I am!

Does this really sound like Paul to you? Can you reconcile this reasoning with Romans 6 and the balance of Paul’s victorious New Testament instruction and commentary?

Oh how familiar this math is to me! For much of my Christian life, when I would sin, this was my calculation: I have proved it yet once again + Yes, its true (with much self loathing): I am nothing but a wretch + My heart is utterly depraved + In fact, my heart is exactly as Jeremiah has said, more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 is my old life verse. I’m not kidding.)

Are you tracking with me? What I am trying to say is that I used to do the calculation with the wrong variables and come up, naturally, with the wrong answer. If we sin, the bad math provides a path of least resistance. Here is that fumbling calculation: I am hamstrung (just like Paul supposedly was) by sin + I am saved by grace (aren’t I?) + So, I will get to heaven someday (hopefully) + But until then, my besetting sins are going to be a problem because I am, by nature, a sinner = That’s just who I am (my identity). The problem with depravity-math is that it produces a colossal identity crisis that insures a roller coaster-religious experience.

Are we just sinners as many of our hymns, teachers, and consciences have testified? Is depravity our root identity? Is the deepest truth about us that we are just sinners saved by grace? Or, should we plug in the apparently lost variable that we are now saints, those whom Christ has ransomed out of that old identity in hopes that we too, like Himself, will shine brightly, giving credence to the gospel’s claims of liberty. Here is a very pointed question: other than a hope of heaven, what is the Good News to us, if sin is still ruling in our members?

Oh the religious hamster wheel we spin when we do depravity-math! There can be nothing more exhausting than attempting to live a life pleasing to God as a sinner. With this lie about our identity operating at the foundation of our being we are left cranking out our works, our compliance, our strategies of sin management, and our religious traditions as inadequate salves to soothe a conscience that is never really free of its guilt and shame. How could it be? I’m just a sinner after all (maximum sarcasm intended).

I have battled sin as a sinner and I have battled it as a saint. There is no comparison in outcomes. As a sinner, I was defeated before I began. No matter how well I thought I had strapped on my armor, I was still exposed to a myriad of fiery guilt-producing missiles. It turns out my breast plate of God’s righteousness was not in place while I thought of myself fundamentally as just a sinner. Is this terribly surprising since depravity-math had produced my identity as a servant-slave (only), whom God tolerates, instead of a son, whose company he cherishes?

Even as a saint, I have been knocked down hard. But with my identity in tact as a son, I don’t just lie there concluding a TKO is normal. As familiar as it might feel (for a moment), sin is unnatural to God’s children. So, when I do sin, I no longer view it as my fate or as a confirmation of my fallen identity. Instead, I do a higher math. I calculate that sin is alien to my new nature. I hope you can see how doing the math with the essential variable of ourselves as new creations can, as Christ intended, lead us to our victorious destiny.

Oh how different Romans 6:23 looks in light of our new identities and In light of a true kingdom gospel!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

From the old just-a-sinner identity, eternal life is that life we get only after our physical bodies have expired. From that limited and defeatist position, the great hope of the Christian is the rapture, where our futile attempts at righteousness are no more because we are getting new bodies free of their native connection to sin. From God’s kingdom-paradigm, where Christ is reclaiming the domain of men’s hearts, Christ’s Life is now our life. We have eternal life now! It is unfortunate that we have equated death with that occasion when our bodies finally expire because, in reality, those whom Christ has made right with God are not going to taste death. Remember: sin and death no longer have any claim upon us!

Even now, we can experience and proclaim that we are living out of His Life, which is now our Life (capital “L” intended). He is the free gift of God, who is even now our eternal life. This is the good news of the kingdom of God! This is the full gospel. It is so, so much more than dying and going to heaven. We truly need to crunch the numbers afresh. Here is the problem: How much eternal life do I actually have? Answer: your years yet to live + infinity.

In another place Paul stated it like this:

 We’re free of it (that old constricting paradigm)! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Message)

It turns out that our part, our responsibility and opportunity, grows where eternal life is a nowlife as opposed to an after-death-life. We are now kingdom citizens who are in partnership with the reigning King who will bring about His unending kingdom, one heart at a time. I believe Paul’s writings will make much more sense to us as we look at them through this lens.

I sincerely pray this morning’s math lesson was helpful.

 So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Father, help us to let go of the ideas which exalt themselves in our hearts, eroding away our new creation-identities. Deliver us from every false religious salve we apply to our consciences where they labor under guilt and condemnation. Persevere with us until we truly are resting in the security of our new identities as your beloved children and friends. Fill your Church with fresh stories of liberation that come from higher math. Thank You that you have done Your part and have empowered us, in Christ, do do ours. Amen.

Letting Go (Sunday) – Genesis 22:1-19

Letting Go – Genesis 22:1-19

It has always intrigued me how Jesus is revealed to the human heart and how that revelation shapes one’s authority (or influence). Having experience with both following and leading, I often think about the nature of authority; Where does it comes from? How does it develop? Today’s passage will help answer these questions. We will focus today’s MwM exploration on legitimate authority and launch from this inspired sentence…..

Take now your son…and offer him as a burnt offering.

The scripture do not record any reaction by Abraham other than his prompt obedience. There just had to be a “You-Can’t-Be-Serious!!” moment in there somewhere, “Slay Isaac?! But God, he is the miraculous fulfillment of your promise to Sarah and I. And, need I remind you, he is the means to the fulfillment of your promise to make nations from my seed. Isaac has brought laughter into our lives replacing the sorrow of Sarah’s barrenness.” It is recorded that Abraham is God’s friend. Has it ever bothered you how God treats His friends? How about His children, each of whom He scourges?

Words like scourging and discipline sound so Old Testament. But it is the New Testament writer of Hebrews who goes so far as to call us illegitimate if we are without them. Here is a question for those who lead (those who are attempting to exercise authority);

What have you said to date by way of your words and your life which have helped clarify just how discipline works itself out? Or, has grace removed the need for discipline?

I believe legitimate leaders are those whose lives and teachings help clarify these more challenging aspects of following Christ. By teaching on pet themes (which often exclude correction), we fail to equip would-be disciples with this essential part of the vision which should be forming in their hearts. Without this understanding of God’s ways, how will the would-be disciple react when the path becomes steep with some discipline from the Lord or narrow with some challenging circumstance?

If I attended a conventional church I would make an appeal to Pastor, “Please do not just share from the latest book you have read (or whatever source of inspiration you depend upon) and expect us to prosper as his disciples. True disciples will balk at this voice. Unless it is lived-truth it remains a potentially-lifeless proposition. Second hand truths do not fan cold embers into fires nor can they sustain the fires which already glow within hungry hearts.

Speak to us instead from your legitimizing experience with God. Those seasons where the Word, through trial and testing, has become flesh in you. Model for us what life with Him and each other is to look like. There are many who are looking and longing for those who can speak to them and live along side them with the authority which only come from life-experience, shaped by God’s Word and His Spirit.

In his becoming a friend to God, Abraham had to let go of the thing that was most precious to him on this earth. Contrary to ever fiber of his being, he had to relinquish his rights to God’s promise and entrust that promise back to Yahweh to do with as He pleased. For Abraham and for the author of Hebrews, it boiled down to this;

                                                 It is with God with Whom we have to do.

Those who enjoy friendship status with the Father have been weened (often through discipline or pruning) from their earthly ambitions. Having let go of their ego-driven agendas they have become equipped with that legitimate authority which is found only in broken men and women, saints whose false foundations have been demolished, disciples who are progressively resting in Christ alone as their life and are now living for His larger kingdom-agenda.

Father, please raise up authentic spiritual fathers whose lives and words will honor the whole counsel of scripture and help us to understand Your loving-heart so that we may process life as You intend us to, so that we might grow up as legitimate children, accurately representing who You are to the world around us. Amen.

 

 

 

Letting Go (Saturday) – 1 John 2:15-17

Letting Go – 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

The scriptures teach us that we are temporarily located in a body which is located temporarily in a temporary world, so, its not too surprising we are powerfully conditioned by all this temporariness. This is a real problem since, being created in His (eternal) image, we are anything but temporary. The apostle John, an intimate friend to Jesus, knew it was in man to give his affections either to the temporary or the eternal. His Master had taught Him that men are either going to love one or the other, and that…

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.

Religion recognizes worldliness and it addresses it by way of prescription and proscription. “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” are the spirit of all religious creeds. Consequently their understanding of the fear of God is centered around what may happen to them if they run afoul of their creeds. Contrastingly, those who are resting in Christ’s righteousness are in this world but they recognize the futility of religion in dealing with it. They are unfettered by this spirit. Instead they are focused on a promise….. 

 And this is the promise which He Himself made to us; eternal life. (check out 1 Cor 6:12 and 10:23)

So how are we to live out our lives as eternal spirits in a temporal world, one that is passing away before our very eyes?  All of scripture speaks to this in one way or another but John gives us a leg up with 1 John 2:29….

Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

The scripture tells us that Satan has some authority in this temporary world which he wields through deception. By leveraging the temporal, as if it were all there was, the prince of this (temporary) age, reigns over a network of ideas which are designed to distract us from the eternal. But….

The anointing (gift of the Spirit) which you received from Him abides in you…. His anointing teaches you about all (these) things”. (1 Jn 2:27)

And …in verse 17, John tells us…..

                                       if we will do the will of God we will abide forever.

We will succeed in “not loving the world” best by not turning this apostolic command into religious pre and pro-hibitions. We will succeed best in loving God by simply abiding in His promises and abiding in intimate fellowship with Him.

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 Jn 2:24)

Father, may we hear and respond to the anointing of Your Holy Spirit within us, Who is helping us renew our minds where we have been conditioned and conformed to the temporal. Holy Spirit, please teach us to reinvest our affections in You. When Jesus appears once again may our abiding have been highly visible. Amen.

Letting Go – 1 John 2:15-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go (Friday) – Philippians 3:1-14

Letting Go – Philippians 3:1-14

Hopefully you can pause and read Philippians 3:1-14, a description of a transformed heart.

In this passage we see the words; lossesgains and counting. Why is an apostle using CPA-language?  In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus tells us we must all do some critical math in calculating the cost of following Him. In today’s scriptures, the Spirit gives us a peak into Paul’s heart. We get to see how he processed Jesus’ commands and how the accounting within Paul’s heart worked itself out.

Why did the Spirit include in scripture such a transparent view of Paul? Was it to display his heart as an exception, a bar set so high it could only be cleared with apostolic muscle? I don’t think so; I believe Paul’s heart is intended as a reference point for all Christ’s followers. The apostle’s story, like our own, is intended to be a catalyst to others as we work out our salvation (aka; living our life).

Paul’s pre-Christ balance sheet was loaded with what he had thought of as stout assets; he was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee blameless regrading Law-based righteousness and he was a zealous persecutor of the Church. Yet, by the time he wrote this letter, Paul’s balance sheet had flipped! Whatever he had experienced since those days as a Pharisee had completely undermined the value of his former assets. His pre-Christ life had become, in his counting, worth less than nothing. It was as though he had experienced a joyful sort of bankruptcy, suffering the loss of all things. The passage reveals that Paul could not have been more pleased with the results; gaining his windfall – Jesus Christ.

With Christ Himself as his only remaining asset, Paul has become a bench mark for transformation, capable of assisting us in the calculations we each must make. What happened in Paul’s experience that transformed him from proud pharisee into the humble chief of sinners? What events and processes took place which left Jesus as Paul’s sole asset?  Just how did God bring about this transformation?

If we are making claims on the name of Jesus, the calculation Jesus instructs us to make must eventually include question like these;  In what ways has my own heart been transformed? Am I becoming less and less while He is becoming more an more? When the books are finally opened, will Jesus appear as my sole asset? As my Lord, have I given Him the combination to my heart?

Note; If we believe God held Paul’s heart, in its apostolic-ness, to higher standards than he does our own, please read verses 15-21. Also note the consequence for those who had replaced the cross with their own preferences.

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.  Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Father, on that day when you ask us to give an accounting of ourselves, may our books be in order – where our righteousness is that which comes from you alone on the basis of faith, and that like Paul, You alone are our treasure. May we encounter You in our circumstances and may we see Your strong loving heart’s efforts to transform us and to reveal Christ to us and though us. May Your eyes soon see Your Bride pressing on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.