“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” John 17:22-23 NLT
Why are their divides among the body of believers who follow after the same God who said the above sentences? Whether it be theological, political, economical, or personal in reasoning, it is heart breaking to see the fracturing that occurs in the Christian community. I attend a Christian school, yet there often is a stigma of inferiority associated with other Christian schools because they “aren’t Christian enough”. Or what about the negative stereotypes often assigned to seeker-friendly mega-churches? Are these not just as detrimental to a Christian community and testimony as if slanderous gossip were spread about one individual?
Division is not in the Lord’s design for the church, the universal church even. How can we begin to repair those chasms and mend those breaks to better portray the unity and cohesion that is the essence of the body of Christ?
My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.
John 17:9-11 (NLT)
"In Exile" by Thrice
Thought of this song as I read John 17
On the back of my car, I have a NOTW (Not Of This World) sticker. It was the first thing that I bought for my car when I was in high school, eager to brand my interests and personality on my newly acquired possession. However, after reading John 17, I am reminded of how trivially I have taken this title over the years.
"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake, I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:14-17 (ESV)
We are aliens to this world. People do not understand why we make the choices we do, why we hold to the convictions that we do, why we abstain from the things that we do, etc. In some cases, we are even hated for these choices. Jesus experienced this. The disciples experienced this. We will experience this as well.
Our way of living is foreign to a world that lives for their pleasure and goals. We have an eternal aim, where others have only a temporal aim. We have an absolute morality, where others have subjective guidelines. How tempting is it for us to soften our stances in order to make our faith “politically correct” and “more appealing” to non-believers?
Jesus “consecrates” himself, meaning that he associates himself with the sacred. Sanctify means to set apart or consecrate. So, just as Jesus was sent into the world, he sends us into the world. Just as he consecrates himself, he wishes that we would be consecrate and sanctified so that we may become more like Christ in our heart’s motivations and desires. Jesus was not some absentee god delivering do’s and do-not’s: He humbled himself in becoming a man to be tempted in every way that man was tempted to gain victory over temptation and death so that we may have access to the consecration and sanctification and, ultimately, eternal life that is spoken of here.
What a mighty God we serve. We may feel foreign, rejected, alien, isolated, hated by the world…but it is because God is transforming our hearts from this world to the heavenly kingdom.
Guilt is an epidemic. If you were to ask people if they have either experienced guilt in the past or are currently guilty for something, I’m fairly certain that most people would answer “yes”. But the human struggle with guilt doesn’t end there…Two main character flaws are derived from guilt:
1. The inability to forgive one’s self.
2. The ability to frivolously forgive one’s self.
Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Most Christians understand that Jesus frees us from sin; however, most people (Christians and nonbelievers) forget the fact that Jesus also removes shame that was attached to that sin. The Holy Spirit “condemned sin in the flesh” but “set you free in Christ Jesus”. That’s why Christians can love the sinner but hate the sin; you do not condemn the person, but their actions are condemned if seen inappropriate.
If there is no longer condemnation for believers, then why do we persist in condemning ourselves? What use is there in referring back to a past and beating ourselves up to for it when we have already been forgiven for it? Who are we to withhold forgiveness of sins that God has already wiped clean?
However, we also cannot be too quick to pardon ourselves without adequate recognition of the gravity of our offense. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). That means that we cannot presume upon the grace that God offers us. We cannot utilize God’s grace as a pass to sin because we’re forgiven in the end anyways (though there’s debate about whether we can be forgiven in a “hall pass” situation). If we sin because we’ll be forgiven anyways, who are we really serving? Do you pledge allegiance to God? Or do we just pledge allegiance verbally in hopes that we can hide our true loyalty to this world?
Guilt is always something we will struggle with, bouncing back from either end of the spectrum (too easily forgiving ourselves —> too reluctant to forgive ourselves). But, when this becomes an issues for us, we have to remember that, “[…] if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Forgiving yourself is not what makes you free or righteous: Jesus’ presence in your life, heart, and mind is what washes and frees you of sin. We are fallen and depraved without Christ’s grace and sinless nature.
So, if guilt is an epidemic, Christ is the antidote. Would you rather purposefully choose to die of guilt’s venom, or foolishly deny your need of the antidote? Or admit your pain and fault to be made new?
Tonight, I began a three week meditation on Romans 8, which largely deals with the activity and role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. Killing two birds with one stone, I’ll respond here to add to my blog and to also chronicle my exploration of this passage.
But that’s enough explanation…
"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do" (Romans 8:3a, ESV). This took me a second glance to understand the gravity of what was being said by Paul in this passage. Sure, I get that the law was not sufficient. Additionally, I understand that God fulfills the law with Christ’s sacrifice, perfect life, and resurrection. However, notice that Paul says that the law, given by God, was weakened by the flesh to whom it was given. No matter how temporary the law was intended to be, it was man that corrupted its usage.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). I used to understand this verse as the Spirit interceding for us in times of pain and suffering brought upon by some tragedy like a death or disappointment. In the context of Romans 8, however, it’s important to realize the dichotomy that Paul explores between flesh and Spirit. The weakness that is referenced here is probably relating to reliance upon the flesh or things of the flesh: SIN. In our moments of weakness when it comes to resisting sin, the Spirit intercedes for us and prays for relief from our sin in ways that we do not understand how to. More profoundly, the Spirit intercedes and prays for relief from our fleshly desires in ways that we are too afraid to, because that requires a relinquishing on our part. Talk about tough love.
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). God gave up his own Son for a people that continually rejected him. He gave what we definitely did not deserve. He gave the most valuable gift we could have received, which is also the greatest blow to His kingdom. If He sacrificed it all for us, what else wouldn’t He give us?
Overarching theme of Romans 8 from my initial read: God will never let anything come between Him and His people, and His Spirit’s presence in our lives is just another means by which He assures that promise to us. The Spirit does not just intercede for us at our invitation. He knocks at the door until we answer…and then He totally renovates our definition of faithful living.
How often do Christians make choices that to the world seem totally impractical, claiming that this choice was made in accordance to their faithfulness to God? I do not mean to imply these people are not genuine; they just use rationale that is often very foreign to the secular (and, sadly, even some fellow Christians) world surrounding them.
Is there a line that one can bridge between being practical and being faithful?
Obviously, there are some common place things that we can largely assume coincide with being practical and faithful. Call me crazy, but I highly doubt that God will deem brushing one’s teeth as an unholy act, despite its practical and hygienic implications. There are even examples of Christ eradicating some things deemed as faithful for practical reasons: The observance of the Sabbath and the Clean/Unclean laws are examples of how Christ brought awareness to the impractical applications of Israel’s misunderstood attempts at being faithful to their Lord. In one way, we can look at this and see Jesus doing away with impractical attempts at faithfulness as an attempt to promote practicality even in areas such as faithfulness. (Are you lost yet?)
Yet…these “impractical” laws regarding so much of daily life served to set the Jews apart from the Ancient Near East, putting them on a whole new level of holiness. They were the High Priests, examples to the rest of the secular world, living in ways that purposefully countered those upheld by the others. So, was the Law just a set of esoteric, misunderstood, impractical efforts at being faithful God? Or…was it God’s mechanism in this historical time to set apart His people from those who denied Him?
Which brings me to the subject that started this contemplation in the first place: career and college.
Though it be impractical in the world’s eyes that a guy feels called to be a pastor, does this mean that he should choose this path as an example to the world of what it means to follow whole-heartedly? Or should he take this as a sign that he should pursue other career aspirations, as faithfulness is not void of practical restrictions? In this situation, I obviously feel that, if this call upon his heart is genuine and of the Lord and not his own volition, the man should choose faithfulness over the cheaply purported practicality of the world.
But what about another scenario…what about those who choose to attend a Christian college over a secular college? Yes, you obtain some great biblical teaching that you may otherwise be unable to receive. Yes, you incur an equally great debt financially that would be eradicated/limited in attending a public institution in leu of the privately funded religious one.
Practicality and Faithfulness should be forever divorced. There are certain measures that of course coincide with adhering to both living practically and living faithfully. However, I do believe that those moments where God calls us out of our daily habits of choosing practically to live faithfully are those moments that God chooses to most greatly glorify His name. Whether that purpose may be to eradicate miraculously the debt you incur as a result of living faithfully…or to demonstrate humbly that the treasures you could not have in this life mean so little in comparison to His great plan: Faithfulness to Him will serve you better than adherence to your plan.
Again, practicality and faithfulness need not reside eternally in two different realms. But when they divert from one another, like a fork in the road, wide is the path that leads to damnation. Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life. If God calls you out of this habitual practicality, be faithful: He has got a message He intends to declare loudly yet.
I’m back! After almost a nine month absence from the Tumblr world, I’m back. I desperately needed an outlet for my ever-running thoughts. So…here we go again!
I hate planning. Trying to manipulate schedules and times and events and people and obligations…it is so easily convoluted.
But there is this desire in each of us to have some semblance of a plan. We hate to make them are compelled to fight against our hatred. But is this compulsion derived from our hatred of planning or our hatred of walking blindly?
I plan not because I want to have a plan; I plan because I want to know, even if the plan is beyond rudimentary or tentative, a little bit more about how whatever event could play out. I plan because I want to know about the unknown.
Isn’t this exactly against what Christ calls us to do? Our pursuit of knowledge should not be focused on what we’ll do tomorrow but on what God is doing today! It gets to be difficult with things like school, work, family, and friends NOT to plan. We value these things greatly and desire to see them last and prosper. Which really, in itself, is not a bad desire. The problem occurs when we value the vitality of those things, and we undervalue the health of our walk with and trust in God’s providence.
We’re called to live day-by-day not because it’s easier or it’s more entertaining. Rather, this call is issued to us because of the nature of God’s provision: by practicing this day-by-day mentality, we are training ourselves up, as well as demonstrating to the world surrounding us, in trusting God. We are instructed to live one day at a time because it displays trust in God’s overwhelming provision and providence.
Planning is a necessary evil today. So go ahead: continue about your planning. But hold those agendas and schedules with open hands. Wouldn’t you rather rely on His perfect will than your short-sighted 5 year deadline?
A friend reminded me a couple of nights ago of something that is very true:
"It doesn’t say in the Bible, ‘Be still and get a response saying that I am God.’ It just says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Sometimes we won’t get a response, and we just have to rely on what we know: that He is really God.”
Why is that so difficult, for us to be still and know that He is God? What stems from our inability to know that He is God?
We are unable to see His image that He has innately crafted into us. We are unable to see that He has chosen us.
Both of these lead us to compare ourselves to others. When we compare ourselves to others, we will always be second best. When we look for those things that we don’t measure up to in others, we will find them.
Here’s something that we all just can’t seem to get through our heads no matter how ardently we try: Just because we can’t measure up to others doesn’t mean we are a failure. It just means we have different strengths. That’s why we are a body; we are separate parts intended for different functions that work toward the common goal of making the body “go”.