Category Archives: Human Good

My Kingdom Versus His

Things have been happening, lately; mostly inside. I don’t mean inside my house, but inside my thinking. Since I haven’t really been able to get a handle on it, I haven’t been writing about it. But last Sunday I read an article that really blew the doors off, so much so that, though I felt freed, I was not really sure how my newly acquired perspective fit into everything. Nor was I sure it was going to last. I’m still not sure, but things do seem to be falling into place.

For awhile now I’ve been wrestling with the sewer. The icky feeling. The self-condemnation for being slothful, undisciplined, impulsive, distractible. I’ve written about it here. I didn’t really know why I kept having this issue and finally asked God what was wrong with me.

I think He answered, but it’s been a process. He was already showing me even before I asked. Thus I’m going to go back to an entry I wrote in my journal last week .

29 March Monday 9:09am  I’m in the sewer again. All anxious, condemning myself, confused, frustrated. I’ve put myself in a damned if you do/damned if you don’t situation. As I set this down, I see that I”ve had wildly unrealistic expectations for this day. I wanted to get up, make muffins, clean the house and work on Sky, all before I leave at 10:20 to take Mother to the Oncology Center for her treatment. In each of those scenarios, I imagined myself as relaxed, pursuing the objective without distraction or worry, as a believer in Christ should. But I was also, I realize now, imagining them all happening at the same time. Get up, do the morning routine while making the muffins and cleaning the bathroom, one giant integrated process whose separate steps were intermingled… or maybe it was just an alternate dimension thing where things were just happening simultaneously.  

The reality is, there isn’t time to do all that. My morning routine ensures a limited amount of order and cleanliness, but it seems when I make that my priority, the writing doesn’t get done. Conversely, when I make the writing my priority the routine doesn’t get done, the house grows very dirty, laundry and ironing pile up and suddenly I have even more that is demanding I do it. Which is kind of where I am now. Today, just to catch up with the routine I have sheets to fold, clothes to iron, the floor to sweep, vacuuming, clean the bathroom, wash the muffin tin and hang out the towels (all of which have been put off and put off). I also need to go to the store, preferably before noon, since this is another task that was put off and now I don’t have food for lunch. After all that, I’ll be too tired to write and will just dink around again. If I write now, though, I’ll be too tired to do the housework when I get back — or at least too tired to make myself do what I won’t want to do. And the piles will just get bigger

So I have defined the problem. Both the house and the writing are important. How do I decide? If I go with emotion, I’ll pick writing and be upset about the house. If I go with “responsible thinking” I’ll pick the house and be upset about another day of no progress on the book. So what do I do, Lord?

Hmm. It’s arrogance that wants to control everything, isn’t it? Arrogance that wants my way even though that way is delusion. It’s me seeking MY kingdom instead of His.

And in my kingdom, one is required to do two things at the same time, be in two places at the same time and violate strictures of time and space. My kingdom involves the magic of traveling 100 miles in one hour while driving at a constant speed of 50 mph. In my kingdom you must do all required things, or disaster will befall you. What that disaster is, you aren’t allowed to know, only that it’s coming. Also, you must choose the correct thing to do if you insist you can only do one thing at a time. Choosing the wrong option leads off into that blank space at the end of the map where dragons will eat you.

So. In seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness (which is sane and sensible, unlike mine), I have only to stay in fellowship and seek His guidance, choose whatever option I’m led to choose and forget  the others for now. Which, weirdly enough suddenly seems to be housework. Okay then. I will now ignore the clamor erupting at the back of my head about my calling and how I should be ignoring all the accumulated domestic tasks so I can work on the book. I will go with my choice and trust that God can set me straight if I’m wrong.

 Or at the very least pick up the mess. And definitely save me from those dragons at the end of the maps.

Tomorrow: the blog on how distractedness may not be such an awful thing for writing after all… And a spot on description of what trying to work on the book has felt like of late.

Happy 2010!

Hmm.  I wonder how we’re to say that? Is it going to be “Two Thousand Ten” or “Twenty-Ten?”  I vote for “Twenty-Ten.” First time we can actually say Twenty-something and make sense, plus it’s one less syllable.

Well, I’m finally back and ready to do a blog post. Or at least determined to do one, whether I’m ready or not. Truthfully, I have sat around for an hour or so, gone for a walk, sat around some more, read Drudge and Powerline and Victor Davis Hansen, waiting for the Lord to give me something profound and meaningful to say, but instead it seemed He said just go write.

So I am, doing so as I come off one of the most difficult and challenging holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced. There was no one major element that made it difficult, but rather a rash of small hits, insults, losses, obstacles, disappointments, inconveniences and just plain weird sequences of events, the timing of which, the interweaving of which, the seemingly tailored nature of which produced an unrelenting parade of Things That Must be Dealt With. Without sinning.

Well, I dealt, but not without sinning, alas. In the end I was reminded of the fact that it doesn’t matter if I fail. My failure is built into the plan. When I realize I’ve sinned, I have only to rebound (I John 1:9 If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) And after that, keep taking in the word under the teaching of my Pastor, because that’s how God is going to change me. Not by me trying to do better, but by Him changing my thinking. All I do is expose myself regularly — daily — to the teaching of the word.

Yes, I do mean daily. First because real change occurs slowly, incrementally, over time  — way too much, in my opinion, but nevertheless, that’s how it happens. We focus on the Word, and it changes us. Then we can take no credit.

Secondly, we do it daily because we’re in a war and the other side is constantly assaulting us with an opposing viewpoint. God’s ways aren’t our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts.  The devil rules the world for now, and his thoughts abound — in the air, through the radio, TV, other people (most of them, actually) music, news, dramas, billboards… it’s a deluge. And with the sin nature happily sucking up all that worldly viewpoint (since it HATES God’s viewpoint) the only hope we have of holding fast to truth is to get it every day.

Many people think they already have truth. That it doesn’t take that much to find and hold onto it. But God’s word says otherwise. As a matter of fact, learning how to discern the truth, the right way from the wrong way, the difference between good and evil… was exactly the temptation the woman faced in the Garden. She had no clue she was even being tempted, being totally deceived. But what the serpent offered and what she desired was to be like God, knowing good from evil, being able to discern on her own, apart from His word, what was right and what was wrong. She thought, when she ate the fruit that she was doing the right thing. The good thing. The better thing. But she was wrong. Deceived.

Determining what is right and what is wrong, what God wants and what He doesn’t is not nearly as simple as the world would like us to believe. And even after we determine it, living in it is another matter altogether… The battle is all about thought. What thought system will we function under? And God’s is in the minority….

Gee, that was not at all the post I was expecting to write when I sat down here. But I think I’ll keep it, anyway.

So What is It?

flagstaff flowers 2If the Christian Way of life isn’t being moral or going to church regularly or acquiring Bible knowledge or resisting sin or being nice and sweet or performing good works, then what is it?  And how can one know if one is living in it?

The Christian Way of Life is a relationship with the God of the Universe through believing in the work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a life of grace wherein we worship Him in Spirit (the filling of the Holy Spirit) and in Truth (true knowledge of God’s word and of His person and work and character circulating in our souls.) It’s a life where He does the work and we receive the blessing, where we offer our bodies up to the daily study of that word under the gift of the pastor teacher in order that our minds might be transformed from the thinking of the world and of the flesh to the thinking of God.

Through this we are conformed to the image of Christ and develop capacity for the blessings He wants to give us. It’s not something we do, it’s something He does in us. “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13)   The fruit is the Spirit’s fruit, not our fruit. Our minds are transformed — passive voice: we receive the action of the verb. We don’t transform them ourselves, which would be the active voice. (Ro 12:2; 2 Co 3:18)

Christ abides in us or is at home in us when our thinking reflects His thinking. When we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and guided by Him. Divine good is performed when we are filled with the Spirit and guided by His word which we have inculcated into our thinking so thoroughly we automatically live it.

Divine good, then, can be a thought, an attitude, a word or an act. God sees them all, and at the Judgment seat of Christ He will reveal to us which of them were which. ( I Co 3:13-15) Because the sad truth is, with our sick heads and deceitful, desperately wicked hearts we all too often have no clue what our real motivation is in any given situation.

It Feels So Good

Continuing on the subject of human good…

While the sin nature is the source of personal sins (So then no longer am I the one that’s doing it but sin which dwells in me. Ro 7:17) it also produces human good, acts that, while they spring from sinful motivation, appear on the surface to be good. Altruism, feeding the poor, helping others, and philanthropy fall into this category.

The sin nature also has areas of strength. For example, some people would never be tempted by the sin of homosexuality or drug addiction, whether believers or unbelievers. Others are extremely disciplined and capable, not at all given to laziness. They are naturally organized, emotionally controlled and they can be very successful in life. They can seemingly be very successful in the Christian life, appearing good and right to others. And it could all be done in the flesh.

Others are naturally loving and outgoing. They are emotionally warm, they connect easily with others, they are often sincerely complimentary and very sweet. In today’s spiritual climate with its emphasis on loving everyone as the pinnacle of Christian activity, these people are often viewed as very spiritual, very “godly”. Yet that, too, can easily be something done through their flesh.

I say this because I know unbelievers who are like this. I know people who are religious (but not Christian) who are like this.

Another complication of human good is that the people performing it feel good about it. Like Cain, who offered the works of his hands to God as a sacrifice, they think God will be pleased. And often, because those works are pleasing to them and pleasing to others they think God is, indeed, pleased.

The following is from a little e-newsletter I used to receive called The Daily Intake. It was written by David Grande, and based on the teachings (if not the actual notes) of our pastor, Robert R. McLaughlin.  Here’s what The Daily Intake had to say about human good:

“Satan’s main strategy is, of course, human good. It is his genius plan to counterfeit the divine good produced in God’s plan. Satan’s plan, the improvement of the world and of the human condition, is secured through the human good that God Himself rejects. In reality, what Satan puts to use is God’s rejection, buy hey, it works for him.

“It works for people too. People love to feel that they are doing their part and inserting their portion. [They love to feel needed and wanted.] This is antithetical to God’s grace policy, but it sure pleases the old sin nature. In God’s plan, the believer operates in his new nature and in divine power. That is the only avenue to the production of divine good.

“In Satan’s world system as we know it, man operates in his flesh, his old man, i.e., the old sin nature. And the reason it feels so right is because the flesh loves that which the flesh produces.

“This is greatly applauded by the enemy and his vast host of fallen angels. If they can get Christians wrapped up in producing human good, they offer no threat nor resistance to Satan’s endeavor. And this is exactly where most Christians function from… deep in the deceit of the devil’s strategies.”

 The word of God says that the devil deceives the whole world (Rev 12:9) and that includes Christians (2 Co 2:11; 11:3,4). Paul writes in 2 Co 11:15  that the devil sends out servants of righteousness to teach people how to do good, and in I Corinthians 3 that believers are not only capable of producing both divine good and human good but that they will ultimately be judged by the type of work they produced in life.

Even the unbeliever will be judged not for his sins (since all sins were judged on the Cross), but for his deeds according to Rev 20:12,13.

So in many ways, the issue in the Christian life isn’t so much our personal sins which Christ paid for on the cross and which we need only confess to be restored to fellowship, but whether we’re performing human good or divine good. And the difference between them can be difficult to discern.