Tag Archives: good and evil

God’s Power Appears out of Our Weakness

In light of yesterday’s post about driving myself crazy with all the things I’ve found to do in my recent junket around Internet Marketing Land, I’d like to note some of the things that have been said by my pastor in Bible Class during the same time period. He’s in Florida. I’m in Arizona, and he doesn’t know about any of this.

So it’s been clear to me Who exactly is talking. God the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from Pastor Farley’s messages:

“The thinking that originates from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is an attack to get us away from the life of God and into a system where we turn from Him and it’s all up to us to discern between good and evil and make ourselves good.

“We want do’s and don’ts so we can just follow the rules. That IS the knowledge of good and evil.

I saw at once he was right.  In the six days of the restoration of the Earth, God looked at everything and kept saying it was good, good, very good. Adam was in the middle of this place of goodness. So what would he need the Knowledge of Good for? It was all around him. God walked with him in the garden daily and he knew God. Clearly this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not what I always thought it was.

Just looking at the title and actually thinking about it also helped to clarify things:   it’s that function or capacity of creature tos think we have the capacity to figure out what’s good and what’s evil, when really we’re incapable of that. Incapable even before Adam fell, much more incapable now.

Even so we think we can do it. Just give me some rules and I’ll do the rest.  I like that idea. It’s comfortable and safe to have rules. You know what you’re going to do (you think) and how it’s going to go, you’ve got everything figured out so it’ll fit into the time and you’ll do good, whatever the category of “good” is. Could be a good job, a good party, a good word, or a good deed. The world says this is a good thing. Your flesh says it’s good, too.

I’ve found it’s very hard to really turn your back on this idea and live by faith. Until God starts making a point with you and it seems no matter what you do or plan, it almost never goes “right.” Worst is when you make the plan and then, for one reason or another,  fail yourself  to carry out your own plan, after which you beat yourself up because you didn’t do “right.”

Pastor Farley continued:

“The idea of this and trying to live a life this way is impossible. Realize you are a sinner, hopeless and helpless and call on Him.  Life isn’t about me trying to work things out according to good and evil.

In the past I’ve always taken this good and evil thing to mean moral issues or spiritual issues (like demon type spiritual issues) but suddenly I realized it had application to every day issues.

Like all these things I’ve been told I have to do if I want to succeed in the writing world. Things that make sense to do, but that I haven’t had time to do.  How can I figure out which of them is good and which is not? Which I should do and which I shouldn’t. How I can make my schedule work (good) so that it can fit everything in that seems good to do? I don’t want to make a mistake (evil)  and do the wrong thing so that I fail to fit everything in…

“Understand that God gives us one day at a time to live and we should live it for all it’s worth. Rather than focus on what I think we too much do focus on — that old tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — we should focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit living inside us wants us to live a mystery form of the Tree of Life.

“And yet sometimes we live our lives like we’re still the old man — all caught up in what’s good and what’s evil [about the people and situations in our lives — who’s right and who’s wrong] when in reality the Lord’s calling us through the Holy Spirit to a life of freedom. We should get up every day and orient to His resurrection and live that life He’s called us to.

“And YOU CANT DO BOTH!!

That is, you can’t live the life of freedom at the same time as you’re always trying to figure out what’s the right thing and the wrong thing, and having all these rules you think you have to follow to be happy.

That statement hit me hard. Talk about double-minded! I’d been experiencing it. Should I do all these things… start the Facebook page, work on my website, improve my titling?  Maybe if I set up a schedule and this time really stick to it, maybe I could get it all done… If I just had more discipline… if I just…

“Wake up!  These situations where you complain and murmur, feel bad about yourself, and are frustrated… That is ALWAYS where God’s power goes to work. You gotta stop fussing and fuming and thinking how you’re gonna do this better, get a better plan, a better planner, one that will finally get all my things together so you’ll be very efficient and able to call more people and do more things and finally your life will be good… No!

STOP THAT!

Stop it and just say, “Okay. Paul says, ‘I will rather boast in my weakness so the glory of Christ might be revealed…’ so the next time one of those things hits like, ‘Ah, I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that…’ STOP! And say, “Pfft. I’m frail. And this is a great opportunity to say, “Watch the power of God at work!”

And all the foibles of the old man getting the better of us — God doesn’t condemn us in that, He just wants us to start to see it. I’m supposed to get to these places where I don’t have what it takes. Supposed to. Because God’s power is made manifest in my weakness.

So. I’ve returned to the conclusion that I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure everything out and all that. I’m using the Pomodoro technique generally. But if the words start to flow and the timer goes off — too bad. Word flow always takes precedence over a timer. I can go take a break when the flow stops.

Which is what I intend to do right now, seeing as that is exactly what’s happened. 🙂

Good and Evil Thinking

Recently I came across an article  entitled How to be Happy at Work by Geoffrey James on Inc.com.  I have no idea why I clicked on the link, because usually I don’t. I guess the title was a good one.

So was the article. It claimed that being unhappy is a choice and described a guy who was always miserable because everything mattered to him. The only time he was happy was when he won a million dollar account — which happened once a year. The rest of the time everything irritated him, and the reason he was always irritated was because he had all these rules. Or maybe just one rule, which was that for him to be happy everything had to go his way.

Or, put another way, if everything didn’t go his way he was bent out of shape. To be happy he had to win the million dollar account.

That resonated. That’s me. Well, minus the million dollar account. Maybe not “everything” has to go my way, but if a certain number of things don’t, I’m going to be upset. Mad, sad or bad, is the phrase I’m using.

When Quigley lags on the path, I get irritated, because my plan is to walk smoothly with no hitches, get the walk done so I can get on to the next thing. Also, he’s the dog and he should obey me and if he doesn’t I will get irritated because he’s not following the Rule. Finally, it starts to make my back hurt to have to keep pulling on him, and that makes me irritated too, because another Rule is that the dog should not make your back hurt.

Once I started looking out for this sort of thinking, I found it in way too many places. 😳

Going back to the article, another guy in the office was asked what made him miserable, and he said not much. What made him happy?

“Another day above ground is good,” he said.

What an attitude! This has such applications to doctrine. Another day of grace. Another day to bring glory to God. Another day to see Him work and get to know Him, and have opportunity to trust Him and thus bring glory to Him. It all has to do with choosing what your Rules are going to be.

So yeah, I have a million idiotic little rules I didn’t even know I had, and just now I came upon another one. Not only must things in my periphery do the right things and “go right,” but I must do the right things as well. I must follow the plan I have devised for myself, even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if conditions beyond my control have warped it enough that it can’t even be done any more.

And in this morning’s Sunday message, Pastor Farley cast a whole new light on this business with the rules: it’s thinking born of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It’s thinking in terms of what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. You’re constantly seeking in your own power to determine what is right about your periphery, your actions, your viewpoint and what is wrong; you’re wanting a law that you can live by, and if you can just abide by the rules, everything will be wonderful.

<<<ROTFL>>>

The Happy at Work article advised us to make new rules. So when something happens — like you get to the store and realize you forgot something and will have to return home — instead of getting all upset, realize you’ve made a rule about how things are to be and change it. So what’s the big deal about returning home — in my case a 5 minute drive? Why is that worth getting all angry at myself? You just go home, get whatever you forgot and return. Why is that such an awful thing?

Well, I can’t think why that’s such an awful thing — at least in my life. And I’ve started to catch myself in this thinking, and realizing how absurd it is. It really is a matter of choice and for believers in Christ, whose lives are supposed to be in Christ, whose God has ordered our days and allowed every detail that appears in them, it makes even less sense to go about in bondage to a million silly little rules…

And then Pastor Farley, took it a step further. But that’s a post for another day…

Satan is Not God — and it Irks Him

Over the weekend I received a comment on my post last week Demonism or the Depravity of Man? from a reader that raised a good point and which I’d like to address.

My reader said this in regards to the post:

“I can agree with you that people have a very misguided view of the innate goodness of man.

I’d have to disagree with Chafer about Satan. In John 8:44, Jesus says to the Jews, “You belong to your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. …” They wanted to carry out the desires of the devil and indeed they did most brutally murder him. That doesn’t sound like “And certainly he does not prompt them; for they are the natural fruit of an unrestrained fallen nature…”

Man is depraved and therefore a useful tool to carry out the devil’s desires.”

In my original post I was pointing out that contemporary portrayals of Satan and demons as vile, murderous beings bent only on gross evil and the torment of hapless souls were not accurate. To do so, I used some quotes from a book called Satan by Lewis Sperry Chafer.

But I see from the above-quoted comment that there is more to the matter than I discussed, and that Chafer has presented.

I think the best encapsulation of Satan’s nature now is that he is consumed with exalting himself and attacking God. He hates God and wants to do anything he can to thwart His will and plans. Satan wanted desperately to get our Lord to sin before he reached the cross, or, failing that, to kill Him outright before He could do the work He’d come to do. Because once Jesus Christ reached the cross and bore the sins of the world, it was over for Satan, although it’s clear he’s still in denial about that fact.

Currently he also attacks Christians, in whom God lives, in any way He can. He might use a religion to do that, such as Islam, whose Koran instructs its followers to kill Christians.  Or he might choose to do whatever he can to mess up their service and their witness, either by thwarting them, persecuting them, even killing them, or by drawing them away from truth with a counterfeit and duping them. These latter mostly involve the nice guy Satan, or, in light of having just watched The Incredible Hulk, how about the Bruce Banner version?

As he sees his time coming to an end however, (particularly in the Tribulation period), he will abandon his outwardly respectable veneer and show himself for the monster that he is, so unhinged he’ll order his minions to attack the very grass of the field, just because God made it.

Which would be the huge green guy version, going about roaring and smashing things in his rage.

This is all in Chafer’s book; he is not saying Satan never indulges in gross and immoral sins, just that he has given us a skewed view of his personality and his purposes. A view that sees him as gross and immoral and not only incapable of producing any of the good things in the world, incapable of even liking the good things.

I think he does like the good things, just as long as he doesn’t have to acknowledge them as coming from God. In fact, I think he even sees himself as good and right, someone who truly wants  to make everything in the world work well, because it reflects well on him as the leader. His goal is to be like God, as I’ve said, and thus to show himself able to do everything God can do. And before sin appeared, God’s kingdom was righteous and well-ordered.

But Satan isn’t God. So when things don’t go as he likes — as they inevitably will — he’ll throw a fit, and do whatever his deranged nature prompts in the midst of his fury. [Back to The Hulk again]. For now, being restrained by the hand of God, he cannot act freely, but during the Tribulation, when that hand of restraint is removed, and he grows more and more desperate to accomplish his goals, his true nature will be revealed.

Barna: Minority Believe Satan is Real

Yesterday I posted a bit about my thoughts regarding the depravity of man, and touched on some insights given by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book Satan, regarding the latter’s motivations and methods of operation, motivations which did not include trying to get men to commit gross sins like cannibalism and tortuous serial murders, but if anything would be trying to keep them from doing so. His primary goal is to take God’s place by acquiring the worship of God’s creatures, and proving that he can do just as good a job as God can. In fact, a better job.

In order to accomplish that, he has been willing, as Chafer pointed out, “to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality… an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell,” a metaphor, as it were, for “all that is cruel and vile.”

I have observed that he has had success in this area amongst the general run of people.  In fact, I noted in my post on What the Night Knows, this very fact was addressed by Koontz himself through the words of one of his characters. This character, a priest to whom the novel’s protagonist goes for help, informs us that the idea of demons and such is merely part of the silly superstitions of the past, that they do not exist, and that, in a world “of nuclear weapons, we don’t need Hell and demons, succubi and incubi and hungry vampires on the doorstep. We need food banks…thrift shops, homeless shelters and the courage to express our faith in social action.”

Indeed, we do live in the age of science where the immaterial and spiritual is supposedly not allowed to intrude on our rigorous scientific experiments. Only physical and material evidence will be accepted as proof of the True and the Real. Which in itself is clearly the handiwork of Satan. Because even if that view means he has to work in the shadows, disallowed as the powerful and brilliant creature that he is, it also means his nemesis — The One True God — is disallowed.

Thus I should not have been surprised by the results of a survey on worldview among Christians done by The Barna Group in 2009. Barna is  one of the leading research organizations investigating trends in Christianity and religion in the United States today, and their survey revealed that “just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force.” 

Okay, but that includes unbelievers, who have been blinded by the very creature they’re being asked about, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. But among born-again Christians it would be a different matter, right?

Sadly, no.

Despite much clear scriptural evidence for the existence of this greatest of all creatures to come from the hand of God, this one who rebelled against Him, and took at least a third of his fellow angels into rebellion with him,  less than half of self-identified “born-again Christians” believe he is real.

 A mere 40% of them.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  ~2 Co 4:3,4

We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.   ~I John 5;19

Flotilla Choir

I know I’ve not been posting much of late… the Las Vegas trip wiped me out. And after that I spent some time resting, being alone, refilling the well. Even started back to work on Sky, and then a bunch of stuff happened this week that I’ll post about later.

For now, I’ve been following the whole “botched raid” of the Israeli Defense Force on the “peace activist” Turkish Love Boat, coming only to break through the Israeli blockade in order to bring potatoes and dollies to the poor suffering Palestinians in Gaza (I saw an Al Jazeera video on that aspect). How the poor souls — nearly all men, that I could see — were so packed into the ship they had to sleep on deck in the open air, and the toilets couldn’t handle them all, and worse -AGH! — the kitchen on the ship was too small to service 600 people and some had to go 48 hours between hot meals. Oh, the suffering.

Anyway, one thing struck me as I watched and read and listened to it all (including video taken by the IDF of the actual operation, which shows clearly who the aggressors were), especially the instant reaction of the whole world in condemning Israel almost before anything went down.  (One piece I read cited David Hazony of Commentary Magazine saying he’d spoken with a senior producer of a major news network in the US who said he’d received “a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” one the producer received at 4:36 a.m Monday. Making it obvious the thing had been prepared beforehand.  And illustrating the truth of the title of the piece, a quote from Churchill that “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on”)  What struck me, though, was how clear it is to anyone who wants to see that Israel has a supernatural enemy.

I mean, what’s the deal about Israel? There are hundreds of millions of Arabs and multiple Arab states vs 7 million Jews and one Jewish state. The Arabs have vast oil resources from which they derive great wealth, whereas the Jews have none. Why, in the eyes of the UN, can Russia and China and North Korea commit all manner of atrocities and provocations and go almost unnoticed whereas Israel can hardly blink correctly?  As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said recently (today? Yesterday?)  “Israel is guilty until proven guilty.” It goes beyond men and nations. It goes to the enemy of God, Satan himself.

But that’s not my subject here. Because tonight Power Line Blog put up a new video produced by the “Flotilla Choir” — a song routine called “We Con the World.” I think it’s hysterical. But I do have something of a frame of reference. They have interspersed actual video from journalists on the ship showing the “peace activists” readying their knives, sticks, pipes and sling shots and from the IDF (the one I mentioned earlier)

I’m not sure who the Flotilla Choir is, though I do know that Caroline Glick, cited as the editor,  is the senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post and a senior fellow for Middle East Affairs at the Center for Security Policy… Ah, I just Googled “who is Flotilla Choir” and came up with the answer. It’s an Israeli TV show called Latma TV  “like Saturday Night Live only funnier.” Yeah, I’d agree.

Is Self-Discipline Overrated?

This exploration of self-discipline I’ve undertaken lately is a work in progress. I used to think understanding is straightforward — that you suddenly understand, all confusion is removed, you’ve finally found THE answer, and can apply with ease and confidence.

It’s more like going over and over and over a subject, grasping a new bit of it, trying to apply it, seeing that it doesn’t quite work, going over it some more, dropping it altogether, coming back for another Eureka! moment only to fall flat on your face and conclude that you have no idea what it’s about and never will… then getting hold of a new tidbit that shifts the whole picture again… There is much doublemindedness and blundering about.

So it would probably be better not to make such things the subject of blog posts until you’ve finished with all the blundering and have some solid conclusions. Or at least have some idea that the conclusions you’ve come to seem to be working out as correct. But that would mean I’d write a blog post only about every two years, so I’ll stick with this.

So what is the difference between the self-control produced by the Spirit and the self-control produced by the flesh? Because there are definitely two categories. My dilemma springs out of the fact that if it’s supernatural, if it’s a fruit of the Spirit and the Spirit produces it, then I must not do anything to produce it. Like trying to be “self-disciplined.” On the other hand, we’re commanded to do things that do require forcing oneself to do things one may not desire to do…

Like sit in Bible class, be quiet and pay attention to the pastor as he teaches, for one.

So… which is it? Or is it both?

And what exactly do I mean by self-control anyway? In my last post on this subject I mentioned the blog post by Aaron Swartz about being more productive, from which I followed a link to an article on “Why Self-Discipline is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within.” It’s written by Alfie Kohn, who is an educator, something of an academic and a liberal. A fair amount of what he had to say I disagreed with, but some of what he brought out was quite illuminating.

First was a picture of what human self-discipline looks like — and how it can be a system of bondage. This is not helped by the fact that our culture lauds self-control and treats it as invariably wonderful. Self-control is good and admirable and virtuous, whereas impulsivity is not. This dichotomy is communicated especiallyclearly in schools . Good students are well-mannered, do their work right away and pay attention and are thus admired; bad students throw spit balls, distract everyone with their antics and drive the teacher batty, and are problems that need to be solved.

Part of Kohn’s intent in his article was to challenge this unquestioned value system and to do so he used the findings of research psychologist Jack Block. Block defined “ego control” as

“the extent to which impulses and feelings are expressed or suppressed. ‘Those who are undercontrolled are impulsive and distractible; those who are overcontrolled are compulsive and joyless…’ It’s not just that self-control isn’t always good; it’s that a lack of self-control isn’t always bad because it may ‘provide the basis for spontaneity, flexibility, expressions of interpersonal warmth, openness to experienced and creative recognitions.'”

I think that was the first time I ever read something in support of “lack of self-control,” but again, I saw the truth in that statement as soon as I read it. I experience those impulses — to give someone a hug, to go look in a book, to call someone, to do something other than what I’d planned — and often they turn out to be the guidance of the Spirit. So clearly there is an element of self-control that has to do with the flesh trying to control things, and that’s not the kind we want, though that is the kind that most people in this world have (being unbelievers; or believers not operating under the power of the Spirit) and laud.

“Overcontrollers tend to be complete abstainers from drug use, but they are less well-adjusted than individuals who have lower ego control and may have experimented briefly with drugs, [while] a tendency toward overcontrol puts young women (but not young men) at risk for development of depression.”

He goes on to illustrate the point with the example of a student who always gets her work done right away. Superficially this seems laudable, but inside, what is her motivation? He points out that it may be the reason she isn’t doing the things she’d prefer to do over homework is because the intense discomfort that comes from having an unfinished task hanging over her drives her to do it. “She wants — or more accurately, needs — to get the assignment out of the way in order to stave off anxiety.”

A clear, clear picture of the sin nature producing what appears to be self-discipline but in reality is just the knee-jerk function of a slave hopping to. Until she gets the work done the master inside her is going to flog her with guilt and anxiety. I can totally relate to this illustration.

Kohn suggests that in many cases self-discipline may actually be a sign not of health but of vulnerability, reflecting the “fear of being overwhelmed by external forces or by one’s own desires that must be suppressed through continual effort.” This is the poor person who is relying upon self and not upon the power of the Spirit and the word…

Then he said this, and it blew me away:

“In his classic work, Neurotic Styles, David Shapiro described how someone might function as ‘his own overseer, issuing commands, directives, reminders, warnings, and admonitions concerning not only what is to be done and what is not to be done, but also what is to be wanted, felt and even thought.”

We can do this with God’s plan for our lives, again, not in the power of the Spirit but solely through the function of our flesh. It’s yet another example of legalism. From reading the Bible we see all these things we should do and be and want, and how easy to just take it upon ourselves to see that we carry out those demands. Of course, the end is going to be failure, because we’re fallen and it’s not going to work. And even if it appears to work externally, inside there is no peace, no joy, no capacity to love…

He goes on to point out that an extremely disciplined person often sees everything as a means to an endand can’t “feel comfortable with any activity that lacks an aim or purpose beyond its own pleasure and usually do not recognize the possibility of finding life satisfying without a continuous sense of purpose and effort.”

Here, of course, we stray into some of the stuff I take issue with. I’m not sure anyone is truly comfortable living a life without purpose, and that’s one of the wonderful things a relationship with God gives us. But all these descriptions I’m setting down refer to the function of man in the flesh. And the flesh can base all its worth and satisfaction on achieving stuff. (One of Solomon’s eight experiments, written about in Ecclesiastes; and not one of those experiments produced the desired result of happiness) The purpose in the above quote refers to a purpose you can see, not something you must take on faith. The control freak has to see the purpose in what he’s doing or it’s not any good. “I’ve wasted the whole day dinking around with cards,” she wails, “and didn’t get anything accomplished! I’m a BAD girl.”

A few years ago when he was standing in for Pastor Bob who was ill, Pastor John Farley taught this:

“Guilt can arise from perfectionism. This is an unbelievable insult to God: I’m going to live by my standards and everything that’s good or bad is going to be decreed from the court of my soul. If I said I did a good job, I did. If I said I did a rotten job, I did. I don’t care what God says, it’s rotten. Everything is you and your standards. You’re living in the old man, letting the old man say what’s good and bad. Instead of saying, “I know I’m rotten. I’m going to let God change me. I’m going to live in His freedom and let Him be the arbiter of what’s good and bad, let Him take me away from that old man and let me live the way He wants me to live and… I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT IS!!! There is no standard, no expectation about your future destiny in Jesus Christ. You haven’t gotten there yet!”

And with that, I’ll leave off with this for now. There’s more, but once again my post has grown way too long.

Differing Worldviews

My son and his fiancée were here over Christmas and since I had finished The Black Swan (which he had loaned me) and he had not yet read it all the way through himself, but wanted to, I gave it back to him. Thus my posts from that source will be coming to a halt here pretty soon. But not yet.  Today I share some observations prompted by a statement the author made regarding differing viewpoints:

“This confirmation problem pervades our modern life, since most conflicts have at their root the following mental bias: when Arabs and Israelis watch news reports they see different stories in the same succession of events. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans look at different parts of the same data and never converge to the same opinions. Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right.

Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.”

Taleb’s observation that different people can look at the same series of events and come to wholly different conclusions is quite true. [Bush Derangement Syndrome comes to mind] And yet the implication in his words is that there is no one “right” conclusion, just conclusions based on whatever each individual regards as correct in his own eyes, each person’s perception shaped, maintained and bolstered by his innate tendency toward confirmation bias.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Only God has the true perspective and according to His word, there are absolutes. There are right ways of thinking and wrong ways. Life and death. Lies and truth. The flesh and the world versus the spiritual and the heavenly. As believers we are engaged in a battle against the spiritual forces that for the moment have rulership over our planet. It’s difficult to fight against forces one cannot see nor feel. We’re not going to be slugging it out physically. No, the battle is one of ideas; one of opposing systems of thought. And there are only two: man’s/Satan’s systems (which encompass all of those things that “seem right to a man” in their varied sameness), and God’s.

If you orient back to central principles of each world view, you are going to reach consistent conclusions. In Satan’s worldview, the creature is supreme. The creature operates independently from God (even if he is claiming to serve and love God, he does it in his own way, not according to God’s way) and seeks to solve his problems and improve his situation using creature power and solutions. In God’s worldview, all credit goes to Him. He is perfect. He does all the work. We, by grace, receive the benefits of what He has done, initially in salvation and continuing throughout our Christian walk. We must decrease, He must increase.

Satan’s genius lies in the way he has drawn in all manner of variation, complication, detail, urgency and just plain volume to obfuscate the central conclusions of each viewpoint. As the Lord said in x, the worries and cares of the world rise up to choke the truth of the word. Pretty soon we no longer see the forest for the trees.

But ultimately there are only two viewpoints. Man’s thoughts and God’s. And the two are not remotely similar.

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.