Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Dunce @ Grace

I sometimes wonder if I am incurable…

…I struggle with the same thing often, if it is something different, I find that it is similar.  I wander around in my mind too often and wonder about things that are not important.  Sometimes I wonder about things that are important but I have no ability to come to a conclusion on them.  

I also find that I try…

…I try so much.  I fail more than I like as well…

…and that is ok, or at least it should be.

I try to be a fairly gracious person, I love to show others grace as I have learned it from God and His Word. 

I love grace.  I love the process, concept, and availability that we have from God.

The problem I have, that is the reason I think I may be incurable is I don’t accept grace well.  I feel like I have to do better, which in and of itself, is not that bad of a thing.  However, when I fail, I fail, and I have resigned myself to be a failure in the matter as opposed to stopping and learning and realizing that God’s grace can cover me.  

I find that I try to love God and live the life that He has for me in the flesh.  

This is a problem, because that is impossible.  It has been tried, tested, and no one succeeded in doing it.

We see from the creation of mankind that everyone failed.  That’s why Christ was sent.  So, what is my problem?  Why do I naturally cling to this process?  

Was it part of my upbringing?  Sure, but there are a lot of things I was taught in my younger years that I have grown out of and learned better than.

Galatians 5 talks about our flesh warring against our Spirit, and I think that is where the rub is for me. 
I was reading earlier from Romans 8 and, while I have read this numerous times, it finally opened up to me that the failure that I, along with everyone else leading up to Christ’s freedom,  try to please God because it “seems” like the right thing to do.  

How can I, of my own merit and ability, please God?

How can I even think I could?

So I fail again, right?

The fail isn’t in the thought that God can be pleased with me, the fail is in the thought that I can please Him by me doing the work.    I don’t think I have worked through the process of turning myself over, entirely, to God.  When I believe and have the faith (not only to salvation) to turn over everything in my life to God that releases His righteousness to take over all that is me.  My righteouseness?  No way, Isaiah 64 tells us that my righteousness is like filthy rags.  Those filthy rags are most closely translated to mean a used feminine hygiene product, to put it kindly.

It must be His righteousness.  

It cannot be my own, because my righteousness is foul to God.  No matter how hard I try in my own power, I fail.  However, if I turn myself over to Him, His righteousness enters and I am no longer my own but I am guided by His Spirit.  

Spirit vs. Flesh

Flesh leads to guilt, Spirit leads to grace, and so I (according to Romans 8) must be turned over to the Spirit of Christ or else I am STILL (in 2011) living under the old law.  

Romans 4 mentions Abraham (and his account of what happens in Genesis 15) and how Abraham's belief (or faith) that he would have a son when he was well past his child bearing years was counted to him as righteousness.

He did not have faith in his ability, in his flesh, but rather had faith in God to do that work that his flesh could not do.

He had faith that God could do the work.

And that was accounted to Him as righteousness.  

I can say this over and over again…I can read it in His Word…I can feel His Spirit telling me this…
…and yet I still wrestle.

I have tasted the freedom, I feel it much more than I used to, but I still feel that I am in a fight with my inner self, at times, to let go of the Pharisaic tendencies that I have known for so long.  

I know I am not a failure, I know that I am graciously allowed to be successful by His righteousness that I have received by faith.  I know I am a child of the King…the hard part is living it out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus Church

I believe there is value in the wrestling.  I believe there is value in our grappling with matter we don’t fully understand because through the struggle we gain the experience of why we have come to the answer we have come to.  There are many who are fine with someone just giving them the answers or “cheat codes” so that they can rest comfortably in a matter that may best be struggled with.  

Having said that…I have been having a tough time writing because I don’t want to be a cynic, but I find myself veering that direction.  I have said before that I am a recovering Pharisee, so it is an easy default for me to point the finger rather than doing any sort of self reflecting to see how guilty I am myself.  That being said let me try to put into words the beginnings of where my head has been.  

There is a God.

It is a simple statement, but that carries a lot of weight about what I believe.  If I believe that God exists, it drives me to try to understand Him, what His purpose is, how am in relation to Him, is He stand offish?  Is He the type that just winds up the clock and lets it run and watches as a spectator or does He want to be involved?  

Now, if I believe what I say I believe, then a lot of those questions can be answered in the life of Christ.  I have found that to be a wonderful, fearful, and freeing belief.  I have faith that this is the truth by the evidence that I have found about Christ.  

So, I believe in God and Christ.  This belief and all that goes along with this belief (Creation, the cross, resurrection, etc) leads me to also believe in the Holy Spirit and His living and guiding me in my everyday life as I grow in this belief.  

Now, what you believe has a profound impact on our actions.  It guides or corrupts our decisions, our impulses, and the shaping of who we are.  

So I look at the life of Christ, the wonder of His perfection.  The sacrifices He made in coming here, the cross, the teaching, the time, the…life, death, resurrection.  I look at Him because, if ever there were someone to be the epitome of what God wants for our life while here on this earth, it would be God (Himself) in the flesh, right?  

How could I argue with that?

I, like you, cannot live the life that Christ lived.  I am not perfect.  Since this is true, I am called to rely on the Holy Spirit to live a life that will guide me to look more like Christ.  My life will not be perfect, but it will look a lot like Him if I listen and am guided by God’s Spirit.

I am not perfect, and I don’t always hear the Spirit’s guidance clearly.

However, this thought process has me looking at various aspects of the modern church and has me wondering how much we really look like Christ.  

I don’t want to be another one of “those” guys who feel no sorrow in ripping into the Bride of Christ.  I want to do something about it, but I am not sure what.  

The Bride of Christ, the church, should actually look a lot like Him.  Does she?  Not only that, does she know how to?

Now, this is the point where some who may be reading are possibly thinking, “I could do more to help out in the church.”  Please, before you go there, hang on.  I am not denying that is a possibility, however, being the church isn’t so much about doing more.  

I think being the church has a lot more to do with listening.

Taking time, getting quiet, spending time with God, and letting Him lead you.  I think too often we find someone who is growing in their faith and we try to plug them into an already established position, or we try to start a ministry with them that we feel is a good idea.  There is a place for both, but what if they aren’t called to be a trustee?  They are doing something they do not feel passionate about and feel like they “should” continue because if they don’t they somehow lose a closeness with God.  

As I said, there is a place for directing people that need or want it.  

However, how much does that look like Christ?  Do our decisions in directing look like Christ’s?

It isn’t that it can’t be Christlike, it isn’t that it is in no way Christlike.  What the danger in it is is that we have a man made system in place that we try to plug various others who believe and unintentionally make them believe that this makes them a better follower.  

Is that something Christ would do?  

There is a lot more I will add to this, but my mind has been whirling around about this.  I don’t feel as though I have put this in the most eloquent words, but I almost feel as though I need to get this down because otherwise it will just keep running through my mind without coming to any form of conclusion.  

More to come. 

*This thought process has been in my mind for some time, but gained momentum as I went on a trip recently that involved tearing out ceilings, painting, and renovating an old building that a new church is meeting in.  They are working to do church in a different way in inner city Pittsburgh.  That week involved no worship, no sermon, no rituals, and yet I feel like I was at church all week.  I felt the presence of God in the rubble.