Tuesday, November 14, 2006

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 2

(This is part 2 of a series I began last week, “No Longer Flesh Bags.” Because we endure terrible struggles and behavior, I am writing to help you identify where they come from, why they’re there, and what to do about them. I hope you’re helped. – Ralph)

(From last week…)
Before we received our new selves and became spirit, before we became new creations, all we could do was flail away at life, mere flesh-bags without any life. That’s how we lived – no choice because we had nothing else.

How did that happen?

From that terrible day when Adam and Eve passed through the gates of the paradise that was Eden and began their lives in a comparative wasteland, man has become well acquainted with flesh. Having been born into a dependent, life-giving relationship with God, Adam and Eve were blessed with many of the qualities and characteristics which made up the “image of God” (Gen 1:26-28). With the life of God as his life, man was to steward the garden surroundings as God would.

But when Adam chose to do things differently, independently, he and his wife were banished to a quasi life of independence from God, an existence without real life.

God is life – He gets it from nowhere else. Everything He does erupts with life. When Adam and Eve were severed from life, they were left to do what they could with what they had left – mortal flesh. In a sense, they were left on their own, which is how they tragically became “like God,” with only the life (if it could be called life) they could muster by themselves.

Those first steps on the other side of the gate were the initial stumblings of empty mankind. The sudden realization of what they lost has echoed throughout history, inducing every relative of Adam and Eve to make something of life without life, to make a fallen existence work.

That’s the flesh. Still bearing Gods’ image, man has what David Needham (Birthright) calls an "unbendable bent" to fail at making life work because he has nothing with which to pull it off. No matter how good a working man or woman looks, regardless of what they do for their kids and their community or how well they plan for their retirement, they are without life; they are dust, mere bags of flesh.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
(Gen 3:19 NIV)

Regardless of what it does, neither dust nor flesh can make any boast before God (1 Cor 1:25, 29; Isaiah 55:9). As an example, think of Solomon. Now there’s a man who did it all and had it all. Plus, since he had more brains than anybody else, he could figure out what more he could do, or what more he could have better than us all. And what did he conclude? Futile.

1 I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.
2 "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?"
3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly-- my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well-- the delights of the heart of man.
9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
(Eccl 2:1-11;17 NIV)

Without life, without God, Solomon’s days were empty, not of activity, but of meaning and satisfaction. As it is with most of us, it took him a while to make sure. In the end, Solomon was miserable, and apart from God, we are, too.

Quoting the Psalmist, Paul writes of the wretched state of man:

10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Rom 3:10-12 NIV)

“Worthless.” “Not even one.” Ouch. It’s not easy to admit, is it?

Try posting “You And I Are Worthless” as a bumper sticker on your car (or maybe on your neighbors’) and see what happens! With centuries of practice it is now common for men and women to live by the flesh and call it normal – it’s all they know because it’s all they have. But get alone with someone and they might admit that life isn’t at all satisfying and that it doesn’t work. You and I know it’s because, having been designed for something more, all they have is flesh. They’re left to walking “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God,…” (Eph 4:17,18 NAS)

No one can live like that.

(To be continued…)

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