Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Life

So, are you gearing up for the New Year and thinking about what resolutions you should make? Or what you could do to make you a better you? Got a picture of the new and improved you in mind?

Be cautious.

I want to remind you that a really great man, one of this world’s best ever, failed dismally at doing what he thought he should and of keeping his promises and resolutions. Through his failure, Paul found something vitally important which he passed on to you and me, the first axiom of resolutions:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Rom 7:18b NIV)

Whoopee! Happy New Year! Now, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but I do mean to save you from something – the way of the flesh. The flesh suggests an interpretation of life (“You’re not doing well in life because you’re overweight.”) and a course for living (“No more carbs or chocolate, exercise for an hour every day and get a new wardrobe.”), which, if successfully followed, will seemingly make life work. Or, because things aren’t going your way (interpretation of life), you are frustrated and depressed. So, get drunk, take a drug, eat a gallon of ice cream, look at pornography, get raging mad and you’ll feel better (course for living).

What’s missing? The Holy Spirit! You and I are no longer flesh, but spirit. If we are induced to live as if we had not become spirit, as if we had not been born again, we will live by the flesh. And the end of that is futility.

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Rom 8:12-14 NASU)

Want to live? Then for you, life is by the Spirit. Life isn’t first something to do, or something to be done, but something to receive.

Here’s what I suggest: start your day, not with a list of things to do, but with a question. “What does God say He has done to me?” “In God’s eyes, who have I become?” “According to God, how do I live in this day?” “Father, what do you think of me?” Questions like these will cause you to sow to the Spirit. What will happen?

1. God’s life will be released in you. What’s better than that?
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:8 NASU) Your mind will be renewed, and you will be transformed (Rom 12:2).

2. You will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
(Gal 5:16 NASU)

3. You will know that there is not, nor will there ever be, one single moment of condemnation for you ever again. Following after the flesh will never allow that for you, but following after the Spirit will always keep that fact close.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4 NASU, italics mine.)

Want a happy new life? A new look? A new way? Living by the Spirit will manifest the life of Christ in you, and He will fulfill every need in you, for you, and for the new you.

And in this New Year, you’ll be better off than you think.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

An Unconsidered Gift (No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt 5)

It is seriously Christmas at my house.

Every decoration Sarah and I have collected over the past fifteen years is where it should be, inside the house and out – we’re decked, and I love it.

Plus, you may know that we just received a rather large gift out here, two feet of snow! We’re snowed-in, but because we don’t really need to go anywhere, we’re sledding, building a snowman, throwing snowballs, watching Christmas movies, playing games, and making cookies – what a gift.

In concluding my series about the flesh, I want you to consider another angle on the Gift of Jesus, one indispensable for me and, I think, for you.

His gift of everything you want to be. It’s really His gift to you.

Think of some of the ways you want to be: more loving, more joyful, more faithful, more self-controlled, more patient, more kind, more gentle, more peaceful,…more better. Have you ever asked Him to make you more like one or two or all of those? Of course. But where did you look after you asked? At yourself? That’s what I’ve done, and when I didn’t see what I wanted to see, I stopped asking…and I stopped expecting.

Here’s my point: can you believe that all of the way you want to be, all of it, is the gift of Jesus?

Some of the best news of my life is that I don’t have to become anything more than I am right now, I’ve only to believe everything I want is in the gift of Jesus. It’s all there.

Want to be more loving? Follow your desire to know Jesus and He’ll give you His love for others. Want to be more joyful? Ask Him to be that way in you. Soon there will be no room for Grumpy Gus or Gloomy Glenda. Short on the faithfulness scale this year? Ask the Spirit to produce Jesus’ faithfulness in you. You’ll be amazed. Lacking in self-control? Talk with Jesus about how much you want Him to do that in you – He will. In other words, pay attention to receiving the Gift and He will pay attention to being in you everything you want.

Every way you want to be – He’s all that.

I know it sounds simple. But if you and I can grow in receiving from Jesus all that He is, if we can raise our expectation of what the Gift can do for us and in us, we’ll walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

And for me, that’s it. That’s my hope – Jesus in me.

Because that’s where the Gift is in every Christian, we’re better off than we think.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 15, 2006

No Longer Flesh Bags, Pt. 4

(This is part four of a series, “No Longer Flesh Bags.” Below, we continue from last week…)

Luther Price wrote: “Be what you is, not what you ain’t; ‘cause if you ain’t what you is, you is what you ain’t.” In other words if you believe you are something (the flesh) when, in fact, you are not, the life you live will be a false one. You won’t live as you really are and have become because you’ll believe you’re something else; you’ll live as you ain’t.

This is why we must not implore Christians to surrender, but rather encourage them to believe. While it’s true that we have flesh, that isn’t us, not anymore, neither does the flesh surrender to God’s commands. Paul wrote that the fleshly mind “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom 8:7-9 NAS, italics mine.) Now that you have been reborn and belong to God, “you are not in the flesh”! You’re no longer found there! You’re “in the Spirit”! And you’re of the Spirit!

This is why, falsely identifying ourselves, whenever we implore ourselves to surrender, we add fuel to the false fight! If I believe that part of me which seems stubborn and reluctant to offer itself to God is me, then I’ve believed the flesh is me and I’ll see to command its surrender. Yikes! No wonder we can never seem to do it.

“Now, look here, flesh – I’m serious! I’ve had it with you and your terrible rule in my life, so I’m ordering you to cease your efforts immediately. You must no longer produce all that lousy, ugly stuff you’ve long pumped into my life – no more of that! Further, you must submit to daily prayer and Bible reading and like it! You hear me?! Surrender! I mean it!”

Twisted in my belief, I will invariably be twisted in my efforts. The way out of the twist is to live by faith and rightly identify the monster. Paul said that if he sinned, it was not him sinning; who was it? The monster! The flesh, through Paul! That which Paul used to be, but was no longer, ever since he had been remade and given life.

The following describes our hope:

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--
13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
(Rom 8:11-14 NAS, italics mine.)

You’re no monster – you’re a son! And you have the Spirit of God, and you have life. Because this is so, you may now happily put to death the ugly and awful deeds of the flesh.

When sin is evident in my life it isn’t the evidence that I am still seriously sinister, nor is it what I truly want to do. Sin is now a fleshly compulsion through the mental and emotional faculties of my body to harken back to empty days of long ago by rejecting dependence upon God in order to do something else. Empty stumblings.

Now, what do we do with this? If I offend you, I’ll say something like, “I’m sorry I did that to you…” But, I’ll know from where it came. If I don’t apologize to you, owning the offense, I’m irresponsible and our relationship will be impaired. After all, the behavior came through me – I’m responsible. However, if I do not accurately identify the producer of the behavior, I’ll be blaming the wrong thing, most likely the devil or me, and I’ll be boxing the air.

But that’s not for you…not anymore. You’re better off than you think.