Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fired-Up For Life


“I can do all things through Christ, all things!” the fiery young man at the pulpit yelled. “I can have life the way it ought to be!” He was really worked up, and so was the congregation. And why not? He was preaching from the Bible, and he was preaching good news.

Then, listening to him, why was I slightly disturbed? I wanted him to say more, and then get fiery.

The passage loosely quoted is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, who had received reports that Paul’s life wasn’t looking so good lately…jail time, floggings, shipwrecks, riots and fights, struggles with fear, worry and lust, and on top of that, he wasn’t sleeping or eating enough. I’ll bet he wasn’t taking his vitamins, either. What had gone wrong?

Jesus had lovingly interrupted Paul’s zealous lifestyle and given him a new life, one born and fit right with heaven, but one at odds with the world. From that day forward, Paul abandoned his lifestyle to the pursuit of knowing Christ Jesus, His new life, who then led Paul on the adventure of a lifetime.

Would it surprise you to know that a most delicious effort on the part of the devil is to confuse us about life?

As a little FYI, the Greek word for life used most often in the New Covenant is ZOE. Before we received Jesus (who is ZOE), we didn’t even have life—at least not the life that God thinks about. Remember what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden? Cut off from God, they lost life. While they must have been haunted by what they lost for the rest of their earthly lives, we don’t even know the haunting. We’ve been mustering up fleshly existence and calling it life ever since—but Adam and Eve would know better. All we’ve had is a lifestyle—ZAO—a going through the motions without real ZOE.

But! When we receive Jesus we receive life for the first time. And ZOE explains why you and I have those marvelous new urges and desires, like wanting to know God, and wondering about worship and scripture and holiness and service. The day before we received ZOE, we didn’t care! But everything is different now. One might say that until you get a good ZOE, your ZAO is sure to stink. Or, if, having received the heavenly ZOE, your ZAO has gone stinky, see to your ZOE.

Isn’t that fun?

Paul’s love for real life (ZOE) meant a lot about his life (ZAO). If you’ve ever read the eleventh chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, you know how his life looked…and have probably hoped yours wouldn’t look the same!

The point is this: because he had Christ and because he had been changed into someone fit with heaven, Paul let go of his career path as life, and instead chose life (ZOE) as the path for his career. Whether Paul’s pursuit of Jesus (and the life He is) meant lack or lots, nice style or bad, Paul knew he could, indeed, do it all in the One providing life for living. ZOE for ZAO.

How’s your life feeling and looking just now? Struggling with inner riots? Afraid of wrecking on the rocks straight ahead? Fighting with worry and lust? Upset with what the mirror reports? Not too crazy about what people are saying about you and your life?

The style of your life is not worthy of your greatest fight; the fight you’re in is a great fight for life. When you’re having that, when you’re doing whatever you like in order to know Him and have His life, then whatever the day brings, you can live in it through Christ. And maybe have a bit of that “more than conqueror” thing goin’ on.

And that’s worth getting fired up about.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:56 PM

    Just right for me today.
    Thanks!

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  2. You're very welcome.

    -Ralph

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  3. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Thanks...these are good messages!

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  4. The Professor8:06 PM

    Although I like the song, 'Wholly Yours,' by David Crowder Band, I can't bring myself to sing the first part of the song, for the reasons you mention:

    I am full of earth
    You are heaven’s worth
    I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
    You are everything that is bright and clean
    The antonym of me
    You are divinity

    Another "favorite" of mine is 'Shifting Sand,' by Caedmons Call:

    My faith is like shifting sand
    Changed by every wave
    My faith is like shifting sand
    So I stand on grace

    Waters rose as my doubts reigned
    My sand-castle faith, it slipped away
    Found myself standing on your grace
    It'd been there all the time

    Yeah, it gets me angry, too.

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  5. Yeah, I see what you mean.

    In praising God, we don't have to diminish ourselves in order for Him to be better glorified. In our day we have this backwards humility thing going on where we demean ourselves--"Man, I'm just no good, but God is so great"--and think God looks better because we do. But I believe He is glorified when we believe the truth--the truth about Him and the truth about ourselves.

    No one is in danger of bragging about themselves because we know we had nothing to do with what God has made of us. He did it all! And it's to His glory when we believe Him.

    Thanks for your comments, Professah!

    -Ralph

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  6. The Professor6:57 PM

    Oops! I actually meant to post my previous comment under "How To Cripple The Sons of God."

    Nice talking with you, Reverend...

    ReplyDelete