Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Terrible Tippy Torments The World To God

Could God be working FOR you in all of your failures? And can you notice it?

Our failures mostly have to do with the promises and commitments we make concerning our behavior. I commit to taking care of my family, but that’s not easy because we’re changing all the time—growing up and leaving and moving about. I commit to treating you well and to not piss you off, although I might have just done that by using a rather coarse word. See? I don’t always succeed.

So how are you doing with your commitments? How’s it going with your decisions about how you’ll be and how you’ll do? If, like me, you’re tired and not doing very well, then let me tell you that God is in fact working for you—in the midst of it.

Trying to live and manage ourselves by promises and commitments (Romans 7) rather than by the grace and life of Christ in us (Romans 8), is pictured by Terrible Tippy The Bird. (See the cartoon.)

Can you relate? “Just one more attempt . . . maybe a different way of doing it, another approach, another angle of coming at it . . . I really should try, shouldn’t I?”

That way is what the apostle Paul calls the former way, and it’s a failed manner that stimulates failure and frustration for all who attempt it, so that (and it’s a good thing that there is a SO THAT) the new way would become ever-more inviting: Christ in you and Christ in me. That’s when we find that Jesus really is IN! Surprise! He actually did what He said He would do, and made us His home. And do you remember His big invitation?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

He’s not “out there,” trying to yoke you, He’s “in here,” trying to attract you. “Out there” is frustration and failure. “In here” is Christ and all that He is: Life.

Painfully, some of us for many years choose Terrible Tippy’s way, again and again: “Okay, one more, but that’s it.” And we keep making the attempt, over and over again. But after awhile, that’s going to be obvious. It won’t be pretty, and it’s not fun. Our struggle becomes obvious, and that’s actually important! It’s not supposed to work. We cannot yoke ourselves to make it look like we’re doing well. But there will come a tipping-over point, a time when we can no longer manage ourselves. Maybe we’ll have several of those times. I have. Sometimes there’s an initial one, a big one, and it’s then that we find Him faithful and capable inside of us for the first time.

The apostle Paul, who, after enduring the ugly struggle that Tippy portrays, wrote in Romans 7:

21 The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (By the way, that’s the flesh.) 24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Romans 8:1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us (on the inside!) no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code (the sequence of how to live right by commitments), weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. (Romans 7:21 – 8:1-7; The Message, italics and parenthesis mine.)

“. . . embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” That is Christianity! Don’t concern yourselves with the law! Don’t do it! Romans 5:20 says that, “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase . . .” Well, okay! It works, doesn’t it? It works so that grace might become all the more attractive. That’s the new way, the other way—by the Spirit. He does the work in us! I talk about that all the time, and if you haven’t gotten my book yet, well? Come on. (http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html)

Many of us who have been Christians for years still get duped into taking up commitments and promises of how we’ll do and what we’ll be. I know I do! And so we learn again, “Here comes Terrible Tippy!” We go right back to it. But imitating Tippy is not Christianity. That fouls and frustrates all of us born of the Spirit. It’s supposed to! It’s the warning sign, and you will notice it. Instead, we can help each other to grace and to Christ in us, right?

(This is a transcript of last Friday’s video, “Terrible Tippy Torments The World To God,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click: http://youtu.be/5mRCEff1u4s.)

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