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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

God-tools

As the elections have wound down, one of the things I will admit I will NOT miss is the destructive and ruthless competition of those running for office!  Their endless "tearing down" of another candidate has certainly been evident this go-round of elections, has it not?  I think it is pretty apparent - we live in a world where people just don't seem to fight fair.  It becomes very apparent in times like campaigning for office - not just that this "unfairness" existed exist all along, but the fierceness of the competition seems to bring out the worst in mankind at times.  Paul tells the Corinthian church - it is a dog-eat-dog world out there!  That is not a very pleasant thought to me - dogs eating other dogs - but it definitely paints a graphic picture, does it not?  What's more, he tells us the world just doesn't fight fair.  But...as a believer in Christ, we have a different way of fighting our battles!

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.  (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 MSG)  

What are some lessons we can learn from the "dogs" Paul uses as an illustration for us?  First, dogs get hungry and nothing will stand in the way of their hunger.  They go on the prowl - looking for the thing they think will be the substance they desire to fill the hollow of their bellies.  Second, they don't hunt alone - they have a way of hunting in packs.  The nature of their "hunting" is to gather those around who also have the same hunger - because there is strength in numbers.  Last, they circle their prey - almost leaving their prey defenseless against either their driving hunger or their vast numbers!

Maybe this is an apt illustration of our sinful flesh - it gets hungry for the things which we "feel" will satisfy the "hollow" of our souls.  When we are listening to the hunger of our sinfulness, we gather those around who only serve to remind us of our hunger.  There is a something "undeterred" in our passions which are only fueled by those we associate with when we only choose to associate with those who have a similar hunger as our own!  If a hungry dog hangs out long enough with others who have "fullness" already, he has less chance of going on the prowl!

Paul puts it well - we don't live or fight our battles by the "rules of the dogs"!  We have a different way of fighting our battles.  Look at some of the "rules of the dogs" he lists - things like marketing or manipulating their prey.  Why use these two terms?  Maybe it is related to the definition of "dog-eat-dog".  First, we see there is a sense of competition.  Isn't the purpose of marketing to get the biggest "share" of something?  One competing wants to win.  When our flesh competes with our spirit, it is a battle to the finish!  One needs to win - neither is fulfilled until the other loses!  The second thing to keep in mind is the ruthlessness (and sometimes destructiveness) of the competition.  The "marketing and manipulating" tactics of our flesh often "out-voice" our spirit, don't they?  They pull, divide our attention, and distract us from our original intent.  Just like a dog minding his own business gets caught up in the hunt of fellow dogs, we follow "instinct" (feeling) rather than "sensibility" (spirit).  The issue is really one of self-restraint.  We often fail to deny flesh when we lack self-restraint.

We fight our battles (and win) a different way.  We have at our ready access "God-tools" to deal with our hunger - we just don't use them as we should.  Looking again at our passage, Paul reminds us of the value of these tools.  They are for "smashing warped philosophies".  Got any of those?  Simply put, a philosophy is a system of beliefs, values, or concepts we have adopted.  Paul calls them "warped beliefs, values, or concepts" we have adopted and are living by.  So, our God-tools are for "smashing" these warped philosophies.  He is reminding us of God's intention for us to completely demolish, by the use of his power, those things which are "distorted" truth in our lives.  In other words, we come to believe some things which are just not totally true - the stories we tell ourselves, the stories others tell us, or the misconceptions we form because we don't get into the Word of God to see what it says itself! First "Got-tool" we use:  WISDOM.  We learn to apply the Word to our lives by living it out - wisdom is simply applied knowledge - putting into practice what we see modeled in scripture.

God-tools are also good for tearing down barriers erected against truth in our lives.  Did you ever stop to consider the other dogs in the pack?  Not every dog's belly will be filled as a result of the "hunt".  In fact, the more dominant dogs will get their share first - then if there are left-overs, the weaker dogs get the rest, but may not even come close to filling the "hollow" of their hunger!  If you told those dogs they'd not be fulfilled at the end of their hunt, would it change their hunt?  Not likely!  They are so caught up in the hunt, they "erect walls" to the truth!  We have a whole lot of barriers we have erected to the truth in our lives.  God-tools like the Word of God, the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the testimony of others who have walked before us, are just some of the God-tools we can use to begin to tear down walls we have erected against truth.  Looking again - it is US who do the erecting, not God.  His tools are for tearing down the walls of our erecting!

Maybe most importantly, the God-tools we have been given are for fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of a life shaped by Christ.  Somethings just need to be "firmed up" in our lives - so we have stability and strong structure.  Other things need to be torn down completely.  Either way, the tools God provides are there to accomplish the task.  Looking again, we see evidence of where the weakness comes in the structure.  It is in our loose thoughts, emotions, and impulses!  A dog joins a pack of other dogs just "cuz" it has nothing better to do!  It is living loose!  There is much to be said about getting a "tight rein" on our thoughts, emotions and impulses!  I will just leave that one to God!  Just sayin!