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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Don't leave anything out!

There are very few of us who set out in the morning with the express purpose of making wrong choices, acting poorly, or just plain being "out of sync" with Jesus.  In fact, most of us would probably recount how we attempt to make a "fresh start" everyday - regardless of how many times we have messed up before.  When we "belong to Christ", there is something of a desire we don't fully understand, but it lives deep within us, purposing within us to help us "do right".  This is simply because Christ indwells us and is empowering us to make better choices.  As I have often referenced before, we still have this thing called "free will" which often give us a little more "interference" in our lives when it comes to making choices, though.  This free will of ours presents one way of seeing things, while the Spirit of God within sets out a totally different view.  This war within is what gives us most of our angst in life, isn't it?  Don't get me wrong, but I think we almost count on there being no "war" between our will and God's Spirit, don't we?  It is like we somehow think all things within us should just "line up" and we shouldn't have to exert any effort toward obedience.  Silly us! When did we develop this sense of entitlement which actually believes God's people won't experience struggles whether they be within our own spirit, or because of others around us who make right choices harder?   

Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others. But evil people who pretend to be what they are not will become worse than ever, as they fool others and are fooled themselves. Keep on being faithful to what you were taught and to what you believed. After all, you know who taught you these things. Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved. Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (2 Timothy 3:12-17 CEV)

Scripture is quite clear on the matter - anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and WANTS to live right will have troubles from others.  So, the struggle within is not going to be the only struggle we face in this walk - we are also going to face opposition of sorts from those who don't quite understand our commitment to Jesus.  Evil lives in this earth - no doubt about it. We cannot escape that reality.  If we lived in a bubble on the back side of a wilderness area somewhere, we'd still be affected by the evil around us.  Think about it - even the decision to live in a bubble in a remotely isolated place was in response to trying to "escape evil"!  So, we need to figure out how it is we "deal" with the evil around us, those trying to fool us with their trickery and mischief, and the constant struggle of the will within as it is challenged to live by what the Spirit prompts.

For this, we need to point ourselves clearly to the scriptures.  We often don't think about the Word of God as our greatest defense, but it is.  We are taught a great deal of it, but how much of it have we applied to our lives.  The truth exists, but it must be applied in order to affect our lives.  They are "able to make us wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved", but they are also "wise enough" to keep us from being duped by the foolish lies of our own will, or those of the world around us.  

First and foremost, we must accept the scriptures as truth.  Most of us would say we do this, but I wonder if we really do.  If we "discount" some of the passages we read as not applicable to our lives today - belonging to another generation or time - then we really aren't accepting the full power and potential of the Word of God.  I know the Old Testament means of worship, complete with the blood sacrifices and offerings ranging from grain to livestock, isn't the means by which we approach God today.  Yet, they teach us something quite significant about HOW God works.  For example, these passages teach us about the need of a blood sacrifice (perfectly offered by Jesus), the cost of worship (bringing our best, not our outcasts), and the power of community (we belong together in worship).  So, to discount them as "not applicable" and therefore not worthy of our study is to shut ourselves off to some pretty special lessons God wants us to understand.

Second, we must accept scripture as a means of teaching us not only "how" to live, but "who" to live for, "where" we should find our hope in times of trouble, and "when" it is we are to push forward or pull back.  Scripture is instructional - it offers us more than just stories about great people, doing great things.  Instruction is really the ability of something to be authoritative in our lives and give us the direction by which we are to live.  When we begin to see scripture as an "authority" in our lives, we begin to apprehend the importance of what is contained within the pages.  

Third, we must accept the fact of needing help in making right choices.  Most of us want to live pretty independent lives - this almost goes without saying.  When we choose to live independently, we often become so rigid in our choices we exclude any other option than that which we conclude to be true and right for us.   The problem with this type of "choice making" is we don't always "conclude" correctly.  When we exclude the wisdom of the full scripture, that of others who have walked this walk a little longer than us, or the counsel of a teacher skilled in rightly dividing the scripture, we set ourselves up for failure.  We need correction on occasion - this goes without saying - but we won't be open to or even seek correction when we are too "bent" on making all our own choices in life.  We might not have escaped to the backside of the wilderness secured tightly in a bubble, but when we choose to live independent of the counsel of scripture, we are excluding one of the best defenses we have against the evil within and without!

We cannot live exclusionary lives - we need to incorporate all of the scripture into our learning.  We also cannot live reclusive lives - we need the training of others to assist us to see the various viewpoints we might just be missing when we consider the wisdom of the scriptures.  I think this is why God places us within community - to learn together.  Most of us don't see the things others see in us - we are so busy looking outward we forget about what dwells within.  Sometimes we need the skillful and observant eyes of another, wisely bringing scripture to light within us to show us our true colors.  Just sayin!