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Free to be Constrained

Ever Feel Threatened?
     There’s a guy in my life who’s avoiding a conversation with me right now because he thinks I’m expecting something for nothing. Actually, I owe him something, but it’s something I can’t give him until it first comes back to me. Long story short, he’s already written me off as lawless and fears I only want to talk my way out of it. Big communication shutdown. I’m in the wrong and need to make amends. But, when I’ve asked for mercy (“…press your plea with your neighbor… (Prov. 6:3b)), only suspicion has been returned.

     What he doesn’t know is that as a believer in Christ, I’m not only subject to the law (Romans 13:1), but I’m also subject to the law giver. Anyone who’s ever paid a speeding ticket knows that it’s no fun to be on the wrong side of the law. But, imagine coming face to face with the God who created the universe and hearing Him request an accounting of everything you did while on His planet in the time He gave you… Does that sound a bit more intimidating than traffic court?

     For me, it does.

Renewed by the Word
     Yet, the great news that God popped off the page is this – while there are men and women out there who would love to entice us into argument, character assassination, word wars, and even litigation, God is sovereign even over them. As I’m reading Proverbs, Chapter 1, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Prov. 1:10)”

     Am I calling this guy a sinner? No, categorically, not. I don’t have access to God’s Facebook friends list and I won’t be so arrogant as to sit in judgment over the guy from my mere human vantage point. Furthermore, I’m the guy in the wrong on this one, right? So, let’s focus on the point here and experience the freedom we have in God, shall we?

     Our freedom in Christ seems oxymoronic. To be free to say “no” seems a bit of a dichotomy. Yet, you and I, as Christ followers are compelled by Christ (see 2 Cor 5:14) to only one option – “do not be enticed into doing wrong”. Yes, the example given in this proverb is about being invited to join people who want to go inflict evil upon others, but it also extends to the broader category of “wrongdoing”.

Be Encouraged
    Sometimes, freedom is saying “no” when you have all the room in the world to say “yes”. Could I engage this guy in a verbal war? Could I bite back with character assassination of my own? Sure could. I might even be right at the end of the argument. But, I’d be wrong in Christ and would be abusing my freedom and would miss out on one of the greatest fruits of the Spirit: self control. My freedom actually constrains [Greek: ‘sunexei‘ to control or hold together with constraint] me to one option: love someone who is acting as if I’m any enemy and pray for him while he’s persecuting me. While it sounds painful now, I’d rather do that than lose both the fruit of the Spirit and eternal reward. How about you?

    Until Christ returns, there will always be those who want to wrangle with words and accusations, stir up dissension, even cause us physical or legal harm – they may also try to entice us into sinning against God with them. But, we serve the God who will, in the end, see their knee bowed to Him just as our knee will bend; they, too will be called to account for their actions. May our hope not be in our words or our temporal vindication, rather in the God who searches hearts and minds and will repay us all according to our deeds. (Rev 2:23)

in Christ,

AP

Gollum, Self-Talk, and the Truth About You (Monday Morning Momentum Minute)

     Yesterday, a friend of mine was watching one of the Lord of the Rings movies and commented cleverly Tweeted “[Gollum] Smeagol needs to work on his self-talk. Very conflicted inside.”
     If you’ve never seen the movies, Smeagol is a disturbed and disturbing character who represents the inward and outward impact of sin on our lives over the long haul. Consequently, he is both tortured and twisted on the outside and in, having been visibly impacted by his enslavement to the fleshly desires, represented by the Ring of Power he so deeply covets. We could probably end in prayer here, right?

So, What’s the Problem?
     The quality of our self talk is a reflection of the quality of our hearts. Gollum’s self talk is much more “talk” than “self” because it comes out of his mouth so often referring to himself as “we” – conflicted and vehemently self deprecating. At one point, he even takes a stand against… uh, himself… arguing with his own reflection, which accuses him of murder. I’m actually refreshed by this in some ways: at least we know what’s on Gollum’s mind. No guesswork required!
     Today, I’m reading Proverbs 23:1-8. Check it out – it’s all about the inward motives of the heart. It’s all about unseen, “private” thoughts. When I meditate on this stuff, I’m mildly refreshed by Gollum’s “self-talk”: at least we know what’s going on in his mind. There’s no guess work here. Even though Jesus tells us very clearly that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”, some people have developed a really powerful filter that prevents the truth from coming out… at least for a time.

Kick the Habit, Not Yourself
     I’ve got a few friends that consider themselves addicts. For good reason – one of them has relapsed into chemical dependency no less than a dozen times this year. I know God’s going to pull him out of this and fully deliver him eventually. But, in the meantime, it’s hard for me to watch how hard he kicks himself when he’s down, calling himself names like “addict”, “doper”, “stoner”, etc. Last week, I was flipping through Ephesians and noticed several words highlighted. Every one was an identity statement: descriptive of how God thinks of us and who we are in light salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.

Here are a few of them:

  • v. 1 saint
  • v. 1 faithful in Christ Jesus
  • v. 3 blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ
  • v. 4 chosen before the foundation of the earth
  • v. 4 holy and blameless in Christ
  • v. 5 predestined to adoption as [a] son
  • etc., etc…

     You get the point, right? We see ourselves one way “for as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Prov. 23.8 NASB), yet God knows our hearts. If we were to examine our own self talk, we’d get a very accurate picture of who we think we are. But, what would happen if we were to hold those results up against the way God truly sees us in Christ? Just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Be Encouraged
     There are dozens of “identity” statements throughout the NT that result from our faith in Christ. God not only put them there, but also preserved and protected the canon of scripture not that we would worship the word of God, rather that we would worship the God of the Word, and come to know Him and consequently how He thinks of us… in Christ.

     If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, adopted by God and given the gift of sonship [which includes daughtership, but is no relation to the Mother Ship] and eternal life. That may be very different from how you see yourself or think about yourself. God knows the relationship between what is in our hearts and what comes out of our mouths. He also knows that the way we think of ourselves determines a lot of how we behave. If we would just obey the scripture and think of ourselves as He does, what difference would it make in our day, our week, our weakness, our battles against the private thoughts that so easily corrupt our day?

     Let’s not go back to being the “stingy [evil eye]” man who sees himself like Smeagol. Let’s trust in the only One who holds the words of life.