It Takes Courage to Live

It takes courage to live.

You have to be careful.

You have to be aware of the risks.

You have to plan ahead.

You have to pray against happenstance, … and worse.

 

It takes courage to live.

You have to live your life.

You have to take the calculated risks.

You have to drive, fly and smell the roses.

You have to hope for good things.

 

It takes courage to live.

You have to go through tragedy.

You have to go through deaths.

You have to go through losses.

You have to thank God in all things.

 

It takes courage to live.

You have to keep your head above water.

You have to work to receive.

You have to sow to reap.

You have to save for tomorrow.

You have to bless your children.

 

It takes courage to live.

In spite of it all you must love.

In spite of it all you must believe.

In spite of it all you must live above.

In spite of it all you must be who He made you to be.

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Why does it matter what we hope in and how we hope in it or don’t?

On the ontological level (in terms of Care), as well as ontically (in consideration of payoffs), what matters to self is what is good, better or best for self.  So, in evaluating hopes, the question is, what matters to self?  The answer is, what is best for self. And what is best for self? Always, what is best for self is to act consistent with what is the best in reality, with reference to the Matrix of Reality itself.  So, the question then becomes, what is ‘best’ in reality?

Right here is where the debate heats up. Is there such a thing as reality, let alone a Matrix of Reality? What are the criteria for something being real?  How do we know what is real?  Is there a ‘best’ in reality?  The answers to these questions involve metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, three of the main subjects of traditional philosophy.  These questions are also dealt with by various religions.

In choosing how to answer these questions, each of us must do what is best for self.  But knowing what is best for self is what all these questions involve.  As such, the pursuit is somewhat circular.  Doing what is best for self in deciding what is best for self begs the question, and likely involves some bootstrapping, i.e., using presupposed values to establish values.

If only reality were obvious and clear. Then, we would not have to wonder what is best for self.  But one thing is clear.  Jumping to conclusions as to what makes a good or a bad hope is arbitrary until one has accurately established what is good for self in reality. For each of us, even if we believe we know what ‘ought’ to be best for self, are wont to have a different view in the moment.[1]  It is for such reasons I choose to dwell on authentic reality as discoverable in Christian hope.  Hope is centrally integrated into the being of mankind from the Christian perspective.

Why look to Christian hope? –  Because, the most important question a person can ask is whether or not Christianity as revealed in the Bible reflects reality.  For, if Christ were Lord and Savior, that fact would be an all-encompassing game-changer.  If Christ were not who the Bible claims Him to be, that fact would also be an all-encompassing game-changer.  So, an analysis of Christian hope is pivotal for figuring out how best to hope.  Dismissing Christian hope as futile or irrelevant to the matrix of reality, without a consideration of the authentic anthropology of anthropos from the Biblical perspective, would be irrational.

[1] For example, one may know that smoking is not best for self, yet light up, believing that in the moment smoking is best for self. Godfrey makes a similar observation:  “To desire cigarettes, for example, is to want them not precisely insofar as they are a health hazard, but despite the hazard. Thus, to hope, insofar as it involves desiring, entails that the hoped-for be believed to be good, at least in the sense of desirable. Believed desirability characterizes the object of hoping just as surely as believed possibility does.” Godfrey, Joseph J. A Philosophy of Human Hope. Dordrecht: M. Nijhoff, 1987, 31.

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The Human Nature Delusion, Pt.4

It is not rules that make us hypocrites. It is following rules without heartfelt faith, being led by the Spirit.  It is imposing rules on others in order to control their outward actions, with no attempt to change their hearts to God’s standard of righteousness, that is the true hypocrisy.

We are called to fulfill what Jesus expects, in both our hearts and in our actions, being led and empowered by the Spirit. But huge masses of believers are totally oblivious to how they could possibly know for sure what Jesus expects, and how they could really live up to it.

From that perspective, it only makes sense to the masses that believers were not really meant to be different from unbelievers in this lifetime.  They conclude we must wait until Jesus perfects us with glorified bodies when He returns for us.

Training in righteousness is, thus, the only way to combat the Human Nature Delusion in our churches, because people need to expereince the change for themselves if they are to believe in it.

Training in righteousness would lead us to fully walk out of the Darkness of the Flesh, the World and the lies of Satan, and into the Light of righteousness, in our heart, soul, mind and body, into the life in the Spirit. When we are walking in the Spirit, we are free to obey Christ.

Quite sadly, having never had that experience or that training, most believers might ‘get it’ that positionally they have gained much in heaven, being counted righteous through their faith, but they really haven’t seen it demonstrated that Christ set us free to live righteously in this lifetime.

They have not been able to experience firsthand the reality that they can stop being immersed in the Flesh, the World and the Lies of Satan, and live and obey fully in the Spirit of God, fully in the Light.  Most of us don’t know what that looks like, and we are actually skeptical it is possible.  In fact, fear is our dominant emotion when someone tells us it is time to start obeying.

  • We fear being burdened with a yoke of slavery.
  • We fear others telling us what to do.
  • We fear being controlled by others.
  • We fear being manipulated by negative ‘religion’.
  • We fear having to change everything in our lives.
  • We fear having to give up what we have been accustomed to.
  • We fear having to suffer loss or pain.
  • We fear hard work with no pay off.
  • We fear and expect failure, the minute someone uses that ugly ‘O’ word, obedience.

I share all those fears. I definitely don’t want some know-it-all religious dude trying to tell me what I am supposed to do to please God.  I figure God will tell me.  I figure God will show me how.  I figure that is between me and the Lord.

My pastor and teachers are there to give me insight, instruction, understanding and motivation, and to lead me by example, to lead me into reconnecting with God and doing business with the Lord.  But they are not to be my boss.  God is my boss, and if He doesn’t lead me to do something, I am not going to do it.

The key is knowing how God leads, and how I am to be wise enough and able enough to obey when He does  lead.  I must exchange my fears of losing control over my spiritual walk for an authentic Fear of the Lord, that I would be open and teachable when the Spirit works in my heart.

 So, while I have no list of rules to put upon anyone, I do want to encourage that, if you are born again, you are a radically different sort of creature than your Fallen cousins who dwell in the World. It is not just that we are supposed to act differently, being salt and Light, and being sons of the Most High.  It is that we really can be different in our likeness to Christ and our ability to obey the Lord in this lifetime.

But that does not mean at present you and I are very often wise enough to live consistent with that difference.  I am saying it takes training in righteousness to learn God’s program for becoming like Jesus and obeying.  If we are training in righteousness, then we do indeed have hope we will be conformed to His image right here on earth.

 

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The Human Nature Delusion, Pt. 3

So, why is it that believers don’t in their hearts comprehend and believe how very different they are from unbelievers?  Answer:  Because in their hearts and actions most believers in fact are not all that different from unbelievers.

Even if believers have studied all that they have gained in Christ, in becoming a member of God’s household, a child of God, and all the other positional advantages we have over the unbeliever in every way, they do not demonstrate it in their actions. If a person is thinking, feeling and acting like an unbeliever, despite their positional rights which they are not availing themselves of, it is not surprising that they don’t see their ‘self’ as much different from an unbeliever.

We act like the only difference between us and they is we have this rich uncle we can go to in times of need, and they don’t.  Because of this delusion, we find that, to Satan’s delight, statisically there is no difference between the saved and the unsaved.  The Human Nature Delusion is the epidemic illness of the church in our time. The winner is the father of lies himself. 

The delusion goes much deeper than our minds, so intellectual training in righteousness alone is futile. It is not enough to have head knowledge of our positional gains in Christ.  Many of us have that, but we still aren’t any different.  In fact, most of us rely on our position with Christ to assuage our fears that our moral failures might mean our “eternal security” is questionable.

It’s like we plan to say at the gates of heaven, “It’s okay.  I’m with the band.”  Would we not be far more secure to be able to say, “It’s okay.  I play in the band?”

We cannot rely on our head knowledge alone for this one. Our difference is not just that we have a Savior.  We need to comprehend in our very hearts and souls that the people of the World are different from the regenerate in one more important respect which makes all the difference.  We need to act and live consistent with that difference.

Believers have been freed to live righteously, but unblievers have no option but to live according to the Flesh and the culture within which they exist.   We believers not only have a choice to live righteously, without regard to the nature of the culture around us, but we have available to us the power to do so.  The problem is that we seldom take full advantage of our freedom or God’s power. Instead, in our hearts we trust in our own Flesh, in unbelievers, in unsanctified believers, and in the World System.  We accept as truth the lie of Satan, that we are as helpless as unbelievers.

We are still quite comfortable participating in the American culture we were naturally born into. We get mad as ever when we think someone is chipping away at our institutions which have so long guaranteed our peace and safety, our freedom and prosperity.  We get really hot when the people of the World violate our expectations of how a person ought to act if they are playing by the rules of the culture we think we live in.

Why’d that guy cut me off?  Why did the sales clerk rip me off?  Look at that guy cutting in line!  But believers should put no trust in the Flesh, and so they should put no trust in the unregenerate and their World System, or the natural culture they were born into.

While we are in the World, even as we are not of it, we do have to cooperate and seek the best in people and our society’s institutions. Yes, we should do what we can to protect and rebuild godliness into our institutions.  But we cannot do that and not first do the most important thing:  Become like Jesus, able to obey the Father in everything.  Indeed, we barely seek to be like Jesus.

Instead, we leave it to the world to educate our children, to entertain us, to give us many of our values and our sense of reality.  We must not trust them to be our spouse or to parent our children.  We must not trust them with our hearts.  We must not trust them to bring justice upon the earth, or to protect our “right” to preach the truth.

The unregenerate are untrustworthy as to all spiritual matters, by definition.  If they are halfway honest, they might be okay to give us a job or to change our oil, manufacture our computer, serve us dinner, or even to treat our illnesses and invest our money.  But that does not mean we should expect anything spiritually sound coming from them, at all.  We are called to be loving, but we are not called to be fools who throw their pearls to swine.

So, we must not trust the culture. We must try to build it up in godliness. But we must not neglect to first participate in being fully conformed into the likeness of Christ.

The Human Nature Delusion is that believers are just as fallible and clumsy as the rest of humanity; we just have a big God who can bail us out on that from time to time.  Really, this delusion is just an extension of our fleshly belief in our own self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.

We think we are basically good, and so we expect the next guy to be basically good.  When he’s not, we are disgusted.  On the other hand, many of us think that being different from the World is about putting up with their godlessness, and not judging it.  So, many of us feel their ungodliness puts a burden on us to be tolerant of  them.

Of course, this view completely misses the reason Christ died for us. It makes the Christian into a spiritual weakling and an unthinking pushover. It makes him into ‘Mr. Christian nice guy.’

The Human Nature Delusion which plagues the American church causes born again believers to question whether homosexuality should be called a sin, though the Bible clearly says it is.  These same “believers” excuse their own pre-marital sex, their own interest in pornography and every type of sexual perversion, along with their own interest in TV shows and movies presenting situations which glorify sexual immorality and decry marriage and mature family relationships with solid fathers and mothers.

They excuse their friendships and immersions into social groups whose ethic is hostile to God.  They are unable to exercise discernment about what television shows not to watch, oblivious to how what they see and listen to penetrates the mind and heart, shaping their character and their actions, feeding the Human Nature Delusion.  Many believers are exercising little to no discernment in partaking of the things of the World. Instead, they sing about their freedom in Christ, not at all comprehending that the freedom Jesus died for was a freedom to obey Christ in this lifetime. Jesus did not go to the Cross so we would have freedom from the obligation to obey God.

Consequently, the Human Nature Delusion causes believers to fail to separate themselves off in their minds, hearts and bodies from what is ungodly. It causes people to not realize they don’t have to be a product of the societal culture they were born into.  Their delusion regards any real  separation as an act of anti-social snobbery and foolishness, as extremism, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy.

The whole idea of purifying oneself and sanctifying oneself to God is either ignored or lumped in with the concepts of legalism and “religious oppression”.  Pop Christian songs celebrate getting to a place “where religion finally dies”, freedom to “be me” just the way I am, and the idea that “perfection is my enemy,” as if dealing with oppressive rules is the big struggle for the believer today.

But are most of us really struggling with rules against card playing, dancing and going to movies, subject to church leaders who focus only on outward conduct while hypocritically allowing these rules to be enforced in hatred instead of in love?  Isn’t our greater problem that the pendulum has swung far away from that type of religiosity to a total anti-religion in much of the church?  The unspoken anti-religion slogan we have to contend with today is something like “Accept everything, and expect nothing of anyone.”

The truth is that the church today does not need to declare its freedom to be like the culture we live in.  Rather, the church needs to declare its freedom to obey Christ in our actions. Let’s take an example.  Is drinking alcohol a sin?  No.  Is getting drunk a sin?  Yes. Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11, 6:10, 11:21; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:7; 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:3.

Are the things I will do, when my Sin Nature is to varying degrees released from my self-control, sin, whether I am totally drunk or not?  Yes, many of the things I will do in that situation obviously are sin, even if I am not “drunk”.  Is a pattern of seeking this escape to alcoholic fun sin?  Yes, such a pattern is idolatry.  Is depending on alcohol for escape and release from anxiety sin?  Alcohol can have medicinal uses, but if I seek this method instead of seeking God, or if it is part of the process of becoming an addict, of course it is sin.

Should people drink alcohol?  If you are led by the Holy Spirit to drink alcohol you should.  Paul instructed Timothy to do so for his stomach.  1 Timothy 5:23.  How often does the Spirit lead you there?  If you are using alcohol for good, as God defines it in the Bible, you are not sinning.  If you are seeking to make provision for the Sin Nature, then you are sinning.  Romans 13:14, 14:23.

Of course, these principles would be true of virtually everything a person may consume or bring into their life in any way. However, as these principles apply to alcohol, in light of the clear patterns of how it has affected our society, the most rational spiritual course is to abstain from alcohol all together, because it is both unnecessary and a dangerous temptation.

Each believer would be wise to make it a personal rule to abstain, as a matter of self-control.  We certainly should not drink around anyone else, as this could easily provide a stumbling block to others.  But the Human Nature Delusion and the tyranny of the natural, fleshly self hates this spiritual wisdom.  It says, “Why make our freedom in Christ into a miserable kill-joy? Don’t you know that alcohol is ‘good for food, … a delight to the eyes, and … desirable to make one wise’”? Genesis 3:6. The response of the Flesh is exactly why the church so desperately needs training in righteousness. The American church needs a whole new culture of pursuing righteousness, God’s way.

Having read that last two paragraphs, you may want to click 0n to the next poster, or make a deriding comment. After all, the Sin Nature wants you to demand your freedom.  The Sin Nature wants you to hate having to limit its quest for pleasure.

But are you really a person who feels you should not be denied anything you find pleasurable?  Is freedom from all restraint really what you are after?  Do you really think it is a virtue to avoid anything that might rightly be called “religion”?

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The Human Nature Delusion, Pt. 2

Born again believers are not even the same species as the people of the World. We are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the Flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13. So, while we can rather foolishly intermarry with unbelievers, and we can have children with them, we are not apt to be able to produce fertile spiritual offspring by them.

On the other hand, even good Christian couples give birth to Fallen, fleshly children.  They can’t humanly propigate a believer either!  It is just that they have a much better chance of raising a true believer than do unevenly yoked couples, divorced parents, or single parents whose children go on visitation with an unbeliever, or with a believer of questionable values.

On the third hand, how many children of good, Christian couples fall away?  The Human Nature Delusion is a big reason why. The delusion that we are really like the unregenerate denies the very work Jesus did on the Cross in freeing us from bondage to sin.

The antichrist denies Jesus was God come in the Flesh, for sure, blinding the unbeliever.  But he also denies that Jesus has already set the captives free, to live the rest of their lives here on Earth in holiness and righteousness, and this blinds the believer.  Satan loves to show how Christians are just as bad, or worse, than the unregenerate.  The father of lies loves the latest polls and statistics.

But Paul declares the unchanging truth:

 … our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;   …  18and having been freed [past tense]  from sin, you became [past tense] slaves of righteousness.  Romans 6:6, 18.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ ….  Titus 2:11-13.

The truth is that what oppresses us in our Old Self was put to death by the work of Jesus on the Cross, so that WE HAVE BEEN FREED TO WALK OUT OF OUR LIFE IN THE OLD SELF, TO LIVE SELF-CONTROLLED, UPRIGHT AND GODLY LIVES IN THIS PRESENT AGE, while we wait for the return of Jesus, when we will ultimately receive glorified bodies.  Until that time, WE ARE CALLED TO OBEY JESUS TO COME FULLY INTO THE LIGHT, NOT LINGERING IN THE DARKNESS, SUBMITTING TO THE FLESH, THE WORLD OR LIES OF SATAN.  But when you honestly look at the lives of God’s people, we are still largely living in the Darkness of Satan’s biggest lie to the church, the idea that we are not any more free to come fully into the Light than unbelievers.

Satan has done a great job of pulling the wool over the eyes of the American church. We are so deluded, many of us think we are different from the unsaved only in that we have a Lord and Savior and they do not.  Yet, we tend not to acknowledge this difference in general, especially when it comes to the things we most deeply value.

In our hearts, we value the same quest for pleasures and avoidances of pain as they.  We treasure prosperity, security, peace and safety.  Many treasure self-aggrandizement, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-absorption and self-interest above the interests of Jesus Christ.

In reality, we act as if there really is not that much difference between us and unbelievers.  Though in our minds we have set ourselves apart as people devout to God, in our hearts we have not totally set ourselves apart to God, to treasure Him and His interests above all else.  Instead, in our hearts, we comfortably assess ourselves as only human, fallible, clumsy, and inadequate to obey God.

As mere mortals, we expect very little of ourselves in the obedience-to-God department.  We would consider it arrogant and foolish to think we are adequate in ourselves to obey God, so in our hearts we want to dismiss that ugly word (obey) as irrelevant altogether.  But something holds us back from doing that.  That something is the Spirit of God within us, convicting us of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come.  Still, we live what is, from an objective perspective, miserably compromised lives.

Ironically, it is this delusion that we share a common human nature with the unregenerate which makes us so numb to the miserable, Fallen, condemned and doomed state of the unbeliever.  Almost all of us have almost no compassion for the fact that the unregenerate are going to Hell, to burn and suffer, separated from the love of God forever.  If someone says, “that’s not true, we do have compassion,” then all I have to say is we sure have a funny way of showing it.

For one thing, what’s the point in having someone profess faith in Christ as a savior if they are not professing Him as their Lord? What’s the point in having someone profess Him as Lord, but then not discipling them in how to live under that lordship?   Why reproduce a new “believer” who has no knowledge of, let alone faith in, God’s ability to free them from the Sin Nature, the World system and the lies of Satan?

Wouldn’t you and I be far more advanced in our spiritual development by now if we had understood and practiced from the start God’s method for overcoming our Flesh?  Where is the compassion in leaving new believers ignorant and untrained in righteousness?

On the other hand, going to war to defend and establish our “world view” in opposition to the world view of unbelievers, to protect our most valued interests at the expense of their most valued interests, clearly does not get people saved.  What gets people saved?  If we would  learn what it really means to seek his Kingdom and His righteousness first, we would know what gets people saved, and we would not only know how to be ambassadors of Christ, but we would not be able to help but be effective ambassadors.  The American church desperately needs training in righteousness.

What do you think about training in righteousness?

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The Human Nature Delusion, Pt. 1

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”                       Ecclesiastes 7:29.

Before the Fall, we truly were created “upright” by our heavenly Father. “Upright” means right in the eyes of the Lord, which is basically to say ‘righteous’ in His sight.  We were innocent.  Mankind was created without sin.  However, after the Fall, mankind lacked that one thing that made all the difference to human life, access to the Spirit of God.  So, it was left to its own devices.

Those “devices” or inventions were created through our ‘natural’ capacities: The brain, the body in general, the mind, the ability to think, communicate, learn, make tools, organize, manipulate and exploit. “Nature” gives mankind a tiny few extraordinary people with unusually strong capacities of the mind and body, who we hail as geniuses, prodigies, heroes or masters of their particular discipline or craft:  mathematicians, scientists, physicians, musicians, writers, athletes and craftsman of all types.

These heroes greatly advance “human progress” from time to time.  When they are really talented we say they are gifted, and we are tempted to say they have god-like abilities, or they have “talent on loan from God”.

I just saw a PBS tribute to the life of Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007), the celebrated operatic tenor who they said had “a gift from God” and became a “superstar.”  Compared to him, the rest of us aren’t even stars.  At best we are fans, which is short for fanatic idol worshippers, worshipping the creation rather than the creator.

Mankind has greatly increased its comfort and power on the Earth through the products of its collective will, intellect, and strength. Through mutual cooperation, humans have education, science, amazing medicine, sophisticated entertainment, technology, computerization, mobile technology and positioning, nano tech, robotic manufacturing, organized labor, weapons of mass destruction and armies.  We know how to systematically “civilize” ourselves and institute a “justice” system for law and order, to preserve a capitalistic environment creating freedom from tyranny from without and from within the government, and from criminals and evil conspiracies.

All this is fueled by freedom of information transmittal and expression.  Despite the Fall, humans remain the unchallenged top of the food chain, and still the most impressive “species” we have encountered, both here on planet Earth and as far into the physical universe as we can peer.

We are social, political, law making, religious, artistic, sentimental, passionate, appreciative of beauty and children, and even loving. Humans are affectionate and into cooperation.  The natural self born into a civilized culture can be quite an agreeable, kind, giving and winsome character.  Really, natural mankind aren’t all that bad, … that is, until “the dark side” of our nature is visible, … until our natural self is shown for what it really is.

What we find is that natural man does not really have two natures, like a Jekyl and Hyde, as some have suggested.  The natural self has just one nature:  The Flesh.  It just so happens the fleshly heart is fickle, making it appear to have two natures, but it has a predictable pattern:  Self Interest in all things.

We have been dwelling in our Flesh, which is our natural self, since the Fall. Its highest principles are self-survival and self-promotion.  The natural, fleshly self is no dummy.  The fleshly self likes friends, family, associations, peace, justice and lawfulness within its kingdom.  The self is anxious to make friends and influence people.  Only a defectively self-interested self is totally selfish.  If the self can get the things it seeks, then it is willing to give back to others, to society, to organizations.  The self likes to be happy, and it seeks its own happiness, even at the expense of having to ensure the happiness of others.

The problem is that the self is not alone in the wish for self happiness. All the other selfs are in the same business.  More than that, not every self is born into good circumstances where achieving the sense of order and happiness the self prefers is available.

The self needs to feel loved, respected, honored, protected, and provided for.  The self needs to be able to provide these things to its spouse and children.  The self wants to feel good about itself.  When those things are not available or they are a struggle for the self, the self gets frustrated, angry and desperate.

The self acts “selfish”.  The self is ready to move into the modes of hatred, discord, jealousy, rage and aggression toward other selfs.  Thus, it is best if the self gets what it needs and wants, if you want to have peace.  But there can be no peace, because not all selfs will be happy at the same time.

If that were the full extent of the problem, some kind of a utopian society where the fleshly self could get all its needs met would at least be possible.  But that is not the full extent of the problem by a long shot.  The self is crippled.  The self is missing that one thing that would make all the difference.  The self is further crippled in that the body and the mind are corrupted, are defective, existing in an environment of a Fallen physical World, and itself being part of that fallen World.

Genetically, something is not quite right. People have mental, emotional and physical illnesses and generational defects which are passed on to children.  People develop ways to cope with their defects and handicaps which are themselves inadequate solutions, causing mental, emotional and physical side effects of their own.  Then these side effects from our coping mechanisms or devices have to be corrected by another inadequate solution, which itself causes further side effects, and so on.

Pathological body and mind problems develop.  Mental neuroses and pathologies develop.  Bad habits and learned behaviors for coping with life are passed on from parent to child, from sibling to sibling, from friend to friend, from spouse to spouse, from co-worker to co-worker.  World views and cultural values and conceptions of life are communicated in the same way, and pervasively through our media, creating structures of pathological thinking  behavior, and group think.  Perversion of all things godly is the impact on all levels concerning every issue of importance to mankind.  This corruption of the natural self makes the utopian dream impossible.

To the extent a fleshly, unregenerate self participates in a culture which includes godly principles in it, even if those principles have been stripped of their overt connection to God, there is relative success.  For instance, the United States of America has remnants of godly principles in its form of government and systems of law making and justice.  But as those principles are corrupted or perverted in practice, through legislative changes or through judicial changes, to that extent those institutions cause corruption in the culture, or take away the godly influence which protected the culture from the natural results of corruption.

The more corrupt each individual self becomes, as it participates less and less in godly principles for living, the darker its understanding becomes.  The darker the understanding, the less the self has any idea at all where good things come from, where the life giving and protection of godly principles really come from, and the less the self comprehends how godly principles work and why.  The self is like a brute beast before the Lord, ignorant and driven by its basest desires and methods.  The result is that the self is unbridled in its fleshly desires and thoughts.

One generation raised in the semblance of godliness is shocked at the attitudes and behavior of the next generation, who is raised with an increasingly diminished culture of godliness. The older generation knows the constraints it was raised within are now missing, and blame that, but they just can’t quite make the link to the fact that those constraints were based on godly principles, and only a return to God Himself can reinstitute their protections.

Indeed, the unbridled fleshly self is hostile to the Word of God. The Word is foolishness to it. If God’s restraint of our natural self were totally removed, however, we would indeed be like King Nebuchadnezzar, who Daniel wrote was driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven.”  Daniel 5:21.  Paul writes about what we, who are born again, were like before Christ came into our lives. It is all a matter of degree:

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this World and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  Ephesians 2:1-3

17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  Ephesians 4:17-19.  [See also, especially, the famous Romans 1:18-32!]

18For the word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18. 6Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away;  7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory …  14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:4-7, 14.

The fleshly, “natural” self or human, in its corruption and perversion, is hardened to the kindness and wisdom of God, and it causes all sorts of trouble everywhere it goes. The self seeks to amass power, treating others as its means to achieving its own goals and agendas.  When this process becomes organized among several selfs seeking power, we call that “the World System”, the effects of which are violent, hateful, cruel and without justice.

The customs, traditions and man-made laws are the product of the World System.  The World System operates in all our social interactions, from a friendship, to a romance, to a marriage, to a family, to the workplace, to business, to trade, to buying and selling, to finances, to the market, to politics, to government, to the legislature, to the courts, to the military, to every sort of human interaction.

Wars on all levels occur between power factions.  People fight and bicker and hate, but neither victory nor defeat makes them happy.  They continually lust for more.  They cannot fulfill what is missing, though they strive to fulfill their passions and appetites.  The conductor of this cacophony of discordant themes is Satan himself, the currently acting ruler of this World and its World System, in which all natural selfs in the World partake.  John 14:30; 1 John 5:19; Colossians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 4:2-4.  He is the father of lies, and thereby the father of disobedience.  John 8:44; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6.

Well, that description of Fallen mankind is a peek behind the veil. We need to take a peek, because the god of this World has blinded the hearts of people so that they do not easily see Fallen mankind for what it is.  The truth is hidden behind the deceptive delusions propigated by Satan through his manipulations of the fleshly nature and the World System.

Many in this country actually believe the world’s problems are here because some people believe in God.  Some call that belief in God a delusion.  That is literally 180 degrees out of sync.

And then there are all the counterfeit religions of the world, and the denominations beset by human tradition rather than the truth of Scripture.  Satan has deceived many through these placebos, which have a form of godliness but are utterly disconnected from Christ.  Thus, the whole World is under the control of the evil one, with the exception of a remnant who authentically worship in spirit and in truth, in Jesus Christ.

But it is not just those who do not know Jesus who the “god of this age” has blinded to the truth about mankind. Authentic Christian believers on the whole are greatly deceived about everything I have just said.  The vast majority of us do not really acknowledge that the whole World is under the control of the evil one.

Sure, we know it, but it hasn’t really registered in our hearts so much that we act as though that were true.  How are you supposed to act toward people who are blind, who don’t know their left hand from their right, who are slaves of the Sin Nature, dead to the Spirit of God, enslaved to the World System and enslaved to the “wisdom” of Satan?  Are we supposed to act just like them?  Are we supposed to go on with them as if nothing is wrong, as if ‘I’m okay; you’re okay?’

After all, some of the unsaved are among the nicest people we know – nicer, really, than many so-called Christians ….  On the other hand, are we supposed to act in frustration that they don’t share with us a form of godliness and that they deny God?  Are we supposed to be surprised and angry when they trample over our rights and beliefs?  Are we supposed to act as if they had any option but to do that?

In many ways, we have not put the unsaved into a totally different category in our hearts than ourselves.  We still expect them to act out of their ‘better angels’, whatever that is supposed to mean.  We actually expect them to be, on balance, good and not selfish.

We still get disappointed and outraged at the conduct and attitudes of the unsaved, as if anything they do, no matter how unloving and irreverent, should in the least surprise us.  We still think we can expect a few good things from them, and if we try hard enough, we might just reform them by better laws and better enforcement.  We still think we can get them saved by dating them, getting pregnant with them and then marrying them!

It might increase their chances, actually, since they then have to live with a Christian night and day.  But what Hell it can be to live with them, and what Hell to raise children, especially if they divorce you!  What sanctified person could even consider such a relationship?  Only a believer under the Human Nature Delusion who lives much like the unsaved, or who naievely does not know what they are really like, could even begin to go that way.

Have a child of divorce or out of wedlock with an unregenerate person and you can just see all of your control over how to raise that child to be a believer instantly evaporate. When your child goes on visitation or lives with the custodial parent, they are exposed to a thousand wrong messages and ways of approaching life.  You cannot control how this other parent will handle your child’s physical, mental and emotional health, let alone their spiritual health.

Why? Because the unbelieving parent does not recognize the purpose and power of godliness in the life of a child.  They do not realize the need for God at all.  Can you get help from the divorce court, who claims it is always looking out for the best interests of the child?  Of course not.

Despite the existence of a few Christian judges and lawmakers, the World System of “justice” in the courts is dead to the Law of God. The written laws on visitation and custody do not allow a parent to restrict the visitation by the non-custodial partent, or the care by the custodial parent, in hardly any way, unless there is proof of “serious endangerment of the child.”  What a believer may see as serious endangerment does not remotely resemble what the courts will acknowledge as such.

How foolish of us to expect the laws of our society and their enforcement by police and the courts to be “just” or “fair”, or even wise and effective, from a godly point of view.  From that standpoint, if you marry or have children with an unbeliever, you are putting your life and the lives of your prodigy out of the control and protection of a godly marriage, and subject to the authority and ‘wisdom’ of the World.  And we all know the World is under the control of the evil one.  1 John 5:19.  That doesn’t sound too spiritually bright.

Yet, many of us still think that unsaved people are not all bad, and they have a side of them that is positive, which we need to focus on, ignoring the bad.  (Actually, that is the only way to cope with being around them, so we must try o focus on the ‘good’ in practice, even as we hold ourselves apart in our hearts as sanctified to the Lord, not for a moment believing unbelievers are at all like us, ultimately.)  We still think if we could just get the judges to follow the Constitution as we think it was originally intended by our founding ‘fathers’, then  justice would be done in America.  But we have only one father, our God in Heaven.

We still think we need to make America safe for good Christian people to live, practice their faith and be prosperous.  We still think we can.  We even believe that if we could make America safe for free Christian life, that we would be doing God’s will, just to establish that happy society.

And so we try to work with the unregenerate power holders.  Our ‘leaders’ who have found a public microphone or a tall platform to get the attention of the masses decide to use that power to engage the culture, to engage the political arena.

We try to amass our moral voice to vote and influence government.  We boycott corporations who fund causes we disagree with.  We do battle over moral issues, and “fight” the culture war.  We try to shut down the casinos, the abortion mills, the porn industry, the human traffickers, the evolution liars, the gay marriage lobbyists, the Hollywood assault on marriage and the family, and all the other affronts to godliness in the society.  We vote for anyone resembling a Christian who seems to care for our “social” issues.  We are doing things in the World to try to reform the World.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to live in peace and godliness in your society, able to practice and proselytize one’s religion. If we sit back and let our society’s moral structure collapse, that is not loving, because everyone will greatly suffer for it, including us.  If good Christians had not been in this battle in this country for the past 40 years, for instance, the freedom to write or publicize this book may have already been taken away.

All it takes for evil to prevail, as they say, is for good people to stand by and do nothing.  But the view that the role of the Christian is to make the World safe for Christianity to prosper is delusional.  The World ultimately cannot be so reformed.

The World is doomed for destruction, to be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth.  God intentionally made mankind to be beyond reform when He engineered the Fall and redemption of mankind. He did that so He could lead us to become what He created us to be.  Natural, Fallen mankind as we know it is just an intermediary state, a stepping stone.  Through Christ, Fallen man is to die and become a New Creation. 

Have you died to the Human Nature?

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A Piece of Work is Man

leonardo man

Hamlet: What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the World, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me— nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Rosencrantz: My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.[i]

Some 1,600 years after Christ was born Hamlet first expressed this eloquent judgment upon mankind, through the pen of William Shakespeare, the most celebrated English dramatist ever. He listed mankind’s humanistic virtues as they had been extolled in the neo-classicism of the Renaissance during the 1500’s.

These were the sorts of things a young prince would have been educated in:  the revived and reborn arts, sciences and philosophy of the era.  He spoke of such humanistic characteristics as noble reason, infinite ideas of the mind, expressive and admirable physical motion in dance and athletics, the ability to act with angelic purpose and effect, the god-like appearance of man in statuary and painting, man as the most beautiful thing on the earth, the very top of the food chain as well as the pinnacle of physical and mental ability and beauty.  Yet, Hamlet condemned it all with his simple rebuttal, “Man delights not me—nor woman neither.”

It was so simple to topple the greatness of mankind in Hamlet’s eyes, because the ghost of his murdered father had appeared to him. This restless, anguished apparition opened Hamlet’s eyes to mankind’s fatal flaw, his Achilles heal:  the loveless ambition of the self which murders even its own brother and husband.  Hamlet learned his mother had had an affair with his father’s brother and she had conspired with the brother, Hamlet’s uncle, in the murder of Hamlet’s father, that the brother may replace him as king.

Recognizing the fact that the intent of mankind’s heart is evil continually, from the youth of a person forward, and that this causes “the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” Hamlet considers suicide.  If he had more faith about what life after death would be about, and that taking his own life might not result in a worse misery than he had already found in this life, he thought he might just end it all:

 To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To sleep: perchance to dream:

ay, there’s the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: [ii]

Of course, many of us have at times wondered the same thing, if death may not be less miserable than continuing on in a life with so much suffering caused by other people and ourselves. From a humanistic perspective, I think Hamlet speaks for all of us when he says that our own cowardice and a lack of faith in life after death are usually sufficient causes to stop us from suicide:

 The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. [iii]

But from the perspective of the believer in Jesus Christ, it is not cowardice and uncertainty which stop us from ending it all. The believer is supposed to embrace life on this earth with great courage and faith in the future, because we know all about that undiscovered country from which no traveler returns.  In fact, we know that several travelers have returned from there already.  Lazarus, a little girl and an older man were all raised by Jesus.  Many were raised when Jesus died on the Cross, and Jesus himself was raised.  Paul raised some people, and in both testaments there is record of others received back from the dead.

But it is our faith in what God has done, is doing now and will do in the future that stops us from suicide.  It is not our faith in human nature, in others or ourselves.  It is not faith in our successes in the World, the World System of politics, government or business, nor do we trust in nature itself.  Our faith is in God.

These things are true. To varying degrees, we believers have that sort of staunch faith in general.  We know that it was some 5,500 years prior to Hamlet’s judgment on mankind, if the Bible allows us to date accurately the creation week[iv], that the very first evaluation of mankind occurred, by its very Creator:

 26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;     31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  Genesis1:26-28, 31.

God saw that the entire creation, including mankind, was “very good.” Obviously, there were a few disappointments in the new prototype once God took it for that first test drive, despite the vegetarian diet.  You know the story:

9Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. …  16The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden [including the tree of life] you may eat freely;  17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”  18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:9, 16-18.

Adam must have looked dumbly at God for a moment after being told he could eat anything but from that one tree, and God realized the poor guy needed a helper. (Actually, God planned all along to give man a helper.)  To what extent Adam, and later Eve, understood the significance of the tree of life and the significance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a mystery.  We know that later their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked, so they must have had some substantial naivety at the outset.  What they did clearly understand was the commandment about what not to eat.  Apparently, after the woman was created, it wasn’t long before Adam or God shared with her what God had said about the forbidden fruit.  And it wasn’t long after that until the serpent, Satan, paid Eve a visit.

2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;  3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'”  4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Well, the rest is history. The first married couple made a mess of it together, and disobeyed God.  What choice did that leave God?  He could pound the lump of clay back into a ball and start over; he could go back to the drawing board and redesign mankind.  But He didn’t.  What He did do was immediately modify the terms of mankind’s lease on life.  He took away the option to purchase, the option to eat of the tree of life:

22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—  23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.  24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3.

As soon as mankind ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, effectively disobeying God, the penalty for that sin was upon them.  In that day Adam and Eve died spiritually, with a progressive effect on their minds and bodies.  The bloom was off the rose.  At that point they began to live, more and more, like the sort of humans you and I see around us everyday.  Eyes opened to sin.  Heart fearing and hating aging and physical death, feeling insecure and overly conscious of themselves and their vulnerabilities.

Like Hamlet, the cares and concerns of life left them to varying degrees miserable and unable to cope, making them prefer not to have to live through it.  Yet, fearing the future and life after death, they were helplessly controlled by the instinct of self-preservation.  As then, today humans know down deep that we are ultimately doomed.  Our days are finite.  Something is broken.  Something is continually unfulfilled.  Something is profoundly wrong.  Something critical is missing from this picture.

We go on through life suffering with one or more severe handicaps in our psyches and bodies, which we have learned to compensate for to some degree. We are so accustomed to them that we think they are normal “human nature”, and we don’t really regard these deficits as abnormal.  In a way, we don’t consciously miss that which in its absence has crippled us and enslaved us.  We are born into life the way it is.

If you had never seen the sun, you never would have known to miss it.  But that would not take away your inherent need for its warmth, light, special properties in its waves, and the optimistic security it brings.  After a while, we hate an overcast day, and many in a row drags us way down.  Some of us have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), not even aware that what we so desperately need is just some sunshine.  So it is, by analogy, when we are missing the Spirit of God.  Those without the Spirit may have the spiritual symptoms, but they don’t consciously piece it together that what they need is the Light of Christ dawning in their hearts.

In any case, God knew what had happened to mankind when it fell to its new miserable state. He not only knew that the rest of human life on earth would be a mere semblance of what it was in the Garden, but He knew that if mankind had eaten of the tree of life while in this fallen state, it would have doomed mankind to eternal death.  That is, mankind might “take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” in this Fallen state.  God did not allow that to happen.  He cast mankind from Eden, from the tree of life, and from Himself.  This was the only way to save mankind from itself.  But to what end?

What started with such promise, in that it was so very good, fell to the lowly state we see even today. It was soon thereafter that sibling rivalry gave way to murder.  Within just about 1,600 years[v] after the fall, just before the flood, God had had enough:

the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.   6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  7The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’”  Genesis 6:5-7.

Fortunately for mankind, there was one righteous human walking around at the time, Noah. He found favor with God, and his household was spared in the ark solely for that reason.  God said, “you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.”  Genesis 6:9, 7:1.

One thing is for sure. If Noah was “seen” to be righteous, he was righteous through his actions.  As John the Apostle comments so long later, “… the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;  8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” 1 John 3:7-8. Indeed, Noah “walked” with God.  Genesis 6:9. In the Bible, “walking” generally means to live a certain way, but specifically to take action a certain way.

When Noah’s great grandfather, Enoch, walked with God, he may have been in total communion with the Father, in His presence spiritually and even physically here on earth prior to his disappearance, but that does not mean Enoch’s ways of living were not literally actions and inactions which were righteous and pleased the Lord.  You get the sense that those who walked with God pleased the Lord by their actions and their hearts, and for that reason enjoyed close fellowship with Him.

No one thinks Noah was perfect in his conduct, though He probably sinned much less than everyone else.  Rather, like Abram later, Noah’s faith in God’s promises was counted as righteousness, covering his sins when He did err:

7By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the World, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.  Hebrews 11:7.

So, we see Noah’s belief of God’s promise, of salvation from destruction, acted out in actions of building and completing the ark, proving that Noah believed God. Noah demonstrated he was on God’s side, and he was with God’s program.  He did not just wait for God to miraculously save him, but obeyed God to build an ark in a day when it had never rained and never flooded, in a day when he was the only person on the entire planet who agreed with God.  Thus, Noah’s heart pleased God because it was combined with his actions.  In that way, Noah was a spark of hope that stayed the hand of God from His inclination to pound this lump of clay back into a ball, to wipe the slate clean.  God saw what He was looking for in mankind in this one man, Noah, a man who attained to righteousness by truly agreeing with the will of the Lord in his heart and by doing the will of the Lord in his actions.

Now, there is a coincidental, probably non-providential, though interesting, parallel going on here. The Creator is just about totally disgusted with mankind within 1,600 years of creation.  Likewise, the greatest humanist writer of all time, Shakespeare, comes to the same conclusion within about 1,600 years of the coming of Christ:

    Creation<——-1,600 Years——->Flood        

Crucifixion<——-1,600 Years——->Hamlet

Obviously, Shakespeare was not the first after Christ to feel or articulate such things, so I point this out for one reason alone. The fact that God created us innocent, and placed us in the Garden in communion with God in the beginning, did not stop mankind from sinning.  In spite of all of our advantages at the outset, our predisposition to disobey God bore the fruit of disobedience.  And God created us that way.

Likewise, on the other hand, the crucifixion of Jesus, such that he paid the sin penalty for all mankind, freeing us from enslavement to the Sin Nature, the World System and the forces of evil in the spiritual realm,  did not stop mankind’s predisposition to disobey God, either.  This is why Shakespeare, living 1,600 years after Christ paid the sin penalty, was able to observe what a “piece of work” mankind really is.

In other words, Christ did an amazing work on the Cross, which had the effect of freeing mankind to reenter into that condition like Adam enjoyed in the Garden with God, to take another swing at living righteously.  Yet most of mankind refuses to enter back in, and many of those who do accept Christ as Savior don’t seem to have more than a toehold in Eden, because they are not living a Christlike life. If many of those who accept Him as Savior also accept Him as Lord, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

Man has been “a piece of work” from the creation, and he has not gotten any better, but only worse. Those who think natural mankind is evolving and becoming more enlightened obviously disagree with both Hamlet and God.  They obviously are not concerned with the evil which dwells in the heart of natural mankind, and which is not restrained by good intentions, will power, peer pressure, rules, laws, incentives or punishments.

Secular Humanists of all varieties each believe they themselves represent the next link in human evolutionary enlightenment.  If only they could get everyone else to see it their way.  What a wonderful World it would be.  But that is the very point.  Each person is not only bound to disobedience to God, but bound to enmity with his neighbor.  The Sin Nature will never allow any utopian dream to succeed, or for an intellectual enlightenment of the mind to bring about peace.  It is the arrogance of the self which is led by the Sin Nature that makes it fantasize a perfect life without God and his law.  In so fantasizing, the self is self-deluded and deceived.  The natural self is unrighteous, and it will never be righteous.

The yardstick by which we know that mankind is really a perpetually self-deluded failure is the standard God has set up, which Noah attained to: Righteousness.  If you are righteous, then you perfectly do His will.  The opposite of righteousness is lawlessness. 2 Corinthians 6:14. If you only partially do His will, you are not partially righteous.  No.  With the very first sin you are unrighteous.  The purpose of forgiveness of sins is to restore you to the position of being counted as perfectly righteous.

Well, no one is perfect, we complain.  And God says, you are right.  No one except me.  Tell you what:  I’ll set up a way for you to participate in my righteousness.  I will pay off your sin penalty through my Son dying for your sins, which you can partake in by believing my promises, and I will empower you to stop sinning and start doing my will, what do you say?

Some of mankind rejects this out of hand.  Some of mankind says, sure.  But then many of those who who accept God’s offer do not stay with the program.  Instead, they say, thank you very much for that free ticket to heaven; they they come up with all sorts of reasons for why they are not supposed to be part of that program to be righteous.

Most believers give excuses for why it is impossible to be righteous and there is no reason to really expect righteousness out of us, even if we claim to be saved by Jesus.  Basically, many of us really have not believed the promise that He will lead and empower us to obey Him.

As a result, it is not just the unbelievers who have not believed God’s promises, because many believers still refuse to participate in God’s plan for them to be righteous in their actions. God saw it in the Garden, Hamlet saw it 500 years ago, and the statistics proclaim it.  As we scratch our heads in bewilderment we must ponder:  Do I know someone who is walking in righteousness?  — I was not asking if they think they are positionally righteous in Christ.  I was asking if they do the will of God. 

So often our pastors become frustrated in their attempts to help their flocks of believers to live the Christian life and become like Jesus. They have been accustomed to very meager results and very little interest on the part of 80% of those souls to whom they have been charged as shepherd.  Pastors purchase a sermon series, a book, a workbook, videos or an outside speaker, hoping that going through these things en masse and discussing it in small groups will kindle or fan a flame.

But every attempt at striking a spark in the hearts of believers is met with exhausted failure by many of those who embrace it, and a wall of sheer apathy from the 80% crowd who don’t embrace it.  The lethargy of the body is palpable.  They hear, learn and give their opinion in response.  But little changes.

Most church goers are quite nice folks, having learned to be nice, and having learned to be good citizens. Most love their children.  Most have seen some development in their character because they know Christ.  But then for many of them, nothing new comes, or very little.  They freely admit it would be presumptuous of them to suggest they resemble Christ, really.  Their mantra is that “nobody’s perfect,” and they continually redefine and expand their “freedom in Christ” to include more ways they should follow what the World is doing.

Only through self delusion would they pretend they are obeying Christ all that much.  But no matter.  They are going to heaven, and who knows:  Maybe the Spirit will sovereignly and spontaneously move them.  Maybe God will allow some major loss, calamity, trouble or health problem that will  cause something to happen within them, and they just might bear a little fruit here or there.  They just might amass a little treasure in heaven.  We can only hope and pray and do a devotion or two,  … that is, if we remember to, … if we feel led to….

Having themselves become so accustomed to meager fruit, Pastors start telling the flock that they can’t expect to grow very fast; there is nothing they can do to grow or speed it but pray and read; but not to worry, because God ain’t finished with ‘em yet. Consequently, in these last days before the Second Coming, many, many believers are asleep at the wheel – to varying degrees lukewarm, spiritually numb, worldly, carnal, hypocritical, frustrated yet complacent, hoping yet doubtful, double-minded, somewhat good at worldly stewardship, and spiritually unthinking.

Though they may try to serve God in the church, though they may try to love a few people around them, though they may sing praise and worship songs and pray a fair amount, and do a fair amount of Bible study, true Spiritual fruit and their rewards in heaven remain questionable for them.  It’s no fun to be in that position of having a form of godliness while tacitly denying its power, and it’s no fun trying to persuade such people to improve.

So, many preachers and teachers tend to do the opposite.  They tell people that becoming more like Jesus is only in God’s time as He does it all, as we meanwhile strive and struggle just to keep our spiritual heads above water.  But don’t worry, He has a wonderful plan for your life, and He isn’t finished yet.  When Jesus comes back for His elect, that’s when you can expect to finally get it right.

Meanwhile, the Sin Nature is not only alive and well in the servants and the served alike, but it continues to rule, deceiving us that everything is okay. But those whose hearts have not been hardened, their consciences numbed, sense the Spirit saying something else.  They sense the call of the Spirit, because something in the center of this Christian life is missing.

The American church continues to orbit the real issue, like the Hubble Telescope orbiting the Earth and looking outward instead of inward.  We’re intensely searching the universe for something new we haven’t seen before.  But for some reason we don’t focus all that magnification  and focus on the core issue of the Christian life, which is hidden in plain sight right under our feet, in the solid Rock that is the Son.

The core issue is this: What does Jesus really expect from believers?

[i] Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 303–312

[ii] Hamlet Act 3, scene 1

[iii] Hamlet Act 3, scene 1

[iv]    http://www.abiblestudy.com/part1.html

[v]http://www.abiblestudy.com/part1.html, “17 May 2344 BC”; http://www.wordsight.org/btl/000_btl-fp.htm, “Noah was called to build the ark and warn of the coming flood. (Circa. 2466 B.C.) Gen. 6”

 

 

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