I can’t believe how quickly and without thought I can jump back into my old self. There are always reasons that fly into one’s mind on why the mis-spoken words or thoughts are justified but it scares me how quickly it can happen. Was I justified, from a humanistic perspective of being mis-treated? Yes I was but my reactions where definitely not Christian, not even close. I could have handled it so much better, but I didn’t. I’m going to have to apologize and I will. I’ve already confessed my sin and asked our Lord for forgiveness.
The particulars aren’t important so I’m not going to go into details but yesterday at work, I negatively reacted to being mis-treated and pointed the finger at another. While the treatment I was the recipient from another was undoubtedly shoddy, the scripture that came into my mind shortly after the incident was over was “Love your enemies” from the following scripture:
Matthew 5:43-48 NIV “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
What scares me is that I was able to hold myself in check (this is not the first incident by this individual) for quite a while (months), but yesterday, spurned by additional new acts of lack of consideration, I took remedial action.
The problem of course is that I don’t love my enemy.
I didn’t take his spiritual welfare into consideration, I failed to consider that I am supposed to be an example of God’s light that shines in this world and not focus solely on what rains on my parade.
I think the key words I’ve written are “hold myself in check”, which basically means keep it below the surface. And of course, that really doesn’t do anything, because it is still there, festering like a boil, until it irrupts. This has been a problem I have had all of my life. Fortunately the irruptions are infrequent but I can’t say the same about what lies below the surface.
Have I given God cause to hold Himself in check because of things that I have done in my past and still do? I was going to say “infrequently do” but changed my mind. This happens more often than I would like to admit.
For sure the answer is yes but we know that God doesn’t work that way.
God doesn’t let stuff fester under the surface, He deals with it because He loves us and love, true love, does something about it.
That’s why our Heavenly Father had to send us His Son. That’s why Jesus had to literally die on the cross and rise from the dead, so that the consequences of my nature could be erased and I can be changed, and become a new creature, renewed in my mind and my heart and have His Spirit live within me. Jesus made this possible. He did it because His Father needed it to be done. He did it because Jesus is God and He loves us too.
Would I have even given this latest incident a second thought if God was not working within me to change me, you know the answer. I would have justified what I had done, not been stopped in my tracks.
In Matthew 11:28-30 KJV, Jesus says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In John 6:29 NIV Jesus says: “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
That is the light burden – to believe. I know that. But the working out of one’s faith, how we come to understand that the battle is the Lord’s, where we come face to face with our nature and our futile attempts to be good, in and of ourselves, is not easy. We keep thinking that we can do it and we can’t. We simply can’t, not in and of ourselves. I am living proof of that and so are you.
The Apostle Paul understood this and gave us the answer to this reality in Romans 7:14-25 NIV
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Then in Romans 8:1-5 NIV Paul says the following: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
I love these scriptures because they specifically illustrate the continual conflict that we experience, the fight between our fleshly desires and our spiritual desires. And most importantly, the fact that there is this conflict shows that God’s Spirit is within us and that the ultimate answer is found, not in our own efforts via our own strength but in fact what Jesus has already done for us and what His strength can accomplish is us.
It’s interesting to note that J. Warner Wallace of coldcasechristinity.com speaks about this also on his website in this post: coldcasechristianity.com I am assuming that we all could. Sometimes we forget how close our old nature is, just below the surface so to speak. There’s probably a reason that God allows these reminders to come to our attention every once in a while. We need Him. Always did, always will.
When Jesus said in John 15:5 “apart from me you can do nothing“, He wasn’t kidding.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!
Powerful insight, Bruce! Thank you for writing about this! It took courage but I know others will be as encouraged as I am!
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