Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Most Neglected Area of Improvement

In an attempt to always be real and transparent- especially to my children who may one day decide to read about dear ole dad- I post from time to time things that I don't publish.

This is one of those- here for the reader, but not something I will blast out.

But this one is important, because my body, mind, and soul bear marks of neglect and compel me to write this as motivation for me to act.

The Lord has made it quite clear to me that I have been way too casual in paying too little attention to indwelling sin in my life- been way too passive is calling them out by name- been way too friendly with the spiritual cancers that eat away at the intimacy I should have with God.

I am so thankful to Rosaria Champagne Butterfield and John Owen for writing about this and their words have been so correcting. God is also so gracious in His patience and timing... He knew there was a season coming where this message could hit me in the heart and allow me an opportunity to make improvements.... so this post is a hopeful declaration of being back in the game and battling the old man who is always bent on slip, sliding away....

I am going to post the Owen quote:

Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days: whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are: and the condition of their bodies, as to health and sickness, they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evil of their own hearts as they ought, on which the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, depends. This, therefore, is our wisdom, and is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of His glory.

This process started back in January as I was thinking about improvements I wanted to make in 2018- and I felt like the Holy Spirit said..."How come you have never set a goal to be more Holy?"- the thought struck me and semi-repulsed me at the same time (I am being bare boned honest here). It was like... sure, I'd love to be more weird..... sure, I am that prideful that I want to be more like a Pharisee... my initial response was proof enough to to my spiritual lethargy and my coziness with the world and its leisures and my laziness.

But like a lot of thoughts that come my way... it startled me for a brief time and then I drifted back into all the myriad of distractions that shield me from those ideas of eternal significance.

Another thing that was happening was that I was being beaten down pretty hard in my job. In God's providence, things amped up beginning in January 2017 and I worked at a pace that I had never encountered as a professional... giving me great empathy for many I know who work in similar jobs.

It was exhilarating for awhile- a challenge. But without my spiritual house in 100% order...it did not take long for wear and tear... to start taking a toll on me. I was scrambling at a record pace, but not doing any of it very well.

The slide is always subtle... less Bible, less prayer, more food, less exercise, self protection mechanisms kick in, and my sensors begin to hear my own heart and not God's whispers.

Don't get me wrong... on the outside, I still looked like my normal self... this was no so called mid-life crisis.... but when I am not right with God, I am not right. And the world becomes my friend, and my selfish, lazy self begins to take over... my god becomes my appetite...with the keyword being 'MY'.

Here is where, though, my enemy never wins. No man or immortal will ever get me to doubt the tenderness, graciousness, kindness, and generosity of Christ... He is always there, in the midst of my malaise..... ready set to re-start me. His timing is always dead perfect... and He gently, but persistently pushes me back on track.

So I had read the first two chapters of Butterfield's "Openness Unhindered" in 2016... and was so intrigued and encouraged. But the book 'disappeared' from my stack of reading material and I got busy.

Fast forward to the depth of my misery through March, April, May of 2018... totally hanging on by a thread.... I was worn out, out of shape, had gained 15 lbs, and my prayers were something like "Help".

So I am fumbling though a box in my garage in mid-May and I find the book again.... and where I left off was chapter 3...."Repentance"... and Rosaria easily explained the source of my ills... I had given up in my battle vs indwelling sin...and my misery was the price of that inaction.

She humbly and warmly steered me back to Romans 1-8- reconnected me with John Owens from 1655 and the Lord provided some life circumstances to shut down my computer and re-boot.

I don't know how long this will last or what what may knock me in the two ditches I am constantly crawling out of.... http://www.jayopsis.com/2012/12/the-hard-glorious-frustrating-beautiful.html


       On the right side of this road is legalism- our diabolical self comes in and says- 'Oh you are cleaning up so well'- and you start feeling really good about yourself – and you start looking around at others- and in your desire to help them you package your rules and rituals and begin to try and help others. Before long, we find ourselves as self righteous Pharisees- looking down at sinners and trying to be everyone’s Holy Spirit.
I know the Pharisee well- I play him a lot. Our culture helps me play him very well. We have become the biggest opinionated and judgmental civilization in the history of man. We have talking heads on TV espousing one view after another and call it entertainment. I love it! I used to be an O’Reily junkie. The problem is that I began to love my arguments over loving people. 
The worst part of my Pharisee legalistic self is my gossip and criticism of others. I am not loving- I am condemning. We point out the 10% bad and refuse to see the 90% good. 
So I finally get out of the legalistic path and drink grace and liberty. Ahh! Christian freedom. It is glorious! Christ’s death frees us from the ceremonial and civil law. There is a better law- the moral law, written on my heart- the Sermon on the Mount puts it into my motives and mind- it is a beautiful thing! 
But just beyond Christian liberty is license. It is a ditch as derailing as legalism. Paul wrote in Romans “How can we who died to sin, still live in it?” In this state, everything goes- all truth is relative, I do what I think and I feel- there is no suspicion of my motives or actions. I do what is right in my own eyes and put it under the blood.
I walk into a situation, run to sin, eviscerate my conscience and say “I am forgiven”. Before long, I am powerless, hardened, and my God is my comfort. The irony of the ditch of license is that we love people even less than the Pharisee. I don’t care about their eternal destination. I am afraid of confrontation. If I stand for truth, it will indict me. So I walk around and tell people all is fine when I know we are growing colder and darker by the second. Loving someone means saying no - and that includes to myself.

So, I will check back in soon and see if I have some improvements that matter...

God is to be praised.

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