Monday, September 29

Living naturally in an unnatural world.....

"As the rain and the snow come down from Heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

It was my intention this morning, in preparation to writing this blog, to highlight the preaching I was privy to at The River in Holly this Sunday past. But, in my email box was a comment by a person who wished to remain anomnyous, stating that my post on "Degrees of Separation....from God" was part of the 'ex-gay' movment and misleading by using Dr. Collins' comment concerning 'natural use'.

Funny, the post wasn't about homosexuality or the sin that it is, though that is one of the most controversial topics that I could've chosen as a talking point. It was how we, as people, create a mindset that makes whatever is our biggest difficulty 'okay', despite what the Bible says and what is 'natural'. I used Dr. Collins' comment to show that even 'natural' can be defined beyond what our desires may be, an absolute akin to the Biblical truth that cannot be change, even if the author didn't intend such when he made the comment.

If you want to see anonymous' references regarding Dr. Collins' statement that his comments are used out-of-context in the 'ex-gay' mantra, they are posted there.

Pastor Jim Combs' sermon this Sunday past was great, It hit home with me that there is so much 'division' within the church body that unless you adopt a no-challenge attitude, you will be opposed and it becomes a matter of who can shout louder. You seldom hear a pastor admit to struggling against the flesh, yet we seem to be surprised (as brethren) when they fall.

For a pastor to admit to struggling means that they shouldn't be on the pulpit, and we judge them unfit for ministry when realistically there are none without sin and few are called specifically to ministry. This hits home with me because of my own call and the opposition to it from everyone but God it seems. As one of my Pastors said, "Remember, a minister's reputation is golden." Unless, apparently, you tell the truth....about your struggles, about your faults, and about your total reliance upon a merciful God. Those things will kill a minister in today's church.

Paul, in Pastor Combs' teaching, did the same thing throughout his ministry and the world erupted around him when he refused to back off the truth and admit to struggling against his 'unnatural' natural fleshly tendencies. In Acts 23:1-5, Paul is in a meeting with the Council, called the Sanhedrin, and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day."

This is the same Paul, who still dealt with the sins of the flesh, 'doing what I know not to do and not doing what I know to do', and being 'chief sinner' among the brethren. The same Paul who was a major force in seeking God in all things, rather than lay back and let someone else do the work. Paul, to whom I look forward to many a talk around the campfire.

Having a 'good conscience' is not something Paul mentions in passing, but consistently. "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent." (1 Corinthians 4:4. "Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God." (2 Corinthians 1:12). He also refers to it in Romans 9:1, 1 Corinthians 24:1, and 2 Timothy 1:3.

What did Paul mean by that "good conscience?" Was it a matter of convincing himself that he was being honest in his ministry and content in the fact that such a feeling that he was within God's parameters for a faithful walk?

I think it was a matter of honesty. There is a point in your walk with God where you have to reach beyond the knowledge of your flesh and reach for God's wisdom. Where you speak the truth, and seek to subject yourself to that truth regardless of your failed, broken, and sinful flesh. Where you realize that you aren't good enough, will never in this life be good enough, and could never fully conquer the 'unnatural' design that comes from the Fall and you keep seeking God's hand, wisdom, and authority to get up again and fight the flesh again. Not only do you do that, but you open yourself up to others within the body to help you, to hold you accountable to God, and to support you in the struggle.

In a personal, intimate relationship...not of a sexual nature, but a real and honest one. Nothing hidden, but all brought into the light of God's love.

It wasn't Paul's holiness or sincerity that he fell back on to support 'his good conscience.' It was from God that Paul drew his support, to supply him with those things that were once naturally part of us but that had been lost from the Fall; honesty, sincerity, and holiness.

Paul knew that he was living unnaturally, in reference to the original design, and only God could bring him into a position where he lived naturally. Paul lived his life exposed, regardless of the blemish or the fault. He gave anything good, anything of value, to God's grace and intervention........God, alone, has the ability to empower us to higher, natural living.

And it should be the emulation of Paul, Peter, James, and the rest of the leaders that once trained under Christ that we should be pursuing as leaders, ministers, pastors, and envoys of the Most High God. Realizing that we are truly broken, sinful, and willfully disobedience in an 'unnatural' natural way, and submitting ourselves daily, hourly, and moment by passing moment to that drive that God places within us all to live by that pure, absolute, and natural way He intended us to live.

We cannot do anything on our own, much less save ourselves. And we cannot know God fully by our application of human characteristics or human attitudes. This is by God's design, where we rely on His mercy and grace rather than try and boast of our own 'triumphs' over sin and the evilness (i.e. opposition to God) that unnaturally exists in our fallen nature.

Rather, we should, as St. Jerome said, endeavor to know the Scriptures so that we can recognize God's words as He speaks to us today through the understanding of what He Himself said. God tells us that His word will not return void. It is up to us to recognize the song that our Lord and Savior sings through the meticulous and deliberate emersion in His provided word….unaltered and unchanged by our culture, our desires, and our humanity---all which are broken and sinful by nature.

God's word is unique to Him, and so we have a standard to hold anything else attributed to Him by......

In all good conscience, we must hold what we hear, read, and ourselves to God's standards and not our own. Man cannot define God, God has defined Himself as beyond our linear comprehension.

Through our own attempts, nothing is possible but sin and evil. Even the enemy can make our attempts to be good look 'good.'

Through God, all things good and holy, merciful and right, suddenly become possible for us broken humans to do; living up to an natural design in an unnatural world. Doing good against the odds.

I spend my prayer time praying that God will forgive what I have failed at, claim the glory for what I have done right in kingdom business, and give me the strength to continue to fight against my fleshly nature in pursuit of a natural design as decreed by my Creator.

Total reliance, total submission to a God worth so much more.

Just my thoughts………

No comments: