Monday, October 13

A worthless Christian?

"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NIV)

"I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (AKJV)

Pastor Jim Combs, Senior Pastor of the River, spoke of becoming worthless for the Lord's work this past Sunday. How Paul warned us, using boxing and running metaphors to convey the message that we are striving for a prize, not just boxing thin air or running in place.

The reason I've included the American King James Version is because of the translations that are included from the Greek to understand these verses better. "Keep under", which is translated "beat" in the New International Version, means to literally "bruise the face under the eyes," which is the 'sweet spot' that any boxer will use to fell his opponent in a quick fashion. "Castaway", which is translated 'disqualified' in the NIV, means "(n.) One who is ruined; one who has made moral shipwreck; a reprobate," according to Noah Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language.

Harsh words, they may seem. This is a pastor who will not ask forgiveness for what he feels the Scriptures teach and the willful application of his gift of teaching in pursuit of the Kingdom purposes. Right or wrong, you have to admit that such teaching requires your active participation in discovering its truthfulness or its error. And you come out changed no matter what, with an increased desire to truly know all that you can know about God and a stronger faith.

"Worthless" is a term I know very well; as well as the multitple ways it can be applied to one person, in many circumstances, by many people. My father, my mother, my brothers, a host of employers, friends, and even some 'cultural' and 'emergent' Christians. When you pursue a 'call' to ministry, such terms seem to come out of the woodwork of those 'in a position to know.'

I don't know if God feels I've worked myself into a position of 'worthlessness' for the Kingdom purpose of the Call by the pending divorce between my wife and I. I don't know if the separation of my family; my daughter to see how residing with her biological mother helps her in this crisis and my son to reside with me for the same reasons. I don't know if my continued financial stresses are a reasonable 'red flag.' I don't know if my struggles, which I succeed and fail at, are a justification for such 'reprobation.'

Or, if it is man's decision that such things make it so. Either way, four years later, I am no longer in the chaplains ministry—having decided not to come off hiatus (though I still retain the title and ministry connection) and have not any 'church staff' position offered in any attempt or fellowship I belong to.

I wander in chaos, with disruption being a major part of my life. I neither do things perfectly or things totally righteously, but I fight against the learned, immoral behaviors that once graced my fleshly pursuits against the Kingdom. I am not regretful about the past, for I excelled at being a sinner in opposition to the Church and it is now with my redirection that I seek to bring that skill to my pursuit of God, where I stand for everything of God, for God, and from God and resist those things that are in opposition and distortion of God's word.

I preach grace, with accountability, and a pursuit of God, in intimate and personal relationship. Because I need grace, with accountability and am pursuing God in a personal, intimate relationship. Where I am, He knows my struggles. Where I am, He knows the power to overcome. Where I am, He has told me to stand and fight..............and I am not punching air.

The Enemy knows me well, and knows what causes my stumbles. And he is increasingly getting frustrated at my picking myself up and trying again. I will keep fighting to 'knock myself out' in the pursuit of fleshly desires and strive for the perfection that I know I will never obtain here on earth.

Am I perfect? No, never will be. But I will keep fighting my carnal desires--that old man---in my attempt to be more like the Savior I follow.

It is the failure of the Christian who is struggling not to struggle that I believe is the 'worthlessness' that Pastor Combs pointed to in Corinthians. For if we justify our own carnal desires, we no longer are teachable, and are no longer able to be used...because we have 'withdrawn' our subjection of will.

We forego the life-long journey that will have to wait till the end for its promised conclusion.

We are called into close combat with ourselves; our fleshly desires, and sinful attitudes. We must realize that our enemy is fierce and heartily opposed to our achievement of righteous peace and mercy, and they know each and every one of us well. They will not stop trying to convince us that we are lost, a selfish and sinful people, and that there is no chance for us to obtain the glory of God's designed salvation unless we do exactly opposite of what the Bible says; we must do 'good works' or we're unproven in our religious intentions.

We are called to fight the battle already won; to work to keep our carnal desires in a state of off-balance, fighting to keep the flesh from directing our spirit but having our spirit direct our body. As Pastor Combs said, we have three reasons to fight the flesh:

1) It allows us to follow His direction and plans for our lives.

2) It keeps us from wasting life on things that ultimately won't matter.

3) So we won't become worthless to God.

I don't believe that we can work ourselves into a position where God no longer can use us or our struggles in the face of a world growing darker and darker, only if we cease to struggle against those carnal desires.

As one man said in a study group last week, the world seems to think Christians are to be perfect in an imperfect world. God has a way of showing us we are far from it, and it is time we believe that we aren't.

Paul admits to struggling to 'do what I know to do instead of what I know not to do?' When we are at our weakest, with no hope left in our own abilities and our skills, is when God's strength is powerfully shown……to us, to our friends, and to the world.

But, we've got to keep fighting the battle of the flesh, no matter how many times that 'old man' gets up.

"Never give up….Never surrender"


As Paul said, "I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings."v23.

Fighting a battle already won.

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