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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Love One Another.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well - James 2:8 [NASB]

I was reading Kim's blog earlier, and as I came across today's post, I started thinking about the passage above and how we as Christians ought to respond to it. As most of what I write here is no doubt well known to Kim, I opted to comment here in general about the matter rather than clutter her meta with my meandering thoughts, besides, who doesn't like being linked?

Anyone who has tried to read William Gurnall's "The Christian in Complete Armor" will have started their effort by examining the sheer magnitude of what is contained in Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." I have been teaching weekly on this passage now for several months, following Gurnall's insights, and am thoroughly thankful for the blessing it has been to my own walk, and instruction.

Summarized, Gurnall shows that in order for Paul to fitly write this encouragement, there must be some substance behind the encouragement. God's must not only make this strength that we are to "be strong in" available to us, but Go must also intend for us to avail ourselves of it.

Gurnall shows that this cannot mean some beggarly portion of God's entire might, but must be, if it is God's strength, all of it at once - the same power and might that raised Christ from the dead. This is the strength that we are called to rely upon, and not as a buttress to our own strength, not as an aid by which we can affect our own deliverance - but a clean break from all self reliance in a moment of trial or temptation. It is an utter dependence upon the God of scripture and what He has made available in Christ to every believer. It is an informed assurance that God does not make such things available in some "optional" sense - but rather by making His might available, He must intend it for our use, and if intended, then to the it is intended not as an augment to our own strength, but as the answer to our own weakness. His strength cannot be supplemental, but must be the very foundation upon which we rest.

When we come to see the depth and utterness of our bankruptcy; that is, when we see that we cannot produce a right motive or a proper affection, that we absolutely lack the means and resources in our selves to stand against even the smallest trial or temptation in true victory - and resign ourselves to the fact that unless the victory is the Lord's the battle is fought in vain, I say when we come to know that there truly is nothing in us (that is, in our flesh) that can produce "love from a pure heart" because our heart, (in the flesh) is not, nor will it ever be, pure; I say, when we come to see that any and every affection we are able to muster up by way of motivation - will always and ultimately serve our own interests and that it cannot be otherwise - then and only then do we actually call upon God, not for help, but for deliverance.

Does scripture say that we will be helped out of our temptations, or delivered out of them? Don't be theologically lazy on this point - there is a huge difference.

We are delivered, not helped. Our victory is in Christ, not in our selves.

But how, one asks, do we apply such vaulted truth? How does that work in the trenches? How can I love my neighbor with unfeigned love from a pure heart, if my flesh is incapable of it? How to do acquire a "right" motive??

These are all questions that any honest believer ought to be asking when they come into this struggle.

Do any of you cherish a blanket, shirt, or some such thing that was hand made specifically for you by a friend or relative? What makes that item more special to you than some store bought merchandise? What I am getting at is the end product is not always the substance of the gift, is it? I mean, it is special to you because the effort that was put into producing it was entirely directed at you - it was not just made for you, but every stitch in that knit blanket is a silent testimony that someone cared about you. You cherish the love that went into it, the blanket or whatever is just a physical manifestation of that love. Getting the shirt or blanket or mitts or scarf, or whatever it is, that is not the point of the gift, that is just the expression the gift takes.

I speak that way because many begin in their faith to think that God wants obedience in the same way a person might like a shirt or a blanket - that if we furnish them with the end product we have fulfilled the duty. Think of Cain and Abel - both offered finished produce to God, but only one was accepted - the one that was offered in faith. It is the same with us today. God isn't concerned with the end product (obedience), he is concerned with how we obey. Do we obey in our own strength (like a store bought blanket), or do we recognize our own inability, and turn to him for His ability in our stead (home made).

I know, the metaphors are not perfect, and may even be confusing, but the point is
that God isn't telling us to love, he is telling us to do what we cannot do, so that we must turn to Him and be delivered from it.

How then do I love - I cannot love, but I can be delivered out of lovelessness. What does that look like? Does it mean that I suddenly have a profound, spiritual love welling up in me that overpowers my sinful slackness?

No.

God isn't making our sinful flesh more Christ-like. I no more love my neighbor now, than I did ten years ago - but Christ in me loves my neighbor, and if I understand myself to be utterly corrupt, then I have the choice between letting my flesh rule me, or letting Christ rule me - and I can act in accord with the loveless dictates of my flesh, or the loving dictates of Christ in me. When I pray for deliverance, rather than help, I am praying not to be made better, but to overcome that which hinders Christ. I am praying for the strength that raised Christ from the dead to overcome the flesh in me.

That overcoming doesn't happen by annihilating the flesh (perfectionism) or by ignoring it (asceticism), it happens by faith - a genuine Christian has something a pretender doesn't: he genuinely desires to be free from sin, because Christ's Spirit is in him. Not simply that he wants to avoid guilt, or condemnation - but he hates sin, and what it is doing to him and others - he wants to be rid of it - and this is the motive that does not come from his flesh, but from God's Spirit. By itself it is not enough to cause a believer to love - and in the strength of that alone, one will only run far enough to understand their own profound depravity - they will desire to be free, but find themselves unable to apprehend that freedom.

This is where deliverance becomes a doctrine that has some teeth. The believer who comes to see that he is a wicked sinner, and continues to be so, in spite of all his external reform - this one is the one who comes to the place where he is no longer looking for help in the Christian endeavor - but is looking for deliverance from sin - and calling upon Jesus Christ to perform that deliverance on his behalf.

Not that he is looking to have his flesh mopped up, but that he is looking to turn away from the desires of the flesh, and obey the desires of the Spirit. Not that he is looking to have strong and godly motives carry him through every tribulation and trial, and temptation - to empower every good work - but rather that he is looking to be delivered from the carnal hindrances so that he is able to obey in the Spirit.

How do we love, when we cannot love? We love not with our own love, but having been delivered from lovelessness, we are free to let Christ love in and through us - and as he does (and not before), we share in it. I say, we share in it, because it isn't ours, nor does it come from us, but we become partakers of it as Christ loves through us - nor does it come before our obedience, as though we should sit around and wait for it to lift us on its wings and carry us into a right activity - rather as we obey, then we climb that holy hill, and fellowship - not before.

What Christ has done is open the door to our obedience, not for obedience's sake, but for fellowship, and in order that His life may be lived out in us, for the benefit of all involved: those whom we love, and even ourselves as we enjoy Christ's love.

Now, having said all that - these things are not, I suppose, plain and obvious in today's church. We seem far more interested in church as a country club, or religion as a theological exercise, than we do in magnifying Christ. These things I write, are supposed to be about what Jesus has done for us, and I intend by relating them to magnify Christ in our lives - to point to what He has done, and is doing, in order that the person of Christ plays a larger role in your life - the role He died (in part) to play. If I am successful, Who Christ is, and what He has done and is doing will have some impact in your walk.

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posted by Daniel @ 1:42 PM  
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