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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.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
One of the great things about...
...praying for others, is that it forces you to be honest with God; assuming your prayers can stray into the "right thing to say, but not said with your heart" category.

I know from reading scripture what my prayers should look like. When I pray, I suppose I subconsciously make sure my prayers are to the best of my ability, proper; that is even if and when my heart isn't exactly contrite the words of my prayers are. Which is pretty sad, since God isn't fooled by lucid and orthodox articulations if the heart that is forming these words isn't tied to them.

So it is that often when I am in prayer, and I say "often" to my own shame, I have had to stop in the middle of saying the right thing, and ask myself whether I actually mean what I am so eloquently saying, or trying to say.

I may learn a thing or two about myself from "Christian living". I may gain insight into the human condition through reading scripture, but I tell you, I learn more about my own sinful condition through prayer than through any other means. Assuming my experience is not a statistical anomaly, but is an experience common to all who spend time each day in prayer, then I can say with some conviction that those who consider intercessory prayer a daily duty and not a "monthly maybe" are probably going to have a far more real assessment of both who they are before God, and who they are in Christ.

You see it is one thing it have the head knowledge that one is accepted by God in the Beloved (Christ), and quite another to come daily before the throne, in the mire of our own imperfect lives, and be forced upon learning some new and horrible truth about the depth of our own depravity, that we are not heard on high because our perfections, but that even in our imperfections we have God's ear "in Christ. The former is the doctrine, the latter is the living it out.

I like to muse about those who spend all their time perfecting a theology they never get around to really living out. Which is not to denigrate the need for study, or the pursuit of a right theology; for without such things one suffers loss; but rather to say that some are inclined to pursue the one for it's own sake, rather than for the sake of living it. You know people like that - they have an opinion on everything theological - and usually it is an extreme opinion, but they lack grace and love and life in expressing it.

Which is not meant as a polemic against such things, rather I mention it because I thought about it while I happened to be typing this out. The link being that the same sort of disconnect is there - an adherence to religion, whether institutionalized, or self-made; that doesn't translate into actual obedient living.

I preached this Sunday on the difference between Saturation and Motivation. I said that scripture teaches us to be saturated with many things - to be in prayer always, to give thanks always, to rejoice always, etc., and that some immature Christians take such commands and after building for themselves a model of what healthy Christianity should look like, they err in imagining such things are intended to motivate them to Christian living.

Let me exposit that for a bit. I mean that they find themselves naturally disobedient towards God, and imagine that this disobedience flows out of some corruption in their faith - a corruption that they have spent, and continue to spend, the lion's share of their energy fruitlessly trying to overcome. The idea is that if they can just over come this deadness in themselves, that new life will spring out - and that obedience will not only become easy, it will be suddenly something they truly and passionately are driven to do.

The problem, I stated in my preaching, is that they imagine that Christians only have to obey God when and if they are properly motivated. They rightly conclude that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth, that we are to be holy, submitted, etc. etc. but conclude that all this comes -after- God zaps us with "grace" - but by grace here, they think some sort of mind altering, and desire altering mystic changing of our being so that our sinful flesh, which has no desire to do God's will whatsoever, is suddenly and powerfully "gagged" or suppressed, leaving only that good desire which is from God, so that we effortlessly begin to obey God and everything is beautiful in the world.

The fact, I said, is that we are God's slaves.

The reason a slave obeys his master is because he is a slave. That's his motivation. Yes we are to be saturated by God, and that saturation will make the burden light - but we don't wait around for the burden to get light; that is, we don't try and psyche ourselves up with the "right" spiritual™ motivation, rather our motivation is that we are God's slaves, and slaves obey.

I know that sounds a little utilitarian, or perhaps even mercenary for some, but it is never the less true. Jesus came to earth, and lived the life of God's slave, having emptied Himself of everything else, setting His own eartly desires aside, He commended Himself to doing the will of the Father while on earth. Are we more free than our Lord and Savior? Did He come to serve, and not be served, so that we could not serve and be served? Where the Master is, there the servant is also.

The point is that rather than looking to our subjective feelings for the "juice" to obey for today, we should be looking to God and saying, just as in the parable, that even should our obedience as slaves become flawless we will only be unprofitable, having done what was expected of us.

A lot of Christians are struck dumb at the thought that God actually expects us to obey Him. We run around "wanting" to obey, but find that it is difficult, so we think there is something wrong with us, and instead of obeying God "because we are slaves" we try to obey God "because we feel like it" - and so embark on a fruitless quest to capture the magical "obedience feeling" that we tell ourselves we lack.

Listen: the lepers were healed as they obeyed. The pattern in scripture is that when you obey, God is merciful. Contrition moves the heart of God. The heart that says, "I will obey the moment you make it easy to do so" is not a contrite heart, it is a rebellious heart, and likely making excuses that, when examined closely, translate into it being God's fault that one isn't obeying. He didn't give me the power, or the strength, or what have you.

God does give power, and strength, but not to those who demand it and stand aloof until they receive it. Surrender your heart to God, obey Him for no other reason than because He is your Master and you are His slave. I mean, you do love God, so this isn't tyrannical, or mean, it is an expression of love on your part - an act of worship - so don't demand that God primes your pump further. He has chosen you, directed his mercy towards you while you were yet a sinner. Called you to Himself and given you faith to believed to the saving of your soul. Were that not enough, He Himself has put His own Spirit into you, as a guarantee until the day that you are redeemed in full. He is with you, and surrounding you on all sides with every opportunity, and has even opened a way in Christ for you to talk to Him directly - a throne that you can come to by grace; so that you have every reason to obey Him, love, gratitude, joy, peace, etc. But you are not called to obey God out of gratitude or love (you should be saturated by these things, not motivated by them), rather you obey because of who you are in Christ - God's slave.

One of the things I wish I had closed on, in that particular sermon, was the thought that every command that God gives; every act of obedience that God demands, is intended for our own joy. God commands us to live in such a way as to bring about our greatest joy. His commands are not self serving, but serve us and our joy. To disobey them is to turn away from life and joy, peace and grace and mercy. It is to invite suffering and sorrow into our existence; and to obey is to draw near to the Creator upon whom our lives depend, and for whom our lives exist. That yes we are slaves, and yes we should learn to obey God "because" we are slaves, looking to no other truth to motivate us unto obedience - but let us not imagine that we are slaves to some cosmic tyrant, but rather as children let us obey our Father for He loves us, and knows what will bring about our greatest joy - the very thing that His commandments are intended to foster.

Anyway, these are just my thought this morning. My hope is that they are edifying.

Labels: , ,

posted by Daniel @ 8:29 AM  
8 Comments:
  • At 8:31 AM, March 30, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Ahhhh... How liberating to post about whatever I feel like posting for a change. Sighhhhh.

     
  • At 12:26 PM, March 30, 2010, Blogger Gary said…

    Well said, Daniel. This convicted me.

     
  • At 12:26 AM, March 31, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Daniel,

    I've been going through a really rough patch, so-to-speak, for the last few months. I am living this post through much trial and tribulation and many tears. Yet I can testify that what you say is true, even in seemingly utter despair, the Lord has been faithful to me and has given me joy and peace. God is good and if I did not know He was in control, I'm certain I would go insane.

    Thanks again for posting truth. Not just doctrinal truth, but day by day, minute by minute, "in the trenches" truth of God's grace.

    "....without holiness no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14

     
  • At 12:38 AM, March 31, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Also, for what it's worth, this is the only blog I know of that has a trademark on the word "spiritual". That has to be worth something in God's sight.

     
  • At 10:30 AM, March 31, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Gary, I am indeed given a rare privilege when something I write is used to draw someone nearer to our Lord. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Matt, One of the things I have had to personally work through, and am still working through is the problem of motivation.

    The Judaizer mindset says, obey because that is how you stay saved. We rightly recoil from that. But many in the church, I suspect, recoil all the way over into erring on the other side, and do so using orthodox language.

    They rightly recite that it is God himself who is at work in us to will and to do His own good pleasure, and correctly repeat the truth that without Christ the man who labors does so in vain. They know that God grants grace and power - that we are to do what we do in the strength that God supplies - but then comes the disconnect.

    These same think this "power" is something they don't have and so they do nothing out of fear of working in their own strength.

    They wait for some unquantifiable kind of holy feeling or "spiritual energy" to come upon them. They expect to be lifted up out of their current state, and put into a more productive one wherein what is presently difficult will be thereafter easy-peasy.

    They don't understand that God is already in you, in the person of the Holy Spirit, working in you not only the desires you have to obey, but providing you already with the strength and means to do so. They don't understand that Christ is with them, so that when they labor they do not labor in vain, for Christ is at work in them.

    They rightly shun the idea that our own works justify us; but then they imagine that God doesn't want us to do the very work He has commanded us to do until we should receive even more than those who waited at Jerusalem. When were they fit for ministry? They were fit for ministry the moment the Holy Spirit filled them.

    The are waiting for some kind of blessing, not understanding that they are already blessed - that they possess the same Spirit as fell on the day of Pentecost, and are as spiritually equipped (already) as any saint can be.

    But they refuse to walk in the Spirit, that is, in faith and in obedience, instead they flounder neglecting their duty because they are waiting for the right motive to fall out of the sky.

    In the parable of the talents, the master goes away, and leaves his servants with all they need to conduct business - that is, he leaves them with everything they need to do what he told them to do. Two of the three took what they received, and employed it to their own profit, and the profit of their master - the other refused to use what was given, but instead focused on simply not losing it altogether.

    The parallels are not coincidental.

    There is so much more I could have said on this - it is a present passion of mine.

     
  • At 11:07 PM, March 31, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I agree with you. My experience has certainly at times been as you have described (and I have the audacity to call it "faith"!!!). My biggest struggle is when I set my mind to obedience, and then fail, I tend to say in my heart, "well, God must not really want me to have victory in that." As if it's God's fault. I struggle with truly seeking to walk in the Spirit and be obedient, to seek blamelessness, knowing it is God in me working according to His will, and the BOOM! I sin without even blinking. So I say, "if it's God in me, why do I continue to sin?? Am I deceived? Why do fail to walk in the Spirit all of the time?? What is wrong with me??".

    Maybe I'm not really saved, but only self-deluded.

    The more I concern myself with not just doing what is right, but also having the right motives, sincerity of heart, and deep seated desire to please God, the more I question the authenticity of my faith. If I am a servant of God, then I am a most worthless one.

     
  • At 6:31 AM, April 01, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Matt,

    I am sure that when Paul called himself the chief of sinners, he wasn't being poetic.

    Sin is funny. We want to be absolutely free from it so that we will never again be tempted to doubt that we are saved. In fact, we want to be free from sin, primarily as a sort of concrete assurance that we are God's children.

    We are redeemed souls sojourning in unredeemed flesh, so that the influence of the Holy Spirit presents us with desires that are not only absent from our flesh, but in fact contrary to our flesh. The Holy Spirit strengthens us against the flesh by causing us to abhor it - to see sin for what it is, and to war against it rather than make peace with it.

    The victory that we seem to want is an entirely carnal one. We want to defeat the flesh in such a way that it no longer has any power over us. This is due in part to an immaturity in our faith, and again, to a flaw in our understanding. We have an expectation that doesn't come from scripture, but rather from our fears. We are afraid (on some level) that our struggle "proves" we are not legitimate, and so we desire to end the struggle to satisfy our fears.

    The hardest thing for a believer to do is to go back to that place, if it has been set aside, where we first came to Christ. When we were first torn over the magnitude of our sin, and first felt the weight of that certainty that our sins have condemned us, and that if we were to die in that moment we would absolutely be damned. For without that moment who could ever truly understood both their need for Christ, and the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel. It was in the well of despair that God reached down and opened your heart to the gospel. It was there that God met you and made you see this one thing: He would save you, not because you were good, but because He was not a liar, and in His mercy and Grace He promised to save you if you would turn from your sin and obey Him. As soon as you knew it was true, and that the offer was real, you had a struggle. You had eternal life put in your lap, and you suddenly realized that you didn't really want it if it meant serving God. That was the penultimate expression of your old man, the death cry, if you will - the final temptation of the enemy to turn you aside from God's promise, and your eternal redemption. Yet if you are Christ's you know that even in that dark place where you first saw yourself as you truly are, something happened. Where once you could not imagine being a Christian, and submitting yourself to God, yet into your heart poured a desire to do just that - a desire that ran entirely contrary to your fleshly ones, and under the influence of this desire, who in truth is the Holy Spirit, you rejected the voice of your flesh, and for the first time turned to God in truth, and the faith that welled up within you, caused you to call out for salvation, and to receive it.

    I hope I am speaking of things you remember. Some were saved as children, and have no real recollection of these events. But if you were saved as an adult, you should know what I speak of.

    My point is that you received the Lord Jesus in spite of the knowledge that you are a wretched sinner who deserves only damnation.

    Paul wrote, as you have received the Lord Jesus, so walk in Him. Which is to say, that same desire to obey only yourself, and that refused to surrender to God - this desire is the desire of the flesh, and you overcame it in the moment you were saved, by faith through the Holy Spirit. That is how you must walk every day. That is how we must all walk.

    Having said that, it is the easiest thing in the world to forget it if we do not exercise ourselves daily in this truth. By this time many of us ought to be mature, but we still need milk.

     
  • At 2:07 PM, April 01, 2010, Anonymous Sabeian said…

    I have to admit, this is the one perspective I never truly considered, and now that I have, it has really opened my eyes and heart to some hard core facts about my own struggles with sin. I had never seen myself a slave before, as the word itself dredges up images of wicked pain and suffering, abuse and callousness. You have shown me an entirely different side to it, one I had never thought to imagine and for this I thank you greatly. You have inadvertantly helped me a great deal with this one entry and I am deeply touched and appreciative for it. Bless you brother.
    In him I dwell and he in me, it seems all so painfully simplistic now that I look at it. (feeling rather sheepish about not seeing this sooner!!) But like GI Joe, (ha ha) knowing is half the battle. You have my gratitude.

     
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