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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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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Wuv. Twew Wuv.

Having children, I recall vividly a funny scene from an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. The plot for this episode is driven by the fact that SpongeBob has misplaced his name tag. In an effort to remember where he lost it, he tried reenacting his day, but is foiled again and again by his friend Patrick's inability to reenact the moment when he returned SpongeBob's morning salutation.

What makes the scene is that SpongeBob had fallen down the stairs that morning, and had nearly wretched in tasting his snail's (Gary) food. With each iteration he forces himself to fall down the stairs anew, and try again the disgusting snail food, only to say hi to Patrick, who, like an actor who can't remember his lines, continues to mess up the scene.

At one point in the cycle, Patrick, in failing to hit his line asks himself, as though this were the actual problem, that old acting cliché, "What's my motivation?"

Every believer struggles and has struggled with obedience to their Lord, just as every believer has wondered in the depths of their soul if this disobedience isn't "proof" that there is something disingenuous about their profession of faith. Every honest believer, I say, has questioned the validity of their faith for this very reason - they see the flesh ruling in themselves, where they know the Spirit ought to be ruling.

Here (sadly) is an area where those who are blind often look for help and just as often are offered help by others who (while sincere and full of good intentions) are just as blind as they are. Thus both of these forge on along the same ditchward path, full of an ignorance and misplaced hope.

Once such ditchward path is the search for the proper motivation.

The honest Christian reasons that the problem can be boiled down to a lack of (consistent) desire. Sometimes the desire to obey God is greater than the desire to obey self, and sometimes the reverse is true. The heart reasons that the problem is therefore motivational. Sometimes it is motivated to obey, sometimes it isn't.

So the question shifts to, "what's my motivation?" and is followed up with the prescriptive, "what should my motivation be?". For most of us, our initial motivation is difficult to put our finger on. We want to live our life in a way that is pleasing to God. That is the common desire of every believer, but it is seldom the sole or motivator.

Sometimes new believers obey because they are afraid of what it would mean if they did not obey. They know that Christians ought to obey the Lord, and so they reason that if they disobey, it means they may not be genuinely saved. So they labor to obey in their own strength, in order to convince themselves, or remain convinced, that they are genuine saints.

Sometimes believers obey because they feel pressure to conform their behavior to what is acceptable in the church, or to protect their reputation. These typically are those believers who involve themselves in as many church activities as possible - because what would people think (gasp) if they didn't show up for such and such?

I could go on, I suppose, listing the myriad ways in which believers (carnally) provoke themselves to obedience. I could go on and survey for the reader, how such efforts are as futile and fruitless as they are exhausting, but if the reader is a person of a like faith to my own, they have their own experience which will testify to them that such avenues are like a roundabout that goes nowhere.

My concern, I say, is for that immature believer who (unfortunately) imagines or (worse) is taught by another, that the problem is that they have been employing the wrong motivation. They recognize (perhaps) that they have previously been attaching the wagon of their efforts to the horses of fear, or carnality, and now they see that such beasts as these cannot pull them where they need to be. So they look for a better beast, and eventually they come across the words of Christ: If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.

"Ah!" They say. "Here is the secret of obedience: Love!".

They are right. Love and obedience do go hand in hand, but unfortunately many believers today have a definition of love that is entirely different than that which the scriptures paint.

I have written on this before, so I won't delve into it as deeply here as I have dealt with it in previous days, but I will say this much - love is not to be confused with affection.

Ask yourself this, was it a great affection for God that drove you to repent and believe? Did you become a Christian because you were motivated by an affection for Christ? Did the single most poignant moment in your spiritual life - the greatest spiritual work that was ever done in you (God raising you from death to life) come about because of some profound feeling of affection you had for Jesus?

The answer is (of course) no. You did not repent of your rebellion against God, and accept His rule because you had a warm fuzzy feeling associated with God. If anything, you suddenly, and jarringly saw yourself as you truly are: a person whose self interest was so singular and definitive, that given a choice of eternal damnation or surrendering your will to God, you were inclined, for all your life up until the moment you surrendered to God, to choose your own rule over and above the rule of God. When you saw yourself as you truly are - enslaved to your own desires, and realized to your utter horror that you would always be thus enslaved, and that you would never, ever desire God's rule - you suddenly understood what it meant to be damned already. You suddenly realized that God was -right- to damn you, because you were utterly unfit for heaven.

You didn't have a nice warm feeling about God back then. You saw, for the first time perhaps, that God was your judge, and if you can be honest with yourself, you loathed Him, because it didn't seem right to you that He should give you life, only to serve Him with it. That He should condemn you simply because you wouldn't bend your will to His. He was, in your estimation, a great villain, and you were without hope on this account.

In that moment it wasn't some feeling of affection turned your heart away from yourself, and towards God. It was a sudden certainty - a clarity that came to you in the hollow of your despair, reaching down into the depths of your being, and setting Christ before you as the ready Hope of your salvation. Suddenly you -knew- that your only hope was Christ, and you knew that as unworthy as you were, the promise to justify you in Christ was given to unworthy people, and this hope, took hold in your being, and you cried out to God "for real" - and you knew that He heard your prayer because the love of God suddenly was poured into you through the Holy Spirit - you were born again, and suddenly all things were new.

The only reason I ask you, dear reader, whether it was affection that led you to Christ, is because I want you to remember that it wasn't your feelings that led you to Christ, it was the Holy Spirit. There is no way you could receive as true the truth of your own damnation apart from the revelation of the Holy Spirit. You could be intellectually convinced, but that is not the same as "receiving" the truth. The natural man has no problem conceiving and assenting to the truthfulness of spiritual truths - but he cannot receive them, because they are foolishness to him. When you received the truth of your own damnation, it was not because you were smart, or because you had the right feelings - it was because God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, opened your spiritual eyes to see it. God didn't have to do this for you, it was a work of grace. You didn't earn the right to have your eyes opened so that you could receive this truth - God granted it to you.

We can call this work of opening your understanding (so that you can receive what no man could otherwise receive) the "quickening" of the Holy Spirit, or more plainly, the work of regeneration. To use an inadequate illustration, you were an unplugged lamp that God suddenly plugged in. Where formerly there was only a disconnection with God - now there was a connection with God - this same connection that made you suddenly aware of the utter reality of both your rebellion and your certain damnation on that account, subsequently made you aware of, and desirous of, being reconciled to God in Christ.

What you got was a connection to God in the Spirit, and that connection, as surely as it caused you to receive the truth of your own salvation, causes you to receive the truth of Christ. Meaning that as many as receive the reality of their damnation, go on to receive the reality of Christ their Savior.

Nowhere in this narrative do you find feelings motivating you. The scriptures say that as you received the Lord Jesus, so you should walk in Him. Did you receive Him because you managed to have the right feelings at the right time? I tell you that I don't believe you received Him at all, if that is your testimony. If you received Christ as a sinner who sudden received such spiritual truth as is impossible for the natural man to receive - the certainty of your damnation, coupled to the a sudden, otherwise foreign willingness to submit yourself (body and soul for all eternity) to the perfect rule of God - then you will remember that feelings didn't bring you there, God did.

I write all that to remind those who know, and to provoke those who only are guessing and grasping at straws today, that the love the bible speaks of is not an affection that eventually motivates our obedience. Our first act of spiritual obedience took place in the moment we were born again - and it began even before we were justified - it began with the grace of God reconnecting us to His presence in a sense, so that we in a moment and all in the same glance, as it were, His holiness, our just damnation, and the certain Hope of Christ whom we suddenly found ourselves crying out to in earnest. In other words our first obedience was to the dual command to [1] repent of our rebellion and self rule and [2] to believe the promise that as many as call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Our first obedience was not motivated by feelings of love - it was provoked by the Holy Spirit, coaxed, out of us. We may have been willing to pray some prayer for eternal life, or to call ourselves Christians - but on that day, all that empty religion became rubbish to us - even as the Lord opened our eyes, and we believed.

It wasn't a feeling, it was the Lord. He did this work in us when we were yet rebellious in our heart towards Him, that is, when we were yet sinners. He served us.

That is what the love we are called to love God with, looks like. It isn't an affection (a feeling), it is a forsaking of self in order to serve others, even as God selflessly does day in and day out. Love is the opposite of selfishness in that it goes beyond simply not serving self, and on to serving others. This service can be, and eventually will be, accompanied by affections, but it isn't (and ought never to be) defined by them.

The command to love God is -not- a command to manifest and grow an affection towards God. It is a command to serve God with all your being, to abandon yourself to Him in every aspect of your person - your heart, your mind, your soul - your strength.

Knowing this, can you imagine what a profound error it is to tell someone that the reason they don't obey God is because they don't have warm enough feelings towards God? That the secret to obedience is nurturing a deeper affection for God?

The reason you aren't obeying God is not because you haven't found the right feeling, it is because you're backsliding. The message to backsliders is not - find a better feeling to motivate yourself; it is repent.

One might argue that if one could simply "repent" they would, and the fact that they aren't repenting is the very reason they are looking for a better motivation.

Okay, that's certainly true. We don't want to just thump our bibles, and leave the ignorant in their ignorance. We want to let them know what the problem is. In this case the problem is not with their emotions, it is that they have become calloused in their rebellion against God. Said another way, they have lost their first love - that is, they have set aside serving God in favor of once again serving themselves.

It isn't that they are no longer justified, and need to therefore be "saved" again. it is that they have tried, and failed, to make sanctification happen through various empty means. Sanctification, like justification, is a work of faith that finds its origin in God and not in man. Joseph and Mary were told to name our Lord Jesus because He was going to save His people from their rebellion against God (sin).

If you aren't calling out to Christ regularly to deliver you out of your temptations, you're probably just getting by on old habits, and slipping little by little into worse ones. What happened to the man of prayer? Now you pray only or when some tragedy or sudden need arises. You have a great affection for truth, and for the God thereof, maybe for your church body, and your good Christian home, but you know that something is lacking, and you're looking for a way to fix it.

Well stop looking to your emotions for the answers to spiritual problems. The only person who can solve your spiritual problem is Christ. Anyone whose advice does not bring you to the place where you are seeking Christ personally in prayer, is not helping you much. The bare truth is that no one can fix you, nor offer you any advice except to seek the Lord.

The truth can be set before you, but it serves only to point your heart to Christ. If it points anywhere else, it is an empty work (at best).

So I counsel you, dear reader, if you have ever looked for the magic key that makes your obedience easy and light, to consider that there is no magic key, and no easy way to obey. Obedience is the work of a faith that comes (and grows) by hearing the words of Christ. It is this same faith that is supposed to direct our conduct (we "walk" by faith, not by sight). When our faith wanes, our obedience quickly follows.

What then do we do when we find disobedience in ourselves? Do we just accept it? God forbid - how shall we who have been set free from sin, continue in it? No, we don't just ignore sin, we wage war against it - against our own inclination to disobedience which is just as often fanned into flame by our enemy the devil.

How do we wage this war? Well we clothe our self in Christ: the armor of God. He is our salvation, our righteousness, our gospel, our truth, the Author (Initiator) and Finisher (He who completes it) of our faith. We trust that He was with us in our struggle, and we trust that He is our Lord.

That last little bit gets so little play these days. It is one thing to admit that Jesus is my Lord, and quite another to believe it in the sense of receiving it as the sort of truth that changes you from the inside out.

The man who says, Jesus is my Lord, but who doesn't actually do what Jesus command Him has shown that Jesus actually is not that man's Lord. Have you ever stopped in the course of some rebellion because you suddenly realized that Jesus Christ is your Lord in more than just name? Has it ever happened to you that your desire to see the Lord glorified stopped you dead in the tracks of some disobedience? Have you never had that experience where the conviction of sin that you have been ignoring and suppressing suddenly and inexplicably breaks your heart to tears? When what you ignored and set aside, suddenly overtakes you?

I trust that you have.

Remember these things if you ever start to ask yourself, "what's my motivation?" This is true of you if you are a genuine saint: You have a desire within you to live a life that is pleasing to God. Alongside that desire is a desire to please yourself in all you do. You are called to regard the one desire as that which flows from the life of God, and the other as that which flows from that which died in Christ on Calvary - you old man. You are to surrender yourself to that which brings life, and not to enlarge the borders of that which brings death. You are God's servant. When you believe that, you will obey Him, and when you doubt that you will not.

It is that simple. Obedience comes from faith, not from feelings. It comes when you know that you belong to the Lord, and when you walk in -that- truth. It isn't provoked by emotions, for one simple reason - emotions are not spiritual. Pagans have the same emotions as anyone else, but these do not provoke them to obey God any more than a Christian's emotions provoke him to obey God. That which is flesh is flesh, and that which is Spirit is Spirit. The things of the flesh cannot provoke or affect a change in anything spiritual.

That being the case, get honest with yourself if you find yourself increasingly inclined to ignoring God and running on old, deteriorating habits. I say get honest with yourself because if this describes you, you are living as one who has forgotten (or perhaps has never known, as is the case in many churches these days) the things that are true of you.

It isn't positive thinking, it is agreeing that what God says is true of you is actually true. No, let me rephrase that a bit to weed out the ambiguity in that statement - it is receiving what is true of you in such a way that it affects a change, anything less is lip service.
posted by Daniel @ 11:53 AM  
4 Comments:
  • At 12:00 PM, June 11, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    I know, I know. If I am going to bother entitling the post "Wuv. Twew Wuv." I should have focused more on Wuv.

    Well in the original draft, the focus was there, but after I expanded it in subsequent edits, the notion because less emphatic, as other elements were fleshed out. I kept the title because, well, let's face it, every Monty Python fan who sees it will at least skim the article.

     
  • At 10:03 AM, June 12, 2013, Blogger David Kjos said…

    I think you mean Princess Bride fans, but knowing next to nothing about Monty Python, I could be wrong. However, I do know you meant "retched," not "wretched" (2nd paragraph). Also you ended a sentence with a preposition, but I'm not telling where.

     
  • At 11:32 AM, June 15, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This post hits precisely on something that the Lord has been working in my over the past few months. I have earnestly desired greater love for Him - to love Him as He demands that He be loved, the love that He deserves. And as I have cried out to Him, He has responded in a way that it is my very real joy to serve Him more throughout the day - pouring less into myself and more into His people.

    I don't think I can put adequate words to it, except to say that as I have asked that He fill me with love for Him, He has responded in ways that bring such joy and peace.

    I must continue to ask this of Him daily and throughout the days. I've noticed that when I wane, so does the love.

     
  • At 11:33 AM, June 15, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    grrr. .... "in my life" not "in my..."

    Didn't proofread before posting.

    *smacks self on head*

     
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