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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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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The Buzz

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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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Stop acting like you've lost your muse.
Have you ever heard the sermon where you are told that you have to love the unlovable? I want to share something about that today.

It is easy to love my children, my spouse, and my friends, and by easy, I mean that I have an affection for them that motivates me. I don't have to work up this affection, nor do I have to work to draw it from some place within me in order to bring it out. It is just there, and it makes showing affection for these people natural and easy.

But my affections are necessarily limited. I don't know everyone that there is, and so when I try to love people in the world, I cannot draw that love out of some pre-existing personal affection I have for them.

It should come as no shock then that many of the "love the unlovable" sermons you will likely hear these days end up being about finding the right muse. The reason you aren't loving the unlovable (I am speaking as though I am preaching one of these sermons) is because you don't spend enough time with, or prayer on, such people. If you pray for them every day, and make an effort to spend time with them - they will become people that you care about - and loving them will become easier and more natural. In other words the reason you do not love is because you are not investing yourself in other people.

I have a serious problem with that sort of psycho-babble. First, it isn't biblical. God no where instructs us to foster affection in order to motivate love. That is just a human-o-centric crutch that many hold up to justify to themselves their own disobedience. I can't love my neighbor, they say, because the love isn't there. "Why isn't the love there?", asks the preacher who is about to answer his own question, "because you are not doing the work that fosters it."

Do you understand what is being suggested? It is easy for you to love your family, therefore, in order to make the command to love others easy, you need to do whatever it takes to make loving someone else easy also. In other words, you have to learn some trick that will make the yoke of loving others as light and easy as loving your family - and the best way to do that is by investing yourself in someone whom you don't presently show a lot of affection for.

Here is the thing though: the love I have, even for my family, is insufficient. How many times have I failed to love them with a perfect love? How many times has some selfishness in me trumped the love I ought to be expressing to them? Frankly, when I stop to think about it, I know that I could spend the rest of my life trying to love "properly" those who I already love the most - and I would never succeed. The very people who are easiest to love are loved insufficiently and -dare I say it- corruptly.

The notion then, that I should foster a better affection in order to make the command to love others more palatable not only contradicts, but in some congregations, supplants the biblical instruction. Listen: it is great that you find it easy to show affection for your family - but that affection is never going to be sufficient for you to love them the way Christ commands you to. How much less when you are trying to foster a similar, but ultimately lesser affection? How much less, I say, when this plan is being put forward as the way to make God's commands doable? Hello Pharisee? Have you found some way to make God's commands doable in the strength of your own flesh?

I contend therefore that the way to love others is not to try to make loving them easier. You can't even love those in your family with a perfect love, so trying to foster a better imperfect love for the "unlovable" is futile. Even if you do manage to make showing affection for someone you previously weren't "loving" - all you have done is found some muse by which you imagine you can do what God commands more easily. But I tell you that if God were satisfied with such buffoonery, He would have sent you a better muse instead of His Son.

The way to love others is to stop satisfying your own desires, that is, to set them aside, and (as an act of worship) do what God commands. You will not desire, nor will you ever desire (in your flesh) to love the unlovable. But you can deny that flesh, and allow the Spirit to do what God would have you do through you. This surrendering of self to the will of God is an act of worship - that is, your obedience is an act of exalting God. This is what it means to crucify yourself or to die daily, as Paul writes - it is the Christian "way" that we read about in scripture, that has been supplanted by religion.

Can I be forthright and frank? Of course I can, it's my blog. If you find it difficult to obey God, and are looking for some way to make it easier - what you are doing is setting the Christian way aside, and trying to find some other way to be a Christian. There is only one way to live as a Christian, and that way requires you to take up your cross - which is a metaphor for denying yourself the things that you want to do, and instead obeying the commands of God as an act of worship.

These are spiritual truths, and by that I mean, you will not really understand them unless or until God opens your understanding. But you can understand this: the problem is not that you haven't got the right motivation - the reason you are not obedient is not because you haven't found the right motivation, it is because you are trying to "spiritualize" your walk in the flesh.

Hear this: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit - Pagans are not walking in the Spirit when they love their children, spouse, or friends; neither are you. Thus the advice to try and foster a similar love for the unlovable is (for all the smoke and mirrors) actually just a call to find the "bestest" way to walk in the flesh. Your problem isn't that you lack the right motivation - it is that you are trying to find the best way to make the flesh "act" spiritually.

Christians are not called to act spiritually, they are called to be spiritual. Since there is nothing in our flesh that is in and of it self spiritual, we are commanded to walk in the Spirit - a Spirit who is both with us but also foreign to us. We cannot walk in obedience to the Spirit while we are doing the will of our flesh, so to walk in the Spirit we must deny the desires of our flesh. Everyone who is born of Christ is -able- to do this because the Holy Spirit who is in us, not only enables us to do so, but yearns for us to do it - a yearning that we share as our own - a yearning that runs contrary to the yearnings of our mortal frame.

You see, we want to gratify both the yearnings of our flesh, and the yearnings of the Spirit, and that is why people invent crazy schemes like trying to find the right motivation for obedience. They refuse to surrender control of their life to God, refuse to deny their flesh the right to do as it pleases - but mitigate this failure, by trying to find someway to please God without setting the flesh aside - to find a way to make their flesh pleasing to God - but those who are in the flesh, or so the scriptures teach - cannot please God.

The solution is, as I have been saying, to stop trying to please God in your flesh. Stop trying to find some way to motivate your flesh to act spiritual. Even if you do find some way to motivate your flesh - you will be doing nothing spiritual - you will just be deceiving yourself into thinking that you have finally found a way to obey God in your flesh. No: the solution is to decide today whom you will serve - your flesh, or God.

Do you want to love the unlovable? No, you don't. God wants to. The only way God can do that in you is to do it through you when you get out of His way - that is, when you set aside your own desires, and present yourself to God as a willing servant.

I am not saying you are going to be perfect in this, you won't but this is what it means to walk in the Spirit, and as you learn to do so, you will find your love for God exploding. Godly desires will well up unclogged within. It is good stuff - real joy, real peace. The flesh wants none of it, but it is waiting for everyone who walks in the Spirit.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:28 AM  
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