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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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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
No Bravery Without Fear...
Daddy, what can I do when I don't want to obey you because I am afraid?

You've probably had to explain to your own little ones that unless one is afraid of something, one cannot act in bravery. I mean, every person knows fear (or should) but what makes a person brave is that they do not let their fear control their actions.

When my five year old is afraid of the dark, and because of this fear refuses to go to bed, we sit down and have "the talk". I explain first that there is nothing in the dark to fear, and that this fear is therefore unfounded; but because such information has never pacified a single five year old in the history of mankind, I am inclined to move onto step two, where I explain that in order to be brave you need fear, and that it is time for bravery in the face of this fear. etc.

My post isn't about parenting or fear, or bravery for that matter, but I believe understanding these things will help one to understand the metaphor I plan to use in the following spiritual encouragement.

What do I do, when I don't want to obey God?

Here is where the fear/bravery thing comes into play. If bravery requires fear, we might also say that obedience to God (when sinners are inclined against obedience) requires one to overcome self. Now before we get too far on that road, let me say right now that no one in their own strength can truly overcome self. We need, as Paul taught, to reckon our "self" as dead to sin, but alive to God.

The lesson isn't that in order to obey, you first need an inclination to disobedience, and thereafter you must "buck up" in your own strength, and this bucking up shares some sort of kinship with bravery. Rather the lesson is that in order for you to obey you must overcome the flesh in Christ.

That might sound like just a trite Christian phrase, "overcome the flesh in Christ". I bet some of you reading will say to yourself as you read that, "If I knew how to overcome the flesh in Christ, I would be doing that!"

But the phrase is deceptively precise. The trouble is that many Christians don't know what it means to overcome the flesh in Christ. They picture Jesus doing the work of overcoming in such a way that they are passive on-lookers. They imagine themselves, metaphorically speaking, pushing the "Jesus-do-this-spiritual-thing-for-me-now" button, and KAZAM! Victory! So they continue to look for the magic formula that will wake our slumbering Lord and cause Him to pour out victory on them now that they know the magic word to make that happen. But that isn't a right image of what is meant by "in Christ".

Perhaps it would be better to think in this way - in Christ means, in utter surrender to Christ. Utter surrender means utter abandonment - but even these words evoke an image of some soul "letting go and letting God" - which isn't the picture I am trying to paint. Surrender is not about letting go, it is about hanging on - hanging onto God's promise in Christ.

The promise is the gospel promise - which itself, for most believers, has been watered down to mean only the message of salvation that results in justification. That is, many believers think the gospel is for getting you into heaven, and after that you teach "doctrine" and "theology". But the gospel message is that God has done what you could not do. It is the hope of the Christian, not merely to spare them from God's wrath, but also to carry them as believers in their sanctification (drawing near to God).

The way we are called to obey is by faith; by trust in what God has promised, has done, and perhaps more importantly: is doing. We do not overcome our disobedient inclinations by trying harder to obey or by forming the habit of suppressing our sinful inclinations. That is the fluff of other world religions - we overcome our sinful inclinations by trusting in Christ.

I am going to be straight up with you. That sounds, to the uninformed ear, like a lot of spiritual posturing. It sounds good, and even Christian, but to many reading it also sounds rather obtuse, and even spiritually opaque. How is trusting in Jesus going to disincline me to sin?

Well, when we say trusting in Christ, we are not simply trusting that there is a Jesus, or worse, trusting that He is going to act in a situation according to our interpretation of what ought to be done (Stop me from having sinful desires right now Jesus!). What we mean is that we trust that Christ is with us, is in us, and is working out our salvation (from sin), regardless of the situation or how we feel. We trust that this work is not dependant upon ourselves, but rather something Christ is doing in love on our behalf, and not in answer to, or as a response to, our obedience.

The fact of the matter is that we enter into obedience, whenever that obedience is exercised in spirit and in truth, only because of Christ's work in us. This obedience does not come to us because we have pulled it down in prayer, or because we have earned it by our sincerity - it comes to us by grace, for we are saved by grace, and not by works.

So just as fear is the furnace from which true bravery comes, so also faith in Christ is the furnace out of which true obedience flows. I know that is going to seem counter-intuitive to many (immature) Christians, because when we become Christians, we begin to flee from sin because we loathe the fact that we indulge in it. We become like the runner who is so afraid of what is following him, that he dares not risk a glance back. lest in doing so he slows his pace, and is overtaken. The guilt of our sin so burdens us that we dare not risk adding more to it by setting aside our (sometimes strict, sometimes slack) war against sin.

But if the weapons of our warfare are entirely carnal, that is, if we battle sin with the same weapons that every other world religion battles sin (adhering in our own strength to some external standard of righteousness), then our war against sin is really an empty farce --all light and no heat. Our weapons must be spiritual; and that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The notion that we can overcome sin by faith seems nice, but impractical.

It isn't until some crisis, or perhaps some lasting spiritual draught causes us to abandon our false oasis, that we begin to take seriously the plain instructions of scripture, and begin to make Christ, and not church, religion, or daily devotions, the object of our faith. When we do this, in earnest, we grow in grace and find our inclination to obey stronger than our inclination to disobey - and this because we are drawing near to Christ, rather than trying to appropriate righteousness apart from Him (and that in order to please Him, as though our setting aside of Him to pursue a righteousness apart from Him would or could possibly please Him).

We grow into these truths, so don't be put off if they seem difficult to understand at first blush. The main point is that your focus needs to be on Christ, specifically on drawing near to God through Him. Do this, and everything else falls into place (Seek you first the kingdom...).

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posted by Daniel @ 6:55 AM  
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