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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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Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Grieving Over Someone Else's Sin can be instructive.
Imagine that you love the Lord with all your heart, and not in the selfish way that some might imagine - that is, not because you "have" to in order to make God look upon you favorably enough to bless you or something like that. I mean imagine that the love you have for God is the real kind, and not just self preservation dressed up as "love".

Now imagine that you have a son or a daughter who is just coming out of puberty, one who used to, as far as you could tell, love the Lord whom you love. You enjoyed those shared times where you could sing to, and converse about, God together. You enjoyed what you felt was a deepening fellowship with your child, a person whom you have invested yourself in every day of their life; and then imagine that you discover one day that their love of the Lord was not what you thought it was. Imagine that whatever facade had convinced you that they were on the same page as you, has begun to peel back, and you begin to glimpse the horrible truth --that your son or daughter loves their sin more than they love anything else, and that they have just been faking their own love for God because doing so in your house was the most profitable way to live.

Now, get past the sense of betrayal, and the hurt of realizing how much of what you thought was faith was in fact your own aspirations being projected on them, set aside your own hope-driven blindness, and sense of utter failure, and you are left with an ache that cannot be undone by demanding they conform themselves externally to the godly behavior you wish was flowing from within.

This ache is a wound in your own soul that bleeds at the thought that sin, like a devouring lion, is destroying not only who you thought they were, but also everything you had hoped they would be. This ache, if you can imagine it (or worse, if you have actually known it first hand) can be a powerfully instructive, but perhaps not in the way you think.

Can I be blunt with you, dear reader? You would probably love everyone this way if you had the same investment in everyone. That is, if you felt that their loss was in fact your loss, then at the very least you would, for purely selfish reasons, desire that each and every one of us be set free from the bondage to sin. The plain hard truth is that selfishness is still the greatest motivator for much of what we do - and the instruction typically given to people is to try and generate something positive through that same selfishness, rather than to abandon it altogether.

Let me explain that, because it is probably confusing for some.

I say that this sort of ache I described is instructive, not as an example of how we are to love others - good gravy no! I will not call you to generate (or try to spiritually discover) this sort of love/desperation and then apply it to others. That would be pointlessly futile, and even counter-productive to genuine faith.

You see, the reason a person aches for someone else in this way (and simultaneously fails to ache for everyone in this way) is because they expected their investment to produce something for them, and this sudden turn threatens the return on their investment. For all the poetry in the picture above, beneath it all a selfish motive persists.

The instruction I mean to give is not that you should try and mimic investing yourself in others the way you invest yourself in those close to you, in order that you may generate a similarly powerful (but flawed on account of being similarly selfish at its core) affection, whereby you will be motivated to "ache" for others with the same ferocity with which you ache for those close to you. Have I said good gravy already? Good gravy no! I shall not call you to some pragmatic "solution" dressed up as something spiritual.

Rather my instruction began with this (hopefully) powerful imagery, to underscore the fact that even the most visceral motivations we can imagine for such things as intercessory prayer, cannot and do not produce, or even give vent to) the love of God by which we are commanded to love others.

Is your child wayward? That is going to hurt you in proportion to how dearly you love the Lord, and again, how much you have invested in your child. Yet the whole world is wayward, and yet you do not hurt for the world the way you would hurt for your little one. This ought to show you that whatever it is that you feel for your child is (at the very least) mixed with (at the core) something selfish. Your paternal concern is real, painful, and even right and proper, but ultimately, and genuinely, it is self serving at the core of its being.

To extend a metaphor, the love with which God loves your child is by no means superior to the love with which God loves your neighbor, or even your enemy. God's love does not wax or wane depending upon how much you have invested yourself in someone. This you know. So don't imagine that because you ache for someone that this is "God's love" being expressed in you. If you don't ache that way for everyone, it is just your own affections that are being roused because the world isn't doing what you want it to.

With this in mind, I say, perhaps too boldly, that anyone who holds some example of love, powerful or weak, and then teaches you that it is the job of the Christian to imitate that same kind of love --applying it to others, is teaching you to adhere to a form of religious behavior, nothing more.

At this point, I hope that some of you reading will begin to look at the way you love others, and find in your introspection a truth you don't often look at. Are you one who is beginning to see yourself as having failed to truly love others? Let me say something a little provocative: if you don't see yourself in this, you're quite blind.

Consider the thought: if the love that we express for those closest to us is riddled through with selfishness, how worthless will a self-generated imitation of that kind of love be? Knowing then that we are commanded to love others, we are left with one of the most real, and common, Christian dilemmas: we are commanded to do something we most certainly cannot do.

Don't get me wrong, we can certainly put on a show. We can certainly go through the motions externally, and this we can even do with profound emotion and satisfaction, but ultimately, our mimicry is nothing more than self serving pragmatism, and for all our effort, it is spiritually worthless misleading. That which is born of the flesh, is not spiritual.

The truth is that we cannot love others, not the way that God commands, and God isn't in the business of creating in us a well of new, but now "righteous", love out of which we may now, as Christians, love others. Until we receive our redeemed bodies, we remain, at our core, sinfully flawed. We are (and remain in this world) broken vessels that cannot hold water. In other words, the love with which we are called to love others is not our own, tragically flawed love, but rather with Christ's love.

Don't mistake me, I do not deny that we can and do feel affection for others, and we can do nice things for people. We can ache for others and all that - but the love that God calls us to love others with has no self serving component mixed into it. It is a perfect, selfless love - a self sacrificing love. A love that cannot originate in, and ultimately cater to, self. A love that you are so entirely incapable of generating, that the way out of this dilemma will sound impossible, and even incomprehensible to some, and yet is perhaps the most simple thing one might ever learn.

You see the bible tells us that we are to walk by faith. Walking, in this sense, is a metaphor for the way we conduct ourselves on the earth; it describes the things we do, and the way we do them. Walking then is a metaphor for the way we conduct ourselves, and if our conduct includes being commanded to "love others" (and it does), then even loving others is something that must be done by and through faith.

But there is the rub isn't it? How does one "love" another by faith? I mean, for some that question is going to be about as obtuse as asking how to "smell" the color blue. Loving by faith? How does one do that?

The problem with many, I suppose, is that even after you explain to them that their concept of loving others is actually self serving and flawed; and even after you convince them that they need to learn to love as Christ loves, when you actually explain the way that they are supposed to love, they typically, and unconsciously, take what you have said and attempt to apply it in the same framework as the thing you are telling them to step away from. When we ask, "How do I...?" we demonstrate that we are still self centered in our approach.

The question should be, "How does Christ...?"

"Ah", says, the reader, "I am beginning to see the tipping of your hand", but let's not skip ahead. Many will take this tidbit and imagine they know where this is going, and that they get it already, so they don't have to pay attention to what is coming next, but to these I say, "hold up a little, it may not be what you think". You see, many are going to hear me say "How does Christ...?" and will immediately reframe that into the exact same self-o-centric framework that we are trying to get away from. The only difference is they will modified the notion ever so slightly to, "how do I make Christ do it...?"

Obviously, we can't make Christ do anything. Our "faith" is not divine puppet fuel, whereby we exercise it, and God reacts by moving His mighty puppet-arms. Faith means that we trust what God has done, and is doing. It means that we trust that the love of Christ that is in us through the Holy Spirit is sufficient for what God commands. It means we abandon once and for all our failing attempts at producing or "receiving" a love of our own in order to use that love as a motivator from which (hopefully) new obedience can flow.

Do you get it? I mean, I think of the Catholic who imagines that God's grace serves to impart actual, personal, righteousness in the believer. Such that the believer eventually becomes so personally righteous (by grace!) that God becomes obligated to honor their righteousness by granting them salvation. We know how utterly confused and wrong that notion is, but are we not doing the same thing when we think that God imparts new love to us, by which we are supposed to love others? Are we not imagining (or hoping) that Christ eventually will impart enough "love" in us that we may draw from this personal supply of love in order to obey our Lord? When this is our understanding, and we fail to love others, we are left to conclude that Christ isn't doing much in the way of supplying our love --which itself causes many to conclude that they must not be saved (enough), and so they redouble their efforts to try and get Christ to do what they imagine He is "failing" to do - or worse, they conclude that no matter how they work, they will never be able to be perfect enough to warrant the bestowment of this personal love from which all things Christian become easy-peasy. Or alternately they just give up on Christianity because it doesn't "work".

Well, having said this much, one might imagine that I am overlooking the fact that genuine affection can and does show up in our lives, and that we can ache for others even as strongly as we might ache for a wayward spouse or child. I do not mean to diminish our grief - that raw emotion we may feel when someone we care about begins to fall away from the faith, or is struggling against sin. The pain in such instances is real, and there is nothing godly about ignoring it, or making light of, or diminishing it. What I write here, concerning the nature of these emotions, is not meant to suggest that such emotions are out of place or something to avoid. Rather I say only that we must avoid the temptation to create a motivation for obedience by trying to replicate these emotions in other situations as the "magic key" to Christian success in loving others.

The bottom line is this: We are more likely to experience real grief over another person's sin when the person is someone we are intimately acquainted with (such as a spouse, a parent, a close friend, or a son or daughter). That strong desire that forms in us, that they would repent and be restored is not something we feel for others who are sinning, because (frankly) we are not as invested in others. The instruction is not that we try and invest in others in order to generate stronger feelings, and thereby generate an emotional motivation that is a little wider in scope than just family and friends. Rather the instruction is to recognize that the reason we grieve stronger for those close to us, and fail to grieve as strongly for those who are not close to us, is because we have invested in those close to us, and stand to lose more on that account. Our grief is tainted, if you will, with self interest. Because this is so, we are taught not rely upon our emotions - even our most intense emotions, to motivate our obedience (concerning the command to love others). The command to love is a command to depend on Christ's love, and not our own love.

That's probably still a little fuzzy for some, but I am going to put it out there anyway. Perhaps it will help someone anyway.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:58 AM  
  • At 1:04 PM, July 20, 2011, Anonymous Paul said…

    Maybe I understand it better after reading this post.

    It's never about us, being American I want to be the one that does it, pull myself up by the boot straps, but that is not how it works.

    What I struggle with in my mind though is all the times that I fail, more times than I care to admit, and the why.

    I get that it is me responsible for those times, but if it is the Spirit that does all the good things then why does the Spirit cease activity? Not sure if that makes sense and if you need me to clarify I will try.

  • At 2:02 PM, July 20, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Has the Holy Spirit indeed stopped convicting you of sin and of righteousness?

    If so, you may want to consider the possibility that you are not yet in the kingdom, for once received, the Spirit of Christ does not leave or forsake the Christian.

    If you can say that you have sinned "in spite of" the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then you ought not to suggest that the Spirit has in some manner departed - when in fact it is your affection for God that is waning, and not His tender care for you. There is a world of difference between grieving the Holy Spirit, and no longer being ministered to by the Holy Spirit.

    Nevertheless scripture speaks about believers quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit, and the remedy for this is not "get saved again" nor is the concern, "You're not saved" - rather it is a command - "stop doing that!"

    The Spirit doesn't cease His work, sometimes leaving you hanging in the wind, is the best thing for your faith to grow - since it causes you to stop "playing at" or "coasting through" Christianity - and forces you to take God, and your faith, seriously.

    I don't know about you, but dry air makes me thirsty, if you catch my meaning.

    Let me know if this helped at all, or if I am missing the point.

  • At 3:33 PM, July 20, 2011, Anonymous Paul said…

    I understand what you are saying, My point was more focused on the times that I quench/grieve the Spirit.

    I think along these lines... when the Spirit wants something done it happens whether I'm so inclined or not. All good is done by the Spirit, but my life is not filled with 100% of doing good.

    Perhaps it is along the lines of what you wrote above in that, those times may be the Spirit working or leaving me hanging for my own good. Just hard to see the why that happens.

    Leading me back to my original thought of let go and let God. It seems that the only thing I do is get in the way.

    Does that make sense?

  • At 11:36 AM, July 22, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    "I say only that we must avoid the temptation to create a motivation for obedience by trying to replicate these emotions in other situations as the "magic key" to Christian success in loving others."

    Good teachings Daniel.

    I suppose it's basically just caring about others enough to lend a hand.
    My affections are specific.

    ps If you go to our Lord's throne for me, I'd appreciate it. I seem to have lost a good bit of my memory. It's very weird. And it's hard having a business where I need to remember a lot. Thanks Daniel. I know our Father will hear you.

  • At 1:20 PM, July 22, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Don, I have prayed for you and will pray again as the Lord brings you to mind.

    You really should get checked out by a doctor though - either a walk in clinic or an ER visit. Almost everything that can cause a sudden memory loss is in the category of "not good". Strokes, blood pressure changes, etc. If there is something medically awry, the sooner it is discovered, the better it will be for you. Be a good steward therefore of that shell you're in.

    Grace to you.

  • At 6:20 PM, July 22, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    Your quite right Daniel, and I'm having some blood-work and tests tomorrow. Thanks brother for praying and the kind advice. Have a great Lord's Day!

  • At 3:01 PM, August 03, 2011, Blogger Marcian said…

    The Spirit doesn't cease His work, sometimes leaving you hanging in the wind, is the best thing for your faith to grow - since it causes you to stop "playing at" or "coasting through" Christianity - and forces you to take God, and your faith, seriously.

    This was such an encouragement to me today. I've been feeling that dry air myself, and wondering why. The result has been putting two and two together, and seeking to "stop doing that." Blessings, Daniel.

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