The Rules of Engagement

But my eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign LORD; in You I take refuge–do not give me over to death.  Psalm 141:8.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne o f God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3.

Every time I go through Hebrews 11 I find new things to appreciate.  For instance many of these “heroes” of the OT were lonely people, struggling to survive their condition and not winning popularity contests.  I sometimes wonder what makes people like them tick, you know, why they choose to go against the grain with such determination and passion.  Then I think about Jesus and don’t wonder any more.

That last sentence in Hebrews 12:3 really shouts at us to remember our Master’s instructions which pointed out to us how to live, think and be in the world.  We are to hold loosely to the things of earth, working with our hands and being industrious for both our provision and faith.  The crux of balance is learning how to hold on loosely without letting go.  I must confess I don’t know how to do this sanely for I lack vital disciplines which would make it so much easier to navigate in life.

Yet when I think about it, I have lived much of my life in reaction to the other side of the coin’s extreme:  Rigid discipline, hard boundaries held with contempt for anything or anyone who does not submit, and a wholesale attitude of superiority when one thinks they are right to the exclusion of all others.  To put it quite bluntly:  Everyone’s poop stinks.  No one is exempt from falling into extremes or getting the balance tipped one way or another.  It seems to me that mankind cannot grasp the message of being in the world but not of it very well.  Either we escape the world to become monks or hermits so the filth of sin will not touch us (which, in my opinion, is just isolating our own sinful attitudes and a form of narcissism) or we buy into the American Dream, which is based on a “all this and heaven too” mentality.

I grew up in a staunchly opinionated church.  Indoctrinated from birth to believe our interpretation of Scripture was irrefutable, I began early on to develop a taste for being right at all times–I hated to be wrong and would argue my point long after even I could see I had no leg to stand on.  As I grew up in Christ, it slowly dawned on me how godless this state of mind was–how utterly Christ-less I had been taught to be.  I don’t attribute bad motivations to sincere people because I believe those who taught me believed passionately, but we all know people can be passionate about very wrong things.

Much of what I focus on in Scripture is an attempt to unlearn both the attitude and indoctrination of my youth, though I’m not out to prove it wrong necessarily, rather I’m merely doing my best to refocus on the important things of Christ instead of the debatable.  Still, what I’ve found in these past 20+ years is it’s pretty easy to live in reaction to both the world and the church where we ping pong from issue to issue without really ever living a full life in Christ.

Here’s what I’ve come down to after years of fighting the denominational/ doctrinal ping pong game:  What I fix my eyes on will define me.  Jesus’ promise to give us life to the full is not merely about doctrinal purity but putting our balancing our relationships to God and mankind.

The abundant life promised in John 10:10 comes hard on the heels of a warning about the nature of a thief, who comes to “steal and kill and destroy.”  It’s not all that strange, I suppose, to fall into old habits for the familiar brings a certain comfort with knowing its parameters as well as known consequences.  Yet those of us who want to rid ourselves of the stress we live with now must let go of certain earthbound logical sequences in our reasoning.  Jesus told us clearly we could not serve two masters yet we strive to do so anyway.  A person with one foot in the kingdom and one in hell becomes a zombie Christian, or what Paul termed “carnal” natured.

We even bring our earthbound grasp on unselfishness into mix with our Savior’s teaching on it.  In other words, we buy into the world’s teaching that self denial is about not taking care of ourselves at all in order to serve others or to tap into the universal consciousness.  We don’t seem to be able to balance both the self-denial of Christ and living our daily lives in such a way as to care for ourselves and others without the pendulum swinging to one side or the other.

To be honest I don’t think we are expected to be completely balanced, though we are commanded strive in Christ through the Holy Spirit toward that goal. 

How can I say this with such confidence?  Psalm  103:14–For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we dust.  God knows we are incapable of balance without Him.  He’s also aware of the tides of human pressure, the confusion of navigating the treacherous waters of Scriptural interpretation and myriad opinions of teachers worldwide.  All of which means we must assess, study and reject or accept by virtue of our learning curve.  Our ability to grasp spiritual truth grows directly out of our state of submission to the Holy Spirit as well as the health of our spiritual being.  Since all of us are growing at different rates and in disperate areas, this means we grasp truth in pieces and without the whole picture to clarify aspects outside our ability at any given time to see.

Solomon claimed,  Then I saw all that God has done.  No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.  Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning.  Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.  Ecclesiastes 8:17.

I guess what I’m driving at here is we need to be discerning, diligent and disciplined, for sure, but our lives must continue in the pleasures God gives us as well.  In other words those who become monks need to be certain God has called them to such a life or they will live outside the abundance of His will.  God made man with taste buds, touch, smell, eyesight and sexual desire to enjoy life and be happy.  While we are seeking God’s world first, we must realize our physical nature (sans sin) is all part of His plan for us as well.  In pursuing His Way over the world’s we redefine what it means to be human, to be loving, to be full, to be relational, to be rational, by resetting the boundaries to His specs instead of the world’s. 

Our efforts will meet with many roadblocks, divergent paths and balancing issues, but if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we cannot fail in the end.  We must just accept we will make mistakes, at the same time remember His love for us is an everlasting love, one which is non-negotiable and always in our favor.

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7 Responses to “The Rules of Engagement”

  1. Posts about Holy Spirit as of March 27, 2009 | PRAYtheREVOLUTION Says:

    […] […]

  2. tlc4women Says:

    We met a man recently from a strict religion. He had been to seminary but never ordained. He was no longer going to church. He said the reason was because he enjoyed having a couple of beers once in a while. He apologized and said one day he would get it right and return to church but he didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

    I always get a ache in my gut for these people who never could get it quite right in their eyes. I love when you said, God doesn’t expect us to be balanced. I believe this man is more balanced than he thinks but until he is free from the rigid rules of man, he is bound.

  3. RaiulBaztepo Says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  4. PiterKokoniz Says:

    Hello ! 🙂
    I am Piter Kokoniz. Just want to tell, that I’v found your blog very interesting
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you!
    Your Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

  5. Get Your Ex Back Says:

    I noticed that this is not the first time you write about this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

  6. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    I chose it again because it happened to be on my mind at the time and some different ideas popped up. So I expanded what I wrote about before with this entry. In each one you should see growth toward something better…at least I hope better…understanding of the subject I’m working through.

  7. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Piter: I call it “Jonny’s Habit” because my daily habit is to study the Bible and learn something about God and a relationship with Him from it. It’s not exactly a hobby rather a passion for understanding Jesus.

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