flesh

This is a continuation of some thoughts I started processing through HERE.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires (cravings, lusts, & longings) of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1John 2:15-17 ESV


I ponder… “the cravings, lusts, & longings “of the flesh… with the word flesh meaning me, my physical body, & my human nature – my natural propensities, bents, drives, & inclinations. It’s not a call to live in denial of my humanity – can’t change that, don’t want to. It’s also not an indictment as ‘inherently unholy’ the God-instilled drives of hunger, thirst, & sexuality…

That’s important to note because there are places, pockets of belief really, where people get lost; places that equate holiness with abstaining from anything enjoyable or nice – that the more they would deny their ‘fleshly’ (see: human) desires, the more spiritual that they would be. And the converse would be true also – those that DIDN’T deny those impulses were less spiritual & holy.


Galatians 5:16,17 tells us to walk in the Spirit, & we won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh… & that the flesh & Spirit are at odds with each other… What I see is that I will get into trouble if I put my natural drives & desires in charge of me, in the drivers seat if you will – letting them & them alone guide my thoughts, choices, decisions, & what I give myself to.

The ‘walking in the Spirit” is where self-control comes in – not me trying to keep myself in check, but living life under the direction & guidance of the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging, even declaring that there’s more to life than self-indulgence, doing what I feel, following my cravings – that even though I’m 100% human, the most important thing to me is obedience to God, & living the Christ-following life…


Here’s a thought:

To go to an extreme either way is destructive & displays the rotting fruit of a flesh-driven life….

Hmmm.

It’s easier to see the results of self-indulgent excess – wanton debauchery, the life of the Prodigal in Vegas, letting one’s proverbial ‘freak-flag-fly’… I believe that there’s just as much deadly flesh evident in the extreme ascetic lifestyle, though in christianity the latter is often held up as something desirable & to be aspired to…

I’m still pondering…

eyes…

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been pondering a section of 1John that has come back to me a few times since reading it… & the next few posts are my processings through it, in no real order… First, the section:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1John 2:15-17 ESV

In reading that, what grabbed me 1st was the phrase, ‘all that is in the world…’ As though the following statements are revelatory about specific ways that we are seduced into sin… I looked up the word translated as “desires,” & found that it is also translated as

‘craving, lust, &/or longing for that which is forbidden…Strongs Concordance – G1939″


Desires of the eyes… what I want. Need. And seeing that I want, no, need what I don’t have. I sense an erosion of contentedness, knowing that my next bout of ‘happiness’ hinges on the accumulation of some thing, some material possession that will Finally put me over the edge into bliss. Until the next craving hits. This desire is never satisfied. It has a roving eye, portraying, promising an emptiness of life unless an attempt is made at fulfilling the craving. Which always returns. With a vengeance.

Makes me contemplate what I’m looking at. What catches my eyes? Maybe its the studies I’ve been doing on idols & Idolatry, but I think this is a fleshing out of a visible, tangible idol; an idol whose face changes, that takes on different shapes. An idol that is hinting at, & occasionally flaunting ‘completeness of me,’ as seen through the jaded, jealous, & judgmental eyes of a nameless, faceless, yet oh so important Other person that will either accept or reject me based upon what I have. Or don’t.

I can feel it in the pit of my stomach.


So the extremist emerges – rather than accumulate, I will divest myself of this materialism, go ‘minimalist’ & detach myself from all of my possessions, & even from the desire to possess, choosing instead to subsist on the bare minimum… & maybe just a bit less. Yep. That’ll do just fine.

But there’s a nagging sense that all I’ve done is exchange one side of the coin for the other. And that the comparisons, the cravings, the lurking enticement remains, though with a different face.


I come back to think on what it means to be “content.” To be able to be at peace, at rest, with a little. Or with a lot. To not need an external ‘security blanket’ that can rot, burn, be stolen, be misplaced… (no matter how nice a Goodall Walnut Standard would make me FEEEEEEL…)

To put my eyes where they belong. On Jesus Christ, the author & finisher of my faith… who was tempted in every way that I am, but Who didn’t give in to sin. Who saw through the empty promises of the lusts & desires, & chose instead obedience…

confession, & other thoughts…

Last week, I was doing some studies on what it means to REPENT… &, as often happens, I got lost on a rabbit trail, & spent some time chasing something that was connected loosely to what I’d started with. It was the word, CONFESS – (You can read the verses I was reading HERE & HERE)

I unexpectedly discovered that I have a very, very negative association, a nasty feeling in my belly, around the word confess… maybe its because I have watched too many “cop” shows, where “getting a confession” is something that the good guys do to the bad guys, often under duress. The threat of pain &/or punishment, emotional manipulation, & even downright blackmail are all fair game in the pursuit of a confession. And when a confession is finally worked out of the “perp”, they’re left as a broken, weak, vulnerable mess.

Transfer this context to the scriptures – & the instruction we’re given to ‘confess our sins to one another,’ & that a part of repentance is the confession, the owning up to our sin, our wrongdoing. I found myself thinking, “if confession is like what I’m associating it with, it doesn’t go along with what we know of God & His nature as revealed in the Scriptures & in the person of Jesus Christ – meaning, He is always, now & forever, a predictably good God – & doesn’t put us through torture, torment, & blackmail in order to sweat a confession out of us.


So when I was chasing the Rabbit of Confession, I decided to take a look at what words the Bible writers used to get a better picture of the intended definition for confess in the original language.

And the definitions for confess, with the deluxe Strong’s Concordance Word # next to each:

ἐξομολογέω – exomologeō – CONFESS: G1843 – to confess, to profess; acknowledge openly and joyfully; to one’s honour: to celebrate, give praise; to profess that one will do something, to promise, agree, engage…

ὁμολογέω – homologeō – CONFESS: G3670 – to say the same thing as another; to confess, to admit or declare one’s self guilty of what one is accused of; to profess; to declare openly, speak out freely; to profess one’s self the worshipper of one; to praise, celebrate…


To acknowledge openly & joyfully… my sins? To celebrate… where I’ve blown it? How could I do that? And why would I? Hmmm.

I let what I’d read sink in, & really meditated on it for several days; still, I couldn’t come to grips with what this might mean, what it would look like, lived out in the context of my life, as I would REPENT, ask God to change my thinking & to transform me…

And then today, a light bulb went on.

Confession goes hand in hand with repentance – & can be celebrated, acknowledged openly & joyfully, not because our sins are so great & legendary that they’re to be celebrated. Not at all – sin ends up in death & destruction. Always. Every time. And there’s nothing to celebrate about that. BUT…

There IS something to be celebrated in the freedom that comes from confessing as a part of our repenting… from bringing sin & wrongdoing into the light . When I confess to God (& to another trustworthy, faithful person) I am not being self-deprecating; I’m agreeing with God’s assessment of sin. And by bringing it to the light, I also bring it to the One person who is able to forgive me of my wrongdoing, & who has promised in His Word to not only forgive me, but to purify & cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

Hmmm. So I’m starting to get it. I think. I just know that my belly doesn’t hurt anymore.


And in other thoughts… in some ways, I can’t wait for baseball season to start already. I can only hope that the games will provide a welcome distraction from the daily barrage of accusations/revelations/discussions about PEDs, steroids, & HGH. Still, I’m not holding my breath.

Sigh.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you… Woo woo woo.

What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? ‘Joltin Joe’ has left and gone away? Hey hey hey. Hey hey hey.

conversations with Jerry…

A couple times a year, I get to share a meal with Jerry, a guy that has, through no fault of his own, shaped much of my outlook on the Church, the purpose of Church, & what it means to be a Christ-follower. I say through no fault of his own, because he said that he doesn’t approach any relationship he has as “the mentor” – esp. because he is “looking to learn from” all sorts of people through friendship & interactions… but recognizes that others may see him or look to him in that role. And, he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, if they do, that is “their problem.”


While sitting in Claim Jumper over monstrous piles of food, Jerry brought up a topic for discussion… something that he said he & his buddy Steve have been kicking around for a while – REPENTANCE.

Both of them have been pastoring almost as long as I’ve been alive – & both of them have noticed a few current ‘trends’ within the Church. It seems that people in Church are struggling, trying to get free from the same sin & sin patterns… clingy, life-stealing stuff. And not really having much success. At the same time, the numbers of people being baptized in the Holy Spirit seems to be shrinking as well. In their discussions, prayers, & wonderings, the same thing kept coming up. REPENTANCE… or actually, the absence of it.

The gospel, Good News, that is being declared in & out of the Church is becoming increasingly a message of the forgiveness of sins… but is missing a (or THE) key component in the good news – repentance from sin. And instead of seeing transformed people living in freedom & vitality, the Church is filling up with ‘reformed sinners’ – people struggling with the same old, same old, basically white-knuckling their way to stopping the sinful patterns & life-traps that plagued their lives pre-Christ…


This topic really grabbed my attention – over the last 4-6 weeks, “REPENTANCE” has been showing up all over the place in my life – kind of how I started noticing all the VW’s on the road when I got mine… I started receiving random emails with questions about it; friends relayed dreams where the main point of the dream was repentance; I’d study a section of scripture & would come across the word 10 times; I found an old teaching series called, “Fruitful Repentance,” & started listening to it, only to have another friend, unknowingly, recommend I listen to the very same series I’d just found.


It was the reformed sinners comment that grabbed my attention – I have an idea of what he’s talking about & what he’s getting at – so I asked Jerry to give his definition of REPENTANCE – he said:

  • Repentance is acknowledging, & even owning my sin – recognizing specifically that I’m a sinner, a wrong-doer. And, on top of that, there is nothing that I can do to deal with & address my sin & sinful behaviors on my own. My own efforts at self-control, rooted though they may be in good-intentions, don’t have what it takes to overcome it.
  • Further, repentance is turning FROM this sin, & turning TO Christ is inviting Christ into my situation – to transform me by the power of the Holy Spirit. And then to show me where & how I can cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in my life. Not to help me overcome it, but for Him to do the transformation. To do it. As a lifestyle.
  • It might just seem semantical to you, but something has clicked, (or at least has started to,) in my head & heart:

    A “reformed sinner” wants the forgiveness of sins, (which the Church is proclaiming,) & to do good, live well. And sees that there are things in how they’re living, thinking, behaving, etc that need to change… & then they set about to change it, asking for God’s help in the matter, with little to no progress, success, or lasting change. And its not because the ‘reformed sinner’ is prideful or holding out on God – they’re just doing what the Church has told them they should do… even getting water baptized, but still wondering why this just isn’t clicking for them. So they try harder.

    A transformed life is marked by steady progress turning away from the sins God has already pointed out in our lives, & an increasing awareness of additional sins He is uncovering in our minds/hearts. There is an increased “spiritual inheritance” (READ: life-giving obedience & relationship with God & others,) trust of God & His ways, (instead of my own plans,) humility, seeing myself as I am, with my God-given identity, knowing I’m not diminished by repenting, confessing sin, but rather am freed from it to live for God & for righteousness…


    The conversation over dinner got me thinking at 110 m.p.h. When I got home, I did some reading in the New Testament, & found that every time the gospel/Good News message is proclaimed, repentance is at the center of it – & that the forgiveness of sins happens as a result of the repentance. A change of heart, mind, & thought follows –> leading to a transformed life.

    Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God (REPENT), and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 NLT

    …if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts. 1John 1:7-10 NLT


    I’m still pondering… wondering… reflecting… And I’m thankful for the conversation with Jerry.

    a little help?

    I’d like to ask a favor of you – reader of this blog, the readers that I know, the blog-lurkers that I don’t… even the random person that stumbled across this page in a chance Google search or ‘go to next blog’ moment.

    I’m doing some studying for some writing & a speech or two, & would like to utilize your vast life experience to help myself out…


    When you hear/think of the words “REPENT” & “REPENTANCE”, what comes to your mind? What do you think of? It might be:

  • An image
  • thought
  • concept
  • idea
  • even a specific memory
  • Thanks in advance for your input.
    Ciao!