I've started a new blog called the Tower Perilous about my writing, both fiction and non-fiction.
My writing time has been devoted to books now, and I don't know how much, if any, I will be updating this blog. For now, I'm considering it an archive.
Monday, December 24, 2007
What does it mean to deny ourselves? Must we suppress the ugly thoughts and feelings and lusts and angers that well up from the old nature within us? No, for we have no power to suppress them, as scripture says:
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Romans 7:18-19)
Paul speaks here of one who wants to do good and not evil, but fails. There is no power in the flesh to suppress evil, even after salvation, for no good thing ever dwells in the flesh. How then must we deny ourselves? After commanding us to deny ourselves, Jesus further instructs us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. To take up our cross daily is to die daily. What does it mean, then, to die daily? The answer can be seen through closer examination of the explanation Jesus gave for why it is necessary for us to do all those things: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9 :24). The Greek word translated life in Luke 9:24 is psuche, which is more often translated soul in the New Testament, and our English word psyche is derived from that Greek word. Therefore the passage in Luke might be phrased thusly:
"And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his psyche shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his psyche for my sake, the same shall save it."
We therefore are instructed to lose our psyche for His sake. That is the daily death of the cross to which Jesus was referring; that is what it means to deny ourselves. How do we go about losing our psyche for the sake of Jesus? The first step is recognizing the utter bankruptcy and loathsomeness of our psyche; its intrinsic nature is worthy of damnation from God for ever. We must recognize that our psyche cannot be reformed; it must be crucified. If we will not confess that, then we will not give up our psyche for His sake. If we lose our psyche for His sake, however, we will find our psyche. Yet it is not the old psyche but a new psyche that we will find; we are given the Divine psyche, the Divine nature.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:" (Romans 6:6-8)
Therefore we lose one psyche on the cross, that we might gain a better. We lose our old life, that we might gain a new. We lose our old, rotten nature, that we might gain the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. We must daily do all of this in the faith (given by God) that we are "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:11) Denying ourselves is denying that our old psyche is what we are. As it is written:
"Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Corinthians 5:17)
Therefore, when thoughts and lusts and feelings arise from the old nature, claiming to represent our heart, we must deny them in the faith of the Son of God, knowing that we are the new nature and not the old, always remembering that we have been purged from our old sins. Our new nature, as described in I Corinthians 13, "Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (I Corinthians 13:5-7)
Our chief task every day is simply to be the new nature, for "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galations 5:24-25) To be the new nature is to be one with God, which is why He created us. Thus, we must also remember that the battle is the Lord's and that He wants to fight it together with us, teaching us how to use His armor to overcome the deadly wiles of our old psyche.
"(For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" (II Corinthians 10:4-5)
Saturday, May 5, 2007
How do we endure temptation, the lusts of the old nature? For as James continues, we cannot be tempted by God:
"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16)
Lust brings forth sin; and, though it seems to be life, sin brings forth death. But we are promised a way of escape from temptation:
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." (I Corinthians 10:13-14)
What is this way of escape? How do we obey the word in James, "Do not err, my beloved brethren", and the similar word written by Paul, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry" ?
The answer is described in detail in Romans 6:
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4)
Through salvation, we are made partakers of Christ's death, that we also might be made partakers of His life. That is already accomplished and finished through Jesus, so that our old nature and all of its lusts are reckoned by God as crucified and dead:
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Romans 6:5:6)
Thus through death, we are freed from sin:
"For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:7)
We ought therefore to believe that we are no longer the old dead sin nature, nor under its dominion. For in believing in Christ, we have been made partakers of His death, and thus of His life:
"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:8-11)
In that faith to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, we will thus find the way of escape promised unto us:
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." (Romans 6:12)
That specific faith is how we can and must flee from sin; it is the only way to truly defeat sin. Therefore we must give the greatest diligence, day by day, to remember and believe that we are dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through the cross of Christ.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:" (Colossians 3:1-5)
The Lord Jesus is our example; and through death He overcame all sin, and overcame death itself. Thus we must follow Him daily through the death of the cross, unto the life beyond.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Through the cross, Jesus asks us to give up our own lives, in exchange for His. That includes giving up our own power to make a name for ourselves, to live a life worth remembering. That even includes giving up trying to live our own life for God, which is perhaps the most subtle and deadly way of holding on to our own life. But our own life must be lost, as Jesus said:
"...he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:38-39)
Yet losing ourselves as Jesus asks does not mean we lose our personality or individuality; it is not a form of nihilism or cosmic absorption. Rather, losing ourselves means losing the dead life and dead personality which pretend to be what we are. Our old human nature pretends to be us; yet in our own sight, the old nature is all that we can see of ourselves. It seems to be what we are; but it can never be more than the palest imitation of what we truly are. It is nothing pretending to be something; and in losing our old nature, we only lose the vanity and nothing that it was.
"For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:7)
What do we find, then, when we lose what seems to be ourselves and die, every day, for the sake of Jesus? When we in faith give up our own life, and our own story, and our own name, we will find through faith that Jesus has given us His life, and His story, and His name- to be our own. God does not want us to live our old lives for Him; He wants us to live His new life with Him. He gave us Himself; and in so doing He gave each of us a great and wonderful story- a testimony of Him- to be our own.
Thus we are made One with Him, and thus we will find a place in His story.
"Remember me, O my God, for good." (Nehemiah 13:31b)
Sunday, April 15, 2007
What is involved in showing ourselves friendly? How did Jesus define that?
"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:15)
In the above passage, Jesus reveals that one requirement for friendship with Him is that He make known unto us all that He has heard of the Father; therefore, that must also be one necessary element of Jesus showing Himself friendly.
That quality of friendliness can be seen here, by God toward Abraham- who was called the Friend of God:
"And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?" (Genesis 18:16-18)
Jesus spoke with Abraham there, as a man speaks with his friend; and He is looking for others whom He can call His friends. For He desires greatly to reveal all He has heard of the Father to us!
"He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what [is] in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him." (Daniel 2:22) "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (II Corinthians 2:9-10)
Now, Jesus- the Friend who sticks closer than a brother- commanded us to show ourselves friendly, as He shows Himself friendly:
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:12-14)
Our part in being God's friends is to obey that commandment to love one another as Jesus has loved us. Therefore, if Jesus showing us what He has heard of the Father is necessary for Him to call us His friends, and is part of His loving us, then we also ought to show one another the things we have heard of the Father.
Speaking of the things of God one with another must thus be a necessary measurement of true friendship. If we are afraid to begin to speak of the things of God to someone we call a friend, how much of a friendship do we truly have with them? No matter how many personal things we may be able to discuss, if we cannot talk of God, then we are not truly showing ourselves friendly.
True friends will speak of the things of God one with another. Anything called friendship, that does not involve that, is an imitation. And if we will not be faithful to lay down our lives in the little things of speaking one to another that which we have heard of God, as Jesus did, how then will we be faithful to love one another in the greater things?
In the scriptures, the things of the kingdom of God are often compared to things in the plant or animal kingdoms. That is more than allegory; or perhaps more accurately, the plants and animals are themselves the allegories.
In that light, consider how plants and animals are made. What constructs them? Underlying all the growth of living things in the natural world is something we call DNA. Now DNA is, of course, the genetic code; and one way of describing the amazingly intricate information contained in that code is to say that it is made up of words. Yet those words are not dead things, graven in stone; they are alive. The genetic code is truly made up of living words- yet not in the spiritual, but in the natural.
Living words, therefore, are the foundation of every living thing; without those words, there could be no life. It should be no surprise to find that so, for all living things were in the beginning made by the word of God.
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, [and] the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed [is] in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. (Genesis 1:11)
Even though the whole Creation has been corrupted by sin, and groans and travails in pain together until now, yet all around us still are living words, crying out that God spoke them. They can be heard from the quiet beauty of trees, from the exquisite artwork of flowers, from the joyful songs of birds- indeed, from every living thing; and all is God's poetry, written in living words. The world is full of living words declaring the glory of the LORD.
"But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? In whose hand [is] the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:7-10)
These things are, therefore, an allegory of the Living Word of God, ministered by the Spirit, from which the new creatures that we are in Christ are constructed, as it is written:
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (I Peter 1:23-25)
Peter continues, to show what ought to be done with that knowledge:
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord [is] gracious." (I Peter 2:1-3)
Seeing that we are compassed about in the Creation with so great and many witnesses of the power and wonder of living words, we ought therefore, in the faith that we are a new creature born of incorruptible seed, desire the Living Word of God- which is far more beautiful, and far deeper, than the allegory God gave of it in natural things.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
In the Book of Acts, an account is given of Paul's journey through Athens; and two keen observations are made of the Athenian's way of life:
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." (Acts 17:16) "(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)" (Acts 17:21)
Those two observations of Athenian life are inseparably related. Athens was wholly given to idolatry, and the Athenians (including even the strangers there) spent their time in nothing else but either speaking or hearing something new. They therefore worshiped new things- the news, so to speak. They chased after newness- new things; and thus they were fleeing boredom.
That behavior is idolatry; for there is nothing new under the sun, as it is written. "The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun."(Ecclesiastes 1:9)
However, while there is no new thing under the sun, the Almighty God, Who created the sun and all that is under it, has promised to make all things new. "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:5)
True newness- new things, news, adventure- can only be found in God Himself. The Athenians were seeking newness apart from God, but there is nothing new to be found there. God's mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), and He has provided the Way for us to become new creatures in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17), and so walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4), in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6).
Boredom, therefore, is a certain sign of walking apart from God; and it is an ill that only walking in the presence of God can cure. The search for the adventure of new things under the sun will take away the heart; but the newness that God freely gives to those who will receive it is the great adventure, springing up into everlasting life. God always has something new to show us and to give us of His treasures- both now, and forever.