Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are you Hungry? (mindless fool or mindful righteousness)

Sourdough bread. Image via Wikipedia

Hunger is a state of longing to be filled.  This is a basic drive for all human beings.  If you have ever tried fasting you quickly become aware of how intense this drive can be.  

Jesus said:

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled. Matt 5:6 (HCSB)

Continuing on the subject of filling and wholeness I want to post a question to you.  What is it that you are Spiritually Hungry for?  This may be a difficult post for some.  It was not the direction that I had anticipated, but God has proven to me over and over that He desires for us to take things to the next level of awareness and today this is what He is showing me.

After a good meal there is a general sense of well-being that come over you.  I the expression is often, "that was a good meal."  That feeling of well being is the result of a desire fulfilled.  We can have that feeling about many things, but according to Christ to be filled spiritually we need to desire righteousness.  Being filled with righteousness will lead to a sense of well-being that is greater than that felt after a good meal. 

There is a difference between filled with self-righteousness and filled with God's righteousness.  Self-righteousness is often only concerned about outward appearances.  This is one thing that Christ was so adamantly against.  Why?  I believe that self-righteousness keeps us trapped.  Let me describe what I mean.  If a person believes they are righteous (but in reality are just self-righteous) then this becomes the core of their identity.  Every action they take is built on confirming their own righteousness.  Jesus gave this example:

The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other people -greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.' Luke 18:11-12 (HCSB)

The Pharisee's very identity was based on the fact that he was not unrighteous.  His self-righteousness blinded him to the fact that he was not perfect (old-world sense).  He was still missing something.  As long as someone continues in self-righteous acts they will continue to be unmindful of who they really are.  Their awareness is only on what they do which serves to distract them from what God is trying to show them.  The self-righteous see that no change is needed. 

There is a concept in psychology about the change process called "precontemplation."   Those that are in this stage are not even aware that they have a problem.  This lack of awareness can be either through ignorance or through denial.  The Pharisees were the most learned spiritual leaders of Jesus' time.  They could not claim ignorance.   That would leave denial as the only option.  So they denied the need of a savior.  That is why Jesus confronted them.  Interestingly in the protocol for counselors working with a person in precontemplation is to get the person to reconsider their opinions, get them to be more self-aware, and point out the consequences of them continuing down the path they are headed.  This is exactly what Jesus was doing with the Pharisees of His day.  Hmmm... Jesus used motivational interviewing (maybe a future post). 

Self-righteousness ends in external hyper-religious unmindfulness (now there is a mouthful).  The cure is to humble yourself before God and allow His Holy Spirit to work on your heart and show you how to be filled.  Self-righteousness is starvation while feeling (or believing you are) full.  Now that is unmindful.

At the other end of the spectrum is casting off righteousness (the fool).  There are people that would just rather that there were not morals to follow.  Their ideal world would be one that suits their pleasure and engaged in the pleasuring of others so that we could have a utopia of pleasure.  Unfortunately such a place does not exist.  The result of such a pursuit is the darkening of one's mind. 

For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Romans 1:21-23 (HCSB)

Note that God has made Himself evident!  But they were not mindful of it and they did not seek His Righteousness so their thinking became nonsense (according to the wisdom of God).  Mindlessness begets mindlessness.  Foolishness begets foolishness.  As this process continues God gives them over to the darkness of their mind (Romans 1:26).  They become completely unaware of God (The fool says in his heart, "God does not exist. ;Psalms 14:1) or His righteousness.   Being a fool is starving while being unaware that the thing you are throwing away is food.  That last sentence should adequately illustrate the the lack of mindfulness in this state.   

Now having established what mindless hungering looks like let's look at what mindful hungering looks like? 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, 'God, turn Your wrath from me -a sinner!'  I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 18:13-14 (HCSB)

First, you have to be aware of yourself as God sees you.  That may seem like a difficult thing.  It is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit.   The good news is that God's Holy Spirit's ministry is to do just that.

When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment... John 16:8 (HCSB)

Notice the tax collector's awareness: "God" (righteousness), "Turn your wrath" (judgment), "a sinner" (sin).  This awareness is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  You have to be open to this process.  If you are not open then you risk quenching the Holy Spirit.  The root of this awareness is based in fear.  This is unpopular in our day and age.  We want to focus on Love of God (no doubt He is love), but the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7)", "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10)", "fear of the Lord prolongs life (Prov 10:27)", "In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (Prov 14:26)", "fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Prov 14:27)", and "one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord. (Prov 16:6)"

Notice that fear of the Lord leads to escape mindless hungering.  For the self-righteous there is in a moment an awareness of the righteousness of God and how "all our righteous acts are like a polluted  garment (Literally menstrual cloth; Isaiah 64:6)."  That kills the desire for self-righteousness and leads one into hungering for God's Righteousness.  For the fool there is an awareness of certain judgment if his/her state does not change (ie leading to repentance). 

Our tax collector had "fear of the Lord" and confessing his sin to God "went down to his house justified."  You see by cultivating a healthy fear (reverence, awe, respect) of God our attention is drawn to His Righteousness and we begin to hunger and thirst for it. 

Mindful hungering begins with fearful awareness of self as God sees you, reverent awareness of the righteousness of God, respectful awareness of God's judgment, leading to humbling and repentance, which then leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  In short, "God, turn Your wrath from me -a sinner!"  With this in place then the promise, "for they will be filled" can be fulfilled in your life. 

Lord we long to be mindful of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  We hunger and thirst for your righteousness.  Put the fear of the Lord in our hearts that we might not stray from Your path.  Envelop us with Your Love as You fill us with the righteousness of God.  Lead us into mindful awareness of You.  In Jesus Name AMEN