Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Faith Informs Awareness and Action

have a little faith in me Image by Lydia Elle via Flickr

This will probably be my last post on the topic of mindfulness for a while.  it has been an interesting topic to explore and write about.  I hope that you have been encouraged as I have from the insights in God's word. 

But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
Matthew 24:43 (NKJV)

This may seem an odd verse to end on for mindfulness.  However, I believe it points to the contrast of being unmindful.  If we are aware that something bad could or will happen then we will take action to do something about it.  It is this awareness that leads to action.  Jesus goes on to say:

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Matthew 24:44 (NKJV)

As Christian's our faith is in the person Jesus Christ God's one and only begotten son.  Jesus used the title "Son of Man" as a reference to Himself.  So Jesus is telling us that some day He will return.  He also is telling us to live in a state of readiness for that very return.  Our faith in Christ informs our awareness in spiritual  and life matters.  This is not limited to our faith in His return or our eventual resting place with him, but this ought to be central in our consideration.  This faith awareness is the root of Christian mindfulness. 

From this mindfulness proceeds some sort of activity.  Faith without action is like telling stomach without food be filled and expecting relief. 

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you don't give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn't have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.
James 2:15-18 (HCSB)

Becoming aware will ultimately lead to some sort of conviction (by the Holy Spirit).  That conviction will require some action if it is to be followed.  Being mindfully aware of yourself and the world around you may bring some state of bliss or pleasure, but without a change that plays out in your daily walk it is not very useful.  Mindfulness without some corresponding response seems hedonistic in my estimation.  It is seeking pleasure over right living (righteousness).  Mindfulness may bring a sense of transcendence and peace, but if it does not bring you into a right relationship with God then it is not true Christian Mindfulness. 

God Bless You all!

 

Next Topic Marriage Relationships

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Setting Your Mind on the Spirit

For those of you who have been following this I must apologize for the delay in getting this post out.  I have had many things to attend to that seem to be now resolved to a certain extent.  So I am now able to return to writing. 

Romans 8 is one of the most powerful chapters in proclaiming our spiritual victory found in Christ.  In Chapter 7 Paul discusses the futility of willing yourself into victory.  Willpower does not save.  If willpower was all that was needed then the message of the Cross is pointless.  When the will is set on the Spirit (Spirit mindedness) then the Spirit's power is set forth to do it's work in the life of a believer. 

After repentance (Dying to self and turning to Christ) then one must accept the truth that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  So often we tend to get our spiritual cleaning and then go back to the works of the law.  Or continue to beat ourselves for past sin.  The removal of guilt is complete.  That is not to say that you will not experience consequences of sin (sometimes life long).  But it does mean that you are free spiritually.  Your freedom is an accomplished work that Christ did for you on the Cross. 

At this moment of spiritual freedom you have some choices on what you are going to focus on.  Walking in the Spirit, living in accord with the Spirit, mindset on the Spirit, Crying out in the Spirit, groaning in the Spirit, Hoping in the Spirit, Waiting in the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit are all disciplines that lead to greater and greater Spirit mindedness.  There is considerable overlap between these disciplines. 

What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin's domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law's requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-5 (HCSB)

"Walking according the the Spirit" and "living according the the Spirit" is an intentional change from doing what feels good (in the moment) to falling under the direction of God's Holy Spirit.  This is not the same as willing to be obedient to God's Law, but rather it is choosing to follow His Spirit to be in accord with God's plan for your life.   There is a slang expression "I am down with that."  In some sense we as Christians are to be "down with the Holy Spirit."  We (with our will) are in agreement with His direction for us.  That is walking according the the Spirit.  Our walking and our lives are with the Holy Spirit!

For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so.
Romans 8:6-7 (HCSB)

Part of the act of the will in being in accord with the Sprit has to do with where your mind is set.  There is a contrast between a person that has their mind set on the flesh and their mind set on the Spirit.  This is a very important distinction.  I am convinced that as long as a person continues to think about sin either in terms of avoiding it or indulging it the mind continues to be set on the flesh.  Did you catch that?  You can be desiring a good thing (avoiding some particular sin) and still have a mind set on the flesh (remember Romans 7).  There is a need to set our minds on the Spirit of God.  Our ultimate life and peace come from this act.  Think over the times of spiritual victory in your life and you will find that they did not come from working harder to avoid sin, but rather when you were able to set your mind on the things of God.  The opposite is also true.  Think about the times of spiritual defeat.  You were no matter how hard you tired not to unable to beat the sin because it was on your mind.  Having the right mind-set is vital to a Spirit filled life.  Where is your mind set?

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father!"
Romans 8:15 (HCSB)

When we come to Christ as our savior then we receive the Holy Spirit as evidence that we have been "adopted" into God's family.  It is by this Spirit that we are able to call God our daddy and father.  There are times in life that we just need a daddy to get us through the moment.  To pick us up dust of our pants and let us know He is right there with us holding us up with His strong arms.  It is through Spirit mindedness that we can experience this spiritual hug from God.  Go ahead cry out to Him.  He loves to hug His children!

And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits -we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:23 (HCSB)

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.
Romans 8:26 (HCSB)

There are times when all that we can let out is a groan.  For the Christian there is a groan of desperation and hopelessness (Groaning in the flesh?) and there is a groaning in and by the Spirit.  The groaning in the Spirit come from the realization that this is not our final resting place.  We long to be with God in total.  We desire the day when we will be able to shed this sinful flesh and be fully redeemed and with God.  There also is a groaning that is done by the Spirit Himself.  He groans a prayer over our groaning of weakness.  This type of groaning is actually a prayer.  Praying in the Spirit is a prayer of speechlessness for ourselves, but the words of the Spirit are powerful.  If you have never prayed according the the Spirit in this way I encourage you to get quiet before the Lord acknowledge your weakness and let the Spirit do the rest.  The key is that it is the Spirit's work because of our weakness and not something that you do in yourself!  The prayer in the Spirit is powerful.  Prayer without the Spirit is just a list of things that you want God to do.  God always answers the first prayer, but the latter He may or may not.  These verses explain was praying in the Spirit is answered.

And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:27 (HCSB)

When we pray in the Spirit and the Spirit groans on our behalf then we get a perfect prayer that is according to the will of God.  This takes discipline and it certainly takes sensitivity to the Spirit's leading, but it can transform your life of prayer. 

There are many more disciplines that lead to Spirit Mindedness, but I believe that this is a good start.  One thing before a end this post.  My worst fear is that you would take my words to be something.  In reality they are nothing.  They are less than nothing compared to the surpassing value of God's word.  I ask you with the greatest of urgency and sincerity to examine His word.  In this case specifically Romans 8.  Before during and after your reading of Romans 8 ask that God would give you Spiritual understanding and wisdom.  It does not come from me nor can I replace His Spirit.  May the God of all creation and savior of our souls grant you the wisdom of the ages!

God Bless You!

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Battle of Two Natures?

22/365 : The Path Image by ~jjjohn~ via FlickrThere is a danger when committing to be a slave of righteousness that you can fall back into being a slave to the law.  That is why Paul addresses this issue in Romans chapter 7.  Being a slave to the law is not the same as being a slave to righteousness.  In Romans 7 and 8 we learn that there are three laws: The Law of God, The Law of sin and Spirit's Law of life in Christ Jesus

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Romans 7:25 (HCSB)

because the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 8:2 (HCSB)

For the Christian we are called to die to the Law of sin, be released from the requirements of God's Law, and live according to the Spirit's Law of life. 

Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the [crucified] body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another-to Him who was raised from the dead-that we may bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.
Romans 7:4-6 (HCSB)

Until we are with our Lord in heaven we live in this in between state where the Law of God and the Law of sin continue to operate in our lives and the Spirit's Law of life is not yet fully realized.  The Law of God is useful in pointing out sin.  It lets us know what God's expectations are for us.  However, it is powerless to change our lives.  The Law of sin continues to operate in our flesh leading to unholy desires.  If we do not die to this then sin is closer to our lives than is righteousness.

I used to believe that Romans 7 was the normal Christian life.  In this Chapter especially verses 13-25 Paul is describing a struggle.  On a casual reading it seems like the classic battle between good and evil with the desire to do good, but evil winning out in some way.    I would read this passage and say something like, "Wow that describes my experience.  I want to please God, but sin is always right there with me."  Then one day I was reading a commentary that said that Paul was not describing normal Christian experience, but was either describing a carnal Christian or his preconversion experience.  I reread Roman's 7 and my understanding and my spiritual walk where radically changed. 

Let me walk you through what I have learned about Romans 7. I grew up being taught from the pulpit that there is a perpetual struggle between the old nature and the new nature that continues in the Christian life. The primary text supporting that belief was Romans 7. There are others no doubt Hebrews 12:4 comes to mind. My point is not to debate that Christians struggle clearly we do. I am also not suggesting that somehow I have become perfect. I do fall, but I get up and press on as I am sure many who read this post do.

Back to Romans 7. I looked through the context, word by word, and then back at the passage as a whole. I compared it to other passages that talk about our victory in Christ. I discovered that the reason I was struggling was that I was holding onto a belief that it was normal or that it was God's plan for me to struggle. Delving in deeper I discovered that Paul in fact does not describe two natures in Chapter 7, but rather a battle between the mind (or will, wanting to do good) and the body(flesh under sin's power).  Verse 14 "For I understand what I am doing is wrong (mind)" "I do not practice (body)" "What I want to do (will)" "I agree the law is good (Mind)" "So I no longer am doing (Mind/wills inability to overcome sin)" Skiping to v 21 "I want to do good (will)" "My inner self or man I joyfully agree with God's law (The inner self is soul which is the seat of the will)"

Verse 24 now makes the profound statement "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me?" Why is he wretched? Because no matter how much he wants it, his will/mind/soul cannot save him! "Thanks be Jesus Christ our Lord" he then makes this statement "with my mind(soul/will) I am a slave to the law of God, but with my body to the law of sin" That the body is a slave to the law of sin we agree on or at least most would agree. But the statement that the mind is a Slave to the Law of God is confusing especially since Paul says earlier In verse 6 "But now we have been released from the law."

How can I be both released from the Law and a slave to the law? Well the answer is you are not. Finish reading verse 6 "since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law." Notice that the new nature is Spirit and not mind, will, nor soul. In Romans 7 Paul does not talk about a Spiritual struggle other than to say the Law is Spiritual and he is not.

So how does this apply to Spirit Mindedness? 

In a previous post I have described mindlessness.  Roman's 7 is Spirit Mindlessness.  In this state your mind is either set on the desire to to good (legalism) or you mind is set on gratifying the flesh (carnal mind).  Neither of these mental states are Spirit Minded.  Sometimes in our walk with God we get stuck in this state of double mindedness between the desire to do good and the power of sin to overwhelm the flesh and ensure that we do not.  We become grieved to the point of breaking and wonder if there is really any hope at all.  It is at this point that we can earnestly agree with Paul, "What at wretched man I am."  I think the point is that we have to recognize this Spiritual Mindlessness so that we can get out of this state. 

The first step in getting out of this state is to repent.  Repentance has two parts.  First dying to sin which I have covered in the previous two posts ("Dying to Sin", "Whose your master?").  The second part is turning to Christ.

Who will rescue me from this dying body? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 
Romans 7:24b-25a (HCSB)

Once you turn to Christ there is another step to staying on the path to Spirit Mindedness.  You have to meditate on this truth until it becomes the very essence of your thought life.

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 8:1-2 (HCSB)

If you can hold this truth as a light to your daily life then you will be well on your way to Spirit Mindedness.  We have to recognize that when we die to sin and live for Christ that we are free from condemnation.  When we return to condemnation then we are slipping back into Romans Chapter 7.  We have to choose to live where there is no condemnation.  If we choose instead to live in the battle of will versus flesh then there is only one conclusion "what a wretched man I am."  It is only when we recognize the Spiritual truth that "no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus" that we are truly free!  To continue in this state we have to be persistent in setting our mind on the Spirit of God (Spirit Mindedness).  There are many more aspects to Spirit Mindedness in Romans 8 that I will cover in future posts.  But for now will you consider dying to sin and turn your mind to the "Spirit's Law of life in Christ Jesus"? 

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whose Your Master?

We are all slaves to something.  Whether you like to admit it or not we do submit to something in this life.  For some it is a person, others an ideal or principle, some a religion, and others a deity.  Regardless we all submit to something.  Even anarchists submit to a principle that the state is undesirable and become slaves to that principle.  The problem is that humanity with all it philosophies and practices is subject to sin.  Sin is missing the mark as far as God is concerned.  That means that the highest ideal that humanity can come up with the highest ethics that we can imagine still fall short of God's measure.  In this way all ways of men are subject to sin.  Humanity is in bondage to sin.  Being in bondage is synonymous with being a slave.  Being a slave to sin is the same as serving the devil. 

There is something that masters your heart.  What is it?  In Romans 6:15-23 Paul describes how we are to be slaves to righteousness.  When we come to Christ we have the freedom to choose what will be our master.  If we choose sin then we are telling God that we do not want Him to be Lord of our life.  We are rejecting the freedom that is found in him.  Instead we are choosing sin and the implications that come from choosing sin. 

For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23a (HCSB)

It is a strange thing to talk of wages in the context of slavery. Yet if we choose sin then we are choosing death.  What is more a person that continually chooses sin (without repentance) provides evidence that they are not saved. 

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:7-10 (NASB)

Making sin a practice of your life proves who is your master (the devil).  The end result is death.  God want to give life.  His Spirit is life to the Believer that His Spirit dwells in.  However, God must be Lord of your life and you must commit to being a slave of righteousness if you are to have hope of life free from sin.   In other words it is not enough to merely live your life avoiding sin, one must determine to allow God's Spirit to have hold of and direct your every day.  Otherwise you have the deception of being in control of your life, but in reality you are still a slave to sin.  More on this in my next post. 

 Text of poem here

God Bless You.

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