Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whom are you trying to punish?

I’ve had a question rumbling around in my spirit for a couple of weeks now.  It hit me while trying to help a friend through a trying situation, but it has personally convicted me to my bones.  The conviction is not for my actions, but for my thoughts… my attitude… my heart.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the overwhelming significance of humility is evident.  As a Sunday school class, we recently read Chapter 2 aloud then listed every word and phrase in the chapter that emphasized humility in Christ, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Nearly every single verse of the chapter points toward humility and gives example for its demonstration in our own lives.

The convicting question continued to interrupt my thoughts.  As our class discussed humility and what it means to empty ourselves – pour ourselves out like a drink offering – and allow the power of Christ to complete us into becoming who He created us to be, the question flew into my head one more time.  Then it came out of my mouth, addressing myself as much as anyone:  “Whom are you trying to punish?” 

Does anyone besides me, in their struggle toward humility…
  • in considering others as more important than themselves (Phil 2:3),
  • in having the attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5),
  • in doing all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil 2:14), and
  • in proving themselves blameless and innocent (Phil 2:15)
battle feelings of revenge when they feel wronged by another? 

Honestly.  I’m completely comfortable showing humility to those that I respect and agree with, but how do I relate with those who have wounded my heart or hurt me in ways that bring lingering pain?  Personally, I fight the fleshly desire to take things into my own hands, and handle matters as I believe just and correct.  Instead of waiting on and trusting the Lord, I have an urge, almost a need, to deal with those who have hurt me by carefully aiming both barrels.  Oh, how I hate to confess this truth!

I am confident that others share these same ugly struggles and concerns.  I leave you this week with a request to consider the following questions for yourself:  Whom are you trying to punish?  Why do you wish to punish them?  How have you acted on such desires?  How do you believe that the incarnate Christ would have acted if He were in your exact situation?  After reading Philippians Chapter 2, how would Paul have behaved?  Or Timothy?  Or Epaphroditus?   

I’ll post again soon and look at God’s instruction on how to deal with such matters in ways that are pleasing and honoring to him.  I cherish your prayers as I continue to dig into His Word.  I'll pray for you as you search for answers, too.

"You shall not take vengeance,
nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; 
I am the LORD."  (Leviticus 19:18 NASB)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Just as He Created

I remember an old T-shirt with the saying, “Please be patient.  God is not finished with me yet.”  I love the spirit of this message and the realization that the Lord continues, throughout our lives, to complete the exact design that He intended for each of us as His created children.    

I can’t put my finger on the exact time when, as a society, we stopped desiring spiritual growth and allowed the word of our day to become “tolerance.”  At some point, we (yes, we Christians) became those who feel entitled.  We recite the words, “to thine own self be true,” demand our personal rights and expect others to tolerate and accept us with all of our blatant imperfections.  Somehow, we consider ourselves “good enough” precisely as we are and accept the deception that we behave just as God created us to be.  It is almost as if we believe that the Lord finished molding us into His likeness and took His hands off the clay on the potter’s wheel. 

Once upon a time, it seemed folks realized that life consists of a process of spiritual growth and developing strength through reliance on God.  Most Christians recognized their need for continual improvement and transformation into the likeness of Christ.  In the past, I believe that we did more self-examination and less justifying.  We listened more and explained ourselves less.  Rather than stubbornly sticking to our guns, we tried to see things through the other person’s perspective and made an honest effort to meet them half way.  Now we seem to come at each other with the mindset of “accept me as I am, or you’re outta here.”    

The problem with this attitude is that it is not Biblical.  Throughout his writings, the apostle Paul taught that we should put to death the things of the flesh, pour ourselves out like a drink offering, and put on the attitude of Christ.  Paul used expressions like “put off” and “put on” to show the importance of purposeful, deliberate action when we trade our fleshly wants and desires for the attitudes and actions that resemble those of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Apostle taught us to empty ourselves in humble service to Christ and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us.

Only by setting aside the traits to which we so selfishly cling and recognizing that without Christ, there is nothing good in us, can we begin to become who He created us to be.  His work in us is ongoing.  The transformation is continual.  Our metamorphosis will not reach completion until He calls us home.  We cannot serve Him as He desires, or resemble Him as He instructs, until we lay down our personal identity and fully surrender to Him.  We must give up “who we are” and allow the power of His Spirit to perform its work in us.  When we walk in full surrender, only then, can we become who He created each of us to be.  

"As you therefore have received Chris Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him, and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."  Colossians 2:6-7