Almost Holy, [Almost]

failure-collapse

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

I hesitate to tell you this, but I have not found any secrets to becoming a holy person.

To be sure, I wish I figured this out. I would very much like to come to you with the secret formula. Sometimes I want to just make things up, just to alleviate your trials and strivings. I would easily latch on this idea of a “magic wand.” I think it would be good; and maybe not.

But the authentic Christian life is hardly formulaic. It seems to defy any attempt to explain, and then guide anyone else into that special place of true obedience or holiness. I’m supposing that you are just like me. I truly want to be right. I would love to be holy. But it ain’t happening. I always seem to end up back in the place I started from. Always, defeat and simple failure. Rats!

I’ve always been mystified by the conundrum of Romans 7. I really want 8, but I’ll settle for 6. Romans 7 has been in limbo for a very long time. I don’t really know what to do with it. (I honestly avoid it, after all chapter 8 is so good!) But way deep down, I have a real strong sense I’m missing something very important.

I suppose it might be compared to making a really good ‘discipleship smoothie.’ Of course we must add to our blender Rom. 8. And many would add Rom. 6. However, a lot of us would hesitate to include Rom. 7, we’re not really sure why. Quite a few commentaries also hesitate. Many good teachers and preachers regard chapter 7 as parenthetical. They suggest that Paul is describing his life before coming to Christ, and certainly not in a ‘present-tense’ discipleship.

When I look at the Gospels, I see, across the board that those– the healed, forgiven, cleansed and made whole were always the desperate. They have nothing, they bring nothing– they meet no requirement, but pure poverty. They are the “zeroes.” (Maybe– even the negative numbers?)

I don’t believe, at this point anyway, that there is a singular principle of sanctification. Perhaps we can truly do nothing in precise alignment. There is no such thing as a “microwavable discipleship,” and no real instant breakfasts. We truly come with a desperate faith– and we will end up with just a desperate faith. This should be incredibly humbling to us all. It takes a long time to learn humility it seems.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am!”

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

Please (someone?– anyone?!) challenge me on this. I tell you, chapter 7 chafes, and then “disrupts” me. Will I always be so misaligned and “out-of-step?” Or am I just a lousy excuse for a Christian disciple? If I’m out of line and screwed up; please let me know. But whatever dear one, don’t give up– “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68.)

_______

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”

–Mike Yaconelli

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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About Pastor Bryan Lowe

A repentant rascal with definite issues, but who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher. A brain tumor survivor. Diagnosed with clinical depression, epilepsy, and now disabled. Enjoys life, such as it is, in Alaska.
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6 Responses to Almost Holy, [Almost]

  1. tameasa says:

    As I read this, and identified with it, God brought to my mind Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

    He is still working in each of us, refining, changing…SANCTIFYING. Thank you, Bryan, for being authentic and showing me that I can be, as well.

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  2. Pingback: Everything is Broken | Broken Believers ♥

  3. tannngl says:

    I’d like to share something I read this morning before reading your post here:

    http://contentz.mkt4731.com/mson/2013/09/29/Y3XrDzm2Bsmt/index.html
    Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

    From Mere Christianity
    Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

    I have had trouble with this passage too. We are not to sin, to be ‘holy’. Yet, Pauls seems to say he cannot. And I know I cannot.

    It helps to know that in faith at least I KNOW when I have sinned. Before faith I didn’t even know I was sinning, not even enough to be sorry for it.

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  4. Margaret says:

    It’s all Grace !! We, as people of Faith, are all forgiven children of God. Martin Luther says that we are Saint and sinner at the same time. Because we live in an imperfect, broken world, each day is a struggle. We yearn to follow Christ’s example, and we can easily fail at doing that. However, God loves us anyway. Christ lived the perfect life – for us – We don’t have to, in order to be called Christians. We are Christians because of Christ’s sacrifice.

    I have a banner that says, ” I’m OK. God doesn’t make junk. ”

    Live in His GRACE.

    Margaret

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  5. mary says:

    LOL! Bryan, I love you. This is indeed what we always ask…if God is so able, then why are we so, well, DUH and slow and unable to grow beyond some imaginary line of “being a good disciple”? I think you’re spot-on; it is the struggle that is the work. Even Paul says above, “With my mind i serve the law of God but with my flesh i serve the law of sin.” did he mean this whole thing just DOES NOT WORK? wasn’t he the heavy hitter, the big guy? (tho not a “superapostle,” as he made clear in 2 corinthians!)…so if he is such a loser, then maybe indeed, “loserness” is “winnerness” in the kingdom: it IS the Kingdom Way! “For the power of paradox opens our eyes and blinds those who say they can see.” Michael Card

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  6. I wish I could challenge you on it. I have often wondered the same thing about myself. I know Jesus, I have trusted Him as Saviour, I hear His voice and yet my progressive sanctification seems less than progressive. SIGH. Thank you for posting this. I encourage us, all of us who think or feel this way, to pray for one another. God bless. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

    15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

    16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

    17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

    18 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.

    19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

    20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

    21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

    22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

    23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

    25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7 KJV

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