Dying is Part of Living

Photo by Diane Loft
Photo by Diane Loft

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Romans 6:6, NLT

“There are two things which the Church needs: more death and more life— more death in order to live; more life in order to die.”

C.A. Fox

The need of this moment is critical. Many believers have never came to this point of ‘knowing.’ Maturity comes when one realizes that crucifixion has dealt with the old man. We died when He died, we were there when He died, we were part of that event. Romans 6 is all about a believers ‘co-crucifixion’ with Jesus Christ. Calvary was far more than a religious event— it was where our sin was terminated. It was more than just a penalty carried— it was where our old nature put to death.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

Sin has no power to sway a dead man. A man who is dead doesn’t respond to a girl in a leopard skin bikini. (It doesn’t matter if she is insanely gorgeous.) He no longer can be tempted to sin. Why?  Because he is dead. This is not an issue of semantics, it is not poetic interpretation of a metaphor. It rings true in heaven.

Sin should no longer remain in power of a believer’s life. We believe that our sins have been dealt with on the cross, that Jesus took our sins from us, bearing them as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ But the same is true to say, “My sinful nature was also crucified with him.”

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

John 12:24

The principle is from farming. A kernel of wheat will bring an abundance. But it must be buried first. The dead seed miraculously sprouts. At the moment of death it suddenly receives a new life. The dead seed grows into a bountiful harvest. This is the New Testament principle of dying to self. A few things:

  • we are not sinless— we must deal daily with the sinful part of us,
  • this must be taken by faith, much like anything else from God,
  • discipline aids our quest for holiness, 1 Tim. 4:8
  • fulfills the sacrament of water baptism, it’s a daily reckoning, Rom. 6:4,
  • temptations can be really strong, but He enables us,
  • this is a God honoring way to live.

Crucifixion should always be taken by faith in God’s Word and it will lead to resurrection. Crucifixion weakness is necessary for resurrection power. Jesus shares his life with us— his power is given to his people. He shares all that he is so we might become like him.

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

Romans 6:12-13

I’m convinced that as people with issues: physical and mental, we are given a gracious teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will never condemn our feeble efforts to be holy. Be encouraged: God makes the weakest of us strong.

 

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Killing My Sin, Before It Kills Me

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We are for the most part anyway, eager to please God. We are Jesus’ people with the occasional brush with sin. But hey, who doesn’t? But that attitude must be questioned.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”

1 John 2:1

John hopes that his readers would make a choice— not to commit sin. After all, what soldier goes into battle with the intent of getting just a little wounded? Often we will sin just because it seems so inevitable, and we feel we can’t help ourselves. (But the reality is that we can.)

But the Holy Spirit now lives inside. Cooperation with Him is needed. Often we will work ourselves into a ‘no win scenario’ where we believe that sin rules. We can’t beat it, so we stop trying. That is common, and sad.

‘Passivity’ is defined as not participating readily or actively; inactive. When we are passive spiritually, we disengage ourselves from any effort of living holy and pure lives. Not being ‘hot’, but content to be lukewarm. At this point sin becomes, reluctantly, tolerated. “After all, I’m a sinner, what else can I do?”

Mentally ill people are often passive. We are told that we have an uncontrolled illness which dictates that we act ‘irresponsible.’ Our depression often escalates and we feel victimized by it. My experience has taught me that there are three kinds of depression:

  • organic depression, or the ‘biochemistry’ of the disease,
  • guilty depression, the kind that feels bad because of what we’ve done (or didn’t do),
  • reactionary depression, the type we feel when experiencing a loss, a loved one, or a job

Depression will almost always fall in these three categories. And passivity plays a part in all three. We  frequently feel victimized and ‘acted upon.’ When it comes to our discipleship we don’t act, we react. We are utterly convinced of the Bible— God’s truth, but we are so sporadic we can’t seem to get it to work for any length of time.

Yes, we are believers. And yes, we have issues. We’re waiting for a miracle, and hope we get a breakthrough soon.

At the base point of our lives, quite often, there is a passive attitude. Passivity aggravates our depression or mental illness. It deepens, spreading through our lives like a contagious illness. Our discipleship sputters and stalls. We no longer act on God’s Word, but we find ourselves fabricating a faith that makes allowances for our situation.

But we must ‘act the miracle.’ Everything God gives… everything… must be received by a convinced faith. We must be persuaded to give up our flawed ideas, and believe God for the real thing. I opened up this with 1 John 2:1. But there’s much more to this verse:

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

I don’t want you to sin. Avoid sin. But even if you do— we have someone who will plead our case before God. He stands and argues our plight. He loves us that much.

 

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Battle Scars

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It is a bad habit to try to teach without personal knowledge. We can preach, but we do not possess. This is one of the occupational hazards of those of us in our profession. It seems to carry a horrible curse of spiritual sterility, that the wise believer ultimately sees.

It’s been 13 years since a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 was made. I believe I was BP in my teens. Life is a roller-coaster for me, up and down, with a twist or two along the way. I am now fairly aware at 56 that much of my earthly existence  has already been lived. Life can become such a grind. I’m tired and broken, and ready for eternity.

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Billy Bray (a bearer of an unfortunate name) was an illiterate Cornish evangelist in the 1850s. He was heard to pray this: “Lord, if any have to die this day, let it be me, for I am ready.” By faith, I do understand these sentiments. I am ready to go as well.

I love collecting good quotes. (I also have a site at http://www.CrossQuotes.org.) But here’s two more good ones:

“God buries His workmen but carries on His work.”   -Charles Wesley

“If we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a “wandering to find home,” why should we not look forward to the arrival?”  – C.S. Lewis

Sorry if I’m being maudlin. But the battle is so long, and it doesn’t ever let up, does it? We all can become weary after a while. What we need is to be ‘shut in’ with the Lord. The Word reminds us:

Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

 Acts 14:22

“Tribulations” are common, and each must battle through them. And without being melodramatic, we each must walk through the blazing furnace. But I can also boldly attest that there is more than enough grace for each of us. We just need to become desperate enough. (Which shouldn’t be too hard).

Armor is given. Wearing it means you’ll survive (and thrive) to see another day. Those who may suggest that the Christian life is a “bed of roses,” I would say that they haven’t read Ephesians 6. If there is no war, why would the Holy Spirit tell us to put it on?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” 

Eph. 6:10-11

We are starting to finally learn we must fall in love with Jesus. He receives us with a massive kind of love. And His mercy meets us at every doubtful corner. You have His Word on it. Simply ask Him to come to you. 

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Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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Call To All Sons

12624 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Hebrews 2:10, ESV

“God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory, so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.”

Hebrews 2:10, NCV

There is complexity embedded in this verse. But that shouldn’t stop us from understanding its scope and meaning, yet there is the compelling question.

How did Christ learn obedience through suffering when he was already perfect?

Christ was human and “tempted in all points as we are and yet perfect and without sin,” and thus Christ was sinless.  The humanity of Jesus can be seen throughout the gospels. He hungered, and he got thirsty. We see him very tired, and sleeping in the back of a boat in a storm, which reveals his humanity. However, “He committed no sin, neither was their deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

Only humans need to learn obedience. And everyone of us have faltered. Yet he didn’t. He had to learn, but He didn’t fail. As a man, He met every issue and every obstacle with a solid and a profound obedience. He learned how to obey, but without any failure, or fault.

In every person’s life, we are challenged to obey. There are so many twists and turns, and each of us has stumbled. It can be quite painful. We are also learning “obedience through our suffering.” It seems our own trials and suffering are the tutors teaching us about our Father, and His kingdom.

This thought, “bringing many sons to glory” is of significant consideration. It reveals the intent and purpose of Jesus coming and doing all of this. He wanted to open the doors for all those who come to salvation. In a direct way, His intention was to become our escort, or safeguard to make a way for us into the Presence.

The words, “many sons,” shows the breadth and width of His work. It is considerable. The idea of “sons” is just as astonishing. We are not slaves, forced to labor in the quarries or mines. We are sons and daughters, His own children. Eternity is too short of time, I suppose, for us to hold and occupy this kind of glory.

“They strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:22, NLT

Frozen

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The all-glorious Mr. Freeze

 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

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Walking With the Lord Jesus, [Humility]

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The subject and emphasis on is becoming obscure— “just like Jesus.” I suppose my main contention is this– our understanding of discipleship has too much “me, and not enough Him.” This can be a gentle error of a young believer.

When Jesus who was the fullness of God in bodily form came, He came as a lowly slave. We see Him stripping down, filling a basin, and scrubbing dirty feet. He actively made Himself a broken and humble servant. It was deliberate and conscious.

Read Philippians 2. It will blow you away!

I think we learn this from Him. The disciple never exceeds his master. He made it very clear that we were to follow Him in this. It’s processed by us when we are very firmly aware that the One who knows us. To be loved by Him is enough (or is it?)

Exceptional effort is made by the Holy Spirit to help us understand. There is a repeated thought given to us in various permutations. In one of my favorite verses King David, standing in front of God, and his people, declared,

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

1 Chronicles 29:14-15, NLT

“We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” This is the cheery assessment found in Ecclesiastes 1. This view irks us big time. Especially if we have invested so much in our wealth, gifts, experiences and accomplishments.

“Our days on earth are like grass;  like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.”

Psalm 103:15-16, NLT

In the New Testament, the emphasis is only stronger. Remember when James and John tried to get the corner on the authority and honor of being on “the right and left?” (My, but they were ambitious lads!)

“When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45, NLT

There are two certain issues here:

  • The first is authentic discipleship.
  • The second is a decided and eager servanthood.

Both ideas are often missing in our churches, and in our teaching. Somehow we are not communicating the real transferable concepts. Their simplicity evades us.

I intend to return to this fairly soon. Again, I appreciate any constructive criticism, your own thinking on this, and your prayers.

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The Inertia, [Apathy]

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“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.”

Helen Keller

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As I suffer with manic depression I have come to see that much grief comes not from mania, and not from the debilitating depression. These are both substantial, but my biggest issue has to do with the inertia that lies between these two poles. There is a paralysis– an apathy that immobilizes me. And this is as bad as any other state of mind.

“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.”

1 Kings 18:21

My passivity is disturbing, and bipolar disorder is as much of “detachment” as it is of extremes. I sit and stare, not able to motivate myself to get up and do something. I’m not really depressed, but nor am I manic– I’m just “there” unable to find energy to do anything. Life just rolls over me.

Perhaps the most deadly sin is this “faltering between two opinions?” We are content to just sit and watch with no commitment. We’re content to let things just roll on by as we sit in our inertia and passiveness. This is the part of my BP that scares me the most (or at least it should.)

If you suddenly went up in flames I wouldn’t stir. Yes, it would get my attention, but I probably wouldn’t do anything, (I’d probably just take notes for my book.)

Inertia is not just a part of a mental illness. It effects normal people as well, and there are degrees of it. The average person it seems will avoid making a real decisive decision at all costs. Inertia can be encountered in any church (ask a pastor who tries to get volunteers) or workplace.

In his day, Elijah cried out for a decision from the Israelite people. I have to believe he was disturbed not only by the idolatry– but by the passiveness of the bystanders. Their neutrality was a big issue.

Joshua would call out to a passive people these words:

“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15

I know my own heart, and I know my own spiritual paralysis. Rather than commit myself, I would rather settle down on a sofa and just let things happen. I’m quick to point out how those in the arena are doing it all wrong. I’m ready to criticize, but unwilling to volunteer.

Mental illness is filled with ordinary things, but often in the wrong proportions. When we do things it is extreme or not at all. My own apathy is just a mirror of what happens in the hearts of normal people.

I may be excessive, but my own issues have made me aware of what is happening in others.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

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