Do y'all get so tired of my asking you questions for my study benefit?
I hope not cause I'm about to ask you another one..
I'm working on a new series called, "So Long, Self......Saying Goodbye to the Flesh and Hello to the Spirit". And yes, I borrowed the beginning of the title from Mercy Me because that song captures the theme of this teaching.
I have a retreat I'm leading at the end of the month and I really thought I had my subject matter decided upon. Thing is, everytime I would begin to study, my spirit became unsettled and I could get no insight whatsoever. After much prayer and second-guessing of my discernment skillz, God has led me to teach on the last half of Romans 7 and the first half of 8. To say I am intimidated is an understatement. Today I've been buried in Boice and MacArthur commentaries as well as my beloved Greek/Hebrew Key Word Bible. I'll be robbing Luke's library at church tonight for an armload of references so that hopefully, just hopefully, I won't butcher this passage beyond any biblical recognition.
I have been so excited over my reading so far. I've always been fascinated with Paul's simple yet complex description of the war in our bodies with sin. Scholars hotly debate whether Paul is referring to himself in his previous unregenerate state, his state after he was first born again but not yet mature, or in his matured faith. Boice makes an excellent case for the latter. I really don't know why anyone would feel threatened in their Christianity by flat out admitting that we all experience spiritual inconsistency. Knowing the Apostle Paul, the greatest theologian of all times, struggled with feeling unholy before a perfect God encourages me. I need to know the same Spirit that rescued Him is the same one who will continue that perfecting work in me today.
So what I want to ask you today is this: Do you ever just get sick of yourself? Tired of making the same mistakes over and over? Feel defeated over an area of sin/temptation you just can't seem to master? Or conversely, is there an area of your life where the Holy Spirit has brought a great victory? Has he given you the strength to overcome bad decision-making, bitterness, or that situation where you saw no way out?
Y'all may want to stay anonymous on this one. In fact, I would encourage it because I really would love for you to feel free to be completely honest. Something that I have found to be overwhelmingly true is that many women have a secret life and hidden pains that we could scarce imagine if we tried. I have been in settings where girls I've never met have whispered in my ears their need to be free from drug addiction, lesbianism, hidden debt from their spouse, and even knowledge of heinous crimes. These weren't lost girls. These were church-going, choir-singing, Sunday-school-teaching women. I don't say this to dishonor them but to encourage you - you are not the only one who can find herself in a mess that she never imagined she could get into. We get to these places by feeding our desires and using our own logic and before we know it, Satan has taken us down a path of seemingly no return.
Well thanks be to Jesus who is our rescue. In the beginning of what Boice calls 'the greatest chapter in the Bible' we are told, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1) We do not have to live under a dark cloud of dread fearing that we've disappointed God one too many times for Him to ever be able to make use of our lives. I've gotten myself into some doozies, girls, but this one thing I know: He's only left me there long enough so I'll never want to go back. And in the meantime, He's helped me understand how others who may be walking the same road may be feeling so I can sympathize with them. It's the exact same reason He chose humanity over heaven. He didn't want to just know what we felt, He wanted to feel what we felt. We are not alone and Christ is not out to destroy us. His refining fire is simply a tool for burning down the sin-wall we place between us and Him which prevents us from looking Him in the eye and experiencing the full measure of His favor.
I know this post is a toughie but I've no doubt God will use your experiences for His glory if you'll only let Him. Again, do not feel like you have to share your names. If you do, I can assure you it will never be shared with any group to whom I minister.
Thank you for all you do to help me. Your insight is worth more than gold to me as I seek to work out the calling I feel God has placed on my life.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
So Long Self