Table Scraps from the Sewer

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All of us have a God-created need for love, approval, acceptance, security, worth, meaning. Many or most of us grow up in circumstances which make us feel insecure, unloved, unaccepted.

Until we abide consistently in Christ, we all know we’re lacking something; we’re insecure. We attempt to fill that sense of lack with “I’m good at something” or “My dad is the CEO of Shell Oil” or “My wife or husband loves me” or “My children need me” or “If I can just win this Dove Award….” And so we give circumstances, the world system, and people the power to crush or crown.

Many use alcohol, drugs, and sex as a temporary anesthesia. If we’re not of that bent, we can still see the same tendency in ourselves – excessive television, video games, directionless web surfing, and the like. And then, after a mind-numbing respite, we run back to the restless search for worldly acceptance.

God says all of that world system of performance-based acceptance is a sewer. Paul considered his former life of gaining approval, acceptance, worth, security, and meaning from the praise of men as dung. Feces. Human waste. Crap. On the Damascus road God exploded the serpentine spell that had enchanted Saul’s mind, and as his rear hit the ground Paul realized he’d been trying to get Life by feeding on raw sewage.

That infinite hunger in us has a big sign on it: “God Only.” “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me…he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Jesus wants us to nourish ourselves with Himself, by His Spirit, by His view of us, not by chasing after worldly approval. His Word says that His Blood-bought people are new creations, accepted, loved, that we no longer live but Christ lives in us, that we are dead to sin, dead to Law (dead to having to exert our own strength to ‘be like Christ’), alive to God, slaves of righteousness, holy, full of infinite worth because the Worthy One lives in us.

The human race is hungry for what Jesus Christ alone can supply. “All the full-ness of the Deity lives in Christ in bodily form – and you are complete in Him.” One translation I have says, “And you, by your union with Him, are also filled with it.” “If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” That’s real Food and real Water – the Triune God coming to live within a man or woman.

What we’re looking for, to the last drop and crumb, is already inside us in Christ: “In Him we have everything (everything!) we need for life and godliness.” “He that believes on Me, rivers of living water shall flow from his inmost being.” When we begin to find that better way of resting in total reliance on Christ, our Kingdom life begins here and now in earnest. Power – passion – purpose – and real food and drink.

Profile photo of Ron Block

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


7 Comments

  1. Jennifer Davis

    How do you believe this process takes place? By making the decision to let Christ live through us and surrendering it all to the Lord? So we can then become a cup/vessel for him?
    Another awesome insight…I really enjoy reading your thoughts, puts a lot into perspective from me…I’m now an official junkie =) I get on here and read your posts each day.
    Blessings,
    Jenny

  2. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jenny,

    We have to truly see the sewer for what it is. Often that means a long period of trying to “suck in” from the world and build ourselves up that way, and then an eventual crash as we realize it doesn’t work. Paul did this prior to conversion, and in one split second as he was blinded by the light of the Lord Jesus Christ he saw his whole life for what it was – a charade – an illusion – a hypocritical mask – a human self trying to operate “on its own” and perform God’s Law, but really being operated by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” (apeithia, literally, ‘the unconvinced’). In that moment of blinding revelation Saul died – that Christ-persecuting Pharisee – and the Apostle Paul was born, the Apostle who protected the Church from the sewer of legalism and performance-based salvation and sanctification, and rescued it from those who would mix Law and Grace (“trust Jesus, yes, but then you’ve got to work hard to measure up to the Law”). Paul preached a message of reliance on Christ alone which dovetails perfectly with Jesus’ statements on abiding in Him, being a branch that bears fruit not by effort but by resting, remaining, trusting in the Vine.

    The first step to gaining a consciousness of abiding is to simply ask God to work His will in our lives no matter what the cost, to make our lives a fruitful offering that will advance His Kingdom no matter what that bodes for our present status quo. That was the first step in my process of learning to abide on a more consistent basis, which began in 1991 after I joined Alison K and U S; I prayed a Tozer prayer, “Lord, work your will in my life no matter what the cost.” The cost for the next few years, and even scattered throughout the last few years, has seemed high at the time but the payoff is big – increased ministry, increased ability to speak life to people, increased spiritual power – God increases the expression of His Spirit in and through us as we open ourselves up to Him to change what needs changing.

    The second step, something God taught me through circumstances, is that I am not meant to be a Something. I was never created to “be good” by my own motive power. In relationship to God, I am the zero, and He is the Infinite. I am the cup, and He’s the Wine. I’m the slave; He’s the Master. I’m the branch, and He’s the Vine. This idea of our zero-ness is crucial to maintaining a humble attitude; when I begin to pat myself on the back for doing something good (as Lewis said, “What an excellent fellow I must be to have done it!”), I am losing my grasp on my zero-ness. I can be thankful that God uses me, and I can be bold in that, but it is dangerous to take the Glory from the God who expresses Himself by us – that’s Lucifer’s sin.

    Zero-ness. When I am weak (in my humanity, recognizing I’m just a cup), then I am strong (in Him).

    And then, of course, once that foundation is laid, we find our true strength – which is a growing awareness of Christ living in us, through us – as us. At first sporadically, then, as we learn to trust and let go of thinking “I’ve got to do it”, He lives more and more consistently. When I trust Him to live through me, He lives. When I trust my own ways and means of coping, my own seeing – I sin. That’s why Blood-washed, Christ-indwelt humans sin; that’s the Romans 7 experience. Righteous living (Christ loving through us) happens as we move into Romans 8 (me-no-longer-just-me – but Christ in me) and then into 9 (me-for-others, which is God’s nature expressed through us). I find that through being a slave to God, a branch in the Vine, I am a son. A king. Holy. Righteous. I begin to find my armor – and my weapons – and then really begin to fight for the advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

    It all starts with dissatisfaction with the Sewer. The world has no other way, until Christ is found, and has to be content with it; like the Dwarves in Lewis’s The Last Battle, the world “won’t be taken in” and sees the real, nourishing, kingly Food and Drink of Christ’s Body and Blood as stable rubbish, thistle, and donkey dung.

    But believers – the Christ-indwelt – God has to sometimes allow us to look in the Sewer for Life, like catching a pre-teen smoking and then making him smoke half the pack till he’s sick. But sooner or later we cry out for real food and drink. “Before they call, I will answer.”

    Best,
    Ron

  3. Jennifer Davis

    I agree with what you’ve said…Thanks for your insight. I think it takes some longer than others to realize their zero-ness and their dissatisfaction, but that’s how God is able to use us all differently for many other callings. I really feel that this has filled a gap in my heart, life and salvation. I am saved and I love the Lord, but knew there was more…and now I feel like I am full and have the tools to maintain it.
    As I listen to your music, it’s so awesome to hear so many of your beliefs, that you’ve been able to place into your songs.
    Take care,
    Jenny

  4. Molly

    Thanks, yet again, Ron. I really appreciate the kindredness of spirit I find in your posts and your music…. I just wish it wasn’t so doggonned easy to find myself in the sewer by the end of the day just because I get tired–does it ever get easier?? And it’s not like I’m a new believer. My faith has been mine since I was in college almost 30 years ago. (It was distressing to realize that Heath Ledger was born the year I graduated from High School! 🙂 )

  5. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Molly,

    A rapidly growing awareness of who we are in Christ keeps us from mucking around in the sewer too often. The sewer is the lifestyle of Romans 7 – a Christian trying to be something, rather than realizing, “If a man thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Romans 7 is a deception we are stuck in until we cry out to God in the knowledge of our total inability to be “like Christ.” “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?” And of course, the answer is Christ. As we find our real identity in Him, and give up on our false identities (often having our hands smashed if we hold too tightly to them), we find ourselves less and less in the sewer.

    Think of it like this – if I know I am complete, whole in Christ, that in Him I have everything (everything!) I need for both life and godliness, I don’t really need anything else. I don’t need to go leeching around for approval and acceptance if I have an infinite supply.

    But until we rely on the Supply, we leech. And even then, occasionally we fall back into it for short visits to remind us of our cup-ness, our zero-ness, and God’s total Answer. We’re to see through the fog of this world and see the Unseen. I read this morning where Paul said, “We must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ” and “Therefore we make it our goal to please Him.” And we please Him how? By faith – reliance – trust. We trust – He works in and through us, and keeps us from the sewer.

  6. Molly

    Amen. And even as I hit submit last night and thought about what we’ve been discussing, I realized that it’s all in how I read Phil. 4:13 ….. am I emphasizing the doing all things or the through Christ ??!

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