Sacrificing Sacred Cows If Necessary

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In my morning Bible reading I just came to Acts 17. Some of the Thessalonican Jews refused to believe Paul, gathered together, and complained to the authorities that Paul and his converts had “turned the world upside down.” A few verses later, Luke states that the Jews in Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” C.H. Reiu’s translation says, “…to verify this new interpretation.”

What is this “nobility” of the Berean Jews?

In a word, humility.

They realized they could be wrong. They recognized the possibility they could have been taught error, knew that their perception of Scripture might be only partly correct. They knew human perceptions and traditions sometimes get in the way of rightly perceiving the heart, the ways, and the words of God. And they bowed to the God of the Word rather than worshiping their perception of the Word.

For many, especially those like me who grew up going to church and reading Bibles, we build a theological superstructure inside our brains that interprets Scripture automatically for us. This means this and that means that – and we read the Bible through in 2002, ripping through it without stopping to ask ourselves the relevant questions: “Am I wrong? Could I have been taught wrongly? What does this passage actually say in a literal sense? And if I take it literally, does that shake up my current paradigm?” Instead, we often go with what seems safe – the interpretations of others.

Don’t take me the wrong way. Part of humility is in listening to the interpretations of others. Luther. Calvin. C.S. Lewis. Our pastors. These are people who have studied diligently and should be heard, and they help balance us out. But we need our theological frameworks broken apart once in awhile, and we need to be humble enough to take it. God will shake what can be shaken, so that which cannot be shaken will remain.

The Bible is a many-layered document; as we age and read it continually with humility it gets deeper and deeper. We need to be Bereans, hearing a new interpretation and then checking it out ourselves with the Word on a daily basis. And that also means being Bereans with the old interpretations as well, even if Luther or Calvin or ______ (insert favorite author) said it.

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.


39 Comments

  1. Chris R

    Amen. It is so easy to fall into a way of reading that doesnt really read, that simply hears past sermons about the passage as I read it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Joshua Keel

    Ron, these are timely thoughts. When my church met yesterday, one of our elders preached about humility, and I was deeply struck with the lack of it I found in my life, particularly in relationships. This is the passage that we went over yesterday:

    ‘All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ – 1 Peter 5-7

    Quite challenging for me, and it was great to wake up this morning and be reminded of that by you, Ron.

  3. Stacy Grubb

    Josh,

    There have often been times in my life when I can literally see how God is using other people to get my attention. Some people may call it irony, but I don’t believe Christ works through ironic circumstances. Every situation has its purpose and reason and He orchestrated it just so. How could I need further proof that God knows me and takes care of me? It is a real reminder of my personal relationship with God!

    Stacy

  4. Stacy Grubb

    Ron,

    Like you, I grew up reading from my Bible and being taught the stories within it. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that the Bible is more than just Genesis to Revelation. Truly, when you don’t approach the Bible like you already know its beginning, its end, and all its meanings…you open up a new world of understanding. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to really see these “characters” in the Bible as actual and literal human beings. That has made me grasp the stories of their lives on a much higher level. I’m getting that they had to make decisions that tested their faith. They had to struggle with these decisions. They had to trust God and, just like me, that didn’t always come easily. They were rewarded. They were punished. They were victorious. They were defeated. They had lives. They were examples of what not to be; examples of what to be; and examples of what we still are this very day.

    It sometimes seems almost overwhelming because I think it’s our human nature to want to get something “solved” and move onto the next thing. With so many layers, the Bible seems an impossible puzzle if you approach it with the mindset of figuring it out. Shaking off that desire to Label it, File it, and Store it away can be challenging because, while it’s important that we remember how a certain passage applied to a certain situation, we also need to be aware that it can apply to something else entirely. It’s almost like needing to remember, yet forget.

    Stacy

  5. Tony Heringer

    Ron,

    Thanks for the good word on the Word. I found the advice of Fee and Stuart in their book “How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth” most helpful with this particular topic. First, they advise to always exegete the text — not just when it is problematic. That seems to be Berean as those folks were eager to receive a good word from someone, but also careful to compare it to the Scriptures. That balance of being willing to hear someone, but not being gullible to just take them at their word leads to Fee & Stuart’s point of always consulting good commentaries last in the process. That way, I’m not just taking my thought on the passage, but I’m considering the input of godly teachers.

    To always approach the text fresh is difficult, but if I think if we school ourselves in proper hermeneutics and lean on the Spirit to support our search, we’ll be alright. I’ve always been grateful to a pastor who is willing to say “I could be wrong, so check this out for yourself.” We constantly need to encourage this attitude amongst each other. I think that is the key to speaking the truth in love.

  6. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    I had a dream several years ago about a magical day planner. The letters in it would shift and give me individualized messages, but when I tried to show my extraordinary message to someone else the letters re-formed into something ordinary. When I woke up I realized the day planner was the Bible, that is was a many layered document and that not everyone was going to understand or believe what I saw in it, how it applied to my own life. People who are at a different layer often will not see what we see until later (if we are ahead of them), or vice versa (if they are ahead of us).

  7. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    In the mid 1990s, as my inner sense of self-worth, security, etc., crashed out right on God’s timing, my theological framework crashed too, and I came to the Word for the first time in years with a child’s mind. It has radically changed not only my understanding of what the Word says but in that mind-renewal to what the Word says my life has been transformed. But even now, “What I Know” has to be set aside (and sometimes isn’t) when I’m reading/studying God’s Word. Otherwise, the old manna will get in the way of anything new God wants to give me.

  8. Kevin

    This sounds like a good ad for AP’s new offering.

    “But we need our theological frameworks broken apart once in awhile, and we need to be humble enough to take it. God will shake what can be shaken, so that which cannot be shaken will remain.

    May we accept the resurrection that God has in mind for us all so that we all can be improved by it.

  9. Mike B

    I’m in the midst of getting my theological “butt” kicked. Its coming from Romans Ron. When’s your commentary coming out?

  10. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Mike,

    I’ve got various commentary on Romans 6-8 on my site. My daily Bible reading in the NT has reached Romans. The scope of that letter is amazing – it covers the entire Christian life, from sin and self-justification through God’s justification by grace through faith. We read of our becoming dead to sin and alive to God (6), and then the struggle we go through as believers in trying to do good by exerting flesh-effort, showing how sin derives its false power over us through the Law (7). The remedy is to lay fleshly effort aside in favor of reliance on the indwelling Spirit (8), which transforms our lives into people who would even give up our salvation, if possible, for sinners. And that’s where I am currently in my Bible reading – Romans 9. Powerful.

    If we read the Bible with a childlike attitude, rather than coming to the text with denominational spectacles, and ask the Father to show us the food we need in the Word, we’ll gain a lot of benefit and grow in leaps and bounds. Taking the Bible seriously is crucial, and by that I mean really counting what it says as Reality. Therefore when Paul says we’re dead to sin, we choose to believe it, rely on it, faithe it When he says Christ is the end of the Law to all who believe (faithe), we take God at His Word. It’s Fact. No ifs, ands, or buts. When the Bible says sin shall have no power over us because we’re no longer under the Law (self-effort based holiness) but under grace, and that now I’m in the Spirit, with Christ Himself as my indwelling power to love God and others, we take it seriously, literally. It’s Fact, period.

    Now, I used to have a filter or theological framework in my brain that I filtered the Word through. It was based on human commands and teachings, and it diluted the power of the Word. Therefore, when Paul said, “Reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin” I put a big huge BUT right there. “Ok, I’m dead to sin, BUT, not really. Positionally I’m dead to sin, but not actually (in my present tense experience). I’m not supposed to sin but I’m such a sinner, so I’ve got to try not to sin. But when I sin I can’t help it because I’m a sinner.” As George MacDonald said, “Round and round the great miserable treadmill of contradictions.” We put those big huge Buts everywhere in Scripture that we don’t feel it to be true. Another for-instance: “I’m dead to the Law, BUT it means the ceremonial Law. I’ve still got to strive in my effort to keep the moral Law.” Paul deals with that in Romans 7 in his discourse on Law, and uses “Thou shalt not covet,” straight out of the moral Law, for his text. And the Devil says, “But but but but but.” The carnal mind, through the devious nature of Satan, is always trying to make out that God is mistaken or didn’t really mean what He said literally.

  11. Brance

    Ron,

    All great thoughts. I have a question though.

    How do we lay aside our preconceived notions and our pre-built ” theological superstructure” so that we can see what the Bible is truly saying, while at the same time maintaining an integrity of interpretation?

    What I mean is, I don’t want to take a text in isolation. If I’m reading Romans 7 concerning the saint’s relationship to the law, I want to make sure I’m not reading it in isolation from other passages that speak to the same topic, such as Matthew 5-7, where Jesus raised the bar for our obedience to the law. Not out of bondage to it, but our of love for Him, and the newness of our hearts in Him.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I need some sort of theological framework. To attempt to understand all that the Bible has to say on a particular topic is basically systematic theology. Then when I’m reading a passage and I see it talking about the law, I can plug that into what I already know the Bible says about my relationship to the Law.

    I want to be open to reevaluation of my previous understanding of another passage, based on what I’m reading now. At the same time, I want to evaluate this current passage based on my understanding of other relevant passages.

    Reading a passage with humility, open to what it says without bringing to it my preconceived notions, while at the same time attempting to place this passage in what I know to be its larger context of the entire Scripture is a challenge I continually face.

    How do you handle this yourself?

  12. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Brance,

    Good questions – I love clarifying questions.

    We have to make a distinction in our minds between what Scripture says and what we think it means. That’s humility – recognizing that we can be wrong (even if, no, especially if we have years invested in our wrong interpretation).

    Paradoxically, we keep the Scripture superstructure in our minds. That’s one reason it’s important to read/study/memorize Scripture. It builds context in our minds, and through that context begins to more and more interpret itself.

    For instance, in the Matt 5-7 passages you mentioned Jesus sets a higher standard than had ever been seen. The Pharisees were good at outer righteousness, but who could stand against this idea of having an inner righteousness even in our thought life? Who could live up to this standard?

    The answer is “No one.” Of course, many try. But all fail. And some of the worst failures are believers.

    And then we come across Romans 7, and other passages where Paul says things like “Christ is the end of the Law to everyone that believes.” “You are become dead to the Law through the body of Christ…” and “Sin shall not have power over you, for you are not under the Law but under grace.”

    Many believers ignore these passages, or at best put a great big BUT to append their own interpretation onto Paul. Instead, as we mature, we are to put Paul together with Jesus, Romans with Exodus, etc. In order to do so we have to continually be able to let go of “what I think about this” and see what the synthesis of Jesus’ or Moses’ thought and Paul’s thought does in our hearts. Jesus preached that if we hate someone in our heart, or sexually desire someone, we are sinning – breaking God’s Law. And at the same time Paul says we are dead to the Law. What most people do is put Law and Grace together – we’re saved by grace, and now we try to keep God’s Law because we’re grateful for what Jesus did. But Paul had no tolerance for mixing grace and Law – it’s all based on grace, whether initial salvation, or the daily walk, it’s all based on God sending His Son, first to die for us, and for us to die in Him, and then for us to live in Him, and for Him to live in us. That resident Power in us is the reason we are no longer under the Law, under “Do this and don’t do that and you’ll be holy.” We’re already holy in Christ, and all we need to do is rely on His power in us. In that reliance we rise, as George MacDonald said, to a region which is higher than Law, because it made the Law. That region is God’s power within us, God living in and through these human cups. It’s a life beyond “trying to be good” and “trying to keep the Law,” becoming a life of simple, resting, trusting reliance on Christ inside us as our love, our peace, our patience, our purity – or as the O.T. says it, “The LORD our righteousness.” “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” as though it all depends on us, and then “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure…” showing where the real Power to be and do resides.

    To clarify, we need a Scripture framework. Memorization, study, devotional reading. But our understanding of Scripture must be malleable, changeable, according to the new insights we gain through study. The Scripture framework – the unchangeable Word of God – is built up in our minds. That’s good. But hanging onto “what my pastor said” or “my notes from 1983” about Scripture – that’s what I’m talking about. The hanging on. Pride. “I know what this means.” That’s the “theological superstructure” I’m talking about. We’ve got to have the humility to know we don’t have all the answers – and neither does Calvin, Luther, or any other extra-biblical writer. They can be wrong as well – and are, at times. It doesn’t mean we don’t read them, or can’t learn from them. That’s part of humility.

    Because we’re studying transcribed eternal realities, which can only be illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ve got to maintain the childlike attitude of the Bereans, and be willing to let go where necessary. Apollos, in Acts, had “the way of God” explained to him “more perfectly.” That means he had to let go of some of his old thinking. For me, in the mid 1990s, that meant nearly the whole theological “what-I-know-about-Reality” superstructure had to come tumbling down. I still retained, of course, a total respect for the Bible as God’s Word, Christ as the Son of God, the Trinity, and every other foundational aspect. But in that crashing down, the whole, practical “how do I live the Christian life” question has been turned on its ear forever. If God’s reality is often backwards from the world’s thinking, then we are going to experience reversals in our thinking as we get deeper and deeper into the written Word and the living Word. As we “renew our minds” (or “renovate our thinking”) by the Word of God, it’s going to shake up our theological frameworks. If it doesn’t ever do that we’re just using Scripture to justify our own thought-systems.

    I just got through reading Romans this morning. It’s really the clearest exposition of the Christian life in the Bible. Of course, other passages help clarify Paul, just as your comments help clarify mine and vice versa. I suppose we can look at the Bible writers as having a kind of dialogue in which each one clarifies and upholds the other.

    I had a great time doing the Acutab video – it was a blast to visit with you and John, and esp to go to the youth group study you lead. Good, solid stuff – those kids will benefit greatly from you laying out Scripture like that.

  13. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Brance,

    One more thing in a long string of “things.” I grew up with the idea that I was supposed to do things for God and if I did good, God was pleased with me. I had read the Bible from the time I learned to read – my first Bible was given to me by my Mom in 1970; I was six years old. She also bought “The Family Bible Library” which I loved as a kid and still have.

    Fast forward to around 1981 or 82. I was 17 or 18 years old. I’d just come out of a nine-month stint in a very legalistic Church of Christ; they used to talk about how the Baptists, Presbys, and everyone else was just going to have to find out they were wrong when they were thrown into the lake of fire. I would leave church feeling not empowered and enlivened, but beat down and bad. I finally told the pastor, “I’m not sure what is wrong, but I don’t think everything you’re teaching is the truth.” His reply, of course, was “Let us study with you.” Which I thankfully declined. My framework was legalistic, but I also had a lot of Scripture in my head. After band rehearsal one night, the mandolin/guitar player and I started talking in his car. We got into a deep (deep for me then) discussion on how we relate to God. I still clearly remember him saying, “Ron, we’re not saved by what we do and don’t do. We’re saved by trusting God.”

    Light bulbs started going off in my head at that moment. Verses that I’d read for years, or skimmed over, suddenly made sense. My theological framework (“What I think Scripture means”) took a big hit. And yet there was my Scriptural framework – the very thing that made such an explosive epiphany possible.When I got home and started reading it was like I had a brand new Bible. Another layer of understanding had been revealed to me.

    I’m really glad you asked that question; it distinguished a Scripture framework from a theological or rather “What I think about God” framework. The first is timeless, unchangeable, the Word of God, and it makes epiphany possible, or at least a lot more probable. Our other framework, the theological one, because it is based on perception, must of necessity be malleable as further study and experience cause old paradigms to be shaken. That’s the humility of the Bereans.

  14. Stacy Grubb

    For a long time, now, I feel like my “theological superstructure” has been shook up and thrown around. It’s almost as if, after years and years of thinking I understood things, I was shown a different level. No, it’s not “almost as if,” – that’s actually very literally what happened. So, what that led to is this basic undercurrent of confusion and overwhelm because, now I know something that I didn’t used to know and it’s pretty opposite to what I did know. It’s not exactly that I believed wrong…it’s just that I only knew a few fractured facts and the parts that were left out of my thinking really tear through the parts that were there. More and more, I’m understanding certain things, but I’m slow to be taught and to shed my old habits. In a big way, I feel like I have this picture of who I should be, but no clear grasp on how I’m supposed to get there. It’s like I’ve bought a bunch of car parts and all I have to put it together is a picture of what it’s supposed to look like when I’m done.

    I have a really difficult time taking a child-like approach to reading the Bible because I’m almost so pre-occupied with keeping preconceived notions out that I’m not fully concentrating on reading the Bible. Then I become overwhelmed thinking, “Well, this could mean ANYTHING!” Every question to life can be answered in that finite amount of pages. It’s just like the alphabet. Only 26 characters, but gosh the things they can create. The possibilities are endless.

    I’m not really sure what my point is, here, other than to say I’m overwhelmed. Maybe the problem is that I have a mental grasp on a concept that I haven’t fully bought spiritually…or likely the other way around, actually. Again, I have no point….

  15. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Stacy,

    Keep your Scripture framework. That’s crucial, as Brance helped clarify.

    Don’t be preoccupied with keeping preconceived notions out of your head. That is back to trying, back to effort. Just ask God to show you what the Word means, and to work His will in your life, no matter what the cost.

    That’s the thing – words are so easily mis-taken. My prompt to be Bereans can be taken as another prompt to effort, to striving. But they’re not meant as that. I mean for people to come to God with the innocence of a child, and to ask Father to reveal Christ to us more deeply, “in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

    You’re correct on every question of life being answerable in those pages. But the written Word must be illuminated by the living Word within each one of us – Christ Himself, by the Holy Spirit.

    If there’s one thing I can pinpoint in my life as a theme, it’s the theme of trying too hard. Trying too hard to be good at music (I don’t mean practicing too much, etc., I mean expending too much effort with too much tension); trying too hard at parenting; trying too hard to figure things and people out, etc. We can come to a new understanding that we no longer have to strive in self-effort, and instead trust Christ within us, and then step right into trying too hard to trust Christ within us.

    All that trying too hard is really unbelief. I’m learning to release that unbelief, that tension, in my hands as I play banjo or guitar or in my voice as I sing. I’m learning to release it in my parenting as I let go of fear and the desire to control my children’s feelings – as I step out in faith, I see no opposing, negative situations there but only teachable moments and the ability to let them say how they feel without squashing them for it.

    That incessant trying is rooted in fear. In music the fear of not being good enough was planted in my teens by well meaning adults. In my parenting it was planted by having relatives in my family who are, to say the least, often in trouble with the law. As I let go of these fears – and I don’t mean try to let go, but simply release them in reliance on Christ, I see change happening. But sometimes, like you, I get confused and overwhelmed and slip back momentarily into Romans 7, the trying/striving/flesh-effort life.

    The main thing God has for me, and for a lot of people, is this: relax. Live in rest. Live in joy. Those things are choices we make – faith-choices. As we consistently begin to make the inner choice, the outer result begins to show up in our daily life.

    If you’re a type A personality like me, it seems hard to let go of all that fear and control. I might get the wrong interpretation; I may raise my kids wrongly; I might totally blow this next banjo solo.

    But a right faith-choice is not impossible, and that’s what we’re called to. Faith. Ceasing from our own works, resting in His works through us. Giving over anxiety, casting our cares on Him. Otherwise it’s as if my 10 yr old son came up to me and said, “Dad, I’m going to get a job. I need to make lot of money. There isn’t a lot of food in the pantry, and I’m afraid I’m not going to have enough to eat tomorrow.” It would be ridiculous and an insult to me as his provider.

  16. Stacy Grubb

    Ron,

    I almost feel like crying right now. I don’t know why other than the fact that I know you’re right and, in a weird way, it feels good to have the truth about my fears staring back at me (right down to being freaked out by too many family members who need my husband’s legal service). I can intellectualize that I try to too hard. I know this about myself. But when I see someone else say, “My problem is that I try too hard,” it suddenly hits me full force. Yes, I try too hard and that’s my downfall. Because eventually, everybody gets tired of trying, especially when you try and try and, predictably, that effort never leads you to any place real. It just leads to more trying, then more disappointment because you’re not living up to the standard in your head. And the standard in my head relies on the wrong things, such as approval from others. I try to get better at my music, but I’m never as good as I want to be. Like with the car analogy, I see a picture of what I want to be, but my reality is just me standing there with a bunch of parts and I can’t make them all come together. And of course, that isn’t just with music. I’ve got a million pictures of who I want to be that correlate with all the different hats I wear.

    And yes, it all goes back to fear. If I’m afraid of something, then the fear will keep me on my toes. That’s my rationalization of it, anyway. If I’m afraid of never succeeding in my music, then I’ll keep working at it and try to get better. But I’m only as good as somebody tells me I am, so that’s another hamster wheel. If I stay afraid that I’ll do something boneheaded and screw up my son’s life for good, then I won’t let my guard down and be a bonehead. It *is* a false sense of control in the same way that being sin-aware is a false sense of humility. And the fear is what really leads to feeling overwhelmed. That basic fear of failure – of what others might think of me. I don’t want anybody to think I’m a poor excuse for a Christian, or a bad mom, or a sucky person, or that my music is no good, etc. And even more overwhelming than not wanting people to think ill of me, I need them to think well of me or I can’t validate in my own mind that I’m accomplishing anything.

    For a while, now, I’ve thought about the prayer of asking God to work His will in my life, no matter the cost. I haven’t yet prayed it because of fear. But I think God is using my own fear to help me get rid of it. I’m tired from trying too hard and I’m at a breaking point with fear. So, while the fear has held me back until now, it’s the very thing that’s pushing me to tear down those fences and take that leap of faith because I’m just so over the fear.

  17. mike

    Thanks Ron, right now its the revelation of God’s wrath in Romans 1. How is God’s wrath revealed. I actually took your advise and read it for what it says. Its amazing………………..well if I’m reading it correctly. 😉

  18. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Stacy,

    “It *is* a false sense of control in the same way that being sin-aware is a false sense of humility.”

    That is spot-on. We’re afraid of pride, so we run to the opposite; not humility, but self-condemnation.

    If you think of the end of all things – of standing before Christ as we step into eternal glory, beauty, perfection – then there is nothing to be afraid of in the prayer, “Work Your will in my life, no matter what the cost.” Because to keep that end in mind is to keep Reality in mind. That is Fact; that is what is coming; that is our destiny. And I know every believer, deep down, wants to hear Him say, ‘Well done!” Those words will be heard only by those believers who increasingly surrender to His will here and now. 1Cor 3 speaks of that day. Human effort, control, fear, is to build with wood, hay, stubble. Reliance on Christ within us, seeing His works come through us, is to build Christ upon the foundation of Christ; it is to build with gold, silver, precious stones. There will be those who, like refugees escaping through the flames, depart this earthly life with nothing to show for it. Those who walk in their real identity will be eternally glad.

  19. Stacy Grubb

    Thank you, Ron. I was thinking about the prayer earlier and, for the first time in my life, I identified with those people who delay their Salvation. I’ve spoken to a handful of them in my life and times and all of them have been afraid of having to give up their most cherished vices. I thought I couldn’t relate to that, but it’s because I’ve all the while been overlooking the fact that I haven’t surrendered my all to Christ for that very same reason – fear. But you’re right; I haven’t been looking to the bigger picture. I’ve even felt waves of panic and anxiety when looking ahead to that day when I stand before God, accountable. I don’t want to make it in by the skin of my teeth, ya know? And I don’t want to spend my time here on Earth just existing and I especially don’t want to look back and know that I sacrificed God’s plan for me because I was afraid it didn’t match what I thought was my plan for myself. Really and truly, Ron, thank you. I’m starting to get it.

    Stacy

  20. Stacy Grubb

    Let me elaborate on my thought about delaying Salvation a bit. It’s not just a generic fear that I have in common with that, it’s the exact same fear. I’ve been afraid of having to possibly give up something that is important to me. That’s largely because I’ve been separating me now from me on that day when I enter into Heaven. Even though I truly accept that day as a part of my reality, it’s almost so surreal and far-fetched that I can’t catch onto the fact that I’ll be there. I’ll really and truly be there. So, even though I thought I couldn’t relate to toying with your eternal soul in order to fulfill a few fleshly desires, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing….and probably even on worse terms.

  21. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Stacy,

    We’ve all done that. That’s the process of surrender. There are things I don’t want to hand over for fear of loss – my family, AKUS, etc. But I say it anyway. God doesn’t have a problem with me wincing as I hand it all over. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be human. Jesus didn’t want to go through the Cross and everything it entailed; He was probably wishing right then that He could just live a ‘normal’ life and die a normal death. But He said it anyway, even though sweating blood, through incredible stress. “Not My will but Thine be done.” That’s faith – “for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.” And we see what happened to Jesus when He made that inner choice; He went from sweating and shaking to being a king reigning in the midst of the worst circumstances, totally in control of all His reactions to everything that happened that night and the next day.

    God is not interested in us condemning or being frustrated with ourselves for not handing things over. What He wants is that turning, that repentance, where we turn from ‘our way’ (really Satan’s way) to God’s way (Gethsemane, handing it all over and saying what Jesus said). The fruit of that turning is eternal. I wonder, for some, if the tears that Revelation says He will wipe from our eyes will be tears of regret for refusing to hand over the reins of our lives to Him.

    And the sad thing is we end up selling ourselves short. The Devil wants us to “do our own thing.” That’s his game. Because “our own thing”, hanging on to things instead of letting ourselves rest totally in God’s timing, God’s ways, God’s love, connects our lives to the Devil in unbelief, and then he gets his hooks into us. Wood, hay, stubble. As Jesus said, Stacy, “Be not afraid” and “be of good courage.” That means we “Stay ourselves upon the Lord” and know that what He wants for us is the absolute best, the life that will make us the most deeply joyous and fulfilled. He’s not interested in our short term happiness if it is at the expense of eternity, any more than I’d let my kids grow up without boundaries or direction. I’m interested in making them into happy, productive, loving adults – not in sacrificing that future joy for short term feel-good parenting.

  22. Brance

    Stacy,

    Ron has articulated very well some good advice, but let me simply offer two verses that have spoken to me upon the subject of effort, and position.

    Like you (like us all I would wager), I’ve struggled with grasping the reality of my position in Christ. I’ve struggled with identifying myself as a saint, raised with Christ to life eternal. To quote you

    “I’ve been separating me now from me on that day when I enter into Heaven.”

    My beautiful wife pointed this passage out to me about 2 years ago, and it hit me hard. I had read it before, but I guess I’d never paid attention (probably because I was reading through the lens of my own theological construct).

    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” – Ephesians 2:4-6

    Because of our union with Christ, we have already been raised up and seated in heavenly places. Letting that truth sink down into my soul has really changed the way I view myself as a child of God. I still look forward to our future glorification and eternity, but I realize that once Christ regenerated my heart, my eternal life in him began! Eternal life doesn’t begin after my physical body dies. My old self has died. My eternal life in Christ began in 1978, I just didn’t realize it until recently!

    And then, concerning effort. As I’ve been teaching Colossians to the youth I’ve learned so many wonderful truths from this letter. At the end of chapter one Paul is talking about his ministry, and the suffering he has endured in order to spread the Gospel. He states that his goal is not only to let people hear the Gospel, but also to help them mature as Christians. He then says this.

    “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:29

    Wow! Paul’s labors look like toil and struggle, but it’s not Paul’s energy, and it’s not Paul working. It’s Christ in him. As Ron has said, I don’t have to strive with my own energy and effort, I just have to quit trying to be in control, trust, rest in, and rely on Christ, and he’ll work in and through me. He is far more powerful and effectual than I could ever be.

    As my wife and I begin raising our first child, that is a very comforting thought. I have responsibilities as her father, but I can rely on Christ working through me rather my own effort. I’ve tried relying on my own effort, and I’ve failed every time. Christ never fails.

  23. Stacy Grubb

    Ron and Brance,

    In a lot of ways, I feel like this moment is the culmination of many that got started nearly four years ago when God first started turning my wheels on self-effort, sin-awareness, and eventually surrendering it all to Him.

    My son will be four next month and the first time that I can remember really and fully asking God to work through me was when I was in labor with Elijah (and I’m literally just now this second realizing this). I’d had a few setbacks during my pregnancy – losing his twin, then dealing with premature labor from 25 weeks on – and even at the very last possible minute of my pregnancy, more disaster when the chord became wrapped around Elijah’s neck and his vitals instantly plummeted off the charts. The reality was, he was dying. I remember first knowing something was weird when the nurses were flip-flopping me all over the bed (now I know they were trying to untangle the chord) and first knew something was wrong when I caught a glimpse of his monitor and saw a line that dropped straight down off the chart. The doctor arrived, explained to me that we had precious little time and that I absolutely had to get the baby out and now. I remember a prayer racing through my head and I said, “God, I can’t possibly do this. You do this for me.” Five minutes later, Elijah is laying in a bassinette under some oxygen, just relaxing and taking it all in. We never even heard him so much as cry until about an hour later when I made him mad trying to look at his red hair.

    I can still think back to that moment and it sends shivers down my spine to think of how real the possibility of losing him was. And I truly can’t remember a time when I opened myself up and asked God to do His work through me prior to that day.

    And like a lot of people, the brevity of my responsibility as a parent really started weighing on me in the months that followed. I started realizing that I needed to make some changes in me to adequately raise Elijah in Christ. And as my initial comment under this post says, Christ started using other people to get my attention and not just show me what to do, but really drive it home. For a long time, I’ve lived in stress and frustration, so afraid of not pointing Elijah down the correct paths and worse, modeling the wrong paths. I’ve even gone to God in tears, asking Him what He was thinking when He stuck Elijah with the likes of me and all my mess.

    So right now, I’m sitting here kind of connecting the dots backwards, tracing the steps that got me here. I’m thinking about a line in “I Give You To His Heart,” that struck a chord with me and made the picture get a little bit bigger. I’m thinking of Abraham and Romans and faith and fences, new creatures and Canaanites, my way and His way. And I’m thinking that all of these things (plus more) were God’s way of getting me here when I’m realizing that I need to surrender it all to Him…and more importantly *how* I surrender it all to Him. For so long, I’ve wondered how I would do that and only a few minutes ago realized that, when I had Elijah, I did it with a simple prayer. I’ve just been over-complicating things.

    Thanks for all the insight, Ron and Brance. I truly see by folks like y’all that God *does* work through His people when they allow Him to.

    Stacy

  24. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Brance,

    Great verses (reminds me to quote Scripture more, rather than just putting it in my own words).

    The thing we must do is accept such verses literally – not as figurative truth, or some way in which God thinks of us as legally seated in heavenly places. God does not pretend, or engage in make-believe; He “sees the things that are not as though they are” because He sees the end from the beginning. He doesn’t foresee the future; He simply sees it happening from His “eternal Now” vantage point.

    We are literally seated in the heavenlies in Christ; He is in us, and we are in Him. How this works, I have no idea. It may be that from that vantage point I am viewing my time here on earth (If so, I’m sure there are points at which I am rolling my eyes, and other parts where I am pointing and laughing). But I do know through the Trinity that personalities are combined there into one Being; thus we’re told by Jesus that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, and that we are to think of ourselves not as separate, distinct people who try to get what we want out of life, but rather to know we are His body, and to love another is to love the Body of this eternal, divine Being that we have been accepted into (don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re God, but that we have been accepted into God’s Being through atonement, and now, as a result, God’s Being itself resides in us – Colossians 2).

    Taking verses on our real identity in Christ, that we are kings, priests, holy, accepted in the Beloved, dead to sin, dead to Law, as literal truth is crucial to living out the life of Christ in our daily lives. God Himself speaking those things is the only stamp of approval we need. God said it; I believe it, and step out in faith on the unseen reality – which then will manifest itself as a seen, tangible fulfillment.

    Php 2:12 says we’re to “work out our salvation (already in us) with fear (phobos) and trembling (tremo)”: why? Because we are terrified that we’ll fail? No – we work it out in amazement and wonder and godly fear because it’s really God Himself working in us to will and to act according to His good pleasure. A phobia is something a person is centered upon, usually used in the negative sense. But we’re to center on Christ’s power in us. That’s the lifeblood, and heartbeat of the Christian life – Christ in us. To live our lives not letting Him operate as that Center – well, that is terrifying to think of when we consider the end of all things. We’re to have phobos about this issue of letting Christ be our Center because doing so will impact our eternity like no other issue in life.

  25. Stacy Grubb

    “He doesn’t foresee the future; He simply sees it happening from His ‘eternal Now’ vantage point.”

    I didn’t realize that for a long time. I always viewed at as God knowing how to predict the future. I think it was getting a grasp on omnipresence (not that I understand it, by any stretch, but I get it more than I used to) that helped me understand that I’d been separating the wrong Me’s. In my mind, there was the Me that I was born as here on Earth and there would be a new Me after I died. But as Brance pointed out, death came to the old me and from here on out there is only eternal life.

    Stacy

  26. Benjamin Wolaver

    If I may be so bold as to add to this inspiring discussion, I think a great key to understanding Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and our identity in him is this reality of the Two Natures Peter discusses at length in his epistles. Jesus lived by faith in his Father to the point that he said he only said and did what the Father had already told him to. Even Jesus’ righteousness was not a “self effort” though he would have succeeded if he’d tried, but a faith effort in the plan of his Father.

    As descendants of Adam, we had only one life path: sin and death, the one paved by Adam. But when the Second Adam, Christ, came and lived perfectly in the way of Faith, a new path was paved for all who partook of his nature. Communion has taken on whole new meaning for me in this way because when we partake of His Body and Blood, that liquid and nutrients are literally nourishing and cleansing our blood stream, our life according to the Torah.

    What would happen if Jesus gave us a blood transfusion? Whatever your position on communion, every time we partake of his blood, we receive a new life, one that overcomes death. Baptism, which has many correlations to human birth, is a picture of rebirth, showing that we have been born into a new spiritual reality of faith just as we were born into the Adamic reality of sin and death.

    Ron, I would like to ask you a question: how do you see the relationship between the love/obedience cycle that Jesus speaks so powerfully about in John, and the Law/human effort cycle that Paul rejects so adamantly in Romans. Where is the line, the distinction, between obedience and self effort? Paul is not afraid to give us commands in the Christian life (in Colossians he says that the sexually immoral will certainly die if they live in that way, for instance), and yet he is clear that living according to the Law, both moral and ceremonial, is not to be the way with the Church. Where does a mental decision to obey become self effort?

    Thanks

    Ben

  27. Stacy Grubb

    Ben,

    Ron will, no doubt, give you clearer guidance, however, I’ve recently struggled with that same question and couldn’t reconcile the differences and how to’s in my mind. Through many lengthy discussions on the subject, I started to unravel a bit of what I had tangled up in my own head and realized some of the things I personally had been doing which constituted themselves as “self-effort.”

    For example, a few months back, there was a *great* discussion on fences. For as long as I can remember, I’d always been encouraged to build fences around my weak spots; my temptations. That means that I make a self effort to avoid situations that would place me in the middle of temptation. Now, on some level, that’s probably a good idea. It takes a foundation of faith to be Christ-reliant and, of course, faith has to be built and strengthened. Where I went wrong was that I stagnated. I built my fences and never even tried to make my faith stronger than the fence. As I finally came to learn, the fence became a product of unbelief. The fence created fear and reverence of the sin. It’s as if I was saying, “Yes, God, I know You’re stronger than sin, but there’s this one over here that you can’t help me with. I’ll just use my fence for that.”

    Because I’m a visual learner, I imagined my mind as an open field. I’m free to run anywhere and everywhere. Just miles and miles of freedom. But then one day, I see a fence. In that instant, my focus isn’t on the freedom, anymore…it’s on the fence. The fence will draw me in and make me want to be closer to it. I finally realized that my fences did a lot to make certain sins “special” to me. And they clearly put the effort in my own hands and not in the hands of God.

    To be more Christ-reliant would mean that I would put my trust in God so that I didn’t need that durn fence and could, once again, have that open field with no distractions. If I can learn to step out on faith, then my weakness will be overpowered by God’s strength. If I would have an “effort” in it, it would be exercising my God-given free will to allow Him to live through me. I’ve already allowed Him to live IN me, but I’ve learned that that is not the end of the story. In order to be His good and faithful servant, I have to surrender myself to Him and allow His good works to be done through me.

    Through faith, I’ve already been able to bust down some fences and was surprised to learn that, when I rest on Him, the sin loses its hold on me, anyway.

    I know that only partially answers your question (if at all), but I just wanted to say that I’ve been where you are and I’m not far removed from that place, now. Through time and discussion, though, God has made a lot much more clear to me.

    Stacy

  28. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ben,

    “Where does a mental decision to obey become self effort?”

    To add to Stacy’s good words –

    Paul said, “When I would do good, evil is present.” (Rom 7:21). The word for “would” is thelo, which means “to will, decide, want to; wish, desire” Also, “to be resolved or determined, to purpose.” It can be rephrased, “When I will to do good, evil is present.” Or “When I resolve to do good…”

    Human will, resolve, doing good as a choice of my will, is self-will. The same root word thelo is used in Col 2:23, “Which things (speaking of commands and regulations) have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” That word for “will-worship” is ethelothreskeia, and you can see thelo right there in the middle of it.

    A human exercising its own will to do good, because it is not coming from faith, is sinning.

    That self-will, even to do good, is really self-rule. And by it we temporarily hand the reins of our thoughts and actions to Satan – even if the desire is to do good.

    Now, is the desire to do good wrong? Of course not. And Paul says, “Is the Law sin?” with the same answer. The Law is holy, just, good.

    But what we’re talking about is our response to Law. And most of us think at some level that we’re to exert our human will to accomplish God’s Law. By effort we do good; even if we tack on “With the help of the Holy Spirit” at the end it still has as it’s root that human resolve to do good by exercising will-power.

    And even Jenny Craig knows will-power doesn’t work. What works is reprogramming the mind, renewing how the person thinks about food, about himself. Even on a secular level faith is what wins the battle.

    So I guess in response to “Where does a mental decision to obey become self effort?” I’d have to say “Wherever the person leaves off from making the choice to see Christ as his life, and steps into thinking he’s got to do good himself, by his own resolve, will-power, and choice.”

    Our business, as believers, is to see God, ourselves, other people, and this world as God does. That means we “offer our bodies as living sacrifices” and “renew our minds” and so through that surrender and mind-renewal our lives are transformed. That’s how we do good; we “Work out our salvation (which is already in us) with phobos and tremo, for – because – it is God in us who wills and acts according to His good pleasure.”

    So it’s not a matter of us willing to do good, resolving, and then doing it. We surrender, abide in Christ on a daily basis, renewing our minds through the Word, and through that surrender, abiding, and mind-renewal we are “transformed into that same Image from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

    Also keep in mind 1Cor 3 – No other foundation can be laid in us than that which is laid – Jesus Christ. He’s our rock-bottom. But we take heed how we build on that foundation. Wood, hay, stubble (self-will, resolve, human effort, self-determination) or gold, silver, precious stones (surrender, trust, mind-renewal, being transformed into His image from glory to glory).

    As Agent Smith said to Neo, “One of these lives has a future…and one does not.” The first set is flammable materials. They’ll burn on The Day as they are tested by fire. The second set is nonflammable. Both kinds of believers will be saved, but the first will be saved as refugees escaping through the flames.

    That’s how I delineate what is valuable in my life and what is not.
    “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” As I see Christ in me, as I faithe in my real identity, I do good. My will was not given to me to do; it was given to me to make the choice of faith, and by that choice I connect to God’s good-doing in me – God Himself in me, willing, and acting out His will through my human life.

  29. Ben

    Thanks for clarifying that, Ron. That makes a lot of sense and actually reminds me of some things I’ve heard Dallas Willard say on the subject of discipleship. It is difficult to keep in mind that our actions are really linked to what inhabits our spiritual/mental/imaginative world. The influence of what we partake of is so insidious that even when we are consciously rejecting certain aspects of it, without the counterweight of Scripure, prayer, fasting, etc…, we lose our center even as we live on, thinking that we’re “ok” without daily re-centering our lives according to Christ.

    Re-programming the mind is, in a sense, the distilling of the Love that Jesus said necessitated Obedience. So it is not Obedience that leads to Love, but Love that springs forth Obedience.

  30. Ben

    Ron,

    Since sinning is doing something without faith, how do you define that experience in your own life? If we choose to faithe (in essence, choose to let go), then surely what is good and bad for us isn’t up to what we decide, right? I’ve often been in a position where I tried to convince myself that something (a book, a movie, etc…) was acceptable because I was “faithing” that it was ok, but the Holy Spirit never let my heart feel peace about those things. So is true faithing then not a matter of mental choice, but an attuning to what the Holy Spirit is saying?

  31. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ben,

    Let’s start at the ludicrous and work our way back just to make the point.

    There is no way a Christ-ian can be faith-ing in Christ as his indwelling Patience while at the same time he is yelling at his wife. The two things are mutually exclusive. You can insert any obvious sin – putting others down, gossiping, pornography, drunkenness, spiritual pride, etc.

    Our God-created tempt-ability is a key point here. Temptations will come daily; that’s a given. What we choose when tempted is crucial. Do I identify with the temptation, see it as “me” and see myself as sinful, and then try by force of will or “accountability” (often a guise for “using pride to beat down the smaller vices”, Lewis) to keep from doing the sin? That’s the straight path back on the treadmill of human effort, Law, and sin. Try-sin-repent-try-sin-repent.

    Or, in the temptation, do I respond by reaffirming who I really am? “Through Christ within me I’m a new creation. I’m holy. Christ is now my righteousness. He is my patience, my peace, my purity. I have everything I need for life and godliness, because I have Him.”

    The object of faith is everything. “Who am I trusting?” We can trust that something will be OK, whether an action or a circumstance, and that “trust” can be presumption. We’re not really trusting God, but presuming.

    But reliance on Christ doesn’t fail. It’s connecting the power cord to the outlet. It’s plugging in.

    Too many of us are used to blaming the old man (which the Bible clearly and consistently states is dead and buried) rather than recognizing that “I sinned because I didn’t trust Christ’s power” or peace or you-name-it.

    Concrete example – this kind of thing has happened many times to me, especially when I used to pray, “Lord, make me more patient” (an unbelieving prayer, really, because I have perfect Patience Himself living in me). Let’s say one day I’m running late to the studio; I’ll get there on time if I keep at it steady.

    But Farmer Joe in his 1947 red Case tractor lumbers out like a constipated elephant onto the two lane, just in time to slow me down to 20mph. No passing zone. Oncoming traffic. And there my steam starts building – frustration. Emotions rising. And right there I have a choice. Where is Christ? Well, He’s in me, the Bible says, this Person who created the universe. Do I really have everything I need for life and godliness? Yes – right there inside me as my temper is about to blow and prompt me to pass when unsafe or cuss or whatever. I can do that, and of course God forgives me and Jesus paid for my sins. I can go ahead and let ‘er fly. Or I can thank God (even if I don’t feel it) and praise Him that Christ within me is all the patience I ever need for life and godliness. “Thank you, Lord, that you are my Patience. I trust You. I rely on your Power, and Peace, and Patience, right here and right now.”

    God can’t resist that kind of faith, that everyday resting, trusting, submitting, surrendering faith.

    The two different choices produce two different results. One, blowing my lid, getting wrathful, or whatever. The other, peace, a sense of humor, and the boiler pressure going back down. One is an unrighteous reaction produced by unbelief. The other is a righteous action produced by faith.

    I’ve done both, and I’m always amazed at how I feel five minutes after making the right choice. The other choice is always a waste of time, energy, thought, and breath.

    Now, of course, just why I put myself in the situation of running late, that’s another story.

    If any of this is unclear (I’m a bit tired today) let me know and we’ll clarify.

  32. Ben

    So you are saying that faith, used as license or an excuse for any level of wrongdoing, is by definition not faith because faith only has meaning when there is someone to faithe in. I think Dallas Willard said something along these lines when he brought up the difference in our thinking between the word “faith” and the word “faithfulness”. Faith action is defined by Christ, not us.

    Thanks so much for answering these questions. The psychology of faith is something that is an ever unfolding enigma to me. Each day brings new insights, but there is always another level. Further up and further in…

  33. mike

    Stacy, you reminded me of this and how God works in stages to free us.
    When I was growing up we lived in a small rural area of North Georgia. Being Southern Americans and living in the country I suppose we wanted to be farmers. This included owning a small Shetland pony. The pony’s name was Little Bit. We didn’t have a lot of land. As a matter of fact we rented the small house that we lived in. Therefore the pony’s lot in life was to be tied to a tree out back of the house. One morning my sister went out to feed Little Bit only to find him bound to the tree by the rope. He had somehow gotten tangled in the rope to the point that not only could he not free himself but he had become wrapped so tightly in the rope that it blinded him in one eye and rubbed a whole in his front leg to the bone. My father went out and cut him loose and doctored him up. Although blind and wounded he survived. A few years later, in another rented house with less room, Little Bit ended up tied to the house. My dad knew that he wouldn’t get tangled around the house. He didn’t know that the house would burn down. Luckily someone came by and cut Little Bit’s rope. He ran away from the burning house only to be found later pretty much unharmed. Again we moved to a house that had a little more land and for the first time Little Bit was put into a fence. The problem was that it was a small fence about 40 x 40 feet and it was electric. Little Bit lived in this small lot only to be continuously shocked by getting too close to the fence. After a couple of years we sold Little Bit. I remember clearly the day that the man who bought him came to get him. We took the fence completely down but we couldn’t get the pony across the line where the fence had been. We pushed and pulled but Little Bit wouldn’t budge. After great effort by about four grown men he was finally loaded onto the truck and I never saw him again.
    Many years later, about 30, I was sitting in church when God told me that I was exactly like Little Bit. Now I know it was God because I hadn’t even thought of the horse since I was a child. You see I was tied up to the legalistic mindset and it blinded me and wounded me to the freedom that was rightfully mine. God came by and cut me loose. Then I was bound to the house, the church-house, and I was almost burned to the point that I wanted to quit it all. Again God came by and set me free. I remain in a fence of religion but God has taken down the fence. I am at this point being drug across the line. I’m afraid to believe that I am free because of the shock of it.

  34. Stacy Grubb

    Mike,

    I think God works in stages to accommodate for the different rates at which we all develop our faith. By all accounts, I’ve been saved much longer than most my age because I accepted Christ at a very young age. However, as I said above, I kinda prayed the prayer and that was that for a very long time. I let my Salvation be enough for many years. Finally, though, I did start having this desire to be a “better Christian.” That’s what eventually brought me here (to this website, I mean, thanks to Ron pointing out its existence) and seeking out a deeper understanding of what it means to be saved. I also think the stages are there because of human free-will. We have to desire moving to the next stage.

    It’s amazing the way God works, such as showing you the correlation between Little Bit and your own life’s journey through faith. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I get this warm and fuzzy feeling inside when I can pinpoint those moments when God is speaking to me, either through thoughts He puts in my head or through others who do something that gets my attention and makes me know that God was working through them for my benefit. If I didn’t already know it, I couldn’t need further proof that God is in tune with me on a personal level. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to the Rabbit Room and had a discussion on a subject only to have that very subject discussed at church that same week. Even right now, my Home Builder’s Sunday School class has been discussing, “How to read the Bible.” I mean, I’d say it’s uncanny but for the fact that I know it’s all been laid into place by God. It sure makes the hard times seem okay when I think about things like that.

    Stacy

  35. Jenny

    Stacy-You’re so right.
    There has been so many times that I come here, to the Rabbit Room for my daily devotion time, to fill up my “tank” when I’m on EMPTY to only find just what I needed to hear/read that very day.
    It’s not by chance, God planted it for me to find.
    I’m so thankful for this resource, I for sure know that I’m able to grow as a Christian b/c of it.
    I’m in agreement also that “I think God works in stages to accommodate for the different rates at which we all develop our faith”.
    I always think of it as a big puzzle. I’m slowly adding pieces to my puzzle as God reveals it to me/convicts my heart/teaches me.
    It’s a slow road, but i feel more complete and whole each day.
    Thanks for all your posts, I thoroughly enjoy reading them.
    I am also one of “those mom’s” that felt like I didn’t know anything either, to only learn, that once we put our trust and faith in the Lord, he’ll lead, guide and direct our paths . Being a Mom is a journey, and God has truly blessed my path. We’ve been through a lot esp. in my son, Evan’s short life that has taught me through his health conditions, to trust and put my faith in the Lord. He has guided our path and led us to the most incredible doctors in the world. I know God healed my son, but I also know that he led us to the docs that could help him..it’s an uncertain journey, but if you have your rock to lean on, you’re on the right path.
    Blessings,
    Jenny

  36. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ben,

    What I’m saying is that there is faith that we can “faithe” in the Now moment. As Chuck Missler said, that’s where time intersects eternity – in the Now we are passing through at each moment. And it is impossible, in that Now moment, to affirm and rely on Christ in us as our patience, or peace, or purity, and at the same time sin. We can be having faith in Christ to deliver us from this Now-moment sin “someday” and still sin in the moment. But the kind of faith I’m referring to is that NOW kind of faith.

    And faith action is defined by Christ, not us. When we faithe in Christ within us during each Now, He lives. And what God wants to get us to is a daily, abiding kind of life where in every Now that we pass through we are trusting Him and He is living.

    Back when I first learned about grace, and that we are saved by trusting God, and that we are changed by trusting God to change us, I went into license, doing things that I could have stepped away from if I had trusted in that Now moment. But instead I “trusted God to change me” and appended the phrase “but not right now” onto that trust. It was a way to justify sinning. Of course, God still loved me, forgave me, and was patient in getting me to greater maturity.

    What we’re talking about is a total surrender of the human will in reliant faith on a daily, hourly, moment by moment basis until it becomes a total life habit.

    Until we recognize sin as a non-issue if we’re relying on Christ, we’re going to continue falling a lot. Hanging onto an old-man mentality, rather than recognizing we’re vessels, cleansed, and filled with Wine, branches in the Vine, new men in Christ, will keep us in that try-sin-repent cycle. The Devil has his day, his sifting, until we’re finally tired of putting up with it. And then we begin to really stand up as the new men we are.

  37. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Mike,

    Those religious fences keep us from the life God has for us. Jesus had no fences because He didn’t live in a sin-consciousness. He knew Himself, and knew Satan had no place in Him. We, too, can know our real identity in Christ, and can know Satan has no place in us. It takes surrender and a giving over of what we think of as “myself” but in large parts is really Satan’s programming and actions through us. The fences, those effortish ways we keep ourselves from sin by avoidance of certain people and certain places and through accountability groups (not always a bad thing, when used rightly) and other humanistic ways we “keep ourselves”, really cause more of the same: sin-consciousness, sin-centeredness.

    Surrender, submission, reliance on Christ’s indwelling Spirit – that’s the way of freedom. True freedom is slavery to Christ. The only other alternative is not “freedom to do my own thing”, which we think we’re doing when we’re sinning; the reality is that we’re committing adultery with Satan as we marry our humanity with his thought-stream by faith in that thought-stream, thus producing the outer action of a sin. We’re really going against our real nature when we sin – “in Him is no sin.” That abiding is the place of love-for-God-and-others. The only other choice is a choice to abide in Satan (for a believer, thankfully only temporary, but still a serious issue).

  38. Stacy Grubb

    Ben,

    In Ron’s “Driving Out the Canaanites” 3 part series, he talks a lot about what I think you’re trying to wrap your brain around. He talks a great deal about how, as believers, it is, “not I, but sin,” who is actually doing the sinning when we stumble. That’s not a ploy to pass the blame, but refers to the fact that, upon believing and accepting Christ, we became changed creatures, indwelt by He Who is incapable of sin. The “Driving Out the Canaanites” explains how residual sinful habits remain until we faithe in Christ to drive them out.

    It seems to go against most church teachings to not view yourself as a sinner saved by grace. Recognizing our sinful natures and the fact that, but for the grace of God, we’d all burn in Hell and deserve every minute of it is supposed to our humility. But that leads to building those fences; revering the sin. It lends to this idea that sin is stronger than us because we are human. BUT sin is not stronger than us because we are indwelt by the One is stronger than all and any sin. If we faithe in Him, then He drives away those old sin habits.

    I’ve only recently began learning that and, as I said above, had been separating the wrong identities of me. The way I saw it, there is me now and there will be a new and improved me after I die and pass into Eternity. But really, there is the old me that died in that instant that I believed. And there is the me, the new creature formed in that instant, that exists in the here and now. The old me is dead and that is the one I’m to separate from the present me. I’m not on this Earth, waiting on a mortal death to change me. God already did that. All the goodness that I’ve been associating with the death of this body is already living in me. Only through faith, however, can I access it. I can’t get to it of my own effort because *I* am not the goodness. Christ is the goodness.

    Stacy

  39. Stacy Grubb

    Jenny,

    I often refer to my role as a mother because, it not only changed my life in the obvious ways, but it’s actually what brought about my desire to take my faith to that next level. And as you mentioned, it also caused me lean on God more than I’d ever done before. I remember one night when Elijah couldn’t have been more than a week old and we’d had some issues getting him to eat, which led to serious weight loss, thus jaundice and all that fun stuff. I felt as though I was at my wit’s end and was literally on the verge of just breaking down when I hear him gasping for breath as if he’s choking. I run to his bed in a panic and see that he’s choking on his own spit. Common enough, I suppose, but it just completely drove home that the most random bad things can happen and I was 100% out of control when it came to keeping him safe. I was sobbing (and I’ll just blame the hormones there) when I prayed to God to give me sanity, ease this fear that had such a grip on me that I was losing rationality, and, of course, to keep my baby safe. And He did all of that. When I opened my eyes, I literally felt a physical difference in my chest. I was resting in God. Sadly enough, I only did it because I had no other option except maybe to lose my sanity. But that little episode was the beginning of a faith journey for me. It made me realize how much I needed to gain deeper understanding of Salvation and what is, not only expected of me, but also what is available to me as a child of God.

    Stacy

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