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Flesh Versus Spirit
The Spirit and the flesh do not go together easily. To the person whose heart is affected by this world, God's heavenly answers seem too inconvenient to accept without at least a little tweaking.
But this is the height of unreasonableness, that anyone might scoff at any answer God gives them directly. God demonstrates His blameless grace by answering men's prayers, even if His answers aren't what men were hoping for.
If we humans, as a whole race, have passed down and improved on anything throughout the generations, it has been an aptitude for rejecting God's straightforward answers. So we should seek the Spirit's help for praying, not only to petition effectively, but also to accept His answers unconditionally.
God's answers will always reflect the fact that He knows better. This is a good thing because our minds and hearts are naturally saturated with the insanity of sin.
God is already telling those of us who dare to listen how to approach Him, dwell in Him and how to live in general. All the inconvenient answers that we need to hear are already close at hand. For example, right when I start getting interested in praying about this terrible, fallen world around me is the time that God's grace bursts every self-righteous bubble I'm using to keep myself comfortable. Around the time when I get my religious diplomas framed and ready to hang on my church wall is the same time that God comes in to crash my party by informing me that neither diplomas nor walls have much to do with the kingdom of heaven.
However, in Christ we church professionals have the opportunity to press past ourselves and onward toward maturity. Because He is the Lord over this reality, we can embrace our true spiritual conditions, surrender ourselves to Him and let Him move us on from here.
Christ is commanding more truthful introspection, not because we need more attention for ourselves, but because we ought to be realistically humble in our dealings with the Almighty. If we're sure beyond a doubt that we're full and complete and content with ourselves as a western church, then our first order of business is to embrace God's unmistakably devastating brand of self-emptying and self-death. When our old selves are completely annihilated in Christ, then we will be free to move on from our distracted crawls, toward a more mature, Christ-centered walk.
In light of God's nature and my experience thus far, I am convinced that we western churchgoers possess barely enough spiritual motor skills to put one spiritual stone on top of another. But, as for now, let's be encouraged that even the most rudimentary motor skills can be developed over time, through active practice.
I don't mean that we westerners don't have all the right answers. On the contrary, we pride ourselves in having all the right answers. But have we tried these right answers?
Truly, we are a well-educated bunch. But have we ever put our education to work?
We may have read all about the mechanics of putting one spiritual stone on top of another, to the point that even conducting a church service sounds simple enough. Most churchgoers are content to know the right answers so they can what? Why, of course, go back to church again. And next Sunday? Go back to church again.
We westerners are a people who prefer ask our peers about "how we are doing" rather than ask Christ. We would rather crowd around each other for mutual encouragement, regardless of God's opinion of us. That Christ is literally available to field every one of our questions might even seem silly to many churchgoers.
When we need confirmation for our work, we look inward at ourselves. And, when we want something tangible, we manufacture something to fit the bill. But this is contrary to sincere, Christ-seeking experimentation. And these things also point toward this general truth, that we are a spiritually underdeveloped people.
Mind you, if the lines of communication between you and the Lord are wide open, then you need not panic in any case. In fact, if you are on the same page as Christ, then you don't even need me to tell you not to panic because He is already your direct Source of encouragement.
A simple truth is that God is no fool. He is not mocked by us little people. If wise men cannot be easily duped by people who claim to be something they aren't, how much less can any mortal person deceive the Lord Omniscient!
But He will endorse a church that is on the same page as He, so that the world's attention will be drawn to the people who draw attention to Christ. He approves of either all or none of a person's life so that those who are His are thoroughly His, whether they work or play, eat or drink, speak or sit quiet.
No matter how many right answers we have accumulated for ourselves, the truth is that we western churchgoers cling to religious distraction before we cling to Christ. We would clutch our predictable shiny things rather than inherit heavenly treasure in Christ, even if this treasure applies to our lives right now. But blessed is anyone out of whose hands the Lord pries these things.
by Patrick Roberts. Find his book and additional material at www.BooksByPatrick.com
Patrick is an average Christ-seeker. His goal is to turn people to Jesus Christ.
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