Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Good Fight: My Current Perspective On The Struggle

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11, 12 ESV)

Today I took part in a training session looking at alcohol awareness. This was especially in terms of helping those who either suffer from the effects of various levels of alcohol dependence, or are affected by someone who is. It’s good to be informed about alcohol and how it affects the body and psychological damages. What was particularly fascinating about the training is how it skirts around the real issue of why people get into such a state. Listening to the comments and observations it is tragic to sort out life without a sin consciousness and as a result God-consciousness. Without that we are left with will-power or cycles of change that does not bring about real change but give glimmers of hope without substance.

It’s not surprising because yet again we are separating things and thinking that mental schemes or behavioural changes will bring lasting result. The issue for a Christian is that all of these issues we face are external symptoms of an inner problem. That problem namely is rebellion against God and subjection to the other guy. As worshipping beings dependence is inevitable. Natural predispositions to oppose God leaves us open to oppression and depression by other sources. How can we possibly expect to enjoy a fulfilling life without guidance from the one who gave it to us?

This question is all the more pronounced for the Christian … for me. Knowing what I know leaves me with the challenge to take on board Paul’s words to Timmy and pursue what it is to do and be everything pleasing to God which is particularly by being like Him in character. As one or two other followers of Christ may have gathered, this is often easier said than done – but not impossible.

I am not an aggressive person. I can be manipulative; I can be awkward and obscure. I can be pedantic on semantics. In terms of physically aggressive exerting what advantage I may have in that sense is fairly alien to me. I can be sharp but not in a physical sense. Growing up at home I was rather soft comparatively and resorted to the cerebral for contentment. So talk of warfare, battle and struggle can at times be at odds with my natural predisposition.

Gradually over the years, however, I’ve recognised that these concepts are only too real for me and I must get used to it until Christ is fully formed in me. Even reviewing the Beatitudes and noting the one linked to recognition as God’s heirs, it is implicit in the concept of peace-making that the predominant environment is not peaceful (or even peace-some). In fact it’s pretty clear that the predominant environment is not naturally ordered around theocentric dynamics for peace, hence the delight of God’s children to make it wherever they are internally and externally.

Yet this is a very real call to battle. It takes war to make peace even as it took death to bring life. The difference of course being that as Paul put it, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty to the bringing down of strongholds (the very ramparts that prevent peace) which connect to the reality expressed in another Pauline epistle that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places. Where do you think the current rule and systems are imposed and reinforced? 10 Downing Street? The White House? Do me a favour and check the first two chapters of Job. The war is real and comes straight from some serious spiritual foes and is evident through sin, something that the Christian is constantly battling with.

The worst aspect of sin is what it says about the relationship with God and belief in who He is, who we are in the light of who He is and how we now can live free because He is. It’s all the more jarring because intimacy with Him through prayer and walking His way by wisdom should see us making progress. What it only highlights though is the utter depravity of humanity and wonder of salvation that allows me to live by grace through faith.

The solution comes with the problem. Without condoning or minimising sin, swift confession repentance can be used to draw us more towards a complete dependence on His grace. That confession is both negative (I have sinned) and positive (as Lord you cleanse) and is crucial to the cleansing and healing process. Not only are we cleansed but we are reminded and reconnected to the power that allows us live above sin.

I see the struggle in prayer meetings where people can be vulnerable and share honestly what prayers they want for their own lives. It’s not about being nosey or looking for material for the grapevine. It is about sharing the compassion of Christ to see people walk in the freedom with which Christ has set them free. That distinctive freedom needs to be constantly reinforced and establish a focus for what we do, or it is so tragic to see beautiful, gifted members of the Body of Christ fritter away their potential under issues that comparative to the Kingdom are inconsequential. It is summed up in the song Let Freedom Ring to which I’ve referred to in the post noted.

This is why ‘The Victor’ is such an important song. It reminds us that victory – real freedom – is not found in man-centred cycles of change but is found in the One who defeated death and the grave itself and through Whom we can now have access to the Father for grace and mercy in our time of need. We may have dead situations, but if the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead lives in us, we know that no set-back will prevent us from rising to new life in Him as long as we keep out trust, confidence, hope in Him alone. That’s a good fight worth persevering in.

Every child of God can defeat the world, and our faith is what gives us this victory. (1 John 5:4 CEV)

(This entry was inspired by a lot of personal events today, but was also hugely inspired by reading this article about what the warfare against sin can look like. Thanks to Jonathan Leeman for posting it and confirming something that I felt compelled to share.)

For His Name's Sake

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