Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Dear Young Friend #3

Dear Friend,

No doubt, you are struggling with yet another "want." You want a black and white answer. You want to know what is right and what is wrong. Either it's right to pursue being pretty or it's wrong, you say to yourself. I understand. I've wished that were the scenario. This desire for a place to establish our righteousness is part of being human. We'd like it established so we can get on with doing whatever is permissible while still being allowed to go to heaven. This common mentality can actually allow us to end up doing more of what we want--completely missing the whole point of a trusting, loving relationship with our Maker.

We read the Bible and find words that allow us to do what we prefer, and then we can justify ourselves on the basis of those words. That's exactly what the Jews did with law. It's exactly what our nation is doing with law. It is human to do this! You and I will do it if we let ourselves. But the Apostle Paul challenges us to see our relationship with God in a different way. He says, "That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil 3:9) Paul's perspective takes us to a completely different paradigm. His wants are not pushing His study of scripture. His wants are being denied. His wants are crucified, and he has a heart that is seeking God's wants because he trusts God.

Read my post entitled What is Meant By Legalism and see if it helps you. Feel free to ask me questions. I don't know that I can answer them, but I'll try. I know Paul's writing can be heavy to wade through.

As I presently understand, we are to be walking in a trusting relationship with Jesus. When any issue comes up, any question about what we should or should not do, we must seek the will of God just like Jesus did. What we (naturally) want must be crucified, and we must honestly seek His wisdom and will, and, of course, it is through studying the Bible that we gain insight as to how we should apply His wisdom and will to the issue at hand.

This demands brutal honesty of me, and if you are like me, it is so easy to justify what I naturally prefer. I have to work hard to be honest with myself. Maybe you don't have this problem. I hope not. But if you do, don't let it destroy you! It can. Do the hard work of saying no to yourself when what you want conflicts with what God wants. If you are really going to trust Him, you'll embrace the reality that He knows what's ultimately best for you, and that's what you'll end up wanting more than anything else. Dennis Kinlaw, in his This Day With the Master says, "Perhaps the most thrilling of... neglected freedoms is that of not having to have one's own way." He goes on, "There is no greater slavery than that which insists you must have your own way..." How true this is. As I taste the freedom that comes when I appropriately and consistently say no to myself, I think I am catching a glimpse of true delight!

It's beautiful and amazing how these concepts come together and work to produce righteousness, goodness, purity, beauty--as defined by God--and a meaningful hope-filled life! It makes relationships with others amazing... and those relationships just keep getting better and more meaningful as you and those who are likewise seeking the will of God grow more like Jesus!

I hear you saying, but is it really this demanding? Do I have to think this hard about being a Christian? Check out the concept of diligence in the New Testament. (And, even in the Old Testament, check out the concept often used, "if with all your heart..."). Look into what Jesus says about few finding the way.

The great Russian author, Dostoevsky, through one of his characters in The Brother's Karamazov, addresses the reality of how pursuing an understanding of God and righteousness is not what we wish it were. His character, Ivan, says, "Instead of giving a firm foundation for settling the conscience of man at rest forever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic." While this may be an extreme position, there's truth in it. We'd like everything spelled out clear and easy to follow, but God only used the law as a "schoolmaster." The Bible says He used it "because of transgression... as a means to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."

As you read my letters, it may sound like I have these things all figured out and never deal with questions like you do. That isn't the case, dear friend. I have been studying Paul's letters and other New Testament writers with dedicated Christians and Biblical scholars for many years now, and I still struggle at times to wrap my mind around concepts and apply them to my life. If you remember, even the Apostle Peter said of Saint Paul, "our beloved brother Paul...hath written unto you..things; in which are some things hard to be understood."

It seems that searching, seeking, hungering after is a part of the beautiful relationship God wants with His children. Yes, we must embrace and put to work what we do grasp, but we will always be growing in our understanding. This walk of faith (or trust) is one that keeps us needy and dependent, without God-like knowledge, fully clinging to the hope our faith gives us.

My dear friend, I have found that the more I embrace what I do understand about the Christian perspective, the better my life is, the more secure I feel in my trusting relationship with Jesus, and the less I deal with negative consequences which would come were I to live a life pursuing (even innocently) the natural things, the things of the flesh.

My prayer is that you too will find this pathway of seeking and doing the will of God and that you will experience the incredible consequences of your decision both in this life and the next.