Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Various Struggles

Things I am pondering/struggling (in a good way) with these days:

1. If Christ IS MY LIFE and we are IN CHRIST and HE IN ME, how much effort is required on my part?

Right now I am giving myself the freedom not to DO anything because of compulsion. That is, I have no self-imposed Law that I MUST read my Bible, or have a devotion every day or that I MUST go to church every time the doors are open. I don’t believe that the words “ought to”, “should”, or “need to” belong in a Christian’s vocabulary.

2. He says that we are to take His yoke upon us – doesn’t that imply some effort on our part – doesn’t it also imply the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves” which some believe is un-Biblical?

See also the word sunantilambanetai found only in Luke 10:40 as the word Martha uses when she believes that Mary ought to “help” her and Romans 8:26 that the Spirit “helpeth” us in our infirmities (i.e. in our trials and troubles) This wonderful word means “to lay hold along with, to strive to obtain with others, help in obtaining” or “to take hold with another”.

The word picture I was given for the verse in Romans was it is like I’m carrying a log with the Holy Spirit on the other end WITH (sun) me and FACING (anti) me! Again, isn’t there some effort required on my part? Martha didn’t want Mary to do everything, just for Jesus to tell her to do her part?

3. He says that we are to abide in Him – I ask, how is that accomplished? Maybe that relates to the 1st item.

4. He says to rest in Him – again, I ask how? How does one rest? I guess that again goes back to #1.

Old (misguided) goal – to be more like Christ. We are like Christ the moment we believe, and cannot be MORE like Him.

We also cannot be closer to Him since we are IN Him and He in us.

New goal – for God to REVEAL the FACTS that I am IN HIM and HE IN ME and to UNDERSTAND how to abide and rest and take His yoke upon me – however those are accomplished. (Nee would also add, for Him to reveal to me that I DIED and am DEAD, which I also don’t understand at this time)

Why is it that we think we must DO something?


Adam S. said...

It seems to me to be a question of identity. Does every effort or action your physical body takes come from *your* struggle? When oxen are yoked, they do not work for their own benefit, nor choose their course, but only allow themselves to be directed.

To die to self and live in Christ does not obviate us from actions or efforts, it requires rather that we adhere to the will of the Spirit and allow its exertions to flow through us. This gradual springing of grace is the task of our life: completed eternally already in His plan, it can nevertheless not be pinpointed as already "finished" so long as we live.

I think this seeming problem (that we must "try" to not try ourselves, but rather "try" to let the Spirit work through us) is not a logical quandary but a mystery. Certainly it is well discussed in the monastic and mystical literature. We may take Elijah as our precedent and say that we read the law, but the voice of God is not in the law; we practice our devotions, but the voice if God is not in the devotions; but after practicing at quietness, humility, yielding, we may eventually hear some quiet whisper that is His voice.

Then, when we no longer need fear our own motivations, we will act when it calls.

John Fincher said...

Doesn't "take MY yoke upon you" imply that He is also one of the "oxen"? Either way, we would be following His leading.

I agree with the "logical quandry" vs. "mystery", but I think it IS knowable my the ordinary believer. I don't believe there is Spiritual knowledge only attainable by "special" people who do nothing but ponder this question their entire lives.

Adam S. said...

I apologize if that is what the word seemed to convey; a "mystery" cannot be understood by anyone. It is the virtue of the wise that they see something clearly enough as a mystery to doubt their own knowledge of it, rather than assume they understand it. Once the contradictory terms can be stated clearly enough, we may say or theorize what we like but cannot directly understand how these two things come together.

The Incarnation of God as a human being is one such mystery, which we can discuss and even pretend to understand, but cannot really. The smaller incarnations by which God's will is born and then done through us is another. (This shared indwelling of God and call to follow His will is what makes our yoke the same as Christ's.)

If you understand how the Spirit's will replaces our own--so that when we "try" it is actually His exertions, yet we still retain our free will--I would like to hear it! But I suspect it is a mystery.

Alison Fincher said...

I just wanted to comment on quandary number one.

When I starting exploring the Catholic Church, I thought it was ludicrous that it obligates people to go to church every Sunday. I was completely burnt-out and couldn't believe I would ever be up for that kind of obligation.

The same thing went for prayer. No one is forced to pray, but the Church has a tradition called "the Liturgy of the Hours"--five daily prayers said by priests/monks/nuns/etc. and many lay people--that a large number of Catholics pray every day by routine or mandate. How could that be healthy?

I was really concerned! How could forced church attendance and habitual prayer possibly be a good thing?!?

But now I begin to understand that all the Church is asking is that Christians keep doing something--even when they don't feel like it. We're encouraged to develop good habits because, at some point, they gradually become more and more enjoyable. Learning in church or praying sincerely and undistractedly are skills, like ballet or yoga, that require mental"muscles" I'd never really developed.

After high school, I went through a spiritual search in which I abandoned my devotionals, Bible reading, church attendance, and even prayer out of massive burn-out. But now, when I feel like things are too much, I do them anyway, knowing that God has given me specific ways to excercise my faith on mountains and in valleys.

Your honest blog is a real encouragement to keep learning and growing in my own faith. I love you!

John Fincher said...

Yours: If you understand how the Spirit's will replaces our own--so that when we "try" it is actually His exertions, yet we still retain our free will--I would like to hear it! But I suspect it is a mystery.

I wanted to finally address this issue, because I have been pondering it lately. I am NOT singling you out when I say this because I think the whole body is (guilty?) in this area.

I believe that “Christianity” is in a poor condition right now. (I’m not even sure I like that word anymore – it connotes and denotes meanings that make it less than what it is meant to be – a RELATIONSHIP instead of a religion.)

I trust/have faith/believe that we can so let God lead our lives – that we can so seek Him with our being - that we can so let Him be the focus of our thoughts and desires, that the Spirit can, not replace our own, but lay itself over/superimpose itself/become meshed with our will so that His desires and thoughts become our own.

Mark uses a word in his Gospel that says the Spirit basically “compelled” Jesus into the desert. He is the same Spirit with Jesus as He is with us.

I have experienced some things in my life lately that I cannot explain. And I’m not talking about anything overtly supernatural (although, I am also not discounting that He still works that way either), but different thoughts and attitudes that do not seem like...me. (I am eagerly anticipating the animation also, though.)

What I am trying to say is that we have so anesthetized our spirit from His that we don’t see when He is working within us. I don’t want to put God into a box that my religion has created about His nature and the way He works. He’s bigger than that.

With His Love

Gary Sparrow said...

John, I beleive you are on the right track wanting to let God lead you. This should be the goal of any believer to let the Spirit lead them and to find the Will of God for their lives. This seems dificult sometimes but I think we often make it harder than it is. Though you are right we can't put God in a box, I don't think he makes things as complicated as we try to make them. To me the first step is to start with what we know is God's will. The Bible gives us a starting point. The Book of Acts tells us the Holy Spirit gives us power to be witnesses.

I have no doubt it is God's will that we share the Gospel. You mentioned that Jesus was "compelled" into the wilderness. Paul was also compelled to go to Macedonia. He probably had his own ideas about where to go on his journey but he allowed the Spirit to lead him.

We are not saved by works and once we are saved we don't have to do anything and God will still love us and accept us, but if we love him then we will tell others about him.

I was saved when I was 10 years old. For many years I did nothing for God and was never led to do anything for God. After I started back to Church and began to do something I was led in a way I never thought posible.

I look at it this way, It's alot easier to turn the oxen where you want them to go once they start moving. I hope this makes some sense.