Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bittersweet Refinements: Chapter XXVIII

The following is a rewritten chapter from Bittersweet Refinements.  If you would like to read the entire book, from start to finish and in the proper order, please go [here].

Chapter XXVIII
Crosses to Bear
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” [Luke 9:23-26 NIV]
Back in those days, following the Lord Jesus Christ really was quite a cross to bear.  For it meant the total abandonment of traditional beliefs [Romans 10:1-5] that often tore families apart [Matthew 10:34-39].
Be assured that it is no easier today.  For it is written: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” [John 15:18-19 NIV]
There is, however, more to it than that—much more, be assured.  For there is also the bearing of the cross of having to live with who we naturally are [Romans 7:14-25].
No, that does not appear to be much of a problem at first.  For where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more—right [Romans 5:20]?
Nonetheless, there are still consequences to our actions, and after being given a glimpse of what perfection really looks like, the more imperfect even our best becomes [1 Corinthians 13:12].  For it is written: Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. [2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NIV]
No, it is not just in regards to the flesh of our bodies that the passage is referring to.  For it is also written: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” [John 6:63 NIV]
In other words, it is what is on the inside (so to speak) that is what really counts, and woe be it to all who have not accepted our Heavenly Father’s Holy Spirit into their hearts [John 14:15-29].  For there is no life apart from Him [1 John 5:11-12], but even with the overflowing measure of grace afforded me [Ephesians 4:7], I would still like to be a lot more like Him in the much sooner than later [1 John 3:2].
No, it has nothing to do with wanting to be better than others [Luke 18:9-12], but it does have everything to do with hating who I naturally am [Luke 18:13].  For if I was like our Heavenly Father, I would never do anything harmful—neither to myself, nor others [Romans 13:8-14].
Yes, I would do well to want to follow the example that was set through the Apostle Paul.  For I know just how he felt: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV]
No, none of this is meant to deny that changes take place when a person becomes “born-again” [ John 3:3] in the Lord Jesus Christ.  For it is written: Therefore if any person is [engrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh {and} new has come! [2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP]
In my own case, however, most of those changes have been in regards to knowledge and understanding [1 Corinthians 2:6-16]—not behavior [Galatians 5:19-23].  For aside from having my mouth cleansed of all foul language [Isaiah 6:5-6] and losing my love for drunken revelry, I am still just as naturally despicable as I ever was, which causes me even more anguish now [Ecclesiastes 1:18].
Yes, there are many who would say that it is obvious that I have never been truly born-again—certainly not in Christ!!!  For it is written: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV]
On the other hand, was not [Romans 7:14-25] also placed into written form through the Apostle Paul, and does this passage not make it abundantly clear that he was far from perfected?  Therefore, have not many been woefully deceived [1 Timothy 1:5-11]?
Yes, there are many who have missed the point.  For the absolute truth of the matter truly is: Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God {did:} sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and {as an offering} for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [Romans 8:1-4 NAS]
No, there is no danger of encouraging wickedness in this.  For who in their “right-mind” would ever want to do what is harmful to themselves and others—regardless of whether real or imagined [Matthew 5:17-48]?  Hence, the part about walking according to the Spirit [Romans 8:5-11].
Yes, there is a big difference between wanting to do something and actually doing it, and it is indeed a great blessing to be prevented from acting upon natural impulses [Mark 14:38].  I would still like to be a lot more like my Heavenly Father while I wait for my own time as a part of this world to come unto an end, however [Jeremiah 17:9-10].
Whoa, talk about coming full circle.  For to truly be a follower of Christ involves participating in His sufferings, and that includes waiting on all that He wants to accomplish to come to pass—not only in ourselves, but throughout the entirety of this world, as well.  For it is written: Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. [Romans 8:17-19 NIV]

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