Sunday, March 02, 2008

This All Sounded Better in my Head

I have come to regard sins as leeches. In the past, it seemed to me that sin was its own domain. Perhaps it was sentient, or perhaps it was merely a manifestation of disobedience. But as we all tend to be selfish and view things through our own goggles, I would argue that sin has an agenda: to suck life. We say that sin's net effect puts distance between God and ourselves, and this is certainly true, but what we often fail to understand is that with increased distance it becomes easier to add more. Lately I've been telling choice others that God is working to break my spirit. That might seem to some as the exact wrong way to express the way I'm striving to be holy as the spirit in me compels me more as time passes, but this is ultimately what must happen: God and the Holy Spirit was chisel away at all the garbage that has latched onto me, from my sub-subconscious to my habits and my speech, and in essence break me down to nothing but what was there when God created me. And even if you strip away a cancerous tumour from a vital organ, who's to say that what's left of the natural tissue won't be in dire need of repair? This is precisely what is happening to me. In the process, I've had to endure, for my own benefit, some very harsh lessons and some very painful decisions. If you know me, you know how stubborn I can be. I believe in my mind that God governs everything in creation, that Creation is God's breath condensed into matter, but that I will ultimately be judged by my character, by what my heart feels, not what my intellect recognizes as truth.

Over the last several weeks, I've gained some lost momentum re: my Biblical studies. If I had maintained the same efficiency I had in November, I'd have surely finished the Bible in January. It would likely have been, though, that I would have glossed over some of the important lessons I've picked up in the last several days. Some were tough pills, and perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to air my own struggles. But if there be any virtue in sharing-- if the truth, as it's been said, will set me free, then permit to share some of it today.

1. Whether you love or hate God, whether you serve or curse Him, reality is not what you make it or wish it to be. There are truths that transcend and govern everything that many of us have come to regard as sacred.

I gotta say, I've been a little shocked by some of the people who've approached me about these posts. Honestly, I would think some of you wouldn't give an ounce of time to my theological musings and Biblical studies. Some of you have simply approached me to ask, "Do you really believe everything in the Bible?" Others have dropped the gloves and sparked some pretty decent debates. But here's a truth that some of us, and myself on many days, struggle with:

To those who don't believe in God: There probably isn't any Biblical verse I could offer you that would change your mind. In the past, I've tried to read the Word with an explicit agenda in mind: to disprove it for myself. But there is one question you ought to satisfy for yourself: Do you avoid or disregard spiritual matters because you fear the accountability of acknowledging them, or have you considered and studied the universe and have ultimately concluded that faith is unfounded. See, some of you are fearful, and some are lazy and ignorant. I've said many times that I have more respect for the educated and considerate athiest than I do for the lazy Christian. The athiest who has made a conscious effort to understand the more profound things concerning existence has decided that his or her own viewpoints are limited to his or her experience. Just as we all function. The one whose stance is grounded in study and consideration has a right to make conclusions. The one who fears what conclusion may result, however, gets a lot of empathy from me, because it's a rational acknowledgment (not a premature conclusion), that if something greater exists, said person might not be ready to live for it. But to determine, with no foundation, that nothing greater exists, is sheer foolishness and an affection for ignorance.

To those who believe in God but don't follow Him: How many of us approach God with the hope that He will conform to us? These people might mutter words such as these: "I can't accept that God is..." or "God would never..." or "There's no such place as hell." God, whom you claim to believe, says this:

Isaiah 29:16
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"?

In other words, when you create a universe, you are free to set all stipulations, limits, laws, etc. But being born into a universe, you do not have the luxury of choosing, based on your limited knowledge and/or opinion, what the truth is. This is what frustrates me about the lazy Christians out there; they have been made acquainted with God, and instead of striving to understand God, they think that they can combine an acknowledgment of His authority with the freedom to choose which precepts and commands to accept. This is a much greater selfishness than the hedonistic person who doesn't know God.

But, even though I strive to align my will with God's and to serve Him in obedience, there are many things that I just don't understand and may never come to accept. Some of the following questions really shouldn't cross the desks of weak or non-believers, but it's just a chance I'm going to take here in posting them. Let it be known that these questions, some of which come directly from people I've spoken with, have answers.

2. What about those who never come to know God? (Let me take that one a step further, if I may: What about those who know God and were denied a chance to obey?)

This hearkens back to one of my earliest questions when I started reading the Pentateuch. It was kind of surreal for me to read about the Flood and how the entire population of the world, save Noah and his family, was destroyed. And yet I understood. I could rationalize for myself that God would want to eradicate everything that stood in direct opposition to Him. I would like to make it clear that I wouldn't personally operate that way, but I can't claim in my limited capacity that I can see all the benefits or pitfalls of destroying a world, just that I acknowledge that if God is a holy God that He would strive for holiness. But why, then, did God deny acts of mercy, was my question. Consider this:

Exodus 4:21
The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Translation: even if Pharaoh wants to free the Jews from bondage, I will not let him. Later on: even if Nebuchadnezzar doesn't want to invade Israel and destroy her people, I will steer him. Even if the Pharisees and teachers of the law (and, subsequently, the people) don't want to crucify My only begotten Son, they will!

God love ya, Paul, you answered my question:

Romans 9 (if you care to know the answer, you can muster a mouse click.)

I know for many that this will be a tough pill, and one that "refutes" God's existence-- or at least His mercy. But consider this: could it not be said that Pharaoh, in imprisoning the Hebrews, was actually serving God's will with greater faith than many of God's chosen people. Who are we to assume that because they were led into the slaughter that they haven't been judged as faithful servants? We simply can't know, and it is fruitless to ask. But if you are a believer and find yourself struggling with the harshness of this, place your faith in God and pray about it. I won't make predictions, but if God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, to name just a few, in order that they might serve as instruments of His will, I would certainly not be surprised to see them in the Kingdom some day. I'm just saying I wouldn't be surprised, not that it will happen.

But here's one of the places where I've received something of an attitude adjustment. I once thought of conviction as being a virtue unto itself. Some of my favourite singers and writers share none of my beliefs, but I always thought that there was something special in the gusto with which they expressed their non-conformity. It's getting to the point, however, where I am starting to think that love and forgiveness are greater than intellect and the pursuit of knowledge. I'm fast approaching that stance, and it's effectively made me a rope in a tug-of-war. Both a spiritual and intellectual one.

But here's what I've come to realize: in every single choice we make, we reflect ourselves. I used to think that being an introverted person that I was hidden and guarded from some of the harsher things in life. I used to think that by sharing nothing of myself that I prevented vulnerabilities from seeping into my existence. Sure, I was miserable, but there was an unspeakable safety in that misery. I made champions of philosophy and deep thinking, making no effort to grow closer to living, breathing people. But I was bitter and sour. A lot. So I urge you all, instead of stewing in bitterness and questioning, seek! If you don't start with the Bible, start somewhere. As for me, I have come to recognize and scoff at my poor behaviour, at the leeches that try to govern me. Paul says in Romans that those of us who believe may always struggle with sinful desires, i.e. the flesh. But here's what we know of the flesh: it will die, and our souls live on. Every knee will bend before God at the resurrection, when all will be judged in accordance with how they lived. And for those of you who have leeches, take heed that unless you invite the Spirit to dwell inside you, the emptiness you feel may never be cleansed:

Mark 9:50
"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."


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