Ye Are Gods

Each and every person, being made in God’s image, is an eternal being; we’ll all transcend physical creation and endure forever. The salient question isn’t how long we’ll exist, but what we’re becoming. Since existence itself isn’t an option, we ought to soberly consider the consequences of an eternal, limitless transformation.

From our temporal experience, becoming is a matter of trajectory, a journey, a vector with force and direction. In an eternal trajectory then we’re headed for one of two opposite extremes. We’re either becoming gods and goddesses (Jn 10:34-36), at least in the mythic sense, or demons and devils. (Jn 6:70) There’s no middle, neutral ground in this eternal centrifuge of becoming.

Christ will ultimately divide us into two distinct groups: sheep and goats. (Mt 25:32) But in this eternal division there won’t be any close calls, we’ll have cleanly divided ourselves into good and evil, benevolent and malevolent, beauty or horror, well before God begins to sift through us. By then it will be mere formality.

So as we interact with one another in this apparently finite, temporal space below, we’re dealing with eternal beings, beloved children of God (Ac 17:29), those infinitely loved by the Almighty. (Jn 3:16) God reveals how we value Him in how we treat one another. (40) Do we honor all as bearers of the divine image? (1Pe 2:17) Do we esteem others better? Or set ourselves up as judges? (Mt 7:1)

These two paths we tread are vast in scope; the destinations are infinitely disparate: there’s no upper (Php 1:6) or lower bound to what we can become. (2Ti 3:13) As the distance between two divergent lines, no matter how slight the angle, eventually becomes infinite, every step we take, every move we make, has an eternal, limitless, unfathomable consequence.

So, how do we call forth from within ourselves, and from those we meet, the best we each have to offer? (Php 4:9) Knowing the depravity of Man, how do we, in wisdom, beckon to fellow pilgrims in this eternal journey to walk in the light with us? (1Jn 1:5-7)

In fear and trembling (Php 2:12), knowing the terror of God (2Co 5:11), we prayerfully aim our lives at God, seeking Him with our whole heart (Ps 119:10), pressing toward the mark (Php 3:14)joyfully pointing the eternal trajectory of every thought and action toward Him the best we know how.

And we trust in God as we extend the welcome, benevolent hand of brotherhood to every soul we encounter, loving our neighbors as ourselves, praying for everyone (1Ti 2:1), listening and looking for how we might nudge each and every soul more into the Way of righteousness. (Da 12:3)

We don’t do this naively, in weakness or passivity, foolishly presuming others are good; we wait only upon God, knowing He only is our Rock and our Defense (Ps 62:2), our Light and our Salvation (Ps 27:1), that He works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and that all He calls will come to Him. (Jn 6:44)

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To Be Content

Contentment is finding rest and peace in my present circumstance, viewing it as appropriate and satisfactory, so long as my very basic needs are met. (1Ti 6:8) The secret to getting ahead is realizing I’m already there: right now, there’s no better place for me to be than where I am. (1Ti 6:6)

Discontent is my alternative: chaffing against and resisting my condition because I believe I deserve better. It’s a state of turbulent unthankfulness, disappointment, covetousness and lust (Is 57:20); as long as I’m exalting myself above my circumstances I’ll never be satisfied. (Pr 27:20)

The key to contentment must then be humility, fully aligning with God as to what I deserve so my expectations are appropriate. It’s all about perspective.

What do I deserve then?

Reality is, no matter what condition I find myself in, God’s being incredibly merciful to me (La 3:22-23): He’s not giving me what I deserve. He’s never fully dealt with any living soul according to their true sinfulness. (Ps 103:10) Even as I fear Him and serve Him the best I know how, His mercy toward me is infinite. (11) Until I’m burning in the deepest infernos of Hell, I’m under mercy (Ps 23:6); I deserve infinite punishment. (La 3:39)

So when I’m complaining, ungrateful, unthankful and restless because I don’t have whatever, I’m despising the tender, infinite mercy of God, walking in the primal lie that God’s not good. (Ge 3:5)

Wisdom learns contentment through experience (Php 4:11); finding security and comfort in God’s faithful provision rather than in having physical/mental health or material wealth. (He 13:5-6) It learns in every circumstance to live from a perception of fullness and sufficiency rather than lack (Php 4:12), because God’s provision is not only merciful, it’s perfect for His purposes. (Ro 8:28)

Clearly, contentment ought not to breed laziness or complacency; we ought to be industrious (Pr 13:23), innovative and disciplined (Pr 6:10-11) in bettering our lives and those of others. (Ep 4:28) It’s hard for anyone to seek God and glorify Him when struggling to merely survive; we’re to remember the destitute and do what we can to help. (Ga 2:10)

Yet in pursuing the forbidden to satiate our cravings we self-deceive (Pr 5:20); even when we manage to succeed, it’s ultimately pointless and empty. (Ec 2:11)

By design, only God Himself can satisfy. (Ep 3:19) Everything else I could ever desire is merely a shadow reminding me of Him. (Ps 72:25) When my soul is discontent, the cure is seeking God Himself, to feed in His majesty. (Mi 5:4)

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Seek Ye the LORD

We’re all commanded to seek God (Is 55:6); both the wicked (7) and the righteous. (Zep 2:3) What does this mean, to seek God?

How do we seek Divinity, feel after and find One we can’t see or touch, yet Who’s ever present all about us? (Ps 139:7)

Our inability to connect with God isn’t because He’s unavailable or far away (Ac 17:27-28a); His intent has always been to walk in fellowship with us (Ge 3:8a), and He hasn’t changed. (Ma 3:6)

The problem is us: selfish, stubborn, rebellious, callous (Ro 1:21) — we’ve run away from God and tried to hide from Him (Ge 3:8b), trained ourselves to ignore and dismiss Him, broken our own ability to enjoy Him. (Ro 1:28)

Our behavior here is totally inexcusable, indefensible; it’s actually horrific and makes God very angry (Ro 1:18); He’s jealous of our affections and loyalties, and He’s in this relationship to stay … He will not tolerate our neglect of Him. (Ex 20:5)

So, the first step in seeking God is to repent  (Lk 13:3), acknowledge that we are the problem in this divine relationship and not God. We need to change our mind about God (He 11:6) and sin (1Jn 3:4): start loving and honoring God (De 6:5), obeying Him and relating with Him as best we know how. (1Jn 5:3)

This first step is necessary: we’ve gone far away from Him (Is 53:6a); so, to find God we must at least try to start walking in His general direction. (Ps 119:10) But this is insufficient in itself: we can clean up our act to make ourselves look good … and not be seeking Him. (Jn 5:42)

In our obedience we must also seek understanding (Col 1:9), to align ourselves at every level with spiritual truth. Yet it’s easy to confuse theology and religion with God, and pursue Man’s way of engaging the divine rather than Divinity Himself. We may know it all, but if we don’t know God (Jn 17:3) … it’s pointless. (1Co 13:2)

We can dedicate our lives to serving others, donate all our wealth to humanitarian causes, and even die the martyr’s death — but we can be self-serving in all of it, and that’s worthless. (1Co 13:3)

We weren’t born with an inclination toward God (Ro 3:11); we’re instinctively averse to God (Ro 8:7) and this is our fundamental problem. Our selfish nature is constantly interfering (Ro 7:18), and the evil one is constantly tempting and attacking us. (Ep 6:12) Our ability to self-deceive is insidiously profound, entrenched in life-long patterns of pride (Ps 10:4) and rebellion. (Ja 1:22)

To start seeking God Himself we must get over ourselves and get out of our own way. (2Ti 2:25) Our pride and self-centeredness is what is keeping us from Him, nothing more. (Is 59:2) Personal suffering is what wakes us up (Ps 73:5-6), so God chastens us (14); we all need this. (He 12:6)

To find God Himself we must be seeking the Giver rather the gift; desiring the Blessed Himself rather than to be blessed; walking not merely in holiness (He 12:14) but with Holiness, pursuing God’s heart and mind, not just following His Way.

To help us understand how the divine relationship works, earthly relationships are a picture and a mirror, similar in many ways, particularly the marriage relationship. (Ep 5:31-32) In healthy marriages we’re present and focused, exploring our spouse’s mind and heart, looking to live in close intimacy and harmony with another soul. God teaches us how to focus on one another so we can see how to focus on Him in the ultimate, eternal relationship.

Seeking God means arranging our thoughts and actions to fully engage in vibrant, intimate, continuous personal fellowship with the living God, focusing on knowing and understanding Him (Je 9:24), delighting in God Himself (Ps 27:4) and rejoicing in Him. (Php 4:4)

To enable our seeking God is revealing Himself in a variety of ways: through Nature (Ps 19:1-3), through those in Whom He lives. (1Ti 3:15), and through His written Word (Ro 15:4), especially Torah, the Law of Moses. (Lk 16:31) In seeking God we maximize every opportunity to understand His self-revelation and realign with Him on every level we can.

To seek God we saturate our minds with His Word, particularly Torah (Ps 119:97), memorizing it and prayerfully meditating on it all the time (Ps 1:2), asking God to reveal more and more Himself to us (Ps 119:18) and cleanse us of all hinderance in our fellowship with Him (Ps 19:12), continuously aware of and cherishing every single moment as the perfect gift of God’s immediate presence (Ja 1:17), inviting those pursuing God (Ps 119:79) to encourage and challenge us along the way. (Ro 15:14)

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How Can Ye Believe?

Christ asks how we can believe in God when we’re more concerned about Man’s approval than God’s? (Jn 5:44) The implication is we can’t: before we can believe in God we must be seeking God’s kingdom and pleasure first and foremost as a manner of life. (He 11:6) If we’re out to please others we aren’t servants of Christ (Ga 1:10); and if we aren’t obeying Christ we aren’t seeking Him – we’re His enemies, headed for destruction. (Php 3:18-19)

This follows from the fact that esteeming Man’s approval above God’s is to trust unfaithful sinners more than the Holy One; it’s believing in Man rather than God, disvaluing God by serving the creature more than the Creator. (Ro 1:25) So, preferring the praise of men is unbelief in God by definition.

This begs the question: what other conditions preclude us from having saving faith? Any disposition to sin intentionally, on purpose, means we don’t fear God (Ro 3:18): we don’t revere Him as our King. This also is to mistrust Him, to reject Him, to disbelieve in Him. Salvation is far from such a heart. (Ps 119:155)

Is believing in and trusting God even something we can decide to do? Is this subject to the power of our will at all? (Ro 9:16) Believing God exists is certainly a necessary first step, but that’s not the same as believing in Him, trusting Him, receiving Him as He has revealed Himself to be. (Jn 1:12-13)

Suppose a man stretches a tightrope across Niagara Falls and balances a wheelbarrow across the raging torrents. To cheering spectators he yells, “Do you believe I can push a man across in this wheelbarrow?”

How do you respond?  Can you make yourself believe? Is this an act of your will, like scratching your nose? Maybe you figure he can, so you nod in subtle agreement, but then, pointing directly at you he commands: “Get in!”

Ah! Now we’ll see if you believe! Perhaps you’d be willing to risk your life, but if you’re shaking like a leaf … if you have any doubt at all (Mk 11:23), any hesitation at all (Ja 1:6), any fear at all, this isn’t trust, belief – faithFaith is knowing you’re safer in that wheelbarrow than anywhere else in the universe – perfectly secure, chill enough to fall asleep. That isn’t something you can just will yourself into knowing. Faith in God is a miracle: it’s supernatural assurance. (He 10:22)

Consider, if placing saving faith in God is an act of our will then it’s a work; for if an act of the will isn’t a work, then nothing is a work. Acts of our will are works by definition.

However, believing on God saves us from sin (Ge 15:6), yet no work can save anyone from sin. (Tit 3:5) Since no work can save anyone from sin, experiencing saving faith in God can’t be our work; so faith can’t be an act of our will; this must be the work of God. (Jn 6:29)

Yet God commands us to repent and believe on Christ (Ac 17:30), so how can this not be an act of our will?

Well, God requires us to be perfect (Mt 5:48); this isn’t an action, but a state of being from which our actions originate, and one clearly beyond our reach. (Pr 30:29) God’s command doesn’t imply our ability; it’s righteous for God to demand perfection of us: He can’t rightly accept anything less. (Eze 18:20)

The reality is that faith and repentance aren’t things we do, or actions we take, but characteristics of our state of being as we’re transformed by God; they’re two sides of the same coin (Ac 20:21) – both are gifts of right beliefs, affections and desires, a new heart, a Godward disposition. We don’t do faith, we have faith … to trust and obey God when our blind heart is healed to see and know Him more as He truly is.

And to repent, to stop believing lies, to have faith and start believing truth, God must intervene: He must give us repentance and faith so we can identify and dismiss the lies as we acknowledge the truth. (2Ti 2:25) So, while God may command us to be a certain way (1Pe 1:15-16), this doesn’t imply that we’re actually able to obey; our will is broken and corrupt. (Je 13:23)

Faith is rooted in the divine nature from which godly action springs (Ja 2:18): what we need in order to believe in God is a new nature (Ga 6:15), and we just can’t decide to have one.

Our inability to align with holiness lies in our being in a state of unbelief and enmity against God (Ro 8:7); in this state we deliberately choose patterns of disobedience which further enslave our will. We are, in our broken state, eating the fruit of our own way and being filled with our own devices. (Pr 1:31) Engaging sin leads to deeper bondage, the continual weakening of our ability to resist sin and choose good. God isn’t responsible for this condition, for our inability to choose good: we are.

Alienation from God is the result of our own ignorance and blindness (Ep 4:18), which comes upon us as we reject the light (Jn 3:36) and respond inappropriately to God. (Ro 1:21) In blindness we make more choices which alienate us even farther from God (Ps 73:27), leading to ever deeper sin and bondage (Ro 1:24), such that we’re continually becoming more irrational, confused, deceived, believing more and more lies about God, others and ourselves. (2Ti 3:13)

We can no more escape this spiraling descent into bondage and corruption through the effort of our own will than a rotting corpse can raise itself up from the grave (Ep 5:14), or the non-existent can conceive and birth themselves (Jn 3:7), or the wicked can give themselves new hearts (Ez 18:31) – yet God requires this of us.

God isn’t cruel to command the impossible – He does this in mercy, as a promise: if we hear His command, humble ourselves and seek life from Him (Ps 119:107), trusting He’s faithful (1Co 1:9), He quickens us (Col 2:13), conceives us with the truth by an act of His own will (Ja 1:18), and gives us new spirits and hearts (Ez 36:26) which delight in His Law. (Ro 7:22)

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To Lust

Lust is a challenging topic for all of us, especially for men; sexual addictions are much more common than we might think, even among Christian leaders. Accountability groups often fail as men confess helplessness and continue in mutual brokenness. Rather than exhorting both wives and husbands in proper marital duty, or offering any practical help for singles, Churches often drive shame into silence, resentment and bitterness. Real solutions are rare indeed.

To find healing we must [1] identify sin biblically, [2] expose the lies empowering lust, [3] find repentance to acknowledge the truth, and then [4] recover ourselves from spiritual capativity. (2Ti 2:25-26)

Lust is desire orienting our will to obtain what’s forbidden, such that (when plausible) we devise a plan to acquire it, intending to execute. (Ja 1:14-15) So, a man who’s checking out a married woman isn’t lusting until he devises a plan to entice her and commits to doing so. Guilt is about intent: what we purpose in our hearts (Mt 5:28), and nothing else.

But why do we lust? If it were just physics men wouldn’t lose interest in disrespectful, unfaithful women (Pr 30:21,23a); kept women wouldn’t flirt and seduce (Pr 23:28): the spirituality of sexuality drives lust – we’re trying to fill a spiritual vacuum. Though the wicked domineer and abuse others, decent souls seek one-flesh intimacy, love and respect; it’s built into our DNA. (Ge 2:18) Sex is a shadow, a pale reflection of the connection we all long for in God. (Ep 5:32)

When we aren’t fulfilled in either God or our spouse we’re tempted to seek elsewhere. (1Co 7:15) We fall for the lie that the stranger will satisfy (Pr 5:3), but the well is toxic. (4-5)

To heal the shallow appeal of lasciviousness we must first deal with our lack of divine intimacy (Eph 4:17-19), and begin abiding in God until this primal need for love and acceptance is being met by God at the deepest levels. (Ps 73:25) This is what we’re made for: nothing else can satisfy. (Ep 3:19)

Convinced that only God can meet our ultimate need for love, respect, security and acceptance, we recover ourselves from spiritual captivity by walking this out, ordering our thoughts and actions to reflect and align with this reality. (Ps 119:9) And as we seek, we find. (Mt 7:8) Only then may we bring the strength and health into our relationships that God intended, and be the blessings God’s designed us to be, rather than desperate, craving souls longing to be fed and nurtured.

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Put Out Their Name

Our name is how we’re known and recognized, our brand, how we’re differentiated from each other. It represents the unique integrity of our character, the faithfulness of our word, the wisdom of our experience. They that know God’s name put their trust in Him; knowing He’s perfectly reliable – He never forsakes those who seek Him. (Ps 9:10)

Our good name derives its goodness from our behavior, from our actions and how we’re perceived and known by others through them: a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches (Pr 22:1a), for this reflects our personal, practical righteousness in community, and reveals the nature of our souls. How we teat a person’s name reveals how we feel about them; God won’t excuse those who disrespect His name. (Ex 20:7)

When God judges the wicked He puts out their name, extinguishing it eternally. (Ps 9:5) After revealing their wickedness to the universe (Mk 4:22), God blots out the remembrance of evildoers from under Heaven (De 29:29); He deliberately obscures their uniqueness and identity (Ps 34:16), such that we can no longer recount or explain their way (Ps 1:6), how they were each unique in their behavior.

So, in addition to suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jud 7), in having their names put out the wicked essentially become indistinguishable from one another; they lose their individual identity. Collectively, they will be held in everlasting contempt (Da 12:2), their carcasses embodying a nameless insanity, an irrational, abhorrent, filthy depravity (Is 66:24), utterly consumed with terrors. (Ps 73:19)

God is perfectly just and upright in putting out the name of the wicked (Ps 9:8), for there’s no benefit in trying to differentiate between them as they exalt themselves against the Holy One. All sin is essentially the creature setting itself apart from the Creator, to seek identity apart from and outside Him. Though there are certainly varying degrees of depravity (Jn 19:11), after it is exposed in judgement, God need not continue to individualize all the terrible nuances and shades of such rebellion as expressed through His enemies – in the end, it’s all one and the same. (Jn 8:44)

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False Accusers

I’ve noticed recently how lightly we accuse one another; even if it’s only remotely possible, or totally absurd, it doesn’t stop many of us. Such malice seems to be more common among the political Left, a weapon to put others on the defensive and defame them, but it’s becoming much more common throughout our culture, all across the political spectrum. And I’ve begun noticing this in myself: not good – this isn’t Christ. (Ep 4:20)

I may suspect ill intent, but Love gives others the benefit of the doubt until he has proof.

When I accuse another of wrong I must have verifiable evidence, hard facts, convincing to a reasonable, unbiased person; otherwise I’m a false accuser (2Ti 3:3), and violate the law of love. (Ro 13:10)

For example, in accusing the elderly God requires multiple independent witnesses to verify facts. (1Ti 5:19) These key relationships command a singular respect (Le 19:32), so God takes special measures to protect them, discouraging hearsay, rumors and gossip. Such corrupt communication is similarly forbidden in all relationships (Ep 4:29); it genders mistrust, sows discord, and promotes bitterness and vengeance.

Releasing suspicions as accusations before I have sufficient evidence exposes my malice (Ep 4:31), that I’m hoping to find others in the wrong, speaking evil of them, judging and looking for a verdict before they’ve had a fair trial. (Ja 4:11a) But when I’m judging others like this I’m disobeying God (11b); imitating Satan and furthering his agenda. (Re 12:10)

Being a false accuser is more subtle than merely making untrue accusations, it’s having the tendency to accuse before I verify; it’s posturing myself as certain prematurely, arrogantly, presumptuously (Ps 19:13) – it’s living dishonestly, falsely, in a lying way. (Ps 119:29)

God hates false witnesses (Pr 6:16,19a), highlighting this sin in the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex 20:16), forbidding all forms of inauthentic, untrustworthy, malicious testimony. This is no small sin.

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Wait Only on God

Jehovah promises that if I wait on Him, my strength will be renewed. (Is 40:31) This isn’t merely a call to silence and inactivity, if it is that at all; wait relates more to having an expectation that God will be faithful to His Word, to His name, to His character — that He will keep His promises. (Nu 23:19)

When I expect God to be as He has revealed Himself to be, and to do as He has promised, I honor Him and please Him. When I take God at His Word, and live as if He is as He truly is, I’m aligning myself with reality, and this is the place of strength; this is when I’m at my best, living according to my design, as strong as I can be.

But when I alienate myself from the life of God through my ignorance of His Way (Ep 4:18), when I cling to false ways in my unwillingness to fully trust Him, I emulate the world (17), living in anxiety, frustration and fear, which steals my joy – which is my strength. (Ne 8:10)

My motive for distrusting God appears to be a fear of being let down should God fail me, as if it’s better to anticipate being disappointed and brace for a fall than to fall flat on my face. But in living like this I’m calling God a liar (1Jn 5:10), and I’ll eventually be ashamed of every moment I’ve lived apart from Him like this. (1Jn 2:28)

If God isn’t faithful, if He isn’t good, if He can’t be trusted, then nothing else matters anyway; then life has no meaning, I have no purpose, no hope. And how’s that working out for me? I’m saved by hope. (Ro 8:24) There’s nothing else worth having, so what do I have to lose by trusting Him? Nothing: I’ve everything to gain.

I should trust Him, and I should trust Him implicitly. But I must also study Him and seek His face (Ps 28:7) so that I may know Him as He is, so I don’t trust in a false image of Him that I’ve created for myself. My trust in Him is only as helpful as the accuracy of the perception I have of Him; I must seek to know Him as He truly is (Php 3:10), and not merely as I wish for Him to be.

And I should only trust in God (Ps 62:5), not man. (Je 17:5) I should not ultimately expect anyone else to be perfectly faithful on their own, apart from God: only God is good, and He works in all of us according to His pleasure (Php 2:13), so I can safely trust Him to work all things for my good (Ro 8:28), and thank Him for all things (Ep 5:20), regardless of appearances.

God’s after one thing – making me like His Son, along with all others who’ll have Him (Ep 5:26-27), that we should be to the praise of His glory. (Ep 1:11-12) So, this is what I should expect Him to do; this is God’s agenda, and I should joyfully pursue Him in it.

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Toward the Mark

Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time. To live with no aim, no goals or purpose, is to miss life altogether. We’re created with a sense that life has a purpose, and this purpose relates to a goal. As we pursue our goals we fulfill our purpose, and experience deep satisfaction and fulfillment. This makes for a much more rewarding and satisfying life. (2Ti 4:7)

Frustration is what we feel when we’re being blocked from achieving a goal. Something which seems beyond our immediate control is making it difficult or impossible for us to reach a goal and fulfill our sense of purpose. For example, trying to balance a budget when our spouse is constantly overspending. This can cause feelings of anger, grief and depression – and lead to envy, strife, coercion and manipulation (1Co 3:3), passive-aggression and/or violence to try to overcome what’s blocking our way.

The very nature of frustration tells us how we overcome it. By definition, there’s only one way: change – we must adapt and grow. (Ep 4:15) Frustration is God’s way of telling us we’re missing something; the only remedy is to discover what we’re missing – and put another precious piece into the puzzle of our life.

We might have an improper goal: we might be aiming at the wrong thing, or have an expectation that’s misaligned with reality. This often happens when our goals are not within our power to achieve, as when they involve the will of other people — who tend to have different goals than we do. (1Co 16:12)

Proper goals will always be within our personal control, and relate to our own behavior, not that of others. (1Pe 4:15) When the reality of other people’s goals gets in our way, as they inevitably will, we must ether course-correct or continue to bump heads with the universe. The universe will eventually win, needless to say. Wisdom is choosing to grow up by refining our goals, and learning to aim at better things. (Ep 5:17)

Yet, even if our goal is wholesome and good, aligned with reality, within our personal control, we may still be frustrated if we aren’t pursuing it correctly, or with the correct mindset. In this case, we grow by disciplining and controlling ourselves, praying, and adjusting and refining our beliefs, behaviors and expectations so we pursue our goal more patiently and efficiently, reaching our goal in a timely fashion, in accordance with reality.

If our goal is godly, we need not sin against ourselves or anyone else to achieve it. (Ja 1:16) If sinful behavior is necessary to achieve a goal, then it’s not a good goal by definition; it’s misaligned with eternal reality and pursuing it will bring us to ruin. (Ro 6:23)

As we address our frustrations in wisdom, seeking the will of God as our ultimate goal (Php 1:21), we can receive frustration itself as a welcome friend, a gift from God, exposing another area in our lives where He wants us to grow.

As we ask God to show us our hidden goals and motives, and prayerfully expose them to the light of God’s Word (Ps 119:105), He will reveal Himself and His way to us, that we may cleanse our way (Ps 119:9) and have His perfect peace. (Php 4:6-7)

The path of life is full of challenges and difficulty. It is at times bewilderingly painful and complex. As we face each trial in our pursuit God, we should count it all joy (Ja 1:2), realizing God’s glorious intent, constantly adjusting, shifting and growing to be conformed into the image of Christ. (Ro 8:29) This is how we work out our sanctification (Php 2:12), how we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. (Php 3:14)

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Feigned Words

False teachers have an agenda: to benefit themselves through religion. (Ro 16:18) They may be covetous (1Pe 2:3), looking for an easy living, or seeking prestige, respect and admiration (3Jn 1:9); generally, it’s both. Whereever Christianity abounds we’re sure to find impostors. (Ac 20:29) How do we identify them?

One easy litmus test is to listen as if we’re one-on-one and they’re speaking to us as an individual, by name. Do their words make us feel uneasy, pressured or manipulated? Are they speaking down to us? Or are they preaching to someone they love and honor? (1Pe 2:7a)

If it’s the former, the teaching springs from corruption, not the love of Christ, friend to friend. (Jn 15:15) These are feigned words: crafted, fabricated and engineered to impress and/or manipulate. (1Pe 2:3) They wound our souls in ways that are difficult to perceive, whereas the tongue of the wise heals and edifies. (Pr 12:18)

Pastors may not realize they’re doing this, trained to speak to no one in particular and everyone in general, in superficial, elevated, arrogant or even condescending tones. So what if they’re speaking truth, and very helpful truth: this is expected from false teachers (2Co 11:15); if they were always lying and deceiving, we’d dismiss them much more readily. Yet it’s as they model ungodly behavior that they do the most harm (1Co 15:33), enticing others to emulate them. (1Pe 5:3) An insincere, unhealthy spirit inevitably corrupts the divine message. (2Co 2:17)

We may indeed train ourselves to listen to disconnected, inauthentic speech in a disconnected, inauthentic manner, as if these sermons are directed at others; we may enjoy the beat down even if it would be harmful and offensive if delivered in person, solely at ourselves. Agreeing with such corruption pollutes our own spirit, feeding our religious pride and deepening our bondage. (2Ti 3:13)

It should not surprise us then to find that in public speech the Apostle Paul deliberately presented himself in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (1Co 2:3) He was earnestly trying to avoid impressing or controlling anyone (4); he wasn’t promoting Paul, trying to please men (Ga 1:10) – he was uplifting Christ that all might know and love Him more. (1Co 2:2)

If a pastor or a teacher desires to be respected and admired (Ga 5:26), above a common brother (Mt 23:8), this will inevitably bleed through in his teaching, exalting himself, putting down others and poisoning the flock. (2Co 11:20) This isn’t love (1Co 13:4-5), so it’s worthless. (1Co 13:2) Only men of godly character qualify as church leaders (1Ti 3:2-3), and they must have the kind of extensive life experience that keeps men humble in praise. (1Ti 3:6)

When someone’s genuinely trying to help from a place of humility, to edify by proclaiming truth, they may address difficult topics (1Ti 4:2), but they won’t strive (2Ti 2:24), they’ll be meek and gentle (1Th 2:7) like Christ (2Co 10:1); their message won’t be condescending, patronizing or offensive, even if we’re the only one present and the speaker’s addressing us personally by name: love works no ill to anyone. (Ro 13:10)

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