“Work” is a 4-letter word; “sin” is not; neither is “faith”

“Work” is a 4-letter word; “sin” is not; neither is “faith”.

So, what do you do? I fear this question. I hate it. It’s the 4-letter word of questions, four simple words that have the power to cause decades of guilt and shame to rear their ugly, little heads in my mind. There’s nothing little about these words.

OK, ok. I confess. I played a video game yesterday! First time in over a year. Truly, I have sinned. And I state that in all earnestness and honesty, especially after my time in the word this morning. The morning after. Still. In the word. Still in faith.

Let me try to explain. (Of course, why else would I be blogging?) My faith is strong, but I do doubt sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. (See James 1:8 – I surely do have that verse memorized.) It’s like this: Yesterday, I plugged in one of those pseudo-candles (a light bulb heats up some fragrant wax.) My wife, Barb, asked me to turn it off, because, although it’s nice, eventually “it overwhelms.” Doubt is like that. Sin is, too. Or maybe it’s temptation that’s like that, since temptation is taking something good (or not-necessarily bad) and letting it over-whelm and lead to sin.

And all sin is sin. Even though we all sin differently. Because it’s not the thing we do (or don’t do) that is “sin”, but our wanting, desiring that thing more than God. More than God’s happiness. More than hanging with Christ on the cross. (Cause that’s what he did for us. He hung in there.) More often than not, that’s where I fail when I fall. It’s just not pleasant to be crucified. I just want/need a break, I think.

I can’t do it. I’m not capable. Literally. I’d behave like the last to die of the three hanging from the crosses in the movie Risen. (Good movie, but I liked War Room better.) And you’ll have to watch the movie if you want to know exactly what I mean. (That is, after all, my purpose for Sharing God’s Story – to encourage you all to read God’s word, see God movies, listen only to God music, be focused on God all day, every day.)

Where was I? O right, work. Do-ing. Not-doing. Sin. “What do I do?” I enjoy what I do. I want to be happy. Is that wrong? Why do I have guilt about this? Here’s a paraphrase quote from C. S. Lewis about addiction (In the Screwtape book – ya, you should read that one, too.)

Addiction is taking the pleasures God has made
in ways he did not intend
at times that are not appropriate
to degrees he has forbidden.

Before Christ saved me, that’s exactly what I did in my sin, whether it was time-wasting (time-killing) or sexual brokenness or over-use of mood/mind-altering substances. I’m quite sure that some of you can enjoy a drink or some time with a video game or other pastime quite responsibly. That is, you get your responsibilities done, appropriately. You work, then play. I used to just play. ‘Cause “work” is a 4-letter word.

I looked up “pastime” – (google “define pastime”). “An activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby, diversion, avocation, entertainment”. I thought, wait a minute – what about “find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” “All work and no play, makes Johnny dull?” Define work: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result… as a means of earning income… something a person has to do. “The world needs ditch-diggers, too?” As kids, didn’t we all love playing in the mud? Why is work supposed to be unenjoyable?

I think, it’s not. And this is something I’m just learning. One of the definitions of ‘work’ is “everything needed, desired, or expected; as in “the works.” Like what you get on your pizza. Pizza is good. Unless it’s all I eat. Or when I eat it Saturday and have to wait Til Tuesday for my next dialysis treatment. I don’t mean to say that everything, anything in moderation is good, either. There are some things that are sin, plain and simple. But I find my guilty conscience can take everything, anything enjoyable I do – or allow myself to do – to drastic interpretation (“it’s sin”) because that’s how I was in the past. Because I’m stuck on “don’t do that“. Thou shalt not. The law.

Which brings me to my time in the Word this morning. Because God speaks in unexpected ways. (See Men of Integrity.) Today’s excerpt was from “Breaking The Rules” by Fil Anderson.

“…shift away from frantic striving to achieve intimacy with God toward simply opening yourself to receive God’s gift of intimacy… from what you feel you must do [or not do – me] to what God has already accomplished.”

The accompanying Scripture, Galatians 5:

:4 If you try to be made right with God through the Law, your life with Christ is finished – you have left God’s grace.
:5 I say this because our hope of being right with God comes through faith. And the Spirit helps us feel sure as we wait for that hope.
:6 When someone belongs to Christ Jesus, it is not important if they are circumcised or not [if they never play video games or not- me]. The important thing is faith – the kind of faith that works through love.

:13 My brothers and sisters, God chose you to be free. But don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do what pleases your sinful selves [to go back to playing video games all the time– me]. Instead, serve each other with love.
:14 The whole law is made complete in this one command: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. [and loving your self means proper care of yourself, including some downtime- me]

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The fruit of the Spirit (verse 22), is not from self-ish-ness but from self-less-ness. Not from self-care-less-ness, but from self-forget-ful-ness. It’s not myopic – seeing not beyond the self, but being other-centered, God-focused.

:26 We must not
– feel proud and boast about ourselves,
– cause trouble for each other
– be jealous of each other

6:2 Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ.
:4 Don’t compare yourselves with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of [if you do to be good, beneficial, responsible; including to yourself- me]
:5 You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours.

Like I said, God speaks. The entry for Houge’s “Refreshed in Christ” 30 Day Devotional, Day 21: “Study My Word” 2 Timothy 2:15:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (accurately or correctly handling, or cutting-straight) the word of truth.

So, what do I do? You just read it. And today, dialysis and then a nap. I’ve been up since 1:30 am, after all. I don’t expect I’ll play that video game.

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