The Gospel’s plan of attack is an inside job; but in a sense, so is the dark side’s.
My morning’s time with the Lord started with 1 Peter 5:8-9. Those are the verses that warn us, “The devil is your enemy, and he goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack and devour.” Tricia Goyer writes about a safari she went on, where she witnessed lions beginning the hunt. The big cats weren’t roaring – yet. They were maneuvering in stealth, patiently closing in on their prey, spying out the weak and wandering. When they were heard, it was too late. For some poor creature.
A classic example of ‘us and them’. Some would say, humankind is no different. That we’re basically animals. It’s in our nature to kill or be killed. If the #1 question is whether the force that created us has a personality and purpose, then this has to be one of the next: what is it that separates us from all other species? (A: it has to be either nothing or something.)
I say it is our ability to rise above our instincts. For example, my son is a vegetarian; my daughter a vegan. Clearly, they have both made a conscious choice that goes completely against what their parents (and ancestors) taught as one of our foundational needs: what to eat. (We ain’t bred to eat just bread?)
‘How we shall live’ covers quite a lot of behaviors, obviously. But I think that ignoring our spiritual side is most dangerous to our survival. On the whole. As the ‘animals’ that people this earth. IOW, we need to think upon – to consider – what created us. To decide what we believe. To choose. And then live from where this belief starts us. The beauty of it is, even if one doesn’t agree there’s a purpose-driven creator, humans are still faced with rising above – if only to live peacefully together. (Of course, I’m assuming – again – that that is what we all want.)
“…in God’s Word, we are told to stand firm. …we have Jesus standing up for us. And even when our enemy roars, our Lord stands stronger. No one is immune from the attack, but all believers have a shield of protection in Jesus Christ.”
In short, there is a way to get above our impulses, our needs-driven, me-against-the world urges. It’s something that can be followed and learned. Studied. By hitting ‘the books’.
Moving on, Men of Integrity continued with excerpts from this week’s book, Recovering Redemption (I think I will definitely get this and read the whole thing), by Chandler and Snetzer. From 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Ephesians 4:17-32 were the “dig deeper” verses:
“…don’t continue living like those who don’t believe… leave your old self… stop living the evil way you lived before… be that new person who was made to be like God…”
Certainly, this a clear indication we are able – and even expected – to change. To grow. To grow up. Upwards. That spiritual formation and development is a vital part of life.
I want to point out something very important about the New Testament, summarized in Ephesians 4:17. “Don’t continue living like those who don’t believe.” Nowhere does it say “kill the unbelievers” or “force them to convert” or especially even “hate them.” It implies continuing to live beside them, and directly states to not live like them. Hate the sin, yes; but love the sinner. Because, ultimately, salvation is only in the sinner’s personal relationship with his/her creator. Nothing external does that work. Believers can only be an example – not a standard – in our deeds (primarily) and our words. It’s how we deal with live – which will have troubles – that shows we have something better. Something to want.
From Recovering Redemption:
“Religion is always outside-in, but the Gospel goes from the inside out.”
The Gospel’s plan of attack is an inside job. Christianity is all – and only – about – in a word – self-improvement. Self-discipline. Self-discipling. (Learning. Studying. Growing.)
“…these things still require a battle of self-discipline, since we remain in the process of learning how to quiet those lazy, deceptive voices inside ourselves. But we’re not seeking God to get [accolades]. We’re seeking him to enjoy even greater intimacy with him, [and] to open more and more of those inner closets we’ve tried to restrict [him from accessing], thinking he might reject us if he knew…
“…we study his Word …attack our sin, share generously… serve the people around us… because [God] wants us to dig even deeper into the treasury of his blessings, into the joy and sweetness and abundant living his Gospel unlocks for us.”
Sure, we still have an instinct to attack. But the correct target is only our own old lesser self. The me of yesterday. What can I do today that makes me better? At living with people.
I started off by saying the ‘dark side’ also uses a plan of attack from the inside. To elaborate this, the example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing is more appropriate. Lions quietly sneak up on and deploy themselves for the sudden roaring charge. Wolves quietly insert themselves into the herd of “us” and assassinate one by one. They stir “us” up against a perceived external attacker (“them”), all the while they are the divisive enemy.
Note: I write this the morning after Nice. And I’m really wondering if we are called to … preserve… the peace and safety and security that civilized community requires. Spiritual formation is best done under these conditions?