Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An honest man

An old one, but worth sharing

An honest man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him.

He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman hit the roof and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, "I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'What Would Jesus Do?' bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.

"Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car."


Brings to mind Galatians 5:16-26:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

The Christian life cannot be lived in the flesh. You can try to live the Christian life in the flesh. You can try with great zeal to obey every commandment you can find in the Bible and some you can't find (denominational rules). You may have been told that God will "help you." After all, "God helps those who help themselves." (try to find that one in the Bible) You will try and you will fail. You might even resign yourself to getting back up and trying again and again and again.

But, is that what God desires? Is that the life that He promised through His Son Jesus? No! The Christian life cannot be lived in the flesh; no matter how hard you try. The flesh cannot cast out the flesh...."For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" God doesn't want to "help" us live the life, He wants to be our life. He wants to live His life in us and through us. The only way that will happen is through complete surrender to Him and complete trust in Him. That is what walking in the Spirit is all about and only by walking in the Spirit will we not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

It is impossible for us to clean up our flesh no matter how hard we try. Those who try, noted by observation and personal experience, are doomed to a roller coaster ride of frustration and guilt. And their lives will exhibit the fruits of the flesh, "...immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." In addition they will be the most critical of how their neighbor is living his life; always comparing themselves to others (I'm glad I'm not like that tax collector).

There is peace and rest in not having to struggle to keep a set of external rules that we can't keep anyway. Again, there are only two things that are required for a Christian to live the life he is called to live. Trust and Surrender. If you do so, God will live His life in you and through you and He will change you from the inside out. You will exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, "...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Is their any part of God's law that doesn't find an answer there?

5 comments:

Judah Himango said...

It's a great story. Reminds me of Romans 2.

Gary, you said something that I think shows how western, gentile Christianity has veered off from God's ways. You said,

There is peace and rest in not having to struggle to keep a set of external rules that we can't keep anyway.

I'm not sure how your story fits with your desire to live lawlessly. I mean, if the woman was doing good works (i.e. following God's sane and holy commandments), she would not have acted like that.

But more importantly, your works should reflect the spirit, the outward signs should reflect what's inside. James tells us even if we have faith, it's useless without works (as your story demonstrated). 1 John tells us that we know we love God if we keep his commandments. Paul says the Law is God's righteous and holy counsel that teaches us right from wrong, and that he agrees with everything in the Law. Most of all, the Master himself tells us we should both follow the Law and teach others to do so. Jesus himself kept the Law, celebrated the Biblical feasts, and strengthened the commandments by applying them to your heart.

We often confuse Paul's words "you're not under the Law" to mean we don't have to care about the Law. What Paul is saying is, the Law's death punishment is not binding any longer, because Messiah took the punishment we deserve (Isaiah 53). Also, Paul rebuked those -- the Galatians in particular -- who thought the Law is what saves them.

It's interesting: of God's tree, we have the natural branches of Jews and Israel, and the grafted-in branches of gentiles: the one side, us Jews, keep God's commandments, but are spiritually dead. On the other extreme is gentile Christianity, which is alive in the spirit, but dead in the works department, completely rejecting God's commandments.

In some ways, the left eye is blind for Judah, the right eye is blind for Ephraim, Jew and gentile both are missing pieces of the puzzle. I suspect this will be worked out when Messiah returns.

Judah Himango said...

p.s. I'd also like to say that even though we disagree on the nature and relevance of the Law, we are still brothers in Messiah. Unity in Messiah first. We've got too much to fight against in the world to discard that unity over theological differences.

Gary Kirkham said...

Judah,

When have I ever expressed a desire to live lawlessly? When have I ever said that I don’t care about the law? I have written it many different ways, yet you still don’t get it. Maybe it gets buried in and amongst other words, so I will endeavor to make it as plain and direct as I can. It is best summed up in John 15:5

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Judah, do you really believe that apart from Christ you can do anything that He requires? Even keep the Law? The Christian life is not lived in the effort or our flesh. It is lived by abiding (resting) in Christ. Do you believe this? If you abide in Him by faith, then He will live His life in you and through you. You will bear much fruit, but that fruit can only be produced by abiding in the Vine (Jesus).

Wonderful things begin to happen when you abide in Christ. He takes control of your life and begins to work in you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. He changes you from the inside out. You will exhibit fruits of the Spirit and, believe it or not, good works. It will look like you doing it, but in reality it will be Him doing it through you.

So Judah, when I say that we are no longer under the Law, I mean just this. That God’s Law’s have been written in my heart and their name is Christ, for He IS the fulfillment of the Law. If I abide in Him (trust and surrender), then He will live His life through me and I WILL KEEP THE LAW. Not through my own effort, but through His mighty power working in me and through me. It is a life of rest (Sabbath, see Hebrews 4), not vain human effort. I don’t have the power in my flesh to keep the Law and I hope that you realize that you don’t either. Only Christ has the power and my dependence is on Him and Him alone. Where is your dependence?

In Christ,
Gary

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog, brother! I am so pleased to see someone living and sharing his faith with the world!


A fellow brother in Christ!

Gary Kirkham said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

In Christ,
Gary