Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
There’s a reassurance in being part of a church body and all the services that body offers. We share a focus, we share some like beliefs, we meet together and sometimes we even share our innermost thoughts. Church is a spot dedicated to “family” intimacy but learning obedience to our faith with that kind of intimacy is hard. It’s not purposely hidden but in my experience it doesn’t happen frequently either.
There are moments in life with God that may be so meaningful and intimate they are closely guarded because they’re soul-bearing revelations. That kind of intimacy strips away all our pretensions of adequacy and sophistication. It’s that intimacy of inadequacy that reveals the real and absolute naked truth of our need for God. God bless and multiply those moments when that kind of intimacy makes it plan for us to see it’s how the “righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
17 reality, however, is found in Christ
* 22 things that are all destined to perish with use
23 self-imposed worship…[ 3 versions]
– lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence NIV
– no value against fleshly indulgence NASB
– no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires TLB
Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of Scripture and jotting phrases that catch my attention [see above]. My go-to version is usually the NIV. I frequently re-read the same passage in a few other versions hoping slightly different words will gel into a focus. Then the hard part begins: to trust God really has something in that Word that will nourish faith in my daily life. I try to write a sentence or two based on those phrases. Today that focus seems to be either/or.
Either you learn how to live every day as if “reality, however, is found in Christ” OR all you’re investing yourself in is “self-imposed worship.” Is it possible, even likely, the very best spiritual nourishment we choose, reading the Bible, praying, service, church attendance and even writing a blog about faith, can become self-imposed worship of rules and regulations, not Christ?
We all know the answer to that question is yes. The Scripture is very discreet about how it words *verse 22 so I will be too. “Reality, however, [that’s] found in Christ” requires the same diligence of daily nourishment for our hearts that food does for our bodies. Both kinds of nourishment are subject to the same natural processes. Unless our investment is able to renew the reality of Christ in us and become our true worship that has real “effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires” it’s just the waste of “self-imposed worship.”
“…We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD…”
.Brother Lawrence from The Practice of the Presence of God.
I’m at one of those transition places between what I wanted to know and what I still need to know. I’m looking for that new focus of my daily study. Usually I begin with THE Word and then find my words but all I have today is word ideas prompted by that quote from The Practice of the Presence of God. It feels like I’m beginning backwards but I’ve just spent a few weeks on the assurances that access to “high notions of GOD” are built right into those who dwell with his Spirit inside them. Here I am Lord. I love you, please lead me…to your “Whatever” and the fullness of understanding there’s “Nothing” you will withhold as I continue to ponder the mystery of how to practice these high notions of God…and their wisdom for daily life.
Proverbs 16:20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed,
and whoever trusts the Lord will be happy.
21 The wise are known for their understanding.
Their pleasant words make them better teachers.
22 Understanding is like a fountain which gives life to those who use it,
but foolishness brings punishment to fools.
23 Wise people’s minds tell them what to say,
and that helps them be better teachers.
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
making people happy and healthy. NCV
Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Peter, James and John were confused. They’d just seen the inexplicably mysterious power of the unseen God. They also knew firsthand Jesus had the power to heal and to restore life where there was none but a dead man can’t bring himself back to life, can he? So what could “rising from the dead” mean?
The unseen, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God had inserted himself into their thinking when he spoke “from the cloud.” Jesus had changed their daily lives and now he’s given them “orders” to wait before they tell anyone what they’ve seen…the caution to wait…because there’s more to come.
It seems like their thinking process is being expanded to include the mystery of the unseen Father, the reality of Jesus who’s the bedrock of that faith and the promise that comes after “the Son of Man [has] risen from the dead;” the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s exactly what our focus of Lent is to be; to expand our thinking and help us acknowledge the fullness of God even when life is mysterious and confusing.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8 is encouragement “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s a good plan, designed to redirect our focus away from the necessary consequences of God’s disapproval because of the rules we could not keep, to “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” to become the living example of a new option.
That Advent changed our focus completely. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s promise to redirect our focus so “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It’s more than celebrating the historical birth of Christ “His”story has become our story too. That’s worth celebrating year after year!
Psalm 119:97-104 מ Mem – Waves, Water
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
I wondered whether the Psalmist was in his personal Red Sea period when I saw he’d chosen the title Mem [Waves, Water]. His life has been like the Israelites as they came up against that barrier of water that seemed like sure destruction with nowhere to go. He’s personally experienced God opening up a path for him like the parting of those waters to where he is now. This is his response. It reads like a man who’s survived the journey through the sea bed and made it to this lofty place of confidence on the mountain top.
I’m resisting “peeking” ahead to see how his own bottom line of faith, “for you yourself have taught me,” continues to change the focus of his wisdom, insight and understanding.
33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.
I continue to be amazed at these little headings I’ve always ignored before. They don’t speak my language but it’s becoming apparent to me that they speak God’s language and therefore there’s something to consider beginning with “He.”
“He” is God/Jesus/Spirit in my mind. “He” is the window, the clear divider, allowing us to look inside and outside ourselves just as the Psalmist did.
The Psalmist could clearly see a holier place as he looked through that window from the inside out. God was offering teaching, understanding, obedience, direction and delight. Those were the things he wanted to focus on.
Looking inside the window to himself from that holier place, the Psalmist could see focus was more than just his wanting. He saw his need was to depend on God to fulfill his promises to turn his heart and eyes to the statutes and laws that would preserve his life.