Friday, May 9, 2014

We aren’t doing ourselves any favor by defining ourselves as good and others as bad.

Since you died, as it were, with Christ and this has set you free from following the world’s ideas of how to be saved—by doing good and obeying various rules—why do you keep right on following them anyway, still bound by such rules as not eating, tasting, or even touching certain foods?  Such rules are mere human teachings, for food was made to be eaten and used up. These rules may seem good, for rules of this kind require strong devotion and are humiliating and hard on the body, but they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires. They only make him proud.  ― Colossians 2:20-23, TLB

I want to stretch the very point of the passage. There have been many MAN-MADE rules being imposed to resolve different issues related to morality, piousness...and what have you, which are not even really getting rid of the evil in people: To resolve lust, women are encouraged to dress "modestly". And the definition of "modestly" is covering most of the flesh. To resolve conflict between men interested in one woman, the men are encouraged to respect whoever started courtship first, and the woman is encouraged to exclusively date one man at a time. To resolve anger, the involved parties are encouraged to do mute withdrawal and give up on friendship. To prevent a married person from committing adultery, they must be too cautious in relating with other people, even friends, of opposite sex. To discourage heartbreak, single men are told to be too careful in dealing with single women or their intention might be mistaken as something else. To keep purity, the single man and woman in a relationship are encouraged (or inspired) not to kiss before marriage. Same thing with women. Not just in Christian communities but happens there, too... there's this unwritten silly rule that it is taboo to crush on the crush of one's friend! These are just but a few. 

But, all those mentioned aren't really getting rid of the evil within as instructed in Ephesians, "Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives." (TLB) It clearly says, STOP ...and not cover up. There's no other way around them but to STOP. In other versions GET RID. Not do quick fix. People have been making all other attempts to prevent the results of inner issues which are in every person's heart instead of simply opening the Bible and find the solutions from there. We try other ways rather than being obedient in following the examples of Christ and the Apostles. Which doesn't resolve the very issue of sin: lust, greed, bitterness, envy, jealousy, selfishness... They do anything except following what the Bible already tells Christians to do.

Lust is in the heart. Adultery is in the heart. Idolatry is in the heart. Greed, bitterness, anger, hatred, pride, arrogance...all are in the heart. It says in the book of Galatians, "when you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group—and there will be wrong doctrine, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." 

It's a choice to act on the issues within you. It's not about what other people do around you, it's not the circumstance nor the situation. It's all what's in the heart. When one sins, his/her own issue is just being exposed through another person or a situation. Jesus did nothing wrong to Judas yet Judas betrayed him. And the underlying issue is what? Greed. Unbelief. Personal agenda. Maybe even hatred. No matter how we try to cover up sin, its existence remain in the heart if not dealt with head on. If not acknowledged. Not because sin didn't birth it's not there. Jesus set the standard higher. A man need not commit sexual immorality with a woman to commit adultery. With eyes alone he sins.  (Matthew 5:28)

Telling women to cover themselves will never solve lust. Why is rape still rampant in countries where women are fully covered? Why are even young female children being sexually abused? (And, if I may add what the Bible suggests, "I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." why are Christian women too focused on how some others dress up while they still wear elaborate gold or pearl or whatever accessories and wear expensive clothes? Another example of cherry-picking Bible lines they want to apply and disregarding what they don't want to.) 

The Word says, "God wants you to be holy. He wants you to stay away from sexual sins. God wants each one of you to learn to control your own body. Use your body in a way that is holy and that gives honor to God. Don’t let your sexual desires control you like the people who don’t know God." Part of Christian discipline is to be masters of our own bodies. To exercise the fruit of the Holy Spirit—SELF-CONTROL. Yes, we can always flee. But, should temptation confront us face to face, will we stand firm following Christ's teachings? We will all be tested with fire. We will all be facing tests to challenge our faith. Will we prove ourselves worthy? Or are we only good at quick fixing? It is not by adding rules that the issue of lust gets solved. It is by living by the Spirit and choosing to follow the Spirit and not the flesh, which is the very thing with lust issues.

Telling single men to give way when a woman is already being pursued by another man doesn't solve the underlying issues in both men and women—pride, entitlement. It even gives a woman less privilege to choose a lifetime partner. And telling them to be too careful in dealing with single women isn't teaching them to "treat the older women as mothers, and the girls as your sisters, thinking only pure thoughts about them..." (1 Timothy 5:2) and "love each other as brothers and sisters." (1 Peter 3:8)

Advising people to end friendships when conflict happens don't teach them to be long-suffering, patient, tolerance and being kind. And it doesn't promote what the Bible teaches about CONFRONTATION (Matthew 18:15-17) and LOVING like we love ourselves. It also doesn't teach them to practice Colossians 3:13, "Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." 

I can go on and on... but, the bottom line is, God is telling us to PUT AN END to sin NOT by covering them up with rules to follow so people can simply hide their flaws. Christians are challenged to practice using the fruit of the Spirit. To fight the good fight. Battling their flesh. Denying themselves daily. It means, conscious effort and choice to do the right thing even in the face of temptation and not simply by avoidance. We are being equipped for a real battle. But, we're only knowledgeable in theory, not in practice.

One reason why being judgmental becomes a way of life in the Christian community is because many can just hide their issues and sins behind closed doors. They appear so angelic, very active in Church activities and ministries but have envy, hatred, their hearts. Not as grave as the others' they're judging...but we're forgetting that in God's Eyes, all sins are equal. Nowhere in the Bible do we find God distinguishing between levels of sin. God doesn't share our rating system. To Him, all sin is equally evil, and all sinners are equally lovable. You're not murdering but you're looking down on others. Jesus said, "whatever you do to others, you do to Me". You're not coveting but you're gossiping. You're not stealing but you're speaking ill of others. There's no difference. You're still violating the second greatest commandment: "love your neighbor as yourself". And you can't violate the second commandment without violating the first.

Christianity isn't about what we readily show but who we really are even inside our closets. We can't stop sexual immorality by avoidance alone. We have to really choose even in the face of the toughest temptations. Same with all other worldly and fleshly desires. There's a need to stop quick fix. The Word says, PUT AN END. "Away then with sinful, earthly things; deaden the evil desires lurking within you; have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires; don’t worship the good things of life, for that is idolatry. God’s terrible anger is upon those who do such things. You used to do them when your life was still part of this world; but now is the time to cast off and throw away all these rotten garments of anger, hatred, cursing, and dirty language.

Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you. In this new life one’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all.

Jesus is our teacher. It's His ways that we follow. We don't need to look for other ways. We only need to look to Him. The Holy Spirit has been given to us. To instruct us, guide us and remind us. Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise; teach them to each other..." Colossians 3. There is no more need to add complicated rules that only adds burden. We can't even keep up with the two greatest commandments, why do we add more? Are we forgetting Matthew 15:9? "Their worship is worthless, for they teach their man-made laws instead of those from God."

Birthed sins are obvious sins. But, Christians can easily walk away with sins that are just conceived. Let's not deceive ourselves. The Word says, "from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, wanting what belongs to others, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, and all other folly. All these vile things come from within; they are what pollute you and make you unfit for God." Mark 7:21-23

Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. 1 Timothy 4:7

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. — 1 Corinthians 9:25

The emphasis is participation not suppression. One can't say he's not a sinner only because he has avoided temptation. The only proof of righteousness is when one has successfully conquered his inner demons and walks away blameless.  Oh, the last part of the main passage says, "those rules only make people proud!" Very evidently PROUD, indeed! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Every single event in life happens as an opportunity to choose love over fear.

Fear, I perceive, is something that drives people to do or not to do things. Many are steered by this emotion. And, it makes me ask myself, "am I also being driven by it?" I don't wanna be influenced by it, but somehow it can't be helped. With the many unpleasant things going on around, you can't help but be protective of yourself and do self-preservation. Past experiences, esp the painful ones, cause this emotion to be very operative like a personal escort alarming people of possible danger. Thing is, it may not be a REAL danger but just a perceived danger...and it's only because people have experienced serious heartbreak in the past, which makes them overprotective of themselves in the present. Fear, then, is like a skookum house. It detains you and forbids you to live a life of freedom.

Makes me appreciate this verse "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." It's found in 1 John 4:18. There are two things that make me muse on the word LOVE. If you notice, the line practically suggests that when you love, you don't fear. Because there's an absence of it when love is present. But, if you consider the next sentence, PERFECT LOVE is mentioned. As I understand it, it's not just about the love as people understand it. Not just the love that people feel. Not the one that's fleeting and fading with time. But, it's one that is PERFECT.

The word PERFECT is defined as having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. Some synonyms include: without fault, exemplary, beyond compare, unequaled, quintessential. The author of the verse did not just say LOVE alone. He added an adjective to highlight what kind of love it is that can drive fear away. It is not just any love, but PERFECT love.

Which makes me convinced that it's not enough that people just settle for what the world tells us about love, or how we perceive love with our half-baked understanding of what it truly is. There's a scale...a gauge ...a level of quality to strive after. And unless we have a clear grasp of love's nucleus, we'll always be locked up in the slammer of FEAR. As long as we're ruled by fear, we'll never be able to experience love. More so, we won't be able to give love. We're gonna keep craving for it...begging for it...looking everywhere for it...but none will satisfy.

So, does it mean LOVE can never be experienced and attained? I'd say, of course, NO. God is LOVE. And, as we draw closer to Him, we'll have a better knowledge of love's essence. As we receive love from God Who is the Source of it, the love we receive will become a part of us...that it becomes the air we breathe in and out. Love will become like an involuntary muscle of our soul. It becomes a part of our being. And because it is a muscle, we need to flex it regularly...keep using it and giving it away...voluntarily and involuntarily. There will always be times we won't feel like loving. But, that is why Jesus said, "I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you." (John 13:34, ERV) God gave us LOVE and Jesus gave us a command to DO it and not just to FEEL it. We are told to be givers and not only to be receivers. 

Live a life of love. Love others just as Christ loved us. ― Ephesians 5:2