Monday, November 14, 2011

It Has A Sweet Grill & Scatters When the Light Turns On - Old Self

"2 CV - Classic Citroen" by Svensson1978

In man's total unfaithfulness and immorality God remains faithful. No matter how deep or evil the unfaithfulness.
-- Jonathan Brower

When scripture broaches the topic of mankind after Genesis 2, things are never rosy. That usually happens when a relationship has been broken. I remember one Easter I was at a friends house for an egg-hunt when this idea of broken relationships became concrete.

It was during that wonderful time of a young man’s life when watching sports becomes as interesting as playing them. I discovered baseball and focused on pitching. Granted, I was never good at it, but I learned quickly that in order to critique one did not necessarily need to actually be able to perform better than the object of said criticism. 

I remember seeing someone, and I do not remember who, pitch with a sidearm delivery. He was a sinker/slider pitcher whose goal with the delivery was to deliver ground-balls to the infield which could be fielded and then the runner could be thrown out at first base. I was mesmerized. I threw anything I could with a sidearm delivery, gave it a little flick of the wrist and watch the object magically swerve and sink downward. I was cool even though nobody actually told me so.

So I was walking around the house, kinda bored because I was too old to hunt for eggs with only candy stuffed inside (hide money and I was all over it). I had some M&Ms in my hand and I decided it would be fun to throw them, with my patent-pending sidearm delivery, at passing vehicles.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not stupid. I made sure that the vehicle was just about passed before I lobbed my pitch. Plus, I chose a very long sedan to throw my M&Ms at. Further, I reasoned, it’s not like I threw a rock or anything. It was just a piece of chocolate.

I threw a strike on my very first pitch. Ting! I must have nailed the last possible centimeter of the very end of the bumper. I heard it. A couple friends nearby heard it. And, to my chagrin, the driver heard it. As I turned to casually exit the scene, out of the corner of my eye I saw red brake lights. My pace quickened and as soon as I was sure I could not be seen, I took off running to the bathroom. When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?

My afternoon went from mild boredom to absolute dread at every corner. I feared the host, thinking if this guy tells anyone, it will get to him. I also feared my father, because if the host knew, then my dad will surely find out; and this story took place during the time before I outgrew spankings.
I stayed either inside or out back for about 45 minutes. I figured it must have blown over. It’s not like people couldn't find me if they were really looking. I ventured back out front. However, it seems the driver decided to keep circling the block, looking for the punk kid who threw something at his car. He spotted me. Again I ran for cover, so scared I could almost puke. I will not go back out there, I promised myself, until it’s time to leave.

So about an hour later I wandered back out front. This time, I witnessed what turned my consternation into absolute, flat-out, no holds barred terror; the driver was talking to my host. All this time I was afraid, and he had no clue what I had done. After they finished, the driver left and the host went to talk to a group of boys that were playing. I decided that it would be in my best interest to leave, find a good quiet place and pray that we would leave soon. 

I have never read of God answering this type of prayer in the affirmative, as was the case with my prayer. I ran until I could run no more. I hid until I could hide no more. My host approached me, put his great, big arm around me and asked if I had a moment to talk.

I will never forget his introduction to the lecture; it was not original, but it’s effect was deep: I have a bone to pick with you.

Did you throw a rock at somebody's car this afternoon?
No sir, I didn’t. This was, of course, the sort-of truth.
After a look of confusion, and maybe a little shock at my bold-faced lie, I clarified, I threw an M&M and happened to hit his car.
He went on to explain that he understood what a thrill it may be to throw things at moving cars, but how this was very wrong and dangerous. He opened my non-driver eyes to the things that enter a motorist’s mind when they hear a strange noise as they pass through a neighborhood. But, mostly, he stressed that I could have damaged the vehicle and there could have been some legal trouble so I should stop throwing stuff at cars. As a result, I apologized and he forgave my actions. This sent me a measure of relief. I also managed to avoid him the rest of the day.

My host had acted as a mediator between myself and the driver. He went between us, took the responsibility of checking for damages, got an earful from him and paid the price (even if that price was only a full fledged apology). He took the brunt of the violence my actions warranted. If that sounds familiar, it’s what Christ does for us as recorded in Titus 2:13 & 14.

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Jesus Christ is our mediator. He is the one who took the blows from an angry God on behalf of a despicable humanity. He bought us back from the slave owners who hate us, and He tries to soothe our wounds. And now we look with anticipation for his coming.

There’s only one problem with this picture, it’s an ideal. It is not actuality, it is what we strive to achieve. Consider the conclusion of my illustration, I received a measure of relief and I avoided him. There was still a rift in our relationship. Maybe I felt indignant, perhaps my pride was crushed. I certainly felt that our relationship would take a while to repair--he forgave me, but I did not forgive myself. So whenever I saw my host, I heard the ting of that M&M hitting the bumper and felt my heart sink. He will surely bring it back up, I thought. But he has not done so to this day, just as Christ will not. We are redeemed not as an object to be owned, but as a relationship to be repaired. Those old lawless deeds are no more, we are free to please Him if only we stopped wallowing in the muck of self-pity, self-loathing and self-absorption. It is not about what we have done, it is about what He has done.

I have heard preachers talk about the Old Man in a Christian’s life as a zombie. The undead walking around making everyone miserable. I believe there is a lot to be said for that illustration, but since it’s not my own I decided to come up with something new (though there’s nothing new under the sun). My term for this zombie-like, Old Man Christianity: Roach-like Living.

Everyone in South Florida has encountered both the Cockroach and the Palmetto Bug. Once we moved into our new condo in 2010, my wife was surprised to find a roach crawling out of the garbage disposal (which did not work), she cried for me to be her savior. My response? I told her to Just kill it! I didn’t want to get involved. But alas, I obliged and defended my damsel from the evil beast. Then the worst part comes, cleaning him up. I grabbed him with a piece of toilet paper and felt his appendages twitching in response to late-life nerve signals. I then gave him a burial at sea.

That is what a Christian looks like when he lets the Old Man take control, like a twitching Cockroach whose guts have been splattered across the kitchen floor. And yes, I meant to make you squirm with that graphic, disgusting image.

When we were redeemed from the old life, we were simultaneously redeemed to a new one. You are probably thinking, Duh, but actually let that sink in. We were not redeemed to sit around in a pew because the world is devolving. When we sit, we are liable to get dragged back down. We are redeemed to actively identify ourselves with Christ and get busy doing His will--A.K.A. being Christ-like. I think Paul says it best in Titus 3:3-7:

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I love the use of tense in this passage, namely: past. We were once wicked and evil, we have been saved, justified and have become heirs. All in the past. There is no more that needs to happen to the Christian. Our character has been changed already.

I have had a few run-ins with holiness groups, people who claim that the believer in Christ never sins. These people believe that this passage is a proof-text for the idea that if one sins, then they are not saved. With apologies to those who subscribe to this hermeneutic, I believe that is a simplistic understanding of the passage. Perhaps we should return to the roach illustration.

The roach does not resurrect itself to twitch. It is not somehow made alive again. The nasty thing twitches despite the fact that it is dead. It can no longer harm you or crawl around in the shadows because it is no longer living. This is akin to what happens when a believer sins, the Old Self is not resurrected per say, it is just twitching. We need not fear it or give in to it’s desires, we need only to flush it down the toilet. Granted, I am being overly simplistic here myself. I understand that crucifying the Old Man is a mission that is not easily completed, but according to scripture, it’s a done deal.

When it comes to the Old Man, the heavy lifting has already been done. Christ in His mercy has already taken care of that. We just need to reckon it so. To reckon is to take the cold, hard facts and apply them to a situation. I have since reckoned that my Host has forgiven me, and I accept his mercy. I reckon that Christ has redeemed me from Sin, I do not hold my guilt against myself. I reckon that my old character is dead, any relapse is just a twitch which I do not fear, but find terribly revolting.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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