Monday, May 4, 2009

The Enemy Within

Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” Isaiah 1:18

I am quite aware that naturally, dwelling inside this beating chest—inside this body that can be dressed up and easily made to appear intelligent or witty or wise—lives a wicked and deceitful heart! According to scripture, it is out of this rebellious heart—this heart that can feel compassion even if it does not house Christ—that will come every thought and intent of my mind...and, therefore, every action that follows! What good ever came from evil? None. God declares that even charitable acts (spun out of empathy) are as filthy rags, if they do not originate in Christ Himself.

That reality is startling and will take an individual from pride to either offense (wounded pride) or humility (dead pride) in about zero seconds! Wounded pride is a very dangerous thing to possess. It stops up the ears and robs one of understanding. It defies a holy God. Allowing the truth to “level” us, on the other hand, is vital to redemption and restoration. We must admit our true state—by agreeing with what our Creator concludes.

There are those who choose to be offended by truth and doubt God’s authority. They despise His “telling it like it is”—they do not believe He has either the right or the grounds to be so hard on humanity (good people who are just trying to survive life, for crying out loud!). They view God as an old “stick in the mud,” or worse, as a horrid dictator trying to control humanity out of an obsession with His haughty ego. Many find His Word hard and turn away.

But the truth of scripture is not meant to deject—it is meant to deliver—to deliv
er one from oneself. From one’s traitor heart. I desire to be humbled by this reality. To daily raise the knife on my pride and slay it utterly! I must not allow myself the luxury of petting or nursing any part of my old man—in order to do so (no matter how innocent or justified I feel in the matter) is to also obey its lusts thereof (Romans 6:12).

How ridiculous man can be! In order to save face, maintain some level of control, or to live a life free from the confines of authority man will choose to be bound to sin’s master. Bound—chained to unrighteousness and forced to do only what it dictates (Romans 6:13)! Christ’s desire is to free man from this bondage. Man is only fooling himself if he thinks he is consciously deciding his own destiny—scripture is clear, apart from repentance, man’s end is death.

We must allow our Creator to assess, diagnose, and prescribe the remedy our souls need for survival—or we will die with regret! This is obviously true for the unbeliever. But it is vital to those who are saved as well!

I” will always deceive me. Always! God, on the other hand, cannot! This fact alone causes me to look completely outside of myself for any counsel and direction regarding every single matter! I must desire to look to the Lord alone: to gather my words and obtain the discretion as to when and how to use them; for ability to decipher all my feelings, ideas, dreams, and desires; and, most importantly, to know that what I believe about God’s Word is acceptable to the God who penned it.

My past experience may give insight but it is never to be trusted (Proverbs 14:12)! Only what God says is to be trusted! He is not only the author of truth, of wisdom, of redemption, and of life…He IS every one of those words! You cannot separate God from His character. He gives life because He is Life!

And He doesn’t just pass out wisdom when we pray for it…He actually gives Himself to us fully when we ask.

I may know for certain that Christ’s blood has covered my sins. I may be assured of the resurrection from the dead. I may be confident regarding my eternal home. I may even have a heart that desires to live in a way that pleases my Savior. And yet, I am still in danger of being deceived. For the heart that desires truth also desires to be pampered, and pitied, and right! Therefore, I cannot “follow my heart”! I must only follow HIS.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul exhorts the church to “put on the new man” and therefore, (performing that action) man will be putting away all sin. The new man is made after God and is characterized by “righteousness and true holiness”—two attributes we would never gain through our own efforts, no matter how hard we tried. But they are what is required to satisfy a righteous and holy God! When it comes to the thoughts and intents of my heart (for out of this reservoir flows all my behavior) I must not rely upon my own understanding. I must take myself and set it aside! And then I must pick up the “new man” and clothe my mind and my will and my emotions with the garment of God’s absolute truth.

Our feelings, “compassions”, or preferences must never dictate our responses. Therefore, we might need to hold out on them—we might need to sit on them for a bit…and take time to consider if God would agree with what we think and feel is appropriate.

“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” This plea comes after a rather disturbing discourse on God’s disgust over Israel’s actions. He wanted nothing to do with Israel’s appearance anymore. With strong language, God tells them that their sacrifices and feasts were a trouble to Him—“My soul hateth [them]…I am weary to bear them” (1:14). “Come now,” He says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18). Our Lord wants nothing to do with “obedience” if our hearts are tainted and rebellious. No matter how holy our words and actions appear they are a stench in His nostrils. He longs for those who seek Him with a whole heart. He desires humility! With humility we are promised “the good of the Land,” but a stubborn refusal to submit to God’s standard will guarantee “the sword” (1:19-20).

Be wise and accept the Lord’s invitation to reason with Him…individually.

Ask Him to be an intricate part of every thought and every action—“Lord is this what I should think, say, do…is this glorifying to your Name…is this what your Word teaches?” Allow Scripture the influence over your feelings, compassions, and preferences FIRST…and then allow those God-given emotions to be used for His glory! They were given to us in order to motivate our response not to decide it. Without consideration we would never see a need. Without passion we would never speak out. Without sensitivity we would never work with those who required help.

But misplaced emotionsand the actions that can come from themmay actually hinder the work of the Lord.

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…” (Romans 12:1). Lay your beating heart down on that altar…your understanding, your intellect, your reasoning…and allow the Lord the privilege of replacing what He calls “cold stone” with a heart of flesh” (the Hebrew word bâsâr taken from the word bâsar which means “to be fresh, full”)…that you may “walk in [God’s] statues and keep [His] ordinances, and do them” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” Isaiah 1:18