Friday, February 12, 2010

Make No Provision for the Flesh (Romans 13:14)

Sin doesn’t just reach out and grab us. We set the table for it. In strange and seductive ways, we actually send the invitation. And when sin shows up, we hypocritically cry, “how did it get in?”, and “I sinned against my will!”

Romans 13:11-14 is a summary of practical material that begins at the beginning of chapter 12. Therefore, the phrase “make no provision for the flesh” is linked to the powerful, general thoughts of Romans 12: 1,2: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice;” and, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12, in turn, reaches back to the teaching of Romans 6, where we are warned about “presenting” our members and “bodies” as instruments of sin. So way back in Romans 6 we find hints that you and I are involved in setting the table for sin, even before we commit the sin.

So go back with me to those closing verses of Romans 13, and let’s look at the context of this phrase. First, in v.11, we find that the need to take a different view and approach to how we live our lives is urgent. Do it now. The opportunities are fewer than ever before. Then Paul introduces the metaphor of day and night, light and darkness. We know what belongs to which. Even children know. Don’t play games here. Don’t get into your “adult” rationalizations and reasonings. You know what is right, and you know what is wrong. What are you willing to bring out in the daylight, for God and your family and your friends to see and know?

Put on the armor of light. Full disclosure. No secrets. No hidden agendas. No furtive plans. No escapism. No covert operations. No pet relationships. The armor of light means that I tell the truth about myself. I am a sinner. I am weak here and here and here. I admire Christ because of this and this and this. I want to devote all my thoughts and imaginations and conversations and passions to Him.

Verse 13 gives us three sets of two: “not in carousing and drunkenness;” “not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality;” “not in strife and jealousy.” The flesh wants an experience (the first duplet). But now, child of the day, your experience is found in Christ, not in the party scene, the speed scene, the amusement scene, the adventure scene. Yes, God graciously gives many experiences in his glorious creation, but all under the experience of knowing and walking with Christ. The flesh also wants a relationship (2nd duplet). It wants to be loved and appreciated, and treated with tenderness and affection. We need to understand and affirm that Jesus is our primary relationship. Yes, God gives other relationships and fellowships. But none are to rival or compete with your primary relationship with Christ. And third, the flesh wants victory (3rd duplet). It wants to get the last word, and to make him/her hurt more than you. It wants to leave a lasting mark that will testify that you are a person with whom to be reckoned. But now you know that Jesus is your victory. And that is why so much of the material between the opening of Romans 12 and the closing of Romans 13 talks in plain and practical detail about how to serve others. Because you do not need to triumph over them. Jesus is your victory.

So, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

Don’t send the invitation, and do not set the table. The hunger and craving that you feel, make plans now to fill it with the fellowship of Christ. Expose your secret plans that try to satisfy your soul with the wild experience, or the dangerous relationship, or the vengeful act. Ruthlessly examine your plans. Remove the tools of your duplicity. Recognize what tools of technology have been placed more in service of the flesh than the spirit. Ask about every relationship, whether you are more attracted by and to the flesh than to the mind and soul. And, is it right? Or, does it smell? And if it feels so good to turn over in your mind, or to say, then don’t think it or say it. You are probably thinking and saying things much more for you than for the other.

Get out of the shadows. Live in the light. Put on Christ, the armor of light.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

That’s Not My Job

OK, so it’s a silly little word play. We’re not talking about a task, but a person. But you will get the point.

“that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:1 NAS95)

This verse refers to a man named Job (in the Old Testament, right before Psalms), and it also describes Jesus. I wonder to what extent it would, or could, apply to me.

I did a series some time ago on Jonah and Jesus. I concluded that I was much more like Jonah than Jesus. But this one is different. Job starts out, out of the gate, with very high credentials. I’d like to spend a few moments on each, for my benefit, - maybe for someone else’s as well.

Blameless” is translated in KJV as “perfect.” It has the sense, not of flawlessness, but rather, of completion. Job was complete in his makeup, and in the dedication of the totality of that makeup, to God.

Job was not half a man. He was not one of those “men without chests” described by C.S. Lewis. He was not one of those “little-souled” men, as Jesus called his disciples on more than one occasion (translated “men of little faith”). Job was not big on talk and little in action. He was not merely a man of good intentions, lacking in follow-through. He was not compartmentalized, so that he could be holy in one corner of his life, and perverse in another.

And Jesus was also blameless, and even more so. No void. No shadows. No secrets. No regrets. He was, and is, complete. As I walk in fellowship with Jesus, I must find the He is not tolerant of tolerated inconsistency. We must identify and attack areas of life that display less than whole-hearted discipleship.

Upright” means straight. Job knew what he was about, and he was not distracted from that high road. Jesus also knew His mission. And His mission was not merely a task, but a life lived in fellowship with God, and in fulfilling God’s will, no matter what it cost Him personally.

I am easily distracted. I pursue goals that prove not to be worth the time and effort. My latest “great idea” collects tarnish in a hurry. There is a back room full of them. I am also easily discouraged, lacking the fortitude to pursue godly behaviors and pursuits through the gauntlet of difficulties and disciplines needed to accomplish something worthwhile, by God’s grace and enablement. But Job, and Jesus, even more so, walked a straight path of fellowship with God and fulfillment of His will for their lives.

Job feared God. Many of the details of Jobs life are lost in the fog of ancient history. God has given us all the details that we need. But one of the mistakes we often make (I read this recently in Chesterton) is that if it happened a long time ago, then, because of progress, we conclude that it was different for them. In this case, I struggle with people-pleasing, but Job probably didn’t have that problem, because, why would you bother trying to impress primitive men? It must have been easier for Job to fear God than for me. Rubbish. God was large in Job’s mind and heart, and He is far too small in mine. And Jesus, even more so, displayed a rock-solid understanding of God’s size and sovereignty. I have a deep need to read my Bible slowly, and to take what it says about God (and other things) literally, that is, as though it is really true.

Finally, Job turned away from evil. He did not walk in the counsel of the gody, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1). He did not play games with sin, or flirt with temptation. Job was a man who could tell himself “No!” and mean it. And I, and you, must do the same.

So far, this Job isn’t my Job. But I would like him to be. But Jesus, though I fall far short, is indeed my Jesus, because He gave Himself for me in order that I can become like Job, and even more so, like Jesus.