Monday, March 10, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 16

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Salvation is the solution for our eternal problem.  But it doesn't always show immediate temporal results. That got me thinking about some things I consider spiritual misconceptions. We have a way of looking at salvation from a human perspective and turning it into something it's not.

The stone in today's image is an uncut diamond. That's after the stone has undergone the necessary pressure to transform from coal into a diamond.  This particular stone is obviously closer to the ideal for a final cut product than the one illustrating part 6 of this series.  But, in either case, there's mining, separating from the material around it, cleaning, study by the diamond cutter, then cutting and polishing.  After study and cutting, the flaws in some diamonds make them less marketable. Some may have flaws that are either too great or positioned in a way that it's unwise to try to cut the diamond into a gemstone.  But, no matter what the condition of the stone, it's still a diamond. Where that reality compares to our Christianity is where things get interesting.

Romans 7:16-19 (NKJV)  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Those are Paul's words, after his conversion.  At that point, till he had the revelation of the reality of Romans 8:1, he might be considered a diamond in the rough.  But notice the three thoughts that never show up in his thoughts.
  1. Paul never says he's not a Christian because he still sins.
  2. Paul never says he can lose his salvation because he sins.  And
  3. Paul never says God is ready to pull his salvation because there's sin in his life.
Our experience is not one of sinless perfection.  When we look at what Paul was expressing, it's proof of his Christianity.  His concern wasn't with what would happen to him.  It was disgust and disappointment that he was displeasing God.  Even though there was an eternal change in his state, he wasn't experiencing it in time.  Even though Paul was saved, he was still seeing who he was and how he acted through human viewpoint.

Paul's problem was the same one we all face as young Christians.  Until we learn to think fully with God, we think everything hinges on us.  Our salvation is dependent on our behavior, a "real Christian" never sins, etc.  And we start to question our salvation and spirituality.  Some of us convince ourselves that we no longer sin by hiding away the reality of our sinfulness.  All the while, the entire New Testament shouts at us, "STOP THINKING THAT WAY!".

Christians use the phrase "take up your Cross".  And we turn it into some painful self sacrifice that scares us away from looking at and living what it really means.

Galatians 2:20-21 (KJV)  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. 

The Law says "we must", the Truth of our Christianity changes that to "Christ did".  Our flesh is incapable of combating our sinful flesh.  And Christ didn't go to the Cross to modify our punishment, He died to remove our eternal punishment.  So, taking up our Cross isn't some variation of self flagellation.  It's accepting the Cross of Christ and its benefits into our lives and thinking.  Christ died for all sinners, but He died for us as individuals.  The Cross is not a class action suit.  Which means that, when I take up my Cross, I'm accepting what Jesus did for me and my sins, personally and individually.

In my own life, there was a lot of "I must" when I came back from my Cursillo weekend.  And not having the same Biblical understanding then about drinking that I do now, I was happily amazed that God had healed my drinking problem so I could drink socially.  Both areas of thinking were distinctly faulty.  And that would become abundantly clear soon enough.  There was self indulgence, guilt, a negative self image.  I knew that God loved me.  At the same time, I had no clue how He possibly could love me.  I certainly didn't love myself.

The only solution, over time, was to accept what Christ did for me, why He did it, and to start thinking with God's thoughts.  We'll talk about that some more in the next part of this series.  But what are you doing, today, to draw on the storehouse of love, grace and mercy that God has for each one of us?

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