Friday, March 21, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 19

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
All I can do is be me, whoever that is. -- Bob Dylan

I'm not sure if that statement came before or after Bob Dylan's foray into Christianity.  But it's a truism we don't want to forget.  Think about that one.

If we're not connected to God, what we display may be us or what we'd like others to see as us.  We're 100% responsible.  And, if any of that is based on lies, we have to remember those lies. And we most likely will need to embellish on them.

If we do have a relationship with God, the same is basically true.  However, if we get out of the way and let God run the show, there are no lies to remember, God's responsible for the outcome, and God will aim us in the direction that results in the best us possible.  It doesn't take much imagination to figure out which way will create the most painless result.

Psalm 34:15 (KJV)  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

Whether one is a substance abuser or not, the flesh very easily eliminates God from the picture. We start getting an idea that we're in control, we know what we're doing, and there's no need for God.  At least that's been my experience.  If you recall what I said last time about my being a smoker, it took using the patch for me to quit.  Did I hold onto the habit for a season?  Sure.  And, yes there are plenty of Christians who have been delivered of that and other habits.  But I see two reasons why God didn't do that with me.

First, God is sovereign.  Using a different approach to deliver people from just about anything should send a very loud message to all believers, God saying, "Yes, I'm as sovereign as you believe Me to be.  I'll choose the way to do things that's best for all concerned, not limited to your understanding of how I work.".

Second, there's that personality flaw I mentioned above.  I still have it to some degree.  It's far too easy to become active in the healing process or the blessing process and miss that it wasn't just me.  By making sure that there are external influences, God ensures that I can't think I should take credit when credit is not due.

The surrounding verses in Psalm 34 make it clear it's not just the righteous that God pays attention to.  Even those distinctly headed in the wrong direction are on God's radar.  Not only are we all on God's radar, there will be consequences for our actions.  If we're intentionally doing our own thing, avoiding God, and at the expense of others, there will be negative results.  Sometimes more immediate, sometimes not.  And, sometimes our attitudes and actions make us so calloused that we miss recognizing some of the consequences.  When we fall into some form of failure unintentionally, there may be consequences, just because of the nature of the failure.  But God is always going to be there, directing us toward better choices.

The truth is that God is always there for each of us to connect with.  In my case, both alcohol and tobacco were addictions.  There were many times I wanted to quit, but couldn't.  That's not excusing either.  Certainly neither started as addictions, even though I had misconceptions about the negative aspects of both.  And , as time went along, there were times I was well aware of how bad they were becoming, yet made excuses.

Whether it was my misunderstanding of the nature of my acts, me excusing my own behavior, or me trapped in my addictions, God was always there to draw me into the right path.  Looking back, that's evident to me.  The alcoholism didn't do wonders for my relationships or my finances.  And my smoking has left me with a bit of emphysema.  If you're either not a Christian or are new to Christianity, you may be asking something like, "If your God is so loving and powerful, how come He let you make such huge mistakes and let you suffer the consequences?".  That's an interesting thought.

First of all, remember that, from the start, we've been given free will.  From Adam through whenever this part of creation ends, man has been gifted by God with volitional choice.  And there are consequences for every choice we make.  If we make good choices, we'll like those consequences. If we make bad decisions, not so much.  Consider Genesis 3:

Genesis 3:17-19 (KJV)  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Adam chose to believe Eve and the serpent instead of God.  As a consequence, Adam and Eve took the hit.  Along with themselves, they also dragged down all of creation and all of their future heirs. We're effected by what others choose, as well.  Either indirectly or in our spiritual genetics.

Romans 8:22-23 (KJV)  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Even salvation, as glorious as it is, doesn't eliminate all the travail we experience in this life.  But that's not an excuse,  we still can choose to make right decisions or not, as we decide.  God doesn't interfere with that and free will is not limited to a special few.

Acts 10:34-35 (KJV)  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

That also means that Old Testament offers to Israel apply to us as believers.  Which gives us an interesting plea from God:

Deuteronomy 30:19 (KJV)  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

How do we choose today?  Do we choose pleasant consequences?  And, more importantly, do we spiritually choose life?

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