Archive for the 'Human Good' Category

Asceticism

The Buddha as an ascetic

This post has been sitting in my drafts box for some time. I thought it was unfinished. In fact, I thought I’d barely started it and so had been ignoring it. Today I was moved to click on it, intending to see if there was something here I could develop, or if I should just delete it and move on.

Instead I was surprised to find an entire post, finished but for the final editing. And, oddly enough, it ties in to what I’ve been thinking and writing about lately in regards to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The original date on it was March 18, 2011, a kind of prologue thoughtwise to more recent ruminations. Here’s what I was thinking last year:

Most Christians are aware of the fact that they still have a fallen nature even after having believed in Christ. But how many of them have considered what this fallen nature is like beyond “bad,” “evil,” “selfish,” “prideful”  and “something that sets itself against God?”

My pastor has considered what it is like and taught us a number of things as a result of his studies. One of the big things about it is the fact that it has an area of strength (most of us have certain sins we’re not even tempted to commit) and an area of weakness (sins we fall into all the time). I think the area of weakness is pretty well-known, but the area of strength is something that doesn’t get as much attention. The area of strength is often the source of human good, which of course, is disgusting in God’s eyes, but often very attractive in people’s eyes.

In addition to an area of strength and weakness, the sin nature also has a trend, either toward lasciviousness or asceticism. Or, put more simply, some people trend toward self-indulgence and others toward self-denial and self-discipline.

Examples of the latter include the Flagellants I just posted about, as well as fasting, vows of silence and poverty, dietary rules, and one I find most amusing, the stylites… Eastern orthodox monks who lived on small platforms atop long poles for years, fasting, praying, and preaching, they believed that the mortification of their bodies would ensure their salvation.  Many Eastern religions embrace ascetic practices as well, with followers vowing never to use their left hand or right foot, restricting their diet, wearing neither clothes nor shoes as they moved from place to place, not staying in any one place so as not to get attached, etc. Clearly there is a strong tendancy in some sin natures to be abusive of self in the name of “holiness,” or just in the name of getting something they might want.

Few people in our day practice the type of asceticism I’ve just described (at least in the United States) but that doesn’t mean they don’t practice it in some other form. Exercise regimes, abstaining from certain foods or drinks, supporting “green” practices, abstaining from smoking, card games, dancing or watching movies, even practices associated with Lent all have to do with denying self certain pleasures in the interest of achieving “holiness” by our own efforts.

Unfortunately holiness is far from the result of asceticism. What it leads to is moral degeneracy, a state wherein a person is moral and often religious but thinks far more highly of himself than he ought. His self-denial and self-discipline,  his avoidance of the lascivious or self-indulgent sorts of sins (drug addiction, fornication, etc) make it seem that he is a better person than say, the woman working the corner down in the ratty part of town. Which is, of coures the point: to make of oneself a better person, a more spiritual person, purer, more enlightened than everyone else.

I’ve recently read several articles noting how self-righteous and holier than thou some people in the global warming/environmental movement are, how it has, in fact become a religion in itself to those who follow it. Michael Crichton was one of the first, or at least the most famous first, to point this out in a speech he gave to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 2003.  (Read it here) Ditto vegetarians, the defenders of animals and even those who eat only organic foods, pr so  claims an article on MSNBC titled “Does Organic Food Make People into Jerks?

In addition to the holier-than-thou syndrome, ascetism leads to legalism — not only in the sense of judging others, but of judging self. Not the judging of self where you confess your sins to God, but where you come up with a set of rules you have to follow so everything will turn out right; or so someone will be pleased with you or happy or at the very least not displeased; or perhaps a set of rules to follow so God will be pleased,  or so you can gain health or wealth or success or …  the list is endless.

And once you have your set of rules in place, you’ve created a launching pad for guilt and worry. You have these rules!  And you have to follow them; if you don’t, disaster will ensue! If you don’t, you can never have any peace. Who cares what God’s word has to say? You have your rules of what it means to be good or successful or responsible or compassionate or whatever…

Which means now you can also worry you might not follow them all, and then beat yourself up when you don’t.  And if there’s someone around who fails to follow them even more than you do, then you can focus on that person and beat them up instead of yourself for their infractions.

And it can all look very nice on the outside, while inside it tears you apart.

What a contrast to the life our Lord intends for us to live. A life of peace and rest, confident that we don’t have to follow our silly little rules, because in Christ we’ve already been made holy. By His work, not ours. There’s not one thing we can do that will make us one ounce holier than He’s already made us the moment we believed in Christ.

All we have to do is keep learning His Word which, if we believe it, will slowly transform our thinking into His.  Our new life in Christ is one that offers tremendous peace and freedom; why would we not want to live in it?

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God’s Power Appears out of Our Weakness

In light of yesterday’s post about driving myself crazy with all the things I’ve found to do in my recent junket around Internet Marketing Land, I’d like to note some of the things that have been said by my pastor in Bible Class during the same time period. He’s in Florida. I’m in Arizona, and he doesn’t know about any of this.

So it’s been clear to me Who exactly is talking. God the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from Pastor Farley’s messages:

“The thinking that originates from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is an attack to get us away from the life of God and into a system where we turn from Him and it’s all up to us to discern between good and evil and make ourselves good.

“We want do’s and don’ts so we can just follow the rules. That IS the knowledge of good and evil.

I saw at once he was right.  In the six days of the restoration of the Earth, God looked at everything and kept saying it was good, good, very good. Adam was in the middle of this place of goodness. So what would he need the Knowledge of Good for? It was all around him. God walked with him in the garden daily and he knew God. Clearly this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not what I always thought it was.

Just looking at the title and actually thinking about it also helped to clarify things:   it’s that function or capacity of creature tos think we have the capacity to figure out what’s good and what’s evil, when really we’re incapable of that. Incapable even before Adam fell, much more incapable now.

Even so we think we can do it. Just give me some rules and I’ll do the rest.  I like that idea. It’s comfortable and safe to have rules. You know what you’re going to do (you think) and how it’s going to go, you’ve got everything figured out so it’ll fit into the time and you’ll do good, whatever the category of “good” is. Could be a good job, a good party, a good word, or a good deed. The world says this is a good thing. Your flesh says it’s good, too.

I’ve found it’s very hard to really turn your back on this idea and live by faith. Until God starts making a point with you and it seems no matter what you do or plan, it almost never goes “right.” Worst is when you make the plan and then, for one reason or another,  fail yourself  to carry out your own plan, after which you beat yourself up because you didn’t do “right.”

Pastor Farley continued:

“The idea of this and trying to live a life this way is impossible. Realize you are a sinner, hopeless and helpless and call on Him.  Life isn’t about me trying to work things out according to good and evil.

In the past I’ve always taken this good and evil thing to mean moral issues or spiritual issues (like demon type spiritual issues) but suddenly I realized it had application to every day issues.

Like all these things I’ve been told I have to do if I want to succeed in the writing world. Things that make sense to do, but that I haven’t had time to do.  How can I figure out which of them is good and which is not? Which I should do and which I shouldn’t. How I can make my schedule work (good) so that it can fit everything in that seems good to do? I don’t want to make a mistake (evil)  and do the wrong thing so that I fail to fit everything in…

“Understand that God gives us one day at a time to live and we should live it for all it’s worth. Rather than focus on what I think we too much do focus on — that old tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — we should focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit living inside us wants us to live a mystery form of the Tree of Life.

“And yet sometimes we live our lives like we’re still the old man — all caught up in what’s good and what’s evil [about the people and situations in our lives — who’s right and who’s wrong] when in reality the Lord’s calling us through the Holy Spirit to a life of freedom. We should get up every day and orient to His resurrection and live that life He’s called us to.

“And YOU CANT DO BOTH!!

That is, you can’t live the life of freedom at the same time as you’re always trying to figure out what’s the right thing and the wrong thing, and having all these rules you think you have to follow to be happy.

That statement hit me hard. Talk about double-minded! I’d been experiencing it. Should I do all these things… start the Facebook page, work on my website, improve my titling?  Maybe if I set up a schedule and this time really stick to it, maybe I could get it all done… If I just had more discipline… if I just…

“Wake up!  These situations where you complain and murmur, feel bad about yourself, and are frustrated… That is ALWAYS where God’s power goes to work. You gotta stop fussing and fuming and thinking how you’re gonna do this better, get a better plan, a better planner, one that will finally get all my things together so you’ll be very efficient and able to call more people and do more things and finally your life will be good… No!

STOP THAT!

Stop it and just say, “Okay. Paul says, ‘I will rather boast in my weakness so the glory of Christ might be revealed…’ so the next time one of those things hits like, ‘Ah, I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that…’ STOP! And say, “Pfft. I’m frail. And this is a great opportunity to say, “Watch the power of God at work!”

And all the foibles of the old man getting the better of us — God doesn’t condemn us in that, He just wants us to start to see it. I’m supposed to get to these places where I don’t have what it takes. Supposed to. Because God’s power is made manifest in my weakness.

So. I’ve returned to the conclusion that I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure everything out and all that. I’m using the Pomodoro technique generally. But if the words start to flow and the timer goes off — too bad. Word flow always takes precedence over a timer. I can go take a break when the flow stops.

Which is what I intend to do right now, seeing as that is exactly what’s happened. 🙂

A Self-Made “Man”

 

I thought I was done with my musings on the nature of Satan for the moment, but some of the comments on previous posts, plus my discovery of this last bit of excerpt from Chafer’s book Satan, has convinced me there’s at least one more post to do on this subject.

Maybe I’m misreading things, but people seem very reluctant to admit that Satan could possibly want to build and order and do “good” things. Several commenters keep coming back to him as ruiner, render, devourer.

I have no argument with that. In the end that’s exactly what he is. Right now that’s exactly how he feels toward God, God’s plan and ways and God’s people.

He’s the roaring lion walking about seeking someone (in context, some believer in Christ) to devour …

But what exactly does “devour” mean. After all, he’s not a literal lion. So how might he go about devouring?

In the context of the verse where this appears (1 Pe 5:8), the believer has just been told to humble himself, to cast all his anxiety on the Lord, to be of sober spirit (not letting emotions get the best of him) and to be on the alert because his enemy the devil is on the prowl seeking to devour him.

Since Rev 12:10 says that Satan is in heaven accusing the brethren day and night before the throne, and since he is a creature who can only be in one place at a time, clearly this roaring lion is not Satan himself, at least in the vast majority of cases.

Instead it would be his minions and the world system he has devised. The word for “devour” — katapino — means to drink down, swallow down, devour.

When you drink or swallow or devour something, it becomes a part of you. Its original form is broken down, changed to other things and assimilated into the body. That is, it becomes part of the body. So the believer’s thinking — because the spiritual battle we’re in is all about thought, the source of action — and motivation and way of living — is drunk down, swallowed up, changed to something else.

Changed to the system of thought the world advances, one that exalts self and opposes God, though it may not always be obvious that’s what it’s doing. Because very often it includes God, the Bible and even Jesus Christ in its subtle methods of exalting self and opposing God. That’s the nature of a counterfeit, to include as much truth as possible into the lie, because the more it looks and sounds like the real thing, the more people will be deceived.

Consider Chafer’s observations regarding Satan:

“His own terrible sin before God would not be condemned in the eyes of the world, for it is that which they most idealize and praise.

In his sin he aspired to that which is highest, and proposed to realize his ideal by his own self-sufficiency and strength.

Are those not worthy goals in our world today? Aren’t we forever being told, even as Christians, that we must strive for excellence and offered myriad ways of doing so in our own strength? Don’t we have and venerate all sorts of competitions to determine who is most excellent? (Especially now that Olympics Season has begun!)

Chafer continues:

“True, he has lowered his Creator, in his own mind, to a level where he supposes himself to be in legitimate competition with Him, both for authority over other beings and for their worship.

“Yet this unholy ambition and disregard for the Creator is a most commendable thing according to the standards of the Satanic order (ie, the present world system).

“In the language of the world, Satan is simply “self made” and every element of his attitude toward his Creator is, as a principle of life, both commended and practiced by the world.

“Though hiding himself, Satan has had the satisfaction, under limitations, of governing the affairs of men; and the delight, to a large extent, of receiving their worship.

If people — including Believers in Christ — are admiring and living by his ideas and his values, then they are essentially worshipping him even if they don’t realize it. And in that regard they have been “devoured”.

 

 

God’s Thoughts Are Not Our Thoughts

Yesterday I talked about the need for repetition in learning things. Math and reading specifically come to mind. And as it is needed for those skills, it is also needed for learning the word of God.

In fact, I’d say especially for the word of God.  When subjects are deeper, more layered, more complex, and more expansive, we cannot possibly understand with only a few quick lessons. The only way we can really learn them is by cycling over the material, gaining new understanding with each pass. And there is nothing deeper, more layered and complex than the Word of God. He created the laws of physics and the science of neurology, after all. If those subjects are daunting, doesn’t it follow a fortiori that learning about the one who created them would be more so?

Indeed. So much so that the Bible tells us God’s thoughts and ways are not like ours. They are foreign to us. More foreign than the most foreign culture or language could possibly be. And the more foreign and strange a subject is to us, again, there is no way we’re going to “get it” on the first pass or two.  Probably not even the tenth pass, or the twentieth.

The Bible tells us the naturally-minded man cannot understand the things of God at all. They are foolishness to him. Only the spiritual man (ie, born again) who is filled with the Holy Spirit can understand. But even after salvation, all of us are in some respects naturally-minded. We still live in the world where we are barraged, in this present age as never before, with worldly thinking. And even though we’re saved, we still have our flesh, which sets itself against the things of the Spirit, and is a continuing source of wrong and worldly, self-centered thinking.  It will even take doctrinal thoughts and distort them, misapply them (as Job’s three alleged friends were so fond of doing) in order to serve itself. And it’s not always easy for us  to recognize when that is happening because a lot of times it feels “right.”

 Further, in 2 Co 5:16 we’re commanded to “recognize no one according to the flesh.”  A common interpretation of that verse is that we’re not to look at other people on the basis of their sins and failures, but on the basis of their position in Christ. And while it’s certainly true we are to regard other Christians in this way, that can’t be what this particular verse means because the passage goes on to say that we’re not to know Christ after the flesh, either, and He had no sins or failures.

So what does it mean? I believe it’s talking about our own flesh. We’re not to know others or Christ on the basis of our own fleshly thinking — our naturally minded way of interpreting things that are beyond our ken. 

Let’s take self-discipline as an example. As an unbeliever, I knew all about self-discipline and was pretty good at it. After I became saved and read in Galatians that we’re to have the fruit of the Spirit, one part of which is self-discipline, I thought, well, I know what that is. I know I haven’t always been perfect at it, but I know it’s a good thing and now I’m supposed to do that. So I would double my efforts in the self-discipline area.

I’ve read of others who describe their efforts to cultivate and nurture this particular fruit. They deliberately take on tasks that will make their flesh chafe.  The flesh hates service, one person said, but absolutely screams at hidden service. You have to train it to abide this, and you seek out opportunities to do so.

That all seems reasonable and logical and right. Except for three things.

One, that if you keep going with this kind of thinking, you’ll end up like the flagellants I wrote about some months ago.

 Two, the fruit of the Spirit, as I’ve said before, is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of me. If I’ve been crucified with Christ, I’m dead. I can’t produce a thing. It’s the life of Christ that has to produce this fruit, not me. In fact, all my pastors over the last 37 years have repeatedly said, “If the unbeliever can do it, it’s not the Christian way of life, because the Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life.” An unbeliever can discipline himself;  in fact some are better at it than most believers. And everything I described above about seeing some quality the Bible says Believers are to demonstrate, and then setting out to acquire and practice that quality is very much a normal human way of approaching something.

The natural man does it all the time. I want to lose weight. I need to stop eating so much. I want to be a wonderful musician, I need to start playing the piano. I get angry too much, I need to start meditating and visualizing my anger as red smoke and exhale it. (Got that from The Mentalist  😉  )  I am too shy, I need to learn to make eye contact.  I have a bad mental attitude, I will now tell myself affirmations all day… and on and on. That’s a completely natural, in some cases practical way of dealing with something. If I want to learn to sketch, I have to practice. If I want to get good at tennis, I have to practice.  It’s all about I. Nothing really supernatural about it.

Which brings me to number three: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways (Is 55: 8,9) Do we really stop and think what that means when we read it? I know in the past I haven’t. Oh, I agreed with it, but only on some amorphous, vague level. He’s the creator, after all. He’s omniscient, eternal. Of course His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways,  and off I go, agreeing with the concept but not really living in it.

Maybe we need to reverse that verse, and say instead, “man’s thoughts and ways are not God’s ways.” Or even better, “my (natural) thoughts and ways are not God’s ways.

 He considers our “righteous deeds to be as a filthy garment” (Is  64:6) after all. We struggle with that. When Cain brought his wonderful crop of vegetables, the work of his hands, as an offering, God rejected it. He was not interested in Cain’s work. It was gross. Cain was so upset he killed his brother, because his offering of a lamb was accepted.

 Our efforts to please him in our flesh are nauseating to Him. (Rev 3:14-17)  He is pleased with Christ and His work on the Cross. All those who have believed in Christ are subsequently placed in union with Him, and so when the Father looks at us, He sees His son, who paid our debt of sin. It’s because of what Christ did, that He is pleased with us. Paul, on this very subject reminds the Galatians that they came to salvation by grace through faith, not of works, and the same way they received Him is the way they are to walk in Him. By grace through faith, not works.

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Gal 3:6

He says the same thing in Colossians:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established by means of your faith…”  Col 2:6 ” 

Faith in who He is and what He’s done, not faith in ourselves. Believing what He’s promised, believing He is who He says He is. It’s faith that pleases Him; in fact, without faith it is impossible to please Him.  (Heb 11:6)

That’s not the way we tend to think. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t jibe with what the world says, even what the religious world says. 

When you consider the number of elements arrayed against us learning the thoughts and ways of God it’s hardly surprising we would be a long time finally getting to the core of things.  The complexity of the material, the outlandishness of its claims and promises, the depth and the foreignness of it all is challenge enough. But then we add in the fleshly part of us, thinking it understands when it is only distorting truth, or rejecting it outright because it finds the concepts offensive (eg, “step aside flesh, you’ve been crucified, you have no part in this”)  and all of that occurring in a world that constantly affirms “natural-minded” thinking as reasonable, logical, responsible and rejects “heavenly-minded” thinking as nonsense, ridiculous, and off the wall. How could the learning curve be anything but long and slow?

I know.  I’ve been fighting the battle with all those elements and my flesh is very adamant that some of my conclusions are nutty and “can’t possibly be right” and that my old viewpoint is the only one that really makes sense…

But that’s not what God’s been telling me. And ever so slowly I think I’m starting to believe Him.

Turn it Over to Him

Recently I’ve been writing about my attempts to get my mind around some of the concepts in my pastor’s current teachings on Galatians 2:20. One of them is the following:

“After salvation, faith is the active entrusting of our lives to the One who died for us and lives inside us. And we’re supposed to do it on a daily, moment by moment basis.”

I hear that and agree with it, but when it comes down to application… I’m not sure what that looks like. Pastor Farley has said we should take an area of our life that’s driving us nuts and apply this teaching to that. My failure to consistently work on Sky is just such an area. What has become of my self-discipline? And how do I apply this active entrusting of my life to Him to the matter of my lack of self-discipline in working on the book?

“Step by step, day in and day out,” said Pastor John, “we’re delivered from problems and obstacles by HIS life. By the fact He lives in us. We simply need to believe that.”

Well… I do believe that. I think. Or do I? And if I do, what does that mean I … well, DO? Immediately I begin to think in terms of disciplining myself again.

But then he said it’s not ‘Let go and let God, it’s actively relying on Him to live through me. Because it’s a battle. The flesh doesn’t want to do that. It never wants to entrust itself to another. It wants the spotlight. It wants anything but “Sorry, step aside. Jesus Christ is gonna live His new life in me now.” Anything!

Like, “What if I reform myself and promise to do better?”

Or, “I’ll feel sorry for my sins. I know I was bad. I’ll deny myself in certain areas.”

He didn’t say if “deny myself” referred to “No more chocolate chip cookies for you until you toe the line” as a punishment to atone for infractions, and maybe he did, but my first thought was that it sounded a lot like some of my self talk: “I have to do better. I have to have more self-discipline, more awareness of the distractions. Maybe I should unplug the modem or revise my schedule to be more focused on my calling. After all everyone knows you must deny yourself “a thousand unimportant things and a few hundred important things in order to do the one most important thing.”

Maybe both are covered in his reference. Because the denying of things to self is certainly a function of the self-reform Pastor John mentioned as being part of the flesh’s plan: “I’ll deny myself in certain areas!”

“No!” said Pastor John. “We’re done with you. We don’t want to hear any of that! We’re starting over. What do we do? Believe He’ll come through for us every day.”

So… does this really mean I just step back, stop with all the attempts to fix myself and turn it over to Him? “Here Lord. I’m turning this issue completely over to You. Live your life through me. You handle me and the book. If You want it done. I’m trusting you to take care of it.”

Is that it? But what exactly does that mean in the practical? I don’t think I know what “turning the book over to Him” entails on a moment by moment basis, since obviously I do have to actually write it. Yes, I’ve already done that to some degree with respect to its content. Is it now to be the writing as well? Certainly ny flesh hasn’t been doing much of a job getting with the program. But can it really simply be a matter of not obsessing and just reminding myself over and over that He will do it, if I turn it over to Him?

Show me, Lord. I’m going to do this as best I know how and trust You to see it done.  In Your timing, not mine; according to Your schedule, not mine…

“Faithful is He who calls you and He will bring it to pass.”                       ~I Thessalonians 5:24

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”      ~Galatians 2:20

Guilt is a Sin

Guilt, according to the American Heritage dictionary is

  1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
  2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

It’s a sin because it’s adding to the work of our Lord on the cross. If He took all the punishment for all our sins — and He did — then why would we feel we need to punish ourselves?

1 Jn 1:9 says, “If we confess, [name, cite] our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jeremiah 3:13 says, “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God…”

Acknowledging that you have sinned carries no merit. You’re just agreeing with God that what you’ve done/said/thought is a sin, and at that point He forgives you the sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. The cleansed vessel of the soul is then suitable to be filled or controlled by God the Holy Spirit and fellowship is restored.

Guilt — beating yourself up for what you’ve done — has no place in that. It’s human works, human effort to atone, to make sure you’ll never do it again… I struggle a lot with the guilt function so I’ve had ample opportunity to consider it in all its ramifications and it really is quite arrogant. After all the word of God says our hearts (the way we think and perceive the world and ourselves) are deceitful and desperately wicked, that from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our feet, there’s no soundness in us, that we are stubborn and willful and none of us in ourselves is good. Not even one. (Ro 3:10)

We were all born in sin, we still have the sin nature after salvation. We are going to sin. We are going to make mistakes. We’re stupid sheep, we are easily entangled in sin and deception… guilt assumes that we can do better. Guilt assumes that somehow our sin is an aberration, a shock, something we should very well be able to avoid. If only we’d work hard enough or hurt bad enough, then we won’t do it again. It’s the flesh’s mode of self-improvement, and like all else the flesh produces, God finds it disgusting.

Guilt is something that has motivated me almost all my life, something carried over from my first 21 years as an unbeliever.  I’ve talked about it on this blog before… that feeling that I must do X or something bad will happen. Usually the “something bad” is that “they” will think poorly of me. But who is they?

At first I had no idea, but gradually I realized it’s something in my own conscience. Not something based on the word of God, but on stuff I picked up as a child and internalized. It doesn’t matter if God says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, if my conscience says I should do or be a certain way, then that’s all that matters. If I fail to toe the line, then my conscience will punish me.

Because, apparently, Jesus didn’t do enough. Because, apparently God really didn’t mean it when He said there is nothing good in us, and that the only way to actually live the Christian way of life is the same way as we received it… by grace, through faith.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing (the Gospel) with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   ~ Galatians 3:1-3

Flagellants

As I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I struggle with guilt about the most inane things. And guilt about things not so inane. Guilt is a sin and is never a proper motivation for anything. Guilt is arrogance, helping Jesus out in punishing yourself, ignoring or disbelieving that His death on the cross was enough. No for some sins, I need to punish myself a little more. Yuck.

Anyway, recently I was researching asceticism, which is a trend of the sin nature and a great source of religion, legalism, self-righteousness and guilt… and I came across self-mortification, which is part of asceticism. Self-mortification is voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrong doing (“You twit! Why in the world did you do that? Now what’s everyone going to think? How can you even call yourself a Christian! Sheesh!  I canNOT believe you did that!”); self-abasement, penalization.  It’s degradation or humiliation of oneself, especially because of feelings of guilt or failure…

I do all that stuff.  But on the page for self-mortification, I came across mention of medieval flagellants.  People who took the Word very literally where it talked about putting the flesh to death and went around whipping themselves with one or more cat o’ nine tails to atone for whatever wrongdoing they’d committed. There was even a picture.

I love it. They look soooo stupid. I’m going to hold this image in my head for the next time I start doing this to myself mentally!


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