Wednesday, April 28, 2010

R12: Are you a faithful lover?

Woah, getting personal, aren't I? But that's not the kind of lover Chip Ingram means in his book, Living On the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality, aka LOTE: The Book. No, in this case you are God's lover, a member of Christ's bride the Church. So are you faithful?

The second relationship in R12 is Separate from the World. You cannot even begin to address this relationship without turning your Bible over to 1 John 2: "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (v 15-17) We need to examine this Scripture to define the world, and Chip does an excellent job of this using some handy alliteration.

"The cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does" is the NIV translation. Look at NASB to break this down more specifically, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life". Three temptations, of which we can all relate. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life can be simplified as the temptation to feel, to have, and to be. Even further: pleasure, possessions, position; satisfaction, security, status; food, fortune, fame; girls/guys, gold, glory; or sex, salary, status. I list each of these so that hopefully one (or more) stands out to you whereas "lust of flesh, lust of eyes, pride of life" can be unrelatable because "it sounds religious". I think the examples given show that this is not religious, but a struggle common to anyone who resides in this place we call the world.

Ministering to addicts, I relate most to the first temptation. I'm hesitant to us "sex, salary, status" because the first is more than just sex. Yes, that's probably most common, but addiction is also about the need to feel good, or to mask feeling bad by feeling numb and calling that "good". The warning is to HALT, if you're Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired you're most vulnerable to giving in to your addiction. You're driven by feeling. But this isn't limited to chemical addiction either. One of the examples above is "food, fortune, fame". In fact, I was reading an article on weight loss yesterday that used the HALT example as a warning to not emotionally eat. If either of these don't relate to you, you can always fall back on the standard "sex". Even there, it's a mask to cover up emotion. Pornography and masturbation is so appealing because it requires no commitment (other than a credit card!) and therefore, no emotion. Affairs begin under the same principle, but eventually real people have real emotions and someone, on either side of the affair, is bound to break.

As my family's primary bread-winner, the second is also very tempting. I want them to be comfortable, to not have any needs. I get down on myself when things are tight as if it's my fault. I beat myself up if there's a patch of dead grass in the lawn, or if there's a burned out light bulb that I haven't yet changed. I am always giving in to this second temptation because in these cases, I lament that "the grass is greener on the other side" (especially if my grass has dead patches!). We look at the size of our home and want to upgrade. Yesterday at work, I parked next to a bright cherry-red Corvette, my dream car since I was a boy. I could not wait to get an HDTV, even though we don't have cable or satellite. I could go on and on, but I'm sure I don't have to. You could fill a page yourself of all the things you want because of the "lust of the eyes." And it's all for security. We're fooled into thinking that "things" will make us secure and happy. That "the one who dies with the most toys wins." But we also know that "you can't take it with you." The Ash Wednesday saying, "remember man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" is to remind us that the trinkets of this world are meaningless. "The world and its desires pass away..." Needtobreathe has a great song to close their most recent album The Outsiders. I love the chorus to Let us Love: (emphasis added)

Let us love
Like we are children
Let us live
Like we're still living
In a world we know,
is burning to the ground

Finally, I relate to "the pride of life" as a professional. In fact, my primary Love Language is words of encouragement. I need to be recognized, lifted up, appreciated. But I cannot compromise my convictions to gain approval. I cannot cheat, gossip, or cut corners to get ahead. The hardest thing for me to do at my job is to sit back and just let things happen on their own. I don't get the calls I think I should. Yet when I surrender my career to God's Will, in other words when I stop trying to advance myself, I find myself in the exact places I'm trying to go simply by chance opportunities opening themselves up. This is a constant prayer of mine, to "not think of [myself] more highly than [I] ought, but rather think of [myself] with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given [me]." (Romans 12:3) I'm nothing special at my job. My work isn't ground-breaking, it just is what it is. I'm owed nothing. Hard things to say, but necessary to keep myself from falling into this temptation.

I know you can relate to at least one of these. Most likely, you can relate to all three. But you're not alone. Here's a homework assignment. Look at the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and compare his temptations to this list and your own struggles. Be reminded that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 14:15) To go further, look at the temptation of Eve and be reminded that "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So humbled, recognize that the command in 1 John is not about following any specific rules or "planting hedges" to protect ourselves from the world. The issue isn't about what we do, but what we love. Our primary love should be God alone. Anything, or anyone, else is adultery.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?" (James 4:4-5)

Think: What's the single biggest issue, related to the above, that has surfaced in your life?
Reflect: How does seeing the world as a seductress change its appeal? How does reframing sin as a "relational issue" versus "breaking the rules" make you feel about times when you sin?
Understand: Which of the temptations above are you most vulnerable?
Surrender: Ask God to give you the courage to come out of your denial and rationalizations and be ruthlessly honest with yourself and Him. Remember that it's not about rules, but about relationship.
Take Action: Do a three, five, or seven day media fast. Break away from TV, radio, the Internet and see what happens (Romans 13:14). [this will make it hard to follow this blog, but if you're really struggling with any of the temptations above, it is well worth it]
Motivation: Listen or read "How to Break Out of a Destructive Lifestyle" from the Miracle of Life Change series found under the Separate "Free Resources" found by clicking the R12 button to the right and then the 'Separate' tab.
Encourage Someone: Download the message/chapter summarized here for someone you know it would help [or send them a link to this blog!].

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

1 comment:

JC Dude said...

Good insight and suggestions to reflect on!