Cold, Dead Fingers
Here is a letter I received this past week:
I was thinking the other day when someone was telling me to "let go of ...." and give it to God. That i was carrying a burden i needed to let go of. I thought about how cliched what she said was, and how for some reason it just didn't make sense to me spiritually to do what she was telling me to do. My conclusion on the matter was this (and maybe I am wrong..) : That God doesn't require or ask me to let go of things that I am carrying, that are burdening me. He tells me to COME TO HIM and He will give me rest, and a different yoke to carry. It sounds like my job is not to give up my burden, but to allow my burden to drive me to COME TO JESUS until *HE* exchanges it for His yoke instead. (Of course I am to cast my cares on Him, but this doesn't mean they no longer burden me.) I am so tired of a gospel that tells me to "be happy" and forget all my troubles... How bout a gospel that has the power to FREE me from my troubles and I don't have to do any emotional manipulation or positive thinking to get there. pass on to whoever you like. Heather
This letter is a fantastic segue into our formula-based mindsets. Thanx Heather!
There is a bumper sticker that reads: "I will give up my gun when they pry my cold dead fingers from it!" I'll bet you've seen it, huh? This is a good commentary on forgiveness. No, no, I don't mean learning how to forgive those who support things you think of as evil, for what I'm suggesting has nothing to do with guns. It has to do with the mindset that WILL NOT LET GO. (Now, if I receive any pro OR con gun control propaganda it will only get deleted ... so don't waste my time, okay?)
Formulas. We come up with one after another (even those of us who don't think they have any formulas). A formula is some kind of "how-to" ... and even an easy "grace" formula is still a formula. The good news of Christ is the declaration of the miraculous. But herein lies the problem: it gives me no handles, no formulas! And this is why most preachers find themselves preaching practical how-to's instead of simply preaching the good news itself ... because it just doesn't seem to speak to our life unless we MAKE it speak to our life. This was the "other" gospel that Paul referred to.
The flesh cannot give anything over to God and that fact was proclaimed loudly when Christ condemned sin in the flesh. He didn't change the old man ... He killed him!
* FACT: Forgiveness means not holding sin against another.
* FORMULA: If I LET GO of sin toward someone, then I'm forgiving them.
* REALITY: The gospel declares that the offense has been taken away.
* FALLACY: My attempt to let go of the sin ignores the reality of it being taken away by Christ.
Then, what do we do? I received another letter where the person came to this (EXCELLENT) conclusion:
I had to respond to your Oct. 22 and 24 newsletter. Omygosh. Do you, by any chance know me? Did you know that I needed to read (not only read but absorb) every word you wrote? I have been struggling so hard the past few months to forgive my parents. It seems to only have gotten worse. All this time I believe God has been trying to tell me to "let it go." To basically "drop it." But instead I have been turning and twisting things over in my mind until they are so tangled up I can't even figure out what's real or not anymore. Forget the yardstick, I have gone way beyond measuring, I am examining and re-examining, and poking and prodding at things that the Lord has clearly told me to drop. As if I think that somehow I have the power to fix everything and make it all better. As if I ever could!!! And Jim, you hit the nail on the head when you said that if we look closer at where all of this is coming from, it has very little to do with the ones we need to forgive but more to do with ourselves. My anger is toward myself, for not making things better. For not being the "perfect" daughter who ALWAYS makes everyone happy. As if!! Now that I see - now that these blinders have been removed - I am willing (finally) to "drop it." ... So ---- here goes. I am ... giving up the idea that I can forgive - and I am willing to let Christ forgive through me. Just like He lives through me. Chris
Giving up the IDEA that I can forgive!!! Wow! (note: that's a good 'wow!') All of us have struggled with the concept of "letting go", and as long as we have it tied to this thing that we should be doing we will be living in a state of confusion (California or Florida, I think ... hahaha!). Trying to let go of sin is an impossibility, for it took the death of the Son of God to do that! Coming to the realization of this impossibility and giving up on IT is not a struggle ... it is the END of the struggle!!
Now, to think that YOU can somehow bring yourself to this place is just as ridiculous as YOU being able to do away with sin. Do you know why the gospel is the power of God to salvation? Because this news of Christ and His work on the cross is what defines life and puts all things in order.
Do you actually think that you can forgive ... that you can let go? There is only one place where this reality holds true ... and that is in Christ. And in Him there is no sin. And where there is no sin, there is no holding it against another, either. This is not to say that real offenses haven't taken place, because they really have. The perception I learned in this world continually demands that I am DEFINED by these offenses ... AND by my interaction with the offenses of others. In Christ, we have learned that the very real things that are NOW taking place have ALREADY BEEN DEALT WITH BY THE VERY REAL THING JESUS DID. It is really that black and white. That's what the gospel has been telling us!!!
As far as even considering your job to be "allowing" your burden to drive you to Him, I would suggest that that could become just as much a formula as the "let go" one. There are no formulas ... there is only LIFE ... and His name is Jesus.