26 Feb 2005

Reflections on Faith

Submitted by theshovel
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This Shoveletter is part of my correspondence to a discussion based out of Galatians 2 where Paul had confronted Peter with that whole thing about justification by faith and not works. What I wrote spawned from the questions in brackets.

Another issue that arises in this passage (Galatians 2) is the one of believing and having faith. Notice verse 16. A man is justified through faith and Paul says that we have believed. What do you think he means here in light of some previous discussion concerning the work of faith?

I think it all indicates the same miraculous reality. The truth is that we have come to believe HIM in spite of ourselves, our perceptions. our religious upbringing, and our decisions ... yes, even many of our so-called decisions to believe. Which is in spite of our ongoing re-attempts to find justification according to our own systems and fleshly judgments. "Even WE - Jews according to the flesh (and more to the point regarding ourselves, Christians according to the institution) - have believed". Paul wasn't commenting on believing as if it was this thing that "we" did, but upon its demand that since "we" needed salvation as a gift then all our former fleshly distinctions, laws, demands, rituals, did nothing to bring it about. The fact that we have BELIEVED in Christ presents the same demand that salvation is through faith: it is miraculous, it is of God.

More personally, what does all this mean to you? How does it work down into your everyday living? How does it become a simple principle of life in Christ that is a witness of the miraculous inside?

Yes, yes, what does it mean to me! There is a real temptation to slip into a mode of judgment according to the flesh for I understand it, I was there, it used to be the basis of my existence. Everything I learn in Christ is a reinforcement of the reality of his grace, his life. However, the way I learned life in this world would have me line those realities up in such a way as to create a system by which I might prove myself worthy. That's why the application Scripture or Christian doctrine has become a staple in most sermons and teachings. Instead of discovering or witnessing to the real connection of Christ's life we've had to force an application in order to make it real. And no, that is not what I'm hearing you ask. I don't hear you asking how to make it real, but instead how it really connects.

The fact that I have believed in Christ rather than having somehow achieved justification through a joint venture is a sobering reality that keeps demanding that no one else has to reach my level in order to know Christ. My having been raised in a Christian denomination from infancy has done nothing to make me more pleasing to God, nor has it put me in a better position to have received his grace. I still catch myself assuming that it is somehow easier to share the good news of Christ to those who have some prior knowledge of the Bible or of Christianity ... as if by the familiarity, or at least by virtue of the fact that such people would be more willing to give heed to the written claims of God. Instead, I have had it shown to me countless times that God so easily by-passes any and all of my expectations or restrictions.

What has now become just as amazing is that he even reveals himself from within the system I have come to distrust. He is not bound by the system nor does he need to break one away from the system before he can reveal himself! I find that I could easily be imposing a prerequisite for knowing God by insisting God can only be found outside the system when in truth the system is nothing, which also means that breaking away from the system is also nothing. Wherever I am in this world I could be considered part of somebody's system, but the true bondage comes when I make the assumption that I am what this world demands I am.

Bondage to the system then is a self-imposed delusion. However, such delusions are as real as real can be to those being held by them. For me to speak life to folks of different delusional persuasions I cannot insist one must hear me according to someone else's persuasion, but instead according to reality. And I cannot do this by adhering to a stance or a position or a doctrine or by words written in stone or to a prepared statement - even though any or all of those things may play part of a living testimony at one time or another - for in truth I am on my own, so to speak, in each and every situation to hear according to the ears I have been given in Christ and to speak according to the very speaking of God. I am the very embodiment of God to those to whom I come in contact with ... as are all who have Christ.

But what do I speak? The real question might be better stated, But what am I really hearing? Behind all the pomp and circumstance, behind the fluff and frills, below superficial communication (even that which is cloaked as being deep), aside from the constant barrage of fleshly judgment ... what am I really hearing? Because we are so easily sucked in by fleshly assessments we consider this idea of hearing according to the Spirit as being a difficult thing, when in fact it is not difficult ... only miraculous (which is the same as saying it is impossible according to flesh). And when I say we are so easily sucked in it is only from my own ongoing discovery of falling flat on my face from such assessments. As those made alive in Christ let us speak to what we truly hear without having to rely upon formulas or pat answers, knowing that formulas and pat answers only became so by having been empowered by the false perception that truth can be distilled and contained in order to reproduce the work of God without God having to do it.

So, what do I say, how am I to react ... how am I to live? I discover the reality of this by discovering that I have been abandoned by everything I thought to be life, by everything that seemed right to me, even though true life and true rightness has come to be realized as being far more substantial than my former perceptions ever could imagine. In my every day I am out there ... out where truth contradicts the boxes that attempt to hold snippets of true things, even to the point of contradicting the conclusions of varied collections of true things, as well as the individual things that may be true in and of themselves, but made to be untrue by the contamination of fleshly perceptions. Simply stated, regarding myself I am not concerned by another's fleshly judgment of me, whether it be according to man's laws or those recorded in the Bible. I live according to Christ, for he is my life. His life cannot be truly assessed according to the flesh, and we already know that his life while living on this earth was examined by God's law - according to man - and found wanting.

The truth is that my everyday life might not appear so miraculous, even to myself. In many ways my life is very scheduled - my job, my sleeping and eating patterns, etc - so that the routine of one week often seems to roll into the next. I used to imagine that true freedom would bring about freedom from routine, and yet I have come to see that it is neither bound by routine or by amplified by its lack. I am content, even though I may pursue a change here or there. I am not bound by my fleshly perception of freedom ... nor by anybody else's perception of it (no matter how authoritative that perception seems). I am alive in Christ and that is all that counts ... as it is all that counts regarding everything and everyone.

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Posted: Feb-28-05 by Bruce

« I am content, even though I may pursue a change here or there. I am not bound by my fleshly perception of freedom ... nor by anybody else's perception of it (no matter how authoritative that perception seems). I am alive in Christ and that is all that counts ... as it is all that counts regarding everything and everyone. »

Wonderful!

:)
Bruce


Posted: Feb-28-05 by Gregg

As always, thanks, Jim! I am always blessed by your reflections.


Posted: Feb-28-05 by john

What a blessing Jim! Don't have long to write as I am leaving for the day
but I must share this little epiphany caused by your writing. I had just
read the story last night to my little girl about our Lord's appearance to
Thomas. I was trying to get her in bed to go to sleep right away as it was
later than her normal bed time on a "school night" :) . At the end of the
story, the Lord said, as you know, something like--"Thomas, you have
believed because you have seen, blessed are those who have not seen, yet
believe." I said, "See there, little girl, we are blessed." Even as I said
it, I began to hope she would not ask her characteristic, "why?" because if
she did, I did not know a good answer offhand. But you have written of the
answer below. Blessed are those who believe because of the "miraculous
reality" rather than "seeing" with the eyes of the flesh. Another blessing
or perhaps the same is the fact that here was this one chosen by the Lord,
and He was willing to take the situation as far as it needed to go in order
for Thomas to be able to say, "My Lord and my God!" The Lord didn't have to
do that, you know. I'm glad that he kept "appearing" to me in so many
diverse and miraculous ways till I could say, "my Lord and my God!" You are
a blessing to me Brother!

One Life!

john


Posted: Feb-28-05 by Neil

Hi, Jim--
Just read the latest and, as usual, makes the case for this actual life,
the Christ's life (as opposed to the fleshly and "delusional" (I love
that word) life). Quote: "I still catch myself assuming that it is
somehow easier to share the good news of Christ to those who have some
prior knowledge of the Bible or of Christianity..." Same mistake I make.
It's not easier -- it's HARDER! From your experience in home ownership
and work at Home Depot you know that it's a lot easier to paint a new
board with a primer and a coat of enamel than it is to paint an old
board: the layers and layers of chalked, cracked, peeling paint have to
be completely removed first -- COMPLETELY! -- before the new paint can be
applied. You leave any vestige of the old paint and the new will fail.
Maybe not right away, but it will fail...AND beginning where the old
paint was still left. (This is important both from a painting standpoint
and our life in Christ standpoint, wouldn't you say?) So a lot of work
has to go into getting all that old, worn out and useless junk off the
board before you can renew it. (It isn't the new life that is hard
work...it's getting shed of all that old. Especially if one tries to do
it on ones own.) Paul didn't have to scrape away all the old Jewish law
from the Greeks (in this case the Galatians) before instilling them with
the new of the gospel message...for which he was probably quite thankful.
(Could that be why he went to them in the first place, that he knew from
personal experience -- including that of himself -- that bringing the
gospel to the Jews was tough and nasty work? Hmmm. Never thought of it
that way until now.) Anyway, Paul had more trouble with the Judaizers
than anyone, it seems. He certainly had trouble with Peter, who could
easily be likened to the modern Christian leader/paster/theologian.
Deluded by the conceits of tradition and convention, people will put up a
mighty battle to justify and protect them. Peter came around quite
readily, it seems. Wish the same could be said of the "keepers of the
faith".


Posted: Mar-01-05 by Linda

Thank you, I really enjoyed this issue of the Shoveletter.


Posted: Feb-02-06 by Therese

The word reflections is so strong to me...(thank you Jim for reflecting Christ, instead of leaving your portrait) I want to see the reflection, that Christ would want, for my children ,their children, my husband, myself..but, as we know, my reflection isn't always such a great one, on a bad day, a good day, my reflection is of Christ ...He comes through, no matter what I am reflecting that moment, that day. "let your light shine before men,.." don't hide it, don't bury it...reflections! hmmmmmmmmm, I like to think of Christ reflecting His image for me...and me staying out of that reflection, that others see. It is not as if I can get up, and say: Well, God, what is my reflection today? I believe He works on us during sleep, awake, and moments in the car, when the wheel suddenly needs turning, He turns it, and you find out, wow, that could have been a real close death experience if He didn't turn that wheel...now, how did I get to cars and wheels from reflections..I am working on that. Give me a moment...hmmmm, I want His reflections to be my reflections. I want my reactions to be from Him, and not of me, but since I am from flesh, and blood, I know I fail, but He picks me up, dusts me off, and begins again another day, and I pray He reflects a lot more for me, than I could ever imagine or do myself. Without Him I am nothing..."He is the vine, and we are the branches....without God we are nothing." But, I love it when I reflected Him, and I did not know it. When someone gives you an encouraging word, and you didn't know the reflection of Christ had left that impression. I believe He gave that person, that second, or time to tell you of their happiness, because we took the time to reflect Christ, and didn't even know it! I hope I have not confused anyone....I can do that, easily. I do love Him so, because I know He loves me so. Without God, I just couldn't reflect on his word, on His wisdom, knowledge, and the faith that stands, is never by itself..it is Him, reflecting the faith, back to me. amen Love and Mercy, Therese

Let me refresh you and others this morning with your wonderful statement: “His life cannot be truly assessed according to the flesh, and we already know that his life while living on this earth WAS EXAMINED BY GOD’S LAW - according to MAN - and found wanting.” -Jim[emphasis Adam’s] The world operates according to these same principals only they are cloaked in crafty disguise. The mind of the unbeliever discerns nothing in this, only that it seems to be life itself.

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Random Shovelquote: Realize the freedom (view all shovelquotes)

How can you realize the freedom you have in Christ? I say that you will discover it, more times than not, in the midst of the bondage that still seems to hold you down. You see, the power of the gospel is not found merely in the words of its testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is found in the reality that has been brought about because of who he is and what he has done. That reality is that Christ is in you. He is there, and his life witnesses from within you … despite all the doubts that you think actually come from within you. source