Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stand Firm

061111 Stand Firm

You’re beaten.
Your body is bruised and bloody beyond recognition.
Your only sensation is merciless, unceasing pain.
You can barely see the ground you lie on because your eyes are all but swollen shut.
You are alone in your circumstance as well as your emotions.

Despite all that works against you, despite the repeated assaults, despite everything you’ve suffered through at the hands of another, you draw your arms in and push yourself up. Your joints that once moved easily bring your pain to a new crescendo as you bend your knees and stand again.
Your enemies who encircle you shake their heads at your folly, for you all know you will only be knocked to the ground again. All you have to do is stay down. Don’t get up. Let your defiance of their desires fight another day. But you’ve already decided you’ve had enough, and that voice has already told you, “Stand firm.”
At the words that leave your mouth their eyes widen in surprise, and maybe even fear and some awe, “I forgive you.”
As they cruelly laugh and taunt you that voice whispers again, “Vengeance is mine.”
You reply, “They do not know what they do.”
The sorrow comes through in the quiet response, “I know. Believe Me I know. Stand firm. They are not yet ready for heaven so you cannot kill them.” And you know this is true for you can feel the power to do that easily within your reach, and you discover that the truth of strength is not using the power at your disposal in the normal human response.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult attributes of the Christian faith. For while there is violence in the Christian faith the Biblical depiction of that violence in the New Testament is that which is done to us rather than by us, hence the requirement that we “turn the other cheek”. This is all the more difficult for me, because I am anything but a pacifist. If there is something in my way I would much rather blow it up, or punch my way through it and be done with it than have to think it through, and apply my faith.
There are seasons in our lives. Some are painful beyond comprehension, and some are the sweetest satisfaction of our deepest longings. Some, the most valuable ones, are an exquisite combination of both for they are often the result of the healing of a wound. We do not desire the wound, yet having been wounded we desire to be healed, and once healed we are left with something so valuable that we would never give it up.
But we would never have received it if we had never been hurt. This is where faith is applied, where faith meets reality.

We are in a time in this very nation where we value freedom above all, where we as Christians are coming under fire for our beliefs. Government and civil organizations are actively trying to curb our rights even to express our beliefs publicly. Christians are being branded as fascists in many publications. While this is a relatively minor variety of persecution when compared to what is faced in the rest of the world it must be noted that persecution always starts out with the little things.
It will get worse.
It will get worse because the world does not wish to be confronted with the truth of its failures, and if we refuse to conform to the world’s idea of what a Christian should be then we must be silenced somehow. There will come a day when we will feel beaten as I described, in a spiritual sense at least, and that is when the words will come to you telling you to “Stand firm”.
Many decisions are being made by our lawmakers that are antithetical to Christian beliefs. They are wrong and should not be condoned by believing Christians, however, I believe that we Christians need to be reminded of a few things.

First, scripture states that “God is not mocked.” This is a simple statement of fact. It is not just some emotional statement made to inspire. It is very simply impossible to mock God. Many will say the words and take the actions that mock their conception of Him, but that doesn’t mean it has any effect on Him. Mockery is only effective insofar as it can actually hurt someone. No mockery by man will ever have any effect on God.

Second, there are laws of man, and there is the Law of God. We as Christians are to follow the Law of God to the exclusion of the law of man. If man makes a law contrary to His will it is quite simply not valid. There may be consequences to us in our daily lives if we do not follow man’s law, however we will know the Truth of the matter and the true consequences of what we do and how we live.

Third, God is not registered to a political party. Christians will not always agree on political issues, but that does not make them less Christian. If I go to another country I may be disliked for my American politics, but welcomed as a brother and well loved because of a common love of Christ. We are all human, therefore we will all make mistakes in our actions and in our beliefs. God knows the truth of our hearts. I know Christians who actually registered in another party, and much to my surprise, they are not condemned to hell for it! We are held in thrall to a two party political system, and neither of the two sides adequately reflects a Christian ethic. We are not, unfortunately, living in a theocracy (ruled directly by God).
We are giving too much authority to our political system.
Too many churches have put their political goals ahead of their faith.
When this occurs you find politicians stumping from the pulpit.
Politics is not worship, nor should it be mistaken for an expression of faith.
In every election no matter which side of the party lines you fall on, all the candidates insist that what we need is change. We must do something different than what has been done up to this point. The problem is that man, in this area, is painfully consistent. No matter what change we are told we need, the only real change that occurs is the face of the one who wins the election. After that it becomes business as usual. Committees are formed, hearings are held, and there are so many talking heads no one knows what anyone is really saying.
We insist that we must have committed Christians in political office, but what we see is someone who claims to follow Christ getting caught up in the same scandals that all the others are facing. We have to face the fact that either they were not Christians in the first place, or, heaven forbid, they are just as human as the rest of us and subject to the same temptations and weaknesses as all Christians are. And we must further realize that as Christians we are not qualified to judge anyone. Judgement is reserved for God alone and always has been. We are judged as readily as the next person whether they be saint or sinner.
There is a saying that has been used and overused ad nauseum that states “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
This is a true statement, however, I believe it is woefully incomplete. What it doesn’t say is this: that while we are truly forgiven of our sins, we are not in any way excused.
While God forgets our sin, we cannot. We were not made to forget. We need to remember what He has forgiven in order to turn away from it. We need to remember what we did in order to avoid it in the future while at the same time accepting His forgiveness to keep from repeatedly condemning ourselves. His forgiveness negates Satan’s attempts to bring us down when he reminds us of our failures.
We must admit that we are forgiven. The guilt is lifted in order to allow us to DO. Unforgiveness leads us into inactive faith. We stagnate and become ill equipped to deal with reality in spiritual terms.
Be forgiven, but live with the knowledge that you have been saved from His justice.
Pretending does nothing for you. We often claim that we are forgiven, but approach a relationship with God in fear and trepidation rather than love and joy.
We cannot dilute this message: With His forgiveness comes His love. Without it you die in condemnation, and you will wind up in hell. There are no two ways about it.
The idea is to work through the sin to receive forgiveness not ignore it or rename the sin to avoid dealing with its very real effects on our lives. My sin is forgiven, but I must still deal with the consequences of my actions. The way that I deal with it will in itself reflect the grace of my God to the rest of the world.
So all this being said, I will say one more thing.
We need change.
In fact, I DEMAND change!
If I am to demand a change then it must begin at a fundamental level.
Change must first begin within me.
The only place I have any power to effect any change is within myself. It has never been the right of any person to demand change in any other. Change is left to God and the individual. Only God can know someone’s truest heart, and I was never made to bear the responsibility for someone else’s soul.
The world is not made any different from the political system down. It starts with you and me. It starts with each of us taking responsibility for what we have done. The only way we can bring any effective change to our world is to first invite Christ to make the change within us, and then act on that change. I refuse to give any politician the responsibility to improve my world, or determine my worth. Because by giving them the responsibility I also give them the control that should be in God’s hands. That is the point at which I have sold myself.
Change within me will be seen by others, and may effect some change in them.
Changes in them will affect their relationships with others, etc.
This is how we change the world.
Politicians come and go.
Causes are only temporary.
And nations always fall from within.

Oswald Chambers wrote this:
“ ‘Jesus did not commit Himself to them … for He knew what was in man’ (John 2:24–25).
Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be—absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.”
Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” May 31st

The only one who deserves our trust and devotion is Christ alone, and he asks us to sacrifice ourselves in His name for His purpose.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends
John 15:13

We Americans have made the Unites States a major player in the Biblical world picture, but I have serious doubts that God gives us the same level of importance that we give ourselves. Not even a nation as great as ours can have more importance in our own eyes than what Christ calls us to.
The simple fact is this; when I die I will not go to an "American" heaven.
When I pray it is not to an American, or even a human leader.
When I accept the gift of my eternal salvation it is not given by the hand of the president.
My God is my life and the hope of my death.
I will have it no other way.
Make no mistake; I am proud and glad to be an American. Despite what I have written I do enjoy the freedom others have fought and died for that allows me to write these things. But neither will I support any political or idealogical worldview that opposes the stated will of God.
The American Dream is not the Dream of God.
We are children of a greater Nation – The Family of God – if we so choose.
If we put aside all others.
If we forsake the false and embrace the Truth.
If we choose to be in the world, but not of it.
We have better things to do than to support the schemes of men. We are called to a higher purpose.
Answer the call.
Stand ready.
Stand firm.
©Dan Bode 2008