27 noviembre 2011

Eden's Bridge - The One You Left Behind

Part 2: On Virtue

intro here.
part 3: on knowledge

recap: 1 Pet. 1 gives us a list of qualities that, if we practice them, we "will never fall".

My presuppositions: Not only do these qualities come from faith, they also strengthen it. They keep our faith from being ineffective, unfruitful, or generally good-for-nothing. They help us become farsighted and to remember we were cleansed from our former sins.
My questions: Why? How?

Quality One: Virtue

Virtue, according to Oxford, is "moral excellence; goodness." * Strong's lists this using as "arete" (a big deal for the Greeks) which is: 1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action; 1a) virtue, moral goodness; 2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.

When I think of virtue, I also think of Proverbs 31: early riser, hard worker, trustworthy, compassionate, wise, kind, generous. Someone who demonstrates good stuff on the inside and outside.

*Not really catechized, the best i can expound upon the historical virtues is to say go read Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III. He lists them as being faith, hope, charity, prudence, temperence, justice, valor. (That's a translation from Spanish, the only version of the book I have.) I haven't read the book in a while, so I'm not going into depth on them.

Connection to faith:
"With the merciful, You will show Yourself merciful;
with the blameless man, You show Yourself blameless,
with the purified, You show Yourself pure;
and with the crooked, You make Yourself seem tortuous (twisted)"
To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure...
The pure in heart shall see God...
So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts... for My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.

You thought I was altogether like you. But..."

When we sin, we obscure our vision of God. We were made like Him, but we've spent many, many decisions trying to mar the family resemblance. Making ourselves familiar with sin, we cannot now look at ourselves and assume God is like us. We choose to understand evil, to advocate for the devil, to sympathize with the flesh (an unreliable narrator if there ever was one)... instead of understanding God, communing (having in common) with Christ, and reasoning with His Spirit.

But we don't have to. When we are born again, we receive a "new" nature... a new natural, a second childhood, a new relationship with the Father we were always meant to adore. We have a second (first?) chance to be human, really, really human, in a good way, and as God-similar as the quinessential man Himself, Christ Jesus, showed us we could be. And the new relationship means that instead of obeying the first impulse that pulses through our brains, we learn from God how to be, how to do, how to grow into ourselves... We don't even know what all that will look like, except to know that when Christ appears, we'll be like Him.

So we seek to be like Christ. We become imitators, as dear children, of our newfound Father. But the crazy thing is, like Lewis said, people usually become what they pretend to be. Women are not born nurturers; but give us some kids, we pretend to be motherly, and end up BEING, thinking, sounding like our own mothers in all sorts of ironic, unexpected ways. Leaders might have leaderly tendencies, but a whole lot of confidence is just "faking" it, until all of sudden, one doesn't have to fake anymore. Everybody else really does need to do what we tell them to do, and we're going to make sure they do and convince them to want to. Our habits make us... identities don't just form habits; it works vice-versa as well.

What's it to do with faith?
When we seek to live virtuously- not just conventionally, but really to do, love, think, want what is good for us and for all, so help us God- we'll find our brain, our soul, our selves are changed. Deciding to love others will become so quick that we won't even notice the decision; we'll think it automatic, sort of like Someone else we know whose every work is done in kindness. [Let me insert: when we imitate God's goodness, we need to think a lot about motive. When has God ever done anything out of guilt? Responsibility, yes. Guilt? No. Fear? No. Obligation? No. Duty, responsibility are fine as long as we do something because it's a part of who we are. It's a function of identity, not image. God upholds His character but is not out to gain anyone's approval. He does good because He is good, He loves good, He wants to see good, He loves to have us see good, so on. There's a lot to it; I haven't thought it all through. Why does God do good?] As we do good, we'll be thinking, "Now, why am I doing this?" and we'll see the good effects and understand, "Oh. That's why God likes this." As we stand resist evil, we'll see it's ugliness and desperate power struggle. "Oh. No wonder God burns against this stuff. And I used to crave this?!"

When we do right actions from a right heart, we'll find we understand God a whole lot more. Instead of wanting to mistreat someone, and feeling God is going to get us for it, we'll love that person, and understand how we'd hate for that person to have to deal with crabbiness, like that of which we are capable. His thoughts won't be so alien to us as before. Instead of thinking, " 'Sell all you have and give alms?!' Ouch, how harsh, how radical," we'll think, "Man, look at all this stuff. Is there anything good I can get out of it before it all burns? I won't miss it..." By being like Him, we'll start thinking like Him. And people who think alike, duh, understand each other.

God our Father, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, will be more recognizable as we seek to become more recognizable as His children. We won't just say "Let God be true and every man a liar." We'll notice, more and more, "In the midst of liars, God is true!" We will become not just positionally on His side, but on His side by identity, by thought, by deed. Not having decided just once to trust Him to save us, we'll have trusted Him day after day to save us, to change us, to help us, to give us strength, to give us love, to shut up this whining old man, to grow into the new.

Faith will not be us leaping awkwardly  in the dark because we feel it's what we're supposed to do, or even because it's our only hope (what faith is at the beginning). Our faith will be a relieved jump through the dark to the One we recognize in a world of strangers, someone we understand in a senseless world. True virtue helps us never fall because it trains us how to jump instead .

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22 noviembre 2011

Untitled (Intro)

thought one:
"Then there are some statistics that we get from places like Barna Group and Rainer Research—these are Christian organizations that study church involvement patterns. They say that by the time someone who is raised in the church reaches their 30th birthday, there‟s an 80 percent chance they will be disengaged from the church."
~ Drew Dyck, family life today

i cite 16 as the age when the existence of God really started working some major changes in my mind and life. (that was wordy, but i don't really have a better way to put it.) almost immediately, almost funnily, i started to worry about other kids, like me, raised in the church but living in a world where dark and deceptive forces (influences, ideas, desires) wanted to blind them to the light of God.

but now there is a new horror in my neighborhood... not of kids not accepting the work of Christ, but of brethren rejecting it. and part of the horror is this: how do i know i won't do the same? i've met my loyalty, and i am not impressed.

thought two: factors

last summer, my brother, his family, and some inlaws were discussing Romans, and one person asked, "Well, why do people leave Christ?"

Indeed. Do they misplace their faith... "lose" it? Is faithlessness a disease? Does it just attack people? Is it some inherent weakness in their particular faith (gulp)? If we could figure this out, couldn't we find hope for some preventative medicine at least, if not an antidote?

Gary turned the question over to us. My elder nephew voiced his opinion:

"Lack of self-control."

This does not surprise me from said elder nephew. He's a pretty hardcore man-child. Just memorized "If" by Kipling, and very appropos the poem to his early-rising, systematic-reading, mountain-climbing self.

Though probably true, the comment sounded harsh to me, as i'm not quite so hardcore as he. Then, hardcore or not, i read II Peter 1, and i thought again.

It talks about supplementing faith with
~brotherly affection

Wait, "self-control"? I thought of Benja and paid more attention. Now, i like lists, and i like to think about the lists in Scripture, but this stood out... and here's why.

8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

That part:

Whoa. That made me do a double, a triple, a multi-take.

thought three: but what about grace?
In recent times, i am very, very wary of legalism and strident about grace, so i had to think about that in relation to the text. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

 It is God, God, God and His grace and Holy Spirit and love and the work of Christ that saves.

We just trust Him.

However, that trust in Him is not
or even as constant as grace.

It is a gift of God, but one that is to be guarded and developed, (not by the flesh, but by cooperation with the Spirit.) When we are faithless, (just like when we are loveless, joyless, unpeaceful, also things worked in us by Him) He remains faithful (because that is how He is). However, faithlessness can lead to despair and denial, in which we refuse God's grace, and He denies to override our wills. At that point, we're not just suspecting bad things about God, we choose "No God." Faithlessness is a very bad and dangerous place to be. You're standing over an abyss, held only by God's grace, and contemplating commanding Him to let you go.

Our faith isn't everything, but it is the means of everything- to and from God. And if it is so important and yet non-inevitable, how to keep it, take care of it? How to cherish this gift Christ has given us?

Defining terms: Faith = trust in God to be God... to be good, loving, righteous, true, saving. And the above list of "good things" are supplements to that trust... (Hokily, I think of vitamins.) These qualities (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, brotherly kindness, love) energize, strengthen, work with, and refine that God-worked faith to be something enduring and precious to God... that we will never fall.

This is part one.
Part two, forthcoming: On Virtue

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