Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's a Faith Problem

I'm determined not to make this a "me-centered" blog. Nobody on this earth will benefit from any focus on me. But I hope you'll forgive me if I try to find God-centeredness from the vantage point of where I am now, because I've been caught in a morass of self-centeredness for a couple of days. I want to take the Biblical truths that speak to my situation (with a lot of thanks to John Piper for helping me see them) and use them to fight the good fight of faith.

I could try blaming my spiritual lapse on physical circumstances. There were definitely hormones at work, and I wasn't feeling well in other ways, too. But that's no excuse. Everybody has those problems sometimes, and people don't always succumb to self-absorption in the midst of them. Jesus had to deal with adolescent male hormones, and it doesn't get any worse than that! He didn't sin.

I could try blaming it on family circumstances. "The kids did this. The house is like that." Nope. That won't work either. Jesus deals with His rebellious children 24/7, and has done so from day one of fallen human history. He doesn't sin. Besides, what kind of cowardly adult puts the responsibility of her own actions on the shoulders of little kids? How many times have I told the kids not to blame others for what they choose to do?

I could try blaming it on the circumstances of my own upbringing. Yeah, right. Like I haven't had decades to work through all of that.

All of those sorts of things may contribute to a spiritual fall, but they don't excuse such falls.

Life hurts. It does. It's hard, and it's hard to hope sometimes. So it's easy to justify a little self-indulgence, isn't it? It's easy to say, "I deserve this little escape."

Oh, the deceptiveness of sin!

It's easy to see the self-centeredness in the focus on what "I deserve," especially when we decide we deserve better than what we're getting. But that's not the biggest problem with the "I deserve this sin" point of view.

"I deserve this sin" is one of the worst insults we can give to God.

Think about that word, "deserve." It goes hand-in-hand with a value judgment. Advertisers know this. "Don't you deserve to treat yourself to our product?" That's not just an appeal to pride. It's also the value judgment that "our product" is the best.

When I want to indulge myself, do I head for the Brussels Sprouts or the chocolate? Easy choice! I go for what I like best!

Why is it that, when we want to indulge ourselves, we turn to sin? Is it not because, deep down inside, we still believe that sin is best?

It's a faith problem.

Jesus said, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19, emphasis mine)

We are condemned for loving darkness rather than light. That's a faith problem. And faith in God is so much more than believing a list of facts about God.

When I choose sin over God, I am saying that God is inferior to that sin. I am loving darkness rather than light. I am trusting my own desires for myself, instead of trusting in God's commands for my good; trusting that I know better than God does what's best for me. What kind of "faith in God" is that?

If such faith is the norm for us, if we know that we do not love God, and do not believe that His ways are best, then we need to examine ourselves as to whether we're in the faith (2Co. 13:5). There's a good chance that we are not.

But what about those of us who are amazed to be able to say that we are saved? We know that Jesus Christ is in us (2 Co. 13:5) because His Spirit is in us, bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). We are growing more and more convinced, through the working of His Spirit within us, that God is far superior to the pleasures of sin, and that He is more worthy of our trust that we ourselves are. In other words, we have the kind of faith that comes as a gift from His Spirit and through which, by grace, He saves us (Eph 2:8-9). But we are still plagued with weakness, which shows itself in a nagging desire to indulge in sin, in times of believing that sin will be better than trustful obedience "just this once." We aren't lost, but the enemy of our souls still has strongholds in our lives.

We still have a faith problem. So what do we do with that?

What do I do when I know I've been indulging in self-centeredness again (despite having just written a very heartfelt entry about God-centeredness just a few days ago)? What do I do with the discouragement that I feel right now, when I just want to throw in the towel and say, "Forget it, I give up" (despite having written a very heartfelt entry about encouragement a couple of days ago)?

How do I...how do we fight the good fight of faith?

First of all, it's not a matter of strengthening our faith, per se. It's a matter of re-orienting it. We have very strong faith...in the wrong things. I'll mention some of the places where I struggle, and I'll bet you can relate to at least some of them.
  • I have faith that I can do myself more good by withdrawing than by loving, even though God tells me the opposite.
  • I have faith that I am better off focusing on everything the Lord tells me not to focus on.
  • I have the kind of perverse faith that says my own assessment of my life situation is accurate (i.e. it's hopeless), even though God tells me to hope in Him.

I can sit back now and look at those things and see God's truth from Satan's lie very easily. So why do I fall for those lies so often?

More on that tomorrow.

For tonight, it's enough to say that I need to come before God and admit that my faith has been in the wrong things, and that I have insulted Him by preferring the passing pleasures of sin. I need to ask His forgiveness, and then receive that forgiveness with thanksgiving. And then I need to trust the Lord by "waiting for Him in the way of His judgments," until He sees fit to bring the sun out again.

He always does.

(Photo from Stock.xchng by LilGoldWmn)

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