August 30, 2012

To keep from drowning…

An unverified account says that flies will bathe in a stream. However, when they plunge their bodies into the water, they keep their wings high out of the water. After swimming a short while, they fly away. Had they not kept their wings dry, they would not be able to get off the ground.
This story was used to illustrate how to obey the following verses…
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
Christians live in the world, yet we are “citizens of heaven” and ambassadors here. We are not supposed to let the desires of our own sinful nature give into the appeal of things in the world. This can be obvious sin like physical indulgences or greed, but it can also affect our motivations. For example, Christian service is ideally selfless and for the glory of God. If my heart begins to lift itself in pride about serving others, or I begin thinking I am better than other Christians who are not doing anything for God or their neighbors, then I have fallen to the allure of the world. 

To avoid that, I’m to learn the lesson of the flies and keep my spirit out of the world that the rest of me lives in. While this illustration is not perfect, I can see how it is practical and applies to everyday life. To make that application, I first need to identify the “things in the world” that have potential to draw my love away from God and put themselves on the throne of my heart. Of course, they get there because I agree to let them rule my life.

Being a Christian calls for alert self-discipline. In fact, this is included in the Bible’s description of fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of those who yield to and are filled by Him…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22–24)
Just as the self-control required for dieting is near impossible without outside help, so also is the self-control needed to say no to fleshy desires and pride. I cannot do it in my own strength. Instead, I must rely on the Spirit’s presence and input into my life. He gladly gives it, but on condition. I must recognize and confess all those desires and instances of pride and admit my need. Self-control is gained not by trying harder, but by asking for His help. 

Yesterday, I worked on two major projects. One was the review and critique of entries in a writing contest. The love of the world could creep into that activity very easily. If the writing is good, I could be jealous. If it is not so good, I could fill up with pride, and have a sense of “I’m better than you are” as I make my comments. This is me-centered whereas the love of God would be focused on doing all I can to encourage and build up those who write the entries. This is keeping my wings dry.

My second project was a quilt. Pride can also rear its ugliness into that process. How do I keep away sinful and selfish thoughts? One way that works for me is praying while I’m sewing. Instead of thinking about the patterns unfolding before me, I’m thinking about others and their needs, and about God who cares and asks me to bring those needs to His throne. By doing this, I’m keeping my wings dry.

The idea of wings could be related to the human spirit made alive in Christ. That spirit is the inner part of me that can communicate with God and that feels conviction of sin. It is my link to our holy God and the core of spiritual life. This inner part cannot be touched by “water” or anything else, but it can be ignored.

On the other hand, my soul is the center of my mind or intellect, my emotions, and my will. When I let those rule my life, then I’m starting to dip into that watery world. If these govern instead of the Holy Spirit, I become prone to let my body, with its desires for comfort and pleasure, tell me what is best for me. Pride and all other sin work in this realm.

Key to obeying “do not love the world…” is paying attention to the spirit, noticing when my heart is straying, praying to God, listening to His rebukes, quickly confessing sin, and relying on the Holy Spirit for all things, even for wisdom to mark contest entries and for creative ideas to stitch a quilt.

Lord, life with You covers all the bases. You are here to give whatever I need so I can live the way You want me to live. From baking bread to answering the phone, from cleaning the mudroom to sorting laundry, I can draw near to You and away from the world, even while being very much engaged in the responsibilities of living here. And to keep all this from being “no fun at all” Your Spirit also fills me with joy and peace! You are a wonder and a delight, and for that, I love and worship You.

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