the Paradox

February 15, 2008 § 3 Comments

Knowing that we are ‘unfinished’ doesn’t make living out the faith any easier for us as Christ-followers.  The struggles are real – with temptation, with ego, with pride – you name it.  Everything we wrestled with before meeting Christ only intensifies within us after having fled to Him in faith.  The interesting thing, though, is that those same instincts that deluded us into thinking that we could ‘handle it’ before knowing Jesus, continue to rear their ugly heads after.                                                                                                                                                                         There is something in all of us that wants to be in control – to fix what we have broken and to make clean our unrighteous records.  We want to do it.  In doctrinal language we call this works-righteousness – it was fleshed out by a 16th Century monk named Martin Luther – he discovered that the righteousness of the Gospel is unobtainable by natural human means – that it is only made possible through Jesus and His work on the Cross.  This came at the end of a desperate and miserable personal quest to please God in his own merits.  He concluded that it can only be an ‘alien righteousness,’ that makes us ‘right’ with God.  It isn’t something we have inherent to our character – we can’t produce it and we can’t obtain it apart from Christ.  It is alien to the human experience.  Back to that ‘control’ thing – it is as though there is some inner default button within me that calls me to into that old pattern of looking to myself rather than to Christ when I have screwed up or fallen down.  When I have sinned and where I am weak my tendency is to summon some strength to overcome or to override my struggles.  Whether it is my fear of looking less than perfect, or some other latent insecurity, each time I default to my own resources it drives me deeper into sin or further into hiding and despair – it never works.  This is because the Gospel is counterintuitive to natural human thought.  It is natural to think that the strength of my struggles demands a stronger resolve to resist them, and equally natural to assume that strength of character has to somehow be conjured up within the individual.  The temptation is to think that the Gospel is an unsolvable puzzle – but in reality it is a mysterious, yet beautiful paradox, first found in Jesus – though He is God, He made Himself human – the Strong became Weak.  This seemingly paradoxical act in and of itself serves as our paradigm for facing life as His followers. Though it seems counterintuitive (and actually is), and certainly counter-cultural, in the Gospel alone we find strength in admitting weakness, and power in the path of humility.  Jesus exemplified this and said as much during His ministry.  This is our pattern for life.  The moment we give up and acknowledge that we are weak and that we cannot stand up to our own vices, temptations, passions and desires, we become strong because that which enslaves in secrecy loses its power in the ‘light.’  In 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul teaches that the pathway to experiencing God’s power is paved in our weakness – that this inherent desire for perfection is really a rejection of God’s Grace and it implies a practical unbelief in the Gospel itself.  So after his own crisis he concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (vss. 9b-10).   In my continuing story I have begun to realize that where my natural instinct is to find or prove strength, the Gospel compels me to admit weakness – and that when trouble or guilt or shame or fear plague me – and they do – that when I begin to reach into my own resources it is usually because the voice of the ‘deceiver’ has penetrated my heart and senses, when all along God wants me not to ‘fix’ or ‘solve’ or ‘rebuild’ or ‘purify’ – He simply wants me to flee – to Him.  peace

§ 3 Responses to the Paradox

  • Teresa says:

    Here’s the strange part, you get saved, you’re a world of happy. You’ve been saved, set free and forgiven. You *want* to do good. You might even automatically do it, simply because you want so badly to get closer to Him, you want lots of Him…

    but eventually there will come a day in your walk when you’re weary, aching, worn out, can’t take another minute of life. Then what? We still need to struggle through it, and while we’re at it, the temptations that were so easy to avert when we were alive in Him suddenly seem very… well, tempting.

  • unfinished1 says:

    I hear you, Teresa – life is 24/7 and living out the Faith never works on cruise control. But I think the truth is that the weariness, aching, etc, are always there to some degree, if that makes sense.

    That is probably Paul’s reason for Romans 12:1 – the sacrifice has to be every day because the weaknesses, struggles and temptations don’t rest – even when we want to…

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