A Morning Meditation

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

brokenchainsThis is an amazing passage, especially in light of the fact that Paul has just concluded chapter 7 by talking of the war that wages within us; of the struggle, as Christ-followers, to do what we want to do, all the while finding ourselves doing what we don’t want to do as it relates to sin.  His conclusion is that of wretchedness as he declares his imperfection before a holy God…but then immediately follows with an answer to the question of who will deliver him from this body of death with spontaneous praise to God through Christ!  Why?  Because he knows it is not based upon his own righteousness, which does not exist (Isaiah 64:6), but upon that of Christ.  Paul admits the continual struggle between serving Christ in his mind and with his will, desiring to always be faithful, but wrestling with the law of the flesh (sin) that is always close at hand.

That is a struggle with which I am familiar.  That is something that I can identify with.  I desire to follow Christ closely; desire to obey with my whole heart, but I find that I am often found horribly lacking.  I have wrestled with fear and doubt and depression over the condition of my life…why can’t I be a better dad or husband or pastor…a better follower of Jesus?  The enemy is always close at hand, seeking to devour me (1 Peter 5:8), to destroy me (John 10:10), to accuse me before the Father (Revelation 12:10).

What do I do?  I keep reading!  Because of what Christ has done in me, redeeming me from the penalty of the Law of sin and death, there is no condemnation!  NONE!  The Father does not look at me as the failure that I am, but the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the child of the King that Christ has made me (Romans 8:15-17).  The Father looks at me and sees the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to me (2 Corinthians 5:21); credited to my account to such an extent that I shine righteously in the Father’s presence, the only way He can look upon me with pleasure…and He does!

I still struggle with sin and I am to always be at war with my sin nature, but I am not defeated by it.  I can never be defeated because the law of sin and death was destroyed by the means of a Roman cross (Colossians 2:13-15), never to have victory over me because in Christ, I stand redeemed!

Reflecting on a Purpose-filled Life

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17)

bowThere is something incredibly profound in the relationship Paul has with Timothy that speaks of Paul’s integrity as a follower of Christ. After warning Timothy about those who are not true followers of Jesus, he reminds him of what is true, encouraging him to remain steadfast because of what Timothy has seen in Paul. I find this incredibly challenging and convicting in my own life, desiring to be able to say this to my children and those I disciple. Paul seems to have gotten it all right:

Teaching – Paul is confident that all he has taught is right and completely in sync with all that Scripture reveals.

Conduct – This takes the teaching to the next level, because he’s confident to say that his conduct has matched up with his teaching. One never points this out unless it’s demonstrable.

Aim in life – Timothy can see what Paul sees as his purpose and what is valuable based on his priorities and goals. Again, this must match up with both teaching and conduct. If the teaching is not right, the conduct not in line with the teaching, then the priorities will be skewed.

My faith – Paul clearly believes what he says based on his actions. He truly trusts the Lord in all things as demonstrated by the way He lives His life. This is obviously more than lip-service.

My patience – Now he’s getting personal. If he believes and trusts Christ, he is content to wait on the Lord which includes showing patience for God’s work in others. Rather than trying to “fix” someone or manipulate a situation, Paul will speak the Truth, live the Truth, encourage growth, but leave the results to God.

My steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings – In the face of great suffering and challenges, Paul stays the course. His faith and belief in Christ and the Word of God motivates Him to persist regardless of the circumstances.In spite of the fact that evil will continue and even increase, Timothy is to continue to become more Christlike through what he has learned and seen and what he has read through Scripture, the very words of God. Because of his life and discipline, Paul has “street cred” and can encourage Timothy, with confidence, to persist. Paul need not depend on the “do as I say, not as I do” cop-out. Rather, he can simply say to Timothy, “Follow me.” What power that carries and what a difference it makes in a life!

Admittedly, it is so hard to live this kind of life.  Frankly, though, if Paul can do it, anyone can. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that changed Saul, an enemy of Christ, into Paul, arguably the most influential of all of the apostles of Christ, and it is that same power of that same Holy Spirit that can do that in me!

Do, Do, Do, Do, Do, Do, Do, Do, Do

I am guilty. I didn’t know I was guilty until I stopped long enough to consider it and then it hit me. Yeah…I’m guilty. Of course, if I’d considered it earlier, I would have understood the depth of my guilt, but as it is, I was too busy to get it. I get it now.  I’m too busy.  That’s it.

I don’t think I’m the only one who is guilty.  You’re probably guilty, too.  Of course, you are taking the time to read this, though that can be just another sign that you’re guilty.  I guess it depends, doesn’t it?

There used to be a great exercise…a discipline, really, that great men and women used to engage in long ago.  Some still consider it a necessity, but on most, it is a lost art form; a craft long since abandoned as we have bowed to the ever-powerful god of the full schedule.  That great lost comodity is the ability and the practice of Thought.  Deep thought…extensive thought…meaningful thought.

Why have we given up on thinking?  Well, first, one might say that we haven’t; we think all the time.  If we didn’t think, we wouldn’t function.  True on the most shallow level of thought.  Real thinking, though, is taking time to consider, to contemplate, to roll things through our mind undisturbed by the outer world until we come to a conclusion.  It is considering the state of the world, the state of our souls or the state of Man.  It is wrestling with a problem until a solution is reached.  It is asking the greater and deeper questions about life and God and the human condition and staying with it until there has been progress made towards understanding (even if we never fully get it).  That is “Thinking,” and to answer my earlier question, we have given up on it for at least three reasons:  we’re too busy, it takes work, and it’s unproductive.

Now, I’m not going to tackle the first two in-depth for the sake of space, but I will a little on the last one because it goes to the state of our minds and, for lacking of a better word, our thinking. I’ll talk about it in the first person, because I am the one here who is guilty…not you (?).

I get so busy (sometimes for busynesses sake) with life and ministry and all of the other stuff in life that I fail to build in time to just think.  I always have to have noise.  There needs to be something going on.  I feel as though if I’m not doing something, I am being unproductive.  I need to produce something…results! We are a results-driven culture and if we do not produce those results, we have wasted time…been un-productive, the greatest sin of all in our society.

I counter that thinking first pragmatically.  Quite simply, great thoughts produce great ideas, which in turn, produce great results.  Without great thoughts there will be bad ideas, and substandard results.  Perhaps there would be better production if we valued “think-time” enough to actually build it into our schedule!

Secondly, on a more holistic level, we become better people when we value the time of contemplation.  Constant noise leads to inner chaos and emaciated souls.  When we fail to cultivate the mind, we are shallow, weak-minded and under-developed.  The great leaders throughout history have always been great thinkers…men and women who valued the inner life and actively shut out the noise of the world to consider the drama being played out in their own souls.

These are things that I know; I understand deeply.  Yet I’m guilty.  I know that I will be a better husband, father, pastor…person if I will simply but intentionally build in time every day…every single day for contemplation.  On some days, it needs to be extensive.  On other days, it may just be ten minutes (and I’m talking here about in addition to any devotional time).  This is not a waste of time if I am truly contemplating life; if I’m asking tough questions about myself or the world at large; about life and relationship and suffering and solutions.  Great thoughts lead to great solutions, and I want to be a “solver.”  I want to be a great leader.  Maybe I will be or maybe I won’t be, but I bet the answer to that question is certain if I fail to be a Thinker!

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