We were in Honduras during the last major election cycle, locked down and humbled by two back-to-back Hurricanes and a landslide that took everything but our lives and left us homeless in the third world. It was a three-hour drive to the US Embassy if we wanted to vote. Needless to say, we didn’t. We just prayed. I’d never placed much hope in politics but 2020 marked the official end of Mat 16:6 and Mark 8:15 leaven in my life and surrender to the truth that it is God who changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings… Dan 2:21
“When God Wants To Judge A Nation, He Gives Them Wicked Rulers.” -John Calvin-
I have friends from Marxian a.k.a. progressive parts of the USA who joke about our new residence in Appalachia. They imagine the locals here as toothless, stereotypical hillbillies instead of American archetypes like Davy Crocket. The Godless snobbery and blatant deconstruction for which Marxist America is known is enough to tempt me to categorize myself as a Confederate. I’m kidding. Still, my flesh despises everything for which those on the left stand!! Meanwhile,
The cry of my soul mirrors that of Habakkuk.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. Hab 1:2-4
Davy Crocket was born just a few miles from our current home. While he had very little in the way of formal education he wore many hats in his life including frontiersman, trapper, farmer, soldier, and US congressman. He met his demise at the hands of Mexican soldiers at the Alamo. He became my categorical model of fearlessness, selflessness, risk-taking, and adventure to which I aspired.
Men like Davy Crockett defined the line between good and evil.
I remember pretending to die like Davy at the Alamo
My categories were simple. America was good. Anyone opposing America was bad. Killing bad people was good. If I represent America then by extension anyone opposing me was bad. Television programming reinforced this paradigm.
There’s a tale about Crockett conversing with one of his more sophisticated congressional peers from Massachusetts when a herd of Donkeys passed by. “Aren’t those your constituents Crocket? the Yankee asked. “Why yes,” Crocket replied.
“I believe they’re on their way to Massachusetts to teach school.”
I also aspired to be witty like Davy as he so clearly articulated how I felt growing up in what I now know to be pre-Marxian America. While it might seem that the Godless deconstruction surrounding us now is new, anyone familiar with things like the Frankfurt School, Postmodernism, and Critical Theory will know otherwise. Still, now that I live in the heart of what still might qualify as the America I once imagined, there’s a stirring in my flesh and soul to identify with the voices that cry,
Meanwhile, the still small voice of God within me echo’s the words of John Adams,
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
And the words of Jesus to Pontius Pilot,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36
There’s no natural, let alone a political solution to what ails us as a nation.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23
There is a point in the life of every mature believer where a line must be drawn between the carnality of the flesh, the mind, will, and emotions that comprise the soul and the regenerated spirit-man. It is the point where the truth of God’s word must supplant common sense and what appears to be an immutable fact.
It is a putting away of childish things we still hold as sacred in adulthood.
Today I understand that it was my childhood formations that compelled me to enter adulthood as a US Marine ready to kill whomever I was told to kill. My programmed tendency to choose a side in any conflict still lingers in the back of my mind even as it is renewed. Rom 12:1-2 My worldview remains framed by proverbial hills for which, and upon which, I am willing to die.
Now here I sit amidst another election cycle in the great Volunteer State of Tennessee. I am filled with Holy Spirit and acutely aware of my hypocrisy reflected in the mirror of God’s Word. My carnal flesh and soul driven by a hundred childish categorizations snarls and spits like Barabas in chains waiting to be chosen over Jesus by the crowd.
Barabas was a zealot.
Zealots were Jewish nationalists.
How easy it would be to unleash my inner Barabas and destroy my witness for Jesus in the name of protecting and preserving all that I call
It really got me thinking…
Before I try to answer ethical questions related to the preservation of my life; shouldn’t I first examine my presuppositions regarding;
What is my Life?
I find it interesting that the Bible says more about what my life is not.
My life is not the world or anything in it.
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. 1 John 2:15
My life is not a human relationship.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26
My life is not something I should cling to.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mat 16:24-26
My life is not on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:3-4
My life is not MY identity.
For me to live is Christ. To die is gain. Phil 1:21
My life is not mine.
…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20
Whatever it is, my life is cryptic and in Christ Jesus.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which HE loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved—and raised us up with HIM and seated us with HIM in the heavenly places IN Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages HE might show the immeasurable riches of HIS grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4
Today’s hard red pill.
I wrote about Adam and Eve’s focus before and after the fall and the subsequent selfishness and self-centeredness that distort our identities in Pressure. Dietrich Bonhoeffer went a step further in his final work “Ethics”. He begins with the presupposition that “The knowledge of good and evil” not just evil itself, separated us from God. The result of Genesis 3 was the self-centeredness that we call our “identity” today. It supplants God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, “Christian ethics” is an oxymoron that makes us His enemy. All of our very best judgments about right and wrong, good and evil are the fruit of the original fall from grace. That those in Christ Jesus are a new creation 2 Cor 5:17 applies to the extent that we take our eyes off ourselves and focus on Him and Him alone. Assuming Bonhoeffer is correct, the very part of us that categorizes new and old and so joyfully and exuberantly proclaims,
“I am a new creation!” is not the new creation.
It’s paradoxical but the unholy trinity of flesh otherwise known as”Me, Myself, and I” is the part that dies when I am born again.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Chew on that.
The root of the problem
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Rev 12:10
“Accuse” is katēgoréō from which the English word category is derived. While Adam was assigned the job of categorizing everything in the Garden, all of our post-fall categorizations are the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
Turns out all of the righteous patriotic criteria and resulting categorizations formed in my childhood were from hell.
Still, my self-righteous carnality recoils at this.
Perhaps yours does too.
It only makes sense in the realm of spirit and truth to which all believers are called.
I’m pondering my own repentance here, not preaching down from a proverbial pulpit.
If I’m honest, there’s not a day that I don’t organize and view people, places, and things according to categories. Those familiar with cognitive science know that categories are foundational to language.
That’s a tree. That’s a rock. Trees are plants. Rocks are not.
We categorize before we vote.
Aren’t you taking all of this a bit too far, Brian? We all have to function in a world of categories. Yes. But what if God meant exactly what He said, in Isaiah 55:8-9?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It might be worth considering, as we go about proclaiming God’s character, and plan, His will, and His thoughts about us and others in our daily lives. At the end of the day, everything we think we know might be wrong and we actually don’t have a clue about anything beyond the fact that
we desperately need Jesus.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8
The other day I told a younger brother that it seems that God’s purpose in our 30s and 40s is to generate enough proof of how little we understood by the time we are 50. The older I get, the more clearly I see how completely inept I am and how absurd it would be to even consider answering the question;
What is your Life?
And while I have experienced what I assume to be His presence in manifold ways that my soul tries to interpret and my words articulate, all I can do that is worth doing at all is to ponder and recite God’s Word as it is written.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
I know in part and I prophesy in part. When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. Now that I am a man, I must give my up childish ways. For now, I see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:9-12
What is my life?
God’s word says it is Jesus.
I cling to that.
His kingdom is NOT of this world.