The inspiration for this post actually comes from several sources: the previous post, “Deny The Lie!”, one of Tozer’s tangents from his sermon on “The Impotent Man,” re-reading The Lady Julian’s “Comfortable Words,” and our morning discussion.
While not everyone will have had the exact experience I use as an illustration, everyone will have had a similar one. Picture this. You go out to eat and the server asks you what you want to drink. You answer, “Water, No lemon.” When the server returns and sets down your glass, everything looks great: Water…No lemon. You pick up your glass to take that refreshing drink of pure, clean Water…No lemon, and as that cool liquid hits your tongue…LEMON! It is immediately obvious that when preparing your water, the “no lemon” part was overlooked and a wedge was placed on the glass. However, before serving it to you, the mistake was caught but not actually rectified. The lemon wedge was simply removed and the lemon tainted water was served to you, nothing said. As I said, maybe you like lemon in your water so you have not had this exact experience. But maybe you have ordered a pizza…hold the mushrooms, yet tasted something a little “shroomy” when you bit in. Maybe it was an everything burger…everything but the pickles that is. Still, upon beginning that first chew you are left with a little “dill” in your mouth.
Okay, now that everyone has a bad taste in their mouths, let’s move on. I think we can all agree that there is a huge difference between what we just described and a glass of all out lemonade. Does knowing that obvious distinction lessen your response when you take that first sip and realize your water isn’t the pure refreshing pleasure you had intended? The fact that water can have enough lemon added to change its name to emphasize the “lemon” does not lessen the contamination of your glass.
In our last post we went into detail about us as the “Image” of God and as the “temple” from which that Image shines. (I suggest you go back and read the descriptions if you haven’t already.) As those who claim Christ’s suffering and resurrection as our own, we must understand our impact on these defining statements. God said, “Let us create man in Our image.” After being created in that Image, Adam and Eve sinned and damaged, or tarnished, that pure Image. At that point they had only sinned once, just a little; they had not piled on a bunch of sins. They had not failed to “honor their father and mother,” they had not “committed adultery,” they didn’t “steal,” “murder” or “covet their neighbor’s house.” They just hung a lemon wedge on the rim. That little trickle of juice had contaminated their whole glass just as sure as if they had poured in the juice of six lemons and made lemonade. They had just as assuredly tainted the Image of God as if they had broken them all. You’ve seen me use this one many times, “Whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). The KJV puts it like this, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” I think this more accurately makes the point because it highlights something most Christians acknowledge in principle but ignore in practice. Most accept the idea that to sin, or act against God’s authority, is an offensive act. However, few show evidence of such a heartfelt belief in their lives. The common practice is to treat our “lesser” sins as more of an accidental “stumble” than an overt willingness to offend God.
This also brought to mind something I had read from St. Bernard of Clairvaux recently:
“what reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He hath done unto me? In the first creation He gave me myself; but in His new creation He gave me Himself, and by that gift restored to me the self that I had lost. Created first and then restored, I owe Him myself twice over in return for myself. But what have I to offer Him for the gift of Himself? Could I multiply myself a thousand-fold and then give Him all, what would that be in comparison with God?”
Lady Julian prayed that God would make her experience the pain and suffering of “The Passion” that she might better understand what Christ went through in paying the price for her sin. And, as you should know by now, David Mc’Clure taught:
“The word of God, speaks only of a blessed or miserable eternity. Heaven or Hell, sirs, are before us, and to one or the other, our immortal spirit must go. By sin we are condemned to the world of sorrows; but thro’ the abounding grace of God, may obtain the Heavenly world. How ought we then to improve every moment of time…”
Tozer’s tangent was about how the “Modern Christian” (of the 1950’s… think they’ve gotten better?) has forgotten and even actively hidden “conviction.” The modern church, hiding its collective head from the wrath of politically correct armies, has adopted a “we” approach to sin and forgiveness. Personal, Individual and Specific condemnation of sin is mean and abusive.
“…what have I to offer Him?” More accurately, “What do I owe Him?” This was obviously integral to the Faith and practice of the Old Church. Does the modern Christian do the same? Do you do the same? Is any tarnishing of the Gift of His Image too little for you to condemn…for conviction?
The Truth Is, the modern Christian tells themselves, even if they don’t say it outright, that they haven’t committed any of the “Big” sins so… They have adopted the idea that “no one is perfect,” so it’s not only okay but expected that a “little” sin is overlooked. So, I was jealous (envious) for a second, what’s the big deal? So, I gossiped a bit…? So, I told a “little white lie”…? I was rude. I was mean. I was impatient. I was vindictive. I was greedy. I was “tolerant” of sin. I was…?
As we have talked about before, the Manual is quite clear that sin is the inward Spiritual act of choosing to defy and deny God. Other than one unforgivable sin, all external acts of sin stem from this same internal mindset. While the manifestation of this mentality from people in the world might look different and more severe than those claiming to be “Christians,” the choice to tarnish the “Image” is the sin. Yes, murder is the equivalent of lemonade, but, as we’ve shown, even an individual, tiny drop of lemon taints the water. And taking the lemon off the glass and pretending it never happened does not cleanse the water of the contamination.
So, I’m going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done before…I’m going to tell you how to pray. I’m not going to suggest that you pray Lady Julian’s prayer. However, a little better understanding and appreciation of “Created first and then restored” might go a long way in directing your prayers. A true commitment to what you “owe” could and should bring you under personal “Conviction.” Ask yourself, have you ever actually, specifically prayed for conviction? Be completely Truthful. Have you ever asked, even pleaded with God to not only show you your major failings, your “offenses,” to Him, but your individual drops of lemon as well? Have you prayed to feel the pain of your own sin so that you might truly repent? Have you begged forgiveness for failing to appreciate Christ’s sacrifice in your daily thoughts, acts and deeds? When you go to prayer, do you ask God to shine His light into the hidden corners of your temple and reveal the “little” dust bunnies? When in prayer, communion with God, do you examine your reflection of Him, your image, for even the smallest fingerprint or smudge, and cry in conviction, pleading for His Grace?
I hesitate to suggest that there are few on this planet who have Truly done so from the depths of their spirit. I confidently state that there are none who have done so enough!
I’ll bet you thought that was the hard part. Once you have sincerely completed the previous step, I challenge you to barricade the door behind you. Let me say again, After… and only after you have reached out to God and from the heart of your spirit begged for conviction, then move forward with what follows. Barricade the way back to a permissive and tolerant view of sin.
Here we go. Will you go to your Christian “brother”… (pause for clarification):
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:33,34
Christians spend too much time looking at and comparing themselves to a godless world. Yes, they live a life of sin, but what does that matter? One sin (drop of lemon) or a life of sin (glass full), what does it matter? The result is the same. An unrepentant, unbeliever may not feel conviction, but they will feel condemnation. As you will read, we are to be held to account by our Christian brother… as defined in the Manual. And we are instructed in the Manual to hold our Christian brother accountable.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another” Colossians 3:16
“Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11,12
“Take note of anyone who does not obey the instructions we have given in this letter. Do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15
(unpause, rewind) Will you go to your Christian brother or sister and ask them to hold you accountable? To offer you conviction when you even begin to taint the Image? Before you do… will you have the conversation with them about what we discussed in the first part of the post? Once satisfied that they not only pray for God’s conviction but embrace and cherish it as the only means to truly restore the Image and the temple, ask for their brotherly love in “admonishing” you. Will you then state to them that, as their loving brother or sister, you intend to do the same for them? Will you start a revolution in your Bible study, your prayer group, your church and demand these prayers and practices there as the Manual instructs?
If you are not willing to pull “conviction” out of your prayer closet and into the streets of your life can you really say that your request to God was sincere and from your spirit? Can you actually say you refreshed the water or just hid the lemon?
© Scott A Caughel 10/24/2019