Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Flesh-based Possibilities, or Faith-based Impossibilities

I consider yesterday’s “AHA! Moment” to be a spiritual marker in “the race that is set before us.”[1] Some things I learn from God’s word are the encouragement I need to keep running along the present stage of the course. Other times, something from God’s word is so foundational that I realize it forces me in a certain clarified direction for the rest of my life.

The spiritual marker comes down to this: faith relates to impossibilities; flesh relates to possibilities.[2]

Now that I so clearly see this difference, I understand why there are so many bipolar church-goers. It isn’t that we swing between faith and flesh, as much as that our flesh keeps changing its mind about possibilities. When the flesh believes it is possible to handle the circumstance it is facing, it feels confident, encouraged, and, at a few rare times, even excited. When the flesh believes it is impossible to handle the situation, it falls into anger, frustration, hopelessness, and depression.

It is not that our encouraged times were of faith, and our discouraged times were of the flesh, but that our encouraged times where when the flesh believed, “I can do it,” and the discouraged times were when the flesh realized it could not do it, but still wanted to rely on itself.

So, the battle is not between getting the flesh to do impossible things, or the flesh feeling hopeless about impossible things. The battle is to move us from the flesh, and into faith. Faith is NEVER a sarky belief that we can do the impossible. It is ALWAYS a Spirit-filled belief that God can do the impossible.

This is the Scripture that made this very clear today: “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”[3]  

The life of faith believes these two things:
•    “With man this is impossible,”
•    “but with God all things are possible.”

I look back on things I have experienced in various churches, and the sarky/fleshly stuff that hinders church-goers today, and realize that many church folk want the second part without the first part. We do not want a life that requires us to say, “with me this is impossible.” We want a life in which we can say, “I want to do the things that are possible for me, and let God do the things that are possible for him.”

Back in the day when the TV show, “Touched by an Angel,” was so popular, that was their exact message. The fallen angels kept telling everyone, “you do your best, and God will do the rest.” In other words, you do the part that is possible for you to do on your own, and then God will do the part that he has to do on his own. It is the deadly marriage between people thinking there is something we can do for God, partnered with something God can do for us.

It is easy to see how churches express this when we limit what we do to a building, a location, a budget, time available, personnel, confines of programs, or any other box in which we decide what is “possible” for us to do. Such thinking packages church into what is possible for people to accomplish, and then throws in a prayer meeting here and there to cover what only God can do.

This is why I have never liked the popular notion, “God will never give us more than we can handle.” That is fleshly/sarky thinking. It is the deceptive belief that the Christian life is a mix between us doing our possibilities, and God doing his impossibilities. The truth is that God will ALWAYS give us more than WE can handle, but he will NEVER give us more than HE can handle.

The life of, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” helps me understand why God must do the Beatitudinal thing on our inner drive to earn our worth through what we do. This is why Jesus had to let Peter sink while walking on the water. It is why he had to let all the disciples fall asleep while he was agonizing in the Garden, and why he had to let them all desert him in his hour of greatest need, and why he had to let Peter disown him three times. It was so that they could see that, “with man this is impossible.”

It also shows why he had them wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high.[4] The “but with God all things are possible,” requires the Holy Spirit working in our lives to do those God-only things. And, the only way we can connect to the Holy Spirit is by faith. He is not waiting for us to help him. He is waiting for us to become the little children who enter the kingdom of heaven by faith,[5] and rest in the work Jesus Christ has already done,[6] the work the Holy Spirit continues to do in us,[7] and the work God will complete at the return of our Savior.[8]

Clarification (I think this is really important): I think church-going people are struggling to try to get their sarks/flesh to believe that things are possible, when God is working to convince our new hearts[9] that “with man (in the flesh/sark) this is impossible.” I believe I have the Beatitudes on my side for that one![10]

What should we expect to see God doing in us? Convincing us that we will never succeed at pumping up the sark/flesh to believe things are possible. He comes near to the brokenhearted because the brokenhearted no longer believe they can do anything in the flesh.[11] He comes near to the contrite in heart because the contrite in heart see nothing in themselves by which they can do what is impossible.[12]

I also expect to see God speaking to his church about faith that, “with God all things are possible.” He will lead us to feel the childlike freedom that knows it can do nothing, but Father can do everything. He wants us to share in the experience that, “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.”[13] And, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”[14]

As a pastor, this is helping me see that I do not need to make anyone do anything. I can accept that God will call me to teach, and reprove, and exhort, and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction,[15] but with a sense of “with man this is impossible” teaching my new heart to rest in Christ, and with a “but with God all things are possible” mindset of faith constantly encouraging me to press on no matter what I see (that wind and waves stuff that keeps people from walking on the water[16]).

Bottom line: I can stop trying to earn my sense of worth in my sarky efforts to perform because “with man this is impossible.” However, I can put my faith in God’s ongoing work to conform me into the same image as my Savior, “from one degree of glory to another,”[17] because “with God all things are possible.”

Now, if I could see the difference between faith and flesh before, and already saw some sense of the distinction between Sprit and sark prior to yesterday morning, this spiritual marker in the race has made everything even more distinct than ever. God’s children cannot give any ground to the flesh/sark whatsoever. From here on in, I resign my sark (totally against its will, of course) to the fact that EVERYTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!!! Apart from Christ, I can do nothing![18]

However, instead of freaking out because my sark cannot do anything, I will seek God in faith, and for faith, so that I can live in constant enjoyment of the impossible things that surround me (or accept one more Beatitudinal lesson on how to do so!). With me, in my flesh, all things are impossible. But with God, all those same things “are possible.”

My flesh hates that; my faith loves that; it is time that the righteous shall live by faith![19]

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Hebrews 12:1 speaks of this race. Yesterday’s post:
[2] In the New Testament, references to “the flesh,” which I prefer transliterating as “the sark,” speak of that part of ourselves that is geared to living independent of God. Paul explains the difference between living in the flesh/sark, and living in the Spirit by faith, in Romans 7 & 8.
[3] Matthew 19:26
[4] Acts 1:4
[5] Matthew 18:3
[6] Matthew 11:28-30
[7] II Corinthians 3:18 shows that the transforming work is “from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Romans 8 shows the necessity of the Spirit’s work in our growth in Christ.
[8] I’m thinking here of verses like Philippians 1:6, and I John 3:2.
[9] Ezekiel 36:26
[10] Matthew 5:3-12 shows the things that happen to us under the blessing of God.
[11] Psalm 34:18
[12] Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15
[13] Galatians 2:20
[14] Philippians 4:13
[15] II Timothy 3:16-4:2
[16] Matthew 14:22-33
[17] II Corinthians 3:18
[18] John 15:4-5
[19] Romans 1:16-17

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