Two Ways to Justify Our Self

I love when I get the opportunity to talk with and teach students. They are at the stage of life where they are simultaneously beginning to define their self while trying to understand how their faith relates to the life they want to live. Yesterday we were talking about what sin is and how we overcome it. Broad topic. One common response in our discussion was that we overcome sin by following the rules. And while for the students, they are just beginning to explore if this is a good spiritual strategy, for most of us, it is our default way of functioning in our spiritual life. When push comes to shove, just try harder to stop sinning! This is simply our attempt to justify our self before God. “Here I am God, I’ve made my self good enough.” It is the Lie, another way – although a religious way – to pursue wholeness apart from God. Because we are broken image bearers, our focus is self-centered. As disciples, that concept extends to the functional ways we attempt to be right before God. Self-justification is the idea that being right before God is up to us. Our effort. Our results. It is the attitude that says grace was OK for salvation, but grace is not part of sanctification. And there are two patterns that we follow to do this. They are extensions of the old or false self  that is comfortable and familiar and at war with our new self in Christ. One pattern of self-justification is by following the rules. Then we can look to God and say I...

Which Came First?

  Adam and Eve were placed in the garden created for them, each of the crafted to live in communion with their Creator. From that relationship, the man and the woman would get their sense of self – their purpose and value in the world. Connection with God was the foundation of their identity. In the garden there was rest and no shame. In the punishment that was dealt to the man and woman, God mentions toil, pain, and longing. Rest was gone and shame continually made its presence felt. So, what was the sin that brought on this consequence from the Creator? Often when we talk about this story, we say that the sin was that they partook in the fruit that was forbidden. But, decisions and behavior are a symptom of something more fundamental. What came first? As you read the narrative in Genesis chapter 2, you notice that the tempter first got Eve to break her communion with God. She questioned his goodness, wondered if He was withholding, and became distrustful. Being tempted is not a sin, but taking your eyes off of God is. In the absence of relational connection with God, Eve looked upon the fruit, and did what was right in her own eyes. She needed to satisfy her desire for wholeness apart from God – a false sense of self, and she looked to the fruit that was forbidden to provide it. Her sin, and the sin of her husband, was that they turned away from God. As evidence, the first question the Creator asked in his next appearance was “Where are you?” Ours is the same...

Shattering the Image

Hand crafted in the image of the Creator, experiencing no shame, the man and woman were left to tend the garden God had placed them in. For an unknown amount of time, the two of them lived in this idyllic state. Until the Lie. A serpent appears on the scene with the ability to talk. Myself, I hate snakes. Since I can never remember if it is “yellow on black, better step back” or “red on black, friend of Jack” or “red on yellow, you’re a dead fellow”, I just play it safe and avoid them all. Much more so a snake that could talk.   But that bit of wisdom was not available to our happy couple and they engage the crafty serpent in conversation. This serpent is intent on spreading a Lie; God held back on them, He really did not have their best interest at heart and could not be trusted. They were really less valuable then they were going around thinking. There was something they were still lacking if they were going to be complete.   The Lie was that there was something in addition to God that would make them whole.   Sound familiar? The enemy convinced God’s image bearers that they were incomplete and not fully acceptable. It is the same Lie that all of us at some point believe. It is the source of our false self and it comes in a million forms. “I am not wanted.” “I am not lovable.” “God is nowhere to be found.” “I am unnoticed.” “I am defective.” This list could go on and on.  ...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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