One year ago I had this to say, “I’m looking forward to this Christmas as well as the new year. I’m content and hopeful and encouraged and ready to see what will happen this next year.” If I had known then what I know now I’d have probably hidden out under a rock to let the year pass by and come out again like Rip Van Winkle. I can’t remember a worst year in the entire Book of Eli. My failures have spanned all disciplines; girls, house, cars, work, girls. It has just kept on coming. The discouragement has been overwhelming at times and at the end of the day I’m not sure if I’m stronger in my faith or just weaker as a person.
Francis Schaeffer wrote,
The Christian life is not an unbroken, inclined plane. Sometimes it is up, and sometimes -we must all acknowledge if we are not deluding ourselves – it is down. While it is not possible to be more or less justified, it is possible to be more or less sanctified. Justification deals with the guilt of sin; sanctification deals with the power of sin in the Christian life, and there are degrees in this.
This is somewhat of an encouragement to know that my justification has not been undone even though the discouragement has definitely resulted in a decrease in sanctification of myself and life. There have been times this year of great satisfaction and contentment; earlier this summer, I can’t remember if it was before the disappointing appraisal or after, I picked up bike riding again and I can remember sitting on my stoop after a particularly long ride taking in the summer air with a cool gatorade. I’m fairly certain I even audibly voiced my contentment with life even if it meant staying indefinitely at chateau de Woodgate(my crappy cheap apartment). These simple moments are what are stolen so easily; whether by distraction or deception Satan has drawn my eyes and heart away and the contentment disappears.
Schaeffer goes on to say, ‘When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God or have ceased to be submissive to him.’ Ouch I didn’t need that conviction too. Where has my contentment fled and what’s in the way of my submission? Trust? Have I trust enough to be led in a ways that I would not choose? Is what I fear about the future robbing me of the present? The very real possibility of never finding a wife, never building a house, never racing a rally car, no thing for which I had hoped. I stare at these prospects somewhat paralyzed. I’m the first to rejoice at the blessing of others and I would say the last to covet what another has, but the root of this sounds an awful lot like coveting.
Does this mean that any desire is coveting and therefore sinful? The Bible makes plain that this is not so – all desire is not sin. So then the question arises, when does proper desire become coveting? I think we can put the answer down simply: desire becomes sin when it fails to include love of God or men. Further I think there are two practical tests as to when we are coveting against God or men; first I am to love God enough to be contented; second, I am to love men(mankind) enough not to envy.
So I’ve got that second part, but I think somewhere along the way I skipped over the first. I am missing part of the equation and probably the most important part, emphasized here by guess who. ‘”The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” The order is in three steps: rejected, slain, raised. “And he said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” The order – rejected, slain, raised is modeled for us in Christs substitutionary death and is the order of true spirituality.’ Again, ouch. When the heck was it that I thought this cross and denying of self would include indulging oneself in whatsoever satisfaction one can garner out of this life and his surroundings?
As Christ’s rejection and death are the first steps in the order of redemption, so our rejection and death to things and self are the first steps in the order of true and growing spirituality. As there could be no next step in the order of Christ’s redemption until the step of death was taken, so in the Christian there can be no further step until these first two steps are faced – no in theory only, but at least in some practical practices. Rejected, slain.