You Get to Choose, Even When it Seems Impossible: Summary

Capable but Powerless)

I began this journey by considering the conundrum of the addict who hates his addiction but lives it even so. The addict possesses the physical capability to change his behavior, and sufficient desire to cease his behavior, yet finds himself falling into it again and again. The missing piece, as we have discussed, is that the addict lacks the mental willpower to translate his desires to his actions, at least when in the face of powerful temptation. His prefrontal cortex has been eroded, which is responsible for all his higher mental functions. When the need for another hit arises, all feelings and rationality are numbed into silence, leaving the addict a slave to his base impulses.

Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it – this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish. - Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book

This conundrum has led many the addict to despair. He feels that at some point earlier in life he must have forfeited his last chance at salvation. By the time he became really serious about wanting to change, it was already too late, and now he believes that he is doomed to do the very things he despises most for the rest of his life. This demoralizes the addict, is almost certain to cause him to enter a deep depression, and can even make him suicidal.

While I would certainly never encourage any suicidal notions in any person, reaching this moment of despair does suggest that the addict has finally reached the point where he can be totally honest with himself. Because he’s right, he can’t win this battle. Only by accepting this soul-crushing defeat can he begin the path to victory.

Other Paths)

When one door closes, another opens

For most addicts, it is only the total failure of their attempts to control their lives that will finally humble them enough to hear alternative methods. Inherent in all of us is the desire to fix ourselves by ourselves, so we have to try at that for a very long time, and to absolutely ruinous results, before we will start to look outside for help. And it is in this shift outwards, though, that we can actually find the success that has eluded us for so long.

Quite probably the single method that has brought the most hopeless-case addicts to true healing has been the twelve-step program invented by the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, and this program is entirely predicated upon the notion that the addict, though powerless by himself, can find the power to overcome his addiction through the strength of God and the recovery group that he binds himself to. Relying upon others goes absolutely in the face of our desire to be autonomous and self-powerful, but, paradoxically, it is also the only thing that will ever allow us to regain out autonomy and self-power.

In the course of this study, we examined how the addict who reaches out to a fellow brother or sister when facing temptation is inviting a working rational mind to the situation. The addict who calls for help is having his mind assaulted and numbed by an active temptation, but the person that he calls probably is not. The helper can provide the calm reasoning to the distressed addict, talking them down off the ledge and back into rational ways of thinking.

We also considered how uniting together for this good purpose gives us access to Christ’s promise that “where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Coming together as a group for a holy cause is one of the surest ways I know of to tap into the strength and willpower of the divine. And, in my experience, that strength and willpower is far more than enough to overcome every temptation that we might face. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

We also discussed personal practices that the addict can put in place to help shore up his defenses. These are in no way an alternative to calling upon the strength of our brothers and sisters and God, but an addendum to those resources.

The practices we described included recognizing and avoiding the sequence of events that typically precede our acting out. Often there are trigger events that come before the temptation, and much of our acting out can be avoided if we simply avoid the trigger event. Usually we are able to circumvent that trigger because our mind isn’t yet fogged over by temptation.

The other personal practice we discussed was finding the areas of life where our damaged prefrontal cortex and higher reasoning weren’t being entirely steamrolled by temptation. In those areas we make a conscious effort to act deliberately and conscientiously. I pointed out how when we deliberately do little things to improve our lives, even if they seem fairly inconsequential, we are exercising the regions of our brain needed to perform higher executive functions. Bit-by-bit we are increasing our willpower, mental strength, and conviction. Eventually we will have enough power to reclaim the fields taken by our addiction.

Hopelessness isn’t Hopeless)

Sometimes it isn’t the situation that is hopeless, it is the method that we are bringing to it. Each of us needs to give up on using the wrong tool so that we can start to use the right one.

If you have a genuine addiction, powering through on your own is doomed to failure, but that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily doomed to failure. After failing countless times over it is easy to become pessimistic and assume that nothing could ever work for you.

I’m here to give you the good news that this is not the case at all, though. You are not the first person to have felt this way, and you will not be the last person to find salvation even so. Leaving behind the methods that didn’t work, now embrace the methods that do. Learn to be shrewd in how you avoid temptation, build up strength of willpower through small wins, and tap into the strength of others and God.

Do these things and your mind will heal, your impulsive behaviors will fade, and self-control will return. You will become one of those of whom it has been said, “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:28).

I have seen it in myself and in numerous others. The brain can heal itself. Hope can be restored. The numbing forces can be numbed.

As I pointed out at the start of this post, the addict in the midst of despair can find himself entertaining thoughts of suicide. He is wrong to think he has no alternative but to end his life, however he is correct that a death of some sort must occur. That death, though, is the death of the ego. Only by denying himself, putting to death his pride and isolationism, can he be reborn through the baptism of fellowship in Christ. He must immerse himself in the brotherhood and sisterhood of fellow addicts in recovery, and when he does, he will feel Christ manifesting within himself. Then his new life truly begins.

You Get to Choose, Even When it Seems Impossible: Part Five

A Pattern of Power)

I have been discussing ways that we can find the willpower to fight temptation, even when our brains have been damaged by our addictions. I have covered doing all that we can to avoid even encountering our temptations, but sooner or later they will find us even so, and then we must suddenly find strength and mental reasoning that we are incapable of providing for ourselves.

This immediately suggests that we must have a strength that is beyond our own. An external strength and reasoning that will slay the dragons that we fail to overcome by ourselves.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me - Philippians 4:13

These verses provide us a pattern for accessing just such an outer strength, a pattern that I have found most effective. In the first verse we are promised by Christ himself that when we gather together in his name, he will dwell among us. In the second verse we are told by Paul that Christ strengthens him to be able to do all things. Thus, gathering together invites Christ’s spirit, and Christ’s spirit lifts us to be able to do what we could not do on our own. This is a pattern that I have been able to make use of in my own life and I have come to value it greatly.

Group Strength)

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous discovered that there was a special power when addicts came together as a group to lay down their burdens and encourage one another. A room full of individual failures could somehow churn out mass success. Ever since that realization, groups have sprung up all across the world and for all manner of different addiction recoveries. I, myself, regularly participate in a twelve-step group for pornography addiction, and I can attest that there really is a secret strength in numbers.

Mathematically, it doesn’t seem to make sense. As an analogy, imagine if our addiction was our debt and our resolve was our assets. Then an addict, by definition, is someone whose debt outweighs his assets, someone who is at a net negative. Now if you have ten such men, all with a net negative, and you combine them all together, what would you expect? Net negative of course! A negative plus a negative plus a negative plus a negative–and so on–can only result in a greater negative.

But, counter-intuitively, that’s just not how it works in practice. The men in my group bring all of their problems with them to the recovery group, yet somehow the group doesn’t feel weighed down by the shared burden. Instead, weight is collectively lifted up by the group and tossed aside.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that the scriptures cited above are true. When we gather together to do the holy work of refining our souls, Christ is there in our midst. We come with all our collective debts, but he has a wealth of assets, enough to compensate for all our shortcomings and more.

A Phone Call Away)

And this same strength can be called upon in moments of duress as well. We addicts have learned that we can recreate the spirit of the group with a simple phone call to another brother, right when we’re being faced by our temptation.

We might feel powerless in the face of the temptation when on our own. We might feel that we are doomed to give in. But if in that moment we can work up just enough resolve to make a phone call, then as soon as we start sharing our burden with a brother, that same unseen power starts rising within, enabling us to do the very thing we couldn’t just a few moments before.

In fact, we don’t even need to have decided to overcome our temptation when we first make the call. We can simply make the call without any commitment whether we will remain sober after we hang up or not. We only need to have the strength to dial the number, and then the strength to go the rest of the way will follow. If I can’t decide to be sober on my own, I can still decide to step out and get help. And when I chose to step out and get help, then I can decide to be sober, too.

The power that comes from reaching out to a fellow addict in the moment of temptation is twofold. On the one hand, we are currently having our mental willpower, our brain’s prefrontal cortex, overrun by our powerful temptation. Our mind isn’t working how it should, but in the fellow addict that we call there is still a properly functioning mind. Their prefrontal cortex isn’t currently being overrun like ours is. Thus, they are able to bring the higher reasoning and persuasion that our own mind cannot provide. Later, when they are the one being overrun by temptation and we are back to sure footing, then we are able to provide the same benefit to them.

The second power is, of course, the light of Christ that I have already been discussing. For when a brother reaches out to me to help, I really do feel that it is more than my own mental faculty that I am able to bring to bear on the matter. I have felt an external love and wisdom flow into me, helping me to say and share the things that will speak directly to the soul of my brother. And I have felt the exact same divine presence shared with me when I have called for help, too.

Growing Ranks)

I don’t know why the power of Christ comes to us in this way, but it just does. I have tried many times to pray in isolation for his power and I have been very disappointed in the results. On the other hand, I have never gone to a recovery group meeting without feeling Christ’s power overflowing me. I have never reached out to a brother in recovery without feeling the strength to do what I couldn’t before. It seems to me that this is just how he wants it. He wants me to reach out to others, and he gave his instructions in the verse from Matthew so that I would know that I needed to do it.

At this point I’ve discussed how we can find self-control through preventative measures, and how we can access the strength of Christ and a larger group. I have also explained how exercising our willpower in daily tasks can increase our resolve over time. This brings me to the end of all the techniques that I wanted to share with you. Tomorrow, we’ll review them all together. I’ll see you there.

You Should Have Cried: Part Two

In my last post I discussed the therapeutic process of revisiting childhood trauma and mourning the things that might have never been fully processed at the time. In many cases this means finally shedding the tears that had been bottled up for far, far too long.

But I’ve been in therapy groups, and I’ve certainly seen a resistance to this process, particularly among the men who feel like openly weeping is unmanly. Is there a validity to this sense of stoicism, or is it a misalignment in our society? Well, today we will address this question by looking at the example of the greatest man that ever lived: Jesus Christ.

Become as a Little Child)

The primary reason why many feel ashamed to show their unbridled emotion is that they want to be mature and composed. They don’t want to appear as a little child. But what was it that Jesus said to his disciples about little children?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:2-4

Humble yourself as a little child. Give up your pride and your show of false strength. Stop trying to prove that you’ve got this all taken care of and let yourself admit that you were really hurt.

And in case you aren’t sure that Jesus’s declarations applied to matters of showing one’s weakness and hurt, let us consider another example that he gave in a moment of great distress. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was bowed under the pain of the atonement and the anxiety of the coming crucifixion, this was his response:

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. - Mark 14:35-36

Jesus feels scared and hurt, and he falls on his face and calls to his “Abba.” Abba is a Hebrew word for “father,” and it denotes both intimacy and submission, something like “daddy” and “sir” all rolled into one. “Daddy/sir, you can do anything, will you take this hurt from me? But I’ll go through with it if you ask.”

Jesus has been many things to his followers. He has been called “master,” and “teacher,” and “prophet.” But to his God, Jesus is “as a little child.” Vulnerable, open about his pain, asking for help, and submissive.

Later still, when Jesus was upon the cross, he cried out in a moment of agony:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34

Previously, when raised upon the cross, Jesus had been magnanimous to his killers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34. He had been considerate to the well-being of his mother: “He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” – John 19:26-27. But to his God, once again, Jesus was a little child, crying out and asking why he was alone.

To Every Thing There is a Season)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

The words and example of Jesus Christ perfectly line up with these words of wisdom in Ecclesiastes. Yes, there is a time for stoicism. There is a time for power. There is a time for projecting strength and not weakness. One has only to consider Jesus chasing out the vendors in the temple with a whip to see that there is even a time for anger!

But also, there is a time for weeping, mourning, and being broken. One of the great examples of Christ, which too often goes overlooked, was how he filled the full measure of human emotion. He showed all of his feelings, at the appropriate time. Reserved when he ought to be, confident when he ought to be, distraught when he ought to be, and pained when ought to be. He assured his disciples that there was nothing to fear (Mark 4:39-40), but he also wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35).

To claim that you ought not feel or show an entire sector of the emotional spectrum because you are a man, is to claim that that you are more of a man than Jesus. God did not give us our feelings with the intent that we would ignore half of them, all of them were given for our good. Yes, they need to be governed and managed at times, but that does not mean suppressed out of existence!

Previously, I presented the mourning of old trauma as a matter of emotional therapy, and it is, but it is also a matter of spiritual significance as well. We cannot be the full person that God intended for us to be until we truly embrace the full person, broken inner child included.

I know by experience that Christ calls each of us to step into the hurts of our past. Not only that, he asks us to step into those places with him. He goes with us into those defeated places, he asks us to open up the hurt and let the tears flow, and then he applies his healing balm and saves the lost soul within. Mourning our old wounds, with our Savior by our side, is arguably the most sacred act that we will ever do. May we all go through this beautiful process, so that every lost child can be healed and be saved.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 44:32-34

32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever.

33 Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.

34 For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.

Judah has explained how returning home without Benjamin might kill his father for grief, but it is his plea at the end that I find most moving. Judah does not rage against Joseph, he does not stubbornly insist that they’ve got the wrong man, he doesn’t even ask Joseph to let the matter go for pity’s sake.

No, humbly and selflessly, Judah only asks that he be punished in place of the lad. If there is a price that must be paid, let it be taken out on him, and let the boy go free. The symbolism here of the Savior is obvious, and it seems particularly fitting that Jesus would be descended of Judah, who was willing to sacrifice himself that his brother might be restored to his father.

A little while ago we saw a picture of Judah that was far less flattering. He had abandoned his covenant, sullied himself through lust, and was mired in a tawdry family drama. At the end of it came a hint of redemption, though, when he started to acknowledge his folly and accept its consequences. That spark of maturity seems to have continued to grow in him until this time, finally making him ready to fully surrender himself for the good of others.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:21

21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

When Adam and Eve discovered their naked shame they tried to hide it behind an apron of fig leaves, and we all do the same thing. We create all manner of guises to try and conceal the things that we are ashamed of. We might assume a persona of just not caring whether we’re a good person. We might try to overcompensate with a show of false piety. We might become depressed and define ourselves entirely by our wrong. We might try to distract from the pain with media or busyness. There are many ways that we make fig leaves, masks that are different from the authentic self we were born to be, anything that prevents others from seeing the wound inside.

But fig leaves are very inadequate clothes, and God provided to Adam, to Eve, and to us a different solution. The skin that He offered to our first parents is symbolic of the body of Christ. He invites us to surrender our mask, and replaces our shame with the purity of the Lamb. And this new vestiture isn’t about hiding our shame, it is about replacing it. Those that have been washed clean have a sense of being given a new and once-more-innocent soul. And one of the best analogues to that fresh feeling is pulling on a clean set of clothes, just like God gave to Adam and Eve.

For Our Own Good- 1 Corinthians 12:8-12

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

COMMENTARY

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; To another faith; to another the gifts of healing; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
We have thus far considered how we all have certain areas of weakness in the gospel. But let us consider the more positive side of that coin, which is that we all have certain areas of strength within the gospel as well. And even more encouragingly, those strengths tend to be designed to bolster and inspire our brothers’ and sisters’ weaknesses.
If we are going to fret about “why am I not strong in this aspect of the gospel,” we might as well also encourage ourselves with the question “why am I so capable in this other?”

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
And I believe those two questions find their answer in each other. I am weak in this commandment, so that my sister may embolden me with her strength. And I am strong in this other, so that I may be a support to my brother that is weak.
Just a couple days ago, entirely outside the context of this study, I was thinking to myself how my wife and I are so much more capable as a couple than as separate individuals. I believe we are able to accomplish far more by not being equally capable in every sector. By both of us being fragmented, but then fitted together, we become something better than either of us.

The Need for Law- The Three Laws

I’ve spent these last few posts discussing a different laws, their origins and their destinations, and it has been a pretty organic, free-flowing conversation. And while everything I wrote made sense in my own head, I imagine it might have been a bit confusing to follow. Having muddled out all the details for myself, I think it would now be worthwhile to spell things out more clearly.

These are the three different laws that govern our lives as I understand them. The scriptural references to support them are included throughout my previous posts. It is, of course, entirely possible that I am misaligned in some way though. Spiritual study, after all, is a process of constant refinement.

Mortal Law

What I mean by mortal law is the balance of nature that rules our world. These are the purely physical forces that define gravity, magnetism, chemical and nuclear reaction, and all the other natural interactions that make our universe the way that it is. These laws are observable with our physical senses, and can be measured and studied. They are consistent and reliable, as every universal law is.

These laws provide wonderful benefits to us. They allow the matter of our planet to have coalesced into a singular body, they keep it moving in a steady orbit, they retain a breathable atmosphere around us, and they also maintain every other requirement to make our lives possible.

These laws are fair in that they apply equally and universally to all. However they give no assurances for social, moral, or karmic justice. That is entirely outside of their domain. And so the lazy might prosper and the industrious come to ruin. The guilty might be exonerated and the innocent condemned. The unhealthy might survive and the healthy die young.

But whether rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, good or evil, wise or foolish…the mortal law brings all to the same conclusion. Death, entropy, eternal silence. Under this law we all share the common destiny of ceasing all existence forever.

Divine Law

Divine law is where the influence of God enters the mortal realm. As such, it directly addresses the limitations of the mortal law. While the wicked may still prosper under the worldly domain, divine law now requires that they will be stung in their conscience. While the pure-hearted may still die young, divine law assures that they can pass in peace.

To put it simply, where mortal law governs our bodies, divine law’s domain is that of the spirit and soul. And just as how mortal law applies the same rules to each body equally, divine law weighs on each spirit equally, too. No good deed goes without a sense of fulfillment, no evil deed goes without a stinging of the conscience.

And where mortal law consigns us all to the grave, divine law picks us up from that one destiny and turns it into two. It ushers the immortal spirit either into a paradise or into a hell, depending on whether its precepts and commandments were obeyed or not. The problem here is that we, given our fallen nature, have each disobeyed the commandments of divine law, and thus are destined for hell.

Christ’s Law

And here we see the need for one more law. From mortal law our bodies are destined to die, and from divine law are spirits are destined to hell. The final act of everyone’s story is an inescapable tragedy.

Christ’s purpose is to answer the demands of both laws and to offer us a third in their place. He accomplishes this in three steps.

First, he adopts us as his children. To everyone that is willing, he takes us under his wing, and makes himself culpable for our errors, and us worthy of his virtues. Any punishment we receive he may take for us, and any reward he receives he may give to us.

Second, he pays for our crimes. He died to the mortal law and he was condemned by divine law. In Gethsemane he suffered the pain of a soul damned to hell. On Calvary he suffered the death of his body.

Third, he rises above his own death and condemnation, so that he can continue as our adoptive father, able to govern us and give grace as he sees fit.

Unlike the first two laws, this third one from Christ is entirely optional. We may refuse it if we wish. That is fine, we will simply remain under the purview of divine law, still consigned to hell. On the other hand, we may accept his law, and as a result our destination can be changed to life and paradise. He resurrects our bodies back from the grave, and he rescues our spirits from the clutches of hell*.

Of course accepting his law now means living that law’s precepts and commandments. Unlike divine law, those commandments are not total perfection, but they do expect particular behavior from us. The good news is that they are behaviors which we actually can satisfy. We will begin examining exactly what they are with the next post.

*Because the mortal law was not chosen by us, but by our first parents Adam and Eve, Christ provides an escape from it for everyone. Even those that reject Christ’s law will have the benefit of resurrection. This is only fair.
Our individual failure to fulfill divine law, however, is on our own heads, and so reclamation from hell is dependent on whether we accept Christ’s law or not.

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

Who Am I?- Genesis 1:27, Matthew 23:9, John 15:15, John 13:14, Mark 10:45

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

COMMENTARY

So God created man in his own image
For one is your Father, which is in heaven
But I have called you friends

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister
Tied up with the question of who we are is the question of our relationship to divinity. For if God created us, and Christ re-creates us, then who we are depends upon the interaction that we have with them.
I have heard it argued that many Christians come into trouble by trying to have the “wrong” relationship with God or Jesus. But I have heard that same argument being argued in both directions.

  • This generation wants to be all buddy-buddy with Jesus, and have forgotten He is their master.
  • The real problem is that you’re so concerned with fearing God, that you don’t have any more space for Him to love you!
  • You need to respect Christ, not be coddled by Him.
  • God’s grace is more abundant than most of us are comfortable accepting. He wants to save us, and we just need to let that in.

So which voice is correct? Who is God to us? Is He our creator or our father? Should we fear Him or worship Him? And who is Christ? A brother or a friend? A master or a servant?
Well, if the verses that I’ve shared above are any indication…all of the above. Divinity represents the most transcendent and complex beings in the universe. Would not our relationship with them have to be complex and multi-faceted as well?
The simple truth is that if we can only be friends with God, but never respect Him as our Lord, then our discipleship will suffer for it….And vice versa. And if we can only serve Christ, but never be served by Him, we’ll never reach that relationship’s full potential either….And vice versa.
But that’s where many of us are: only comfortable with a partial connection to divinity. I was always ready to serve a Lord and Master, but struggled to accept the love of a kindly friend. The solution was not for me to try to fence off those difficult parts of God, though, that would have handicapped me for the rest of my life. The only way to progress was to start opening myself to receiving all that my God, my Father, my Savior, my brother, my master, my minister, my friend, and my advocate have to offer.

Who Am I?- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.

COMMENTARY

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ
For the body is not one member, but many.
Yesterday we examined how we are all creations of God. Our identity begins with what He made it to be. I believe part of the reason why our society resists this notion of being another’s creation, though, is because they fear that it takes away their individuality. There seems to be a sense that we are defined by our flaws, and smoothing them out would just leave us as generic good person #2167. Or in other words, if God is my creator me, and He made me to be like Christ, then following Him will just turn me into a carbon copy of Jesus, no longer myself.
But this is a misconception, a lie of the adversary, one that breaks down as soon as you take an honest look at genuinely good people and recognize how distinct they still are. Even if you are a creation of God, you can still be a unique creation. As Paul attests, the word “body” is singular, but it is composed of “members” which are plural and distinct.

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Saying that we seek unity in Christ does not mean that we all become Jesus. It means uniting with one another under a common banner, but still retaining and exercising our individuality. Yes God made you and set you, but He made you and set you to be and do something that only you could be and do. The reason that He even made you was because among all His other children He still didn’t have a you, and He very much needed a you. There is a you-sized hole in the body of the Christ that not I, not your neighbor, and not even your identical twin is shaped rightly to fill. God was the one that first baked your individuality into your bones and He isn’t about to take that way. The loss of your sins and misconceptions, will not be the loss of yourself.
In short, what the gospel intends for us is a unified diversity. If that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. God loves to work in the impossible!