You are currently browsing the archives for the Natural Man category.
I am a follower of Jesus.
Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities. Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable. But what about those other options? What about my desires, dreams, and hopes? Everyone has them, or had them at one time.
As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture. If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know. There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.
Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence. Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”. It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life. A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets. Such can be the outcome of a person’s life. We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.
To some I may sound idealistic. To others, legalistic and confined. I have considered those possibilities as well. I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.
As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic. Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”. Logic is the thing that seems obvious.
A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career. Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him. Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should. Two examples of this come to mind: Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell. Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.
People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell. Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.
Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths. Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher. Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.
Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best? Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?
Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good. Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path. Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life. God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.
Mark 14:3-9 3And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.
6But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Many who love Jesus give of themselves to Him.
They give time, money, talents, material possessions.
They forsake personal gain, high paying careers, and upward mobility.
Some would say that they give too much.
Parents may encourage their child to go to college and prepare for a good career, rather than go to Bible college and prepare for a life of godly service.
They would never tell their child to not be a Christian; they would just tell them to have a “balanced” life, and be sure to have a good career first. They may suggest that their child not get too fanatical about their Christian faith. They would emphasize that it’s a tough world out there, so their child needs to “look out for #1”.
There are many other examples of how people that give their lives to Jesus are warned or corrected by others who are around Jesus. The disciples were with Jesus all the time, had seen the miracles, and heard Him teach, but they thought that what this was did was “a waste”. They justified their opinion by saying that some good social act could have been done instead. Helping the poor is important, but it wasn’t more important at that moment.
They made the mistake that so many Christians make: they miss the best and suggest the good. They are committed, but not too committed. They worship and serve, to a point. They give, but are careful to not go beyond what is reasonable. They try to be “reasonable” in their Christian life, and are careful to maintain a “balance”.
I never read about keeping a balance. I read about being led by the Holy Spirit.
Like the woman who poured out the costly ointment, some Christians pour out their lives to God.
Like the woman, they are told that what they have done is extravagant and extreme.
Jesus had a different opinion, and defended her.
Be careful about how you judge such things.
All of what we do is a reaction to something.
I am hungry, so I react by eating. 🙂
I am sad, so I react by eating. 😉
I am bored, so I react by eating. 🙁
O.K., that’s not exactly the case with me, but I say that to get you laughing, and to illustrate my first point: We live lives that are full of reactions.
Reactions can be immediate, emotional, and irrational, or they can be measured, under control, and thoughtful.
Let’s establish some working definitions. This is what I mean to say. Read more »
Water seeks its own level. That is a law of physics and of nature. It is the law of gravity, and a law of God. Water will always find a way to return back to sea level, and its fluidity can discover pathways that no one would have suspected even existed. It may take a long time, but water is patient. Someone rightly said, “Nature bats last”.
That downward flow of water can be beautiful, as when one views Niagara Falls, or some other great waterfall, but the downhill flow of water always has an eroding aspect to it. When studies on erosion of the Horseshoe Falls (part of the Niagara Falls) first started, it was estimated that the erosion rate Horseshoe Falls was about 3.8 feet per year. Over the years, that has been artificially reduced, due to conservation efforts, but if left alone, the Horseshoe Falls would have continued at that rate of erosion.
Water going downhill can be beautiful, but there is always erosion.
The “natural” flow of things for people seems to be the same. It is easy for us to take the path of least resistance, and “go with the flow”. It is easy to live as responders to our nature. Most people seem to live that way.
Some people do rise above their natural abilities by hard work and determination. They are the ones of whom inspirational movies are made. These determined people rise above the adversities and downward inclinations of life, and make great changes for themselves. They quit bad habits, form good habits, and make progress that no one would have expected. That is to be admired.
Let’s take the concept “up” another level, from behavior to nature. The Bible tells us “we are by nature, children of wrath”. (Ephesians 2:3) That means our nature is such that we do stuff to deserve God’s judgment. We sin. My very nature always wants to go in the opposite direction from what God would want for me and expect from me. That is erosion of the soul.
Conservation efforts to reduce the erosion of Horseshoe Falls have helped some, but as long as water flows there, there will be erosion. It’s just the nature of the Falls. As long as man continues on his natural path, there is erosion, regardless of what efforts he makes to reduce that erosion. It’s just the nature of the Fall. (Genesis 3). Man violates his own conscience and moral value system. He then either has to deny that a failure occurred, reconfigure his value system, or self medicate to dull the guilt.
Jesus stepped into our eroding world, and has made a way for us to not just reduce the eroding aspect of “soul life”, but to actually begin to make a way for Him to infuse His “upward” life into our lives.
When a person surrenders to God, God begins a new work in their soul. Whereas man can change his behavior and even attitude, only God can change a man’s nature, and introduce His nature into an eroding life.
There are certain forces in nature that will cause water to rise upward against gravity. A geyser has unseen power that causes water to go against its nature, and actually move upward. A wave travels miles across the ocean until it meets the shoreline, where the unseen, rising ocean bottom causes that horizontal energy to move water vertically, even to the point of it folding over on itself. It is a principal of nature that a force stronger than water’s natural flow actually causes the water to go against its own natural inclination.
God moves this way in the heart of the Christian. His greater force can cause the Christian to rise above his own nature. But there is a difference. A wave or a geyser is formed without any moral decision being made. The same is not true for the Christian. While the water in geyser rises without making a moral decision to surrender to a greater force, the Christian can only be changed by way of surrender. The great force of God will never overpower a child of God unless there is surrender.
A great blessing of the Christian life is knowing that God’s intention for His children is to take them “higher” than their natural inclinations. God’s intention is to take the Christian higher than the Christian’s own best efforts and intentions. There will never be a time in our lives when God can’t take us higher, conforming us more closely into the image of Christ.
The surrendered life can experience that which the “natural man” can never know: the experience of flowing uphill.