Dying to Self

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about finding yourself where I shared my thoughts on finding yourself by losing yourself in Christ. Well, this time I am going to take that a step further and discuss the act of dying to the self. Let’s take another look at what Paul says about the idea of living in accordance with the flesh, or the fallen self:

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24, ESV)

Now, Paul is pretty clear about his meaning here. We must put off the old self and don the new self. But, there’s more to it than that. This is not simply an act of removing an article of clothing and replacing it with something else. The self is not merely an interchangeable facade we can switch to and from whenever we please. It’s far more engrained into our flesh. We can’t see the Kingdom of God if we continue living in the flesh. Let’s look at what Jesus had to say to Nicodemus about the subject.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-8, ESV)

Jesus says we must be “born of the Spirit.” Well, the implication here is that we are in the flesh, as Jesus says we must be born again. We were born in the flesh. Therefore, we strive to appease the flesh. Even the most selfless manifestation of the flesh is still of the flesh (the actual validity of selflessness is another topic not to be discussed quite yet). So, how do we become born again? How are we born in the Spirit? In Romans, Paul issues an encouragement to his audience:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9-11, ESV)

So, then, we are not in the flesh when we have the Spirit within us. Rebirth in the Spirit comes when we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit. But, in order to be born in the Spirit, we must die to the flesh. But, why do we have to die to self in order for the Spirit to abide in us?

Well, the Holy Spirit is God. This is a foundational belief of the Christian faith. As God, He cannot be in the presence of sin (“God is light,” meaning morally pure, see 1 John 1:5). The flesh — the self — is sinful and fallen and depraved. Therefore, the Spirit, being fully God and holy and pure, cannot dwell with the flesh. So, the solution is dying to the self to make sure we are poised for the Spirit’s indwelling. But, “dying to self” is still an abstract concept at this point. However, Jesus gives us some advice on how to do this:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

Self denial. A radical concept. How do we deny ourself, though? That’s still pretty abstract. Take up your cross daily. Ok, the cross is symbolic of death, reinforces dying to self. Still not very practical. Follow Jesus. A little more practical, but not entirely applicable to life. So, let’s break down each of these commands of Jesus’.

1) Deny Your Self

Denying your self is a foreign idea to the western mind. Our culture prides itself on self-sufficiency. You make yourself or you break yourself. But, what Jesus is saying is that that is not the Truth. Jesus is saying that, in order to be His disciple, you must forfeit control over your own life. This is not to say you truly have control over your life, however it is to say that you must seek the will of God. Seek happiness in God. That pursuit will look different for everyone, but I can tell you it is not seeking him anywhere other than where you’re at. If you are under the pretense that you need to leave where you are and get in a better situation to find Jesus, your faith is then contingent upon where you’re at instead of who Jesus is. That is not the kind of faith that Jesus deserves, nor is it the kind of faith He desires. If you can’t find your faith in the situation you’re in, you won’t be able to truly find it, no matter where you go. Seek Christ whether in the respite of peace or in throes of suffering. Deny yourself any notion of control over your environment. Let Christ’s glory determine your situation, not your situation determine Christ’s glory.

2) Take Up Your Cross

Daily. Take up your cross daily. The idea here is that dying to self is not a simple, one time event. It is a continual process that we must be active in. We are participants in our own death, with the hope that Christ is our resurrector. Every. Single. Day. When you wake up every morning, pray for the Spirit and pray that you can deny yourself as the day moves forward. Jesus was not passive in His death, so you’re not allowed to be either. Be active in the death of your self and allow the power that raised Christ — the power that dwells within you, too — to raise you to life and rebirth you.

3) Follow Jesus

This is perhaps the hardest part of dying to self: following Jesus’ teachings. The reason this is difficult is because it requires constant and intent studying of His teachings. It’s a commitment. What essentially happens as a Christ follower is that you’re constantly involved in higher education. You are constantly a student, learning His teachings, applying them to your life, and longing for the day when you can walk up to the Dean and look Him in the eye to say “I gave my all.” However, you’ve already been granted graduation. Your efforts in the school of life are not to gain your graduation or to prove you’re worthy of it, but rather to thank your Dean for the reception of graduation.

When we die to our self and become reborn, don’t let yourself think that this is the path to salvation. It’s not. Only Jesus is the path to salvation. As my pastor said last Sunday, “These are not things we do to be saved, they are things we do because we are saved.” You should die to yourself because you love Jesus and He saved you. You should die to your self because you’re unworthy and you received salvation anyway. If you’re dying to yourself to prove your worth or to earn your salvation or to be pious, you are submitting to an idolatry that places your actions above God’s grace. Die to yourself because you love Jesus and He deserves your life, fully. He doesn’t need your life, — He needs nothing — but He deserves it. Give it to Him.

Repentance

“Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

This simple and timeless message was preached by both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Repentance is an oft misunderstood aspect of Christianity that serves as one of the biggest roadblocks of entering into the divine dance of joy. But, how do we define repentance? The word “repent” comes from the Latin word “paenitere,” which means “to cause to repent.” Helpful, right? Well, more specifically, it means “to regret.” Digging deeper into etymology, we see that “regret” essentially means “to lament once more.”

Regret is different from repentance in that regret is merely a feeling. More so, it is a feeling of guilt and one that persists, as we lament it more and more. Regret is an insufficient and unbiblical definition of repentance, yet we somewhat consider them to be synonymous. Regret leads to repentance, right?

Well, not necessarily. Psychologically, regret can have a crippling effect on a person. In fact, I’d dare to say that this is the most common effect on a person, as the only way regret causes refocusing is if there’s opportunity for change. Regret is often tied to a thing of the past and is therefore unable to be changed. We ruminate on our past and, when we can’t change it, incarcerate ourselves in a cage of stress and guilt. Regret is the antithesis of repentance.

Repentance and regret do not even fall into the same category because repentance is an action. At least, the repentance Jesus and John spoke of was…

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32, ESV)

Jesus called people to repentance. Jesus, although He was God and could do so, is not calling people to a feeling. Jesus is calling people to an action. He called His disciples and they followed. You respond to a calling, not with emotion, but with action. If you feel a calling to be in ministry, you don’t just sit down and do nothing, you work towards that goal. You study your Bible more, you apply for seminary, you seek pastoral council, you do something about it. When Jesus says He is calling us to repentance, we need to take that as seriously as if we felt He was calling us to mission work across the seas.

“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, ESV)

“No, I tell you; but unless you have this feeling of remorse, you will likewise perish. If you don’t feel that, sorry about your luck.” That’s not what Jesus says here. Jesus is, rather clearly, describing an action. If somebody wrongs you, feels deep remorse, and continually does it again, do you forgive them? Of course not. To put it in more clear terms, if a first-time offender commits a crime, feels deep remorse, gets off on probation, and continues on offending, will he avoid punishment? Of course not. Remorse is nothing without change. But, the change is the key to repentance.

The Greek word translated as “repent” is actually the word “metanoeo,” which means “to change one’s mind.” Here, we see the limitation of the word “repent” as it is currently defined. Repentance is an active changing of one’s mind. In fact, the Greek doesn’t refer to emotion at all. I have repented of things before I’ve felt any remorse for them. Truly, it is only in repentance that I finally see and feel why what I did was wrong most of the time.

Carl Jung uses the term “metanoia,” a direct derivative of “metanoeo” and also a theological term, to describe a psychological process in which our psyche breaks itself down and rebirths itself into a more adaptive form. This same concept can be applied to repentance. We must break down our sin and ourselves to be reborn as a more adapted form of ourself. What this means is that we must face the pain and consequence of what our sins have caused, allow it to wash over us, and then, we change our actions with the help of Christ.

Repentance is difficult because it means that we have to admit that our desires were wrong. We have to rail against our physionomy (being ruled by nature), swallow our pride, and say we were wrong. Unrepentance is a form of idolatry that elevates our desires and morals above those of God. We think we’re correct. We begin to elevate our self — our flesh — above God. This is also why biblical repentance is an action. It is not a natural process.

Of course, we repent far more than we realize. The difference is that, we don’t often repent for the benefit of our soul. We repent for the benefit of our flesh. Repentance for our soul is biblical repentance. It is necessary repentance. I can repent of my sin because I offended the girl I like and I want her to like me back, but that’s flesh-feeding. Or, I can repent of my sin because I offended the God I love and I want to glorify Him more. That’s soul-feeding.

Jesus talks about repentance a handful of times in the Gospel. Given the typically concise nature of many of the Gospel stories, any time something is noted as being mentioned by Jesus multiple times, He must have talked about it a lot. Every time Jesus spoke of repentance, He spoke of it as an action. The action of repentance is flesh-destructive. That means it does not feel good at first. That means it is a process, because denying the flesh is not a one-time thing. We must break down our flesh and allow it to be reborn into a more adapted being. We must repent because we must love God more than we love our self.

Find Yourself… Lose Yourself.

The idea of “finding oneself” has come up a lot in my life recently. For the last 6 months, I have spent a great deal of my time trying to escape myself. Why? I try to escape myself because my “self” (hereby referred to as “flesh”) is depraved and desolate and desperate for a Savior. My flesh is not a thing to be sought. Self-actualization is a tricky concept that entangles itself in Scriptural commands. What self are we trying to actualize? The flesh? Or the Spirit?

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8, ESV)

It is clear by these verses that seeking to self-actualize in a worldly sense is unbiblical. When we seek this feeling of achievement from our flesh, we are being hostile towards God. We seek “autonomy.” But, autonomy is a severely unbiblical concept that we affirm, at least insofar as we understand it. I have long struggled with this idea, as a guy who has always valued independence and autonomy to the point of pretension. If you’re like me, then you probably don’t even realize that autonomy is flesh-feeding. If that’s the case, these verses should stop you dead in your tracks. When we value our self-actualization and self-dependency so highly as to seek it with every fiber of our being, we have already set our minds on the flesh. However, Paul issues this encouragement to the reader immediately after:

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9a, ESV)

Paul assures us that, if we have the Spirit of God within us, we are not in the flesh. Does this mean that we will constantly have our eyes set on the Spirit? Of course not. We still battle our flesh, but as F.B. Meyer puts it:

As the living bird, obeying the laws of flight, is superior to the down-pull of gravitation, so where the life of Jesus is wrought and sustained in the heart by the incessant communications of the Holy Spirit, victory is given us over the perpetual down-pull of sin.” (F.B. Meyer’s commentary on Romans 8:1-9)

Just like the laws of flight allow a bird to resist gravity, the Spirit of God allows us to resist sin. He dwells within us and generates the upward pull. But, just like a baby bird may be too naive as to know how to use its abilities of flight, we are often too naive to know how to use the Spirit. That’s because we still assume the Spirit is something to be “used.” But, He’s not. He is the indwelling Spirit of God. We don’t use Him: that’s autonomy. That’s grievous to Him. We allow ourselves to be used by Him. We lose ourselves in Him so that we are not ourselves anymore.

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24, ESV)

Our old self is the flesh. It is the autonomous being that lives within us and places its desires in our minds to be chased after. The irony is that it’s not even autonomy. We are being drawn into our flesh by a primal desire that we actually are not controlling. Self-actualization is not autonomy. It is physionomy, “being controlled by nature.” We crave self-actualization because it is so natural that we think it’s right. But, the fact that it is natural is the very reason it is not autonomy. So, we must put off our old self. We must lay aside physionomy. For what, though? If this feeling of self-actualization isn’t actually autonomy, what is?

The answer lies in the new self. Paul says that the new self is created after the likeness of God. Then, what is the new self? The answer is just as obvious as you might think: the Spirit. The new self — the true self — is the self that is so entangled with the Spirit of God, that it can’t help but reflect His nature and character. So, then, the key to actual autonomy and proper self-actualization is autotheonomy, “self being controlled by God.” We must reside in the Spirit and be under His control to experience real freedom, real autonomy, real self-actualization. By being under His control, we are resisting nature, that which has a compelling grasp on our self. That which is actually far easier to do than we might allow ourselves to think. It is only when we submit to God’s control that we are resisting the nature and, in a sense, reclaiming our self.

However, the main point is that true autonomy is not reclaiming ourself, but allowing our self to be claimed by Someone else. Autonomy is defined as “free from external control or influence.” So, truly, autonomy is non-existent. We are all slaves to either sin or righteousness. To the flesh or to the Spirit. But, the tragic part about being a slave to sin is that it is a delusion of autonomy. We don’t realize that, when we think we are free, we are actually the slaves of a bastardly master. I continually thrive for freedom, no longer in autonomy, in self, in flesh, but in autotheonomy, in Spirit, in God. I seek to submit to the Spirit and allow Him to claim my life so that I may be under His wing and experience the joy of being in Him. In order to truly find ourself, we must lose ourself. But, we aren’t even finding ourself… We are coming to God so that He may give us our true self, after we have lost our old self.

Why I’m No Longer a Charismatic

Within the past 6 months, I have begun to identify as, what some would call, Reformed. What was I before? I was, as some would call it, Charismatic. Now, anyone who would have known me a year ago would be surprised to hear that I now identify as Reformed, because I was utterly disgusted by Reformed Theology not too long ago. In fact, I had arguments formed against it and why I believed it wasn’t helpful to the Christian faith. I was an Emergent church Charismatic. Quite frankly, I believed that because I was into philosophy and I was never surrounded by people who were concerned with being biblical, aside from my youth pastor. Existentialism makes a whole load of sense to a newbie in philosophy and someone who hadn’t read their Bible much or very critically.

But, eventually that well runs dry. Existentialism cripples you in unexpected ways. You find yourself being unable to form an argument because everything is relative. You find yourself constantly unsatisfied with any answer because Truth doesn’t exist in your worldview… Thus begins my journey of radical faith change…

Step One: Absolutism

Absolutism is the philosophical worldview that affirms absolute truths as existing. I didn’t come to affirm this worldview until I listened to a debate between an absolutist and a relativist and I was struck by one very simple rebuttal.

Relativist: “All truth is relative to the person who is interpreting it. There are no absolutes.”
Absolutist: “Is that absolutely true?”

The relativist had no satisfying response to this simple question. There was no logical way to rebut this for the relativist. Logically, absolute truths must exist. I thought about this long and hard. I had, in theory, been an absolutist for a while. I was constantly seeking Truth. In fact, my youth pastor once commended me for being a Truth-seeker. Now, I saw how silly it was for me to affirm relative truths and deny absolutes. This heavily influences how a person reads the Bible. It removes this “gray area” mentality that oft plagues the Church. I was now armed with a philosophical worldview that would change my life.

Step Two: Apophaticism

The next paradigm shift I had actually came from the realm of Emergent Church theology in which I was interested. Apophaticism is a step from the purely philosophical and into the more theological. It is the act of painting an image of who God is through negation. For example:

God is love.

God is not love, for he transcends our understanding of love.

God is not not love.

What this does is bring us to the end of human language in terms of attempting to define God. Further still, it acknowledges the limits of the human mind in understanding how God works in our world. It is a rather humbling practice which forced me to let go of my precepts of what God looks like and what His love looks like. How arrogant of me to assume I know how God loves.

Step Three: The Holy Spirit

Here comes the most purely theological aspect of my conversion. I had long had a problem with the Charismatic view of the Spirit, but I never knew why. I never knew why because no one had ever taken the time to explain to me what the Spirit was. Which is where the problem was… I viewed the Spirit as a “what” and not a “who.” Then, I read Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit. In retrospect, it was completely providential (as are all things, really), because I was literally just in a used book store, yearning for strong theology to heal my damaged soul from being a part of a spiritually manipulative Charismatic worship collective. I looked up and saw Spurgeon and thought to myself, “I know that name. My buddy who is solid likes him. It’s only $4?! Sold.”

Armed with the philosophy of absolutism and the theology of apophaticism, I was ready to properly engage with the doctrine of the Spirit. Spurgeon posed logical, biblical support for who the Spirit was and I could feel my heart softening to the Truth with each proof. It was undeniable. My philosophy told me that Truth was out there. My theology told me that I couldn’t understand how God works. My background told me that Scripture was True. I had to face the facts: I was not in control of my own destiny. People were only saved through the understanding given to them by the Spirit. The Spirit only comes from God…

Reluctantly, I began to identify as Reformed. I was not happy about it at all. I became something by which I used to be disgusted… But, that’s how I know it’s true. Many a theologian has said that if how God works always agrees with how you think He should work, you may, in fact, be worshipping a deity of yourself. I know that what I now believe is true because it still doesn’t always set right with me. But, it’s biblical. It’s logical. More importantly, I have never been as close to God as I have since this shift in my theology. A richness of faith came along with this change.

I am still baffled by how this change occurred. It is yet another testament to the mysterious, yet providential, ways of the Lord. I thought I had it all figured out. That was my problem. Now, I know that I don’t have it all figured out. I will continue changing all of my life. I identify as Reformed simply to distinguish my two faith walks. I am certainly not traditionally Reformed and I’m sure my theology will evolve in the years to come. But, I know for sure that I will never go back to where I was.

The End of Independence

I would like to say that the summer I just finished up serving as a leader of missions camp was the best summer of my life. I would love to say that it was spiritually enriching and so much good happened for me. But, that’s not how the summer was. Don’t get me wrong, this summer was good on a number of levels, but there were a lot of things that maybe made this summer not as incredible as it could have been.

First, the positives… I met so many incredible kids and adults whose lives were changed and who, in turn, changed my life in the process. I got to see kids and adults get saved practically every week. I got to see kids and adults light up with joy as they served the people around them and were blessed to be blessings. A lot of good did happen over the summer for the community in which I was placed.

But, it was easy for me to think that good was not happening for me. At least, not as much good as was possible. I was steeped in a mass of interpersonal problems, which is not unusual for a guy whose personality is an acquired taste. However, I began to feel like these problems were detracting from my experience this summer. I was constantly nagged by this feeling of “Please your crew, please your employer, please God.” Please everyone around you. Do it yourself. You don’t need help. This is the message we often receive in the world today. This is the message I had etched into my brain from a young age by the US culture in which I was raised.

So, that’s what I tried to do. I tried to please everyone and do it myself. I didn’t need help. After all, I’m an extremely intelligent 21 year old who has had practical life skills since he was in 7th grade. I am more than qualified to do all of this myself…

As I was attempting to make it through the summer alone, I was reading a Tim Keller book, Jesus the King. There was a very thought-provoking portion of one of the chapters about religion vs. the Gospel. It’s simple, really; a core Truth of Christianity… Religion is an attempt to work to please God so that we might be counted as righteous. The Gospel, on the other hand, essentially says this:

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5, ESV)

Keller goes on to basically say that attempting to please God with your actions makes light of the finished work on the Cross. So, that evening as I sat and heard my unrelenting criticisms for the umpteenth time, I started to think… I am not here to please these people. I’m not even here to please God. I’m here out of the overflow of my love for God.

It was in this moment that I felt a release. No matter what kind of discouragement those around me threw my way, I didn’t care. That’s not why I was there. I honestly did not care how unhappy I was behind-the-scenes so long as I was leading this camp in a way that brought kids to Christ, because that is what Christ deserves and that is how much I love Him.

I realized that I was not using this camp as the opportunity to express my love for God that I could have used it as. In fact, I had largely ignored Him most of the summer. My autonomous-to-a-fault attitude had led me away from any personal time with Jesus over the summer. That depravity of any spiritual connection coupled with the emotional and physical strain I had been under led to a crippling duel with cynicism.

When I came back to my home and went back to my church for the first time, the sermon series on Psalms just so happened to have reached Psalm 46, which reads:

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is a resounding Truth that I had rested on for the minority of my summer. Once God had jarred me awake into the reality that I had been starving myself, I realized that God is all that I need. I was depending far too much on the relationships I could have had with those around me and not enough on my relationship with God. My cynicism was rooted in the folly of dependence upon depraved human beings… Myself included.

I was so wrapped up in being independent and with being encouraged by those around me that I lost sight of the true source of life: God. Once I came to grips that I don’t need to please anyone, not even God, as He is well-pleased in us through the satisfying work of His Son, I was able to address the fact that I was still shackled to religion. I was still shackled to the American DIY aesthetic. I craved the empty encouragement of those around me because I craved being able to rely upon something other than God. If I rely upon God, then I have to run to some supernatural Being for strength. How weak does that make a person feel? Well, the truth of the matter is that I am weak. We’re all weak. But, I am fortunate enough to be a child of God in whom He is well-pleased through the work of the Christ. Therefore, independence is no longer a goal in my life, because independence doesn’t exist. Everything we do hinges on the will of God. So, the end of this summer is also the end of my striving for independence.

So, while I felt like I wasn’t getting the most out of my summer, I can look back and realize how misguided I was to think such a thing. God is sovereign and providential. I can trust Him fully and depend upon Him for all things. Since He is sovereign and I can trust Him, I can rest assured that I gained the most from this summer as was possible. To be entirely honest, there’s nothing more I would have rather gained this summer…

What is Equality?

Yesterday, my news feed exploded with the response to the Supreme Court ruling same sex marriage as a constitutional right. This, of course led to much discussion among my fellow Christian brethren, much of which was met by the question, “Don’t you believe in equality?” Despite the fact that that question is a major ad hom and only causes division and spite, there is something more deeply wrong with that question. This question that plagues the Christian worldview is a question that is not proper, logically or morally, to ask of someone.

So, what is equality? Let’s start with the idea that equality is an objective concept. It’s not. Everyone has a vastly different idea of what equality looks like. The Christian can argue that equality means loving everyone equally enough to warn them against spiritual danger in which they are participating. Therefore, the Christian campaign against same-sex marriage on the basis that it is spiritually dangerous is actually a Christian putting their view of equality into action and then they wonder if the non-Christian believes in equality, because they allow the world to be affirmed in sin. On the other side, a non-Christian may define equality as “equal rights.” Therefore, when a Christian is not “for” what someone views as a right, the non-Christian may wonder if the Christian believes in equality. Equality is not an objective concept. It is totally determined by a person’s worldview. Which means that asking the question “Don’t you believe in equality?” is going to lead absolutely nowhere, because the real question is “Don’t you believe in my view of what equality looks like?”

Now, let’s look at the idea of equality as “equal rights.” Here, we run into the problem of what a “right” is. Rights are totally arbitrary. As a Christian, I do not view marriage as a right, but as a gift. Therefore, when a Christian is not “for” same sex marriage, they are not “against” equal rights, because they may not view marriage as a right. Truly, from a Christian mindset, the only “right” we objectively have is to death and condemnation. So, in a way, we do believe in an “equal rights” concept of equality. We all have equal rights to eternal damnation. Anything outside of that is a gift. So, then, does equality mean “equal gifts”? If so, from where does that idea come? Where anywhere are we promised equal access to gifts? Nowhere. We are granted equal access to gifts, but never promised it.

So, then, what is the most logically cohesive position on equality (let me point out that I am not saying the most objectively logical position)? I obviously have my answer that you can more than likely surmise from my writing, but I will not explicitly express it because this isn’t about my opinion, but rather a break down of how we view equality and what makes sense. But, my final word is this…

Regardless of any law or mandate, I firmly believe that the church should be allowed to ordain any marriage they choose to ordain. To me, this is not an issue of religion or politics, but rather an issue of involving religion in the definitions of the government. Really, what is marriage if it’s not ordained by a church? It is a lifelong relationship where two people are living together and maybe die together. That is a reality that will happen regardless of a piece of paper from the government. This applies to two heterosexuals that are married by law, outside of the church, this applies to two homosexuals that are married by law, outside of the church. The reality is that, by legalizing same sex unions, nothing is changing except for a piece of paper that allows them more legal rights. As long as the church is not being forced to ordain ANY marriage they do not deem appropriate for or approved by their religion (this applies to even marrying two heterosexual atheists), then this actually changes nothing. Life long same sex relationships were happening. They will continue to happen. The legality of same sex union will not change that.

So, instead of being concerned that marriage is being defiled, or something like that, be concerned that this was a sin problem prevalent enough for long enough that it became a socio-political norm. Are they wrong? That’s up to you, but I believe the Bible is clear that homosexual relations is wrong. Are we still supposed to love them? Absolutely. Let’s not get caught up on the effect when the cause is the problem. Work on your heart so you can work on the hearts of others in a proper, loving way. Repentance doesn’t result from legislature. Repentance results from love.

Training, Travel, and Trust

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

Friendship is like art: beautiful and abstract. Friendship is like philosophy: deep and thoughtful. I am an appreciator of all three of these things, so this Lewis quote speaks to me. Friendship IS unnecessary insofar as it has no evolutionary advantage. Close, intimate relationships add little to our survival ability. Community adds, relationships subtract. This is a relatively easy concept to fall for until you actually spend time with people who share your loves and passions.

Training

I have been blessed with the opportunity to minister to teens this summer through a missions camp. I am the program leader, aka the “Words Guy.” Essentially, two other young adults and I run an entire camp for the whole summer. As one could imagine, this is not a simple task, nor is it one to be taken lightly. Therefore, we had to undergo some training…

Sunny Colorado. I arrived a day early to sightsee in Denver. I fell in love with that state. It is beautiful and full of cool sights to see. After a day in Denver (and two visits to the Snooze A.M. Eatery), I headed back to the Denver International Airport to… Meet new people. As a guy who has two people that he hangs out with regularly, one of whom is an agnostic sociopath, and the other is a Reformed introvert, I was nervous to venture into a group of religious people that I assumed would be mostly outgoing. I was absolutely right.

I got to the airport before most people — a few stray people beat me — and, eventually, the airport filled with young adults who were excited to meet each other. I was a little overwhelmed. Finally, we headed to the training facility, where I remained overwhelmed by these big personalities. I did not think I was going to like it at all. But then something strange happened…

Living with a group of 50 people for two weeks has this strange ability of drawing you all together. We became a family. One body of different personalities, denominations, gifts, etc. Working together for a common end goal: the glory of Christ through our lives. I was taken aback by my own attachment to these people. I even almost teared up when we all left each other. We developed a bond that could not be created artificially. It was a bond that could only be created by God.

Travel

Then, comes travel week: where a minivan became home for about 30 hours. Where you look out the windows at beautiful landscapes of trees and mountains and fields. Where you have an anxiety attack driving the interstates in Atlanta, GA. Where you try to stop at a Chick-fil-a on a Sunday. But, most importantly, where it becomes real.

The reality of what we are about to embark on hits like the Titanic on an iceberg (that seems irreverent, but it’s actually a reference to our super-dope lip sync battle). Wow. We three are in charge of positioning kids for a life change this summer. God is going to be using me to do things that I didn’t think I would be doing at 21. How am I supposed to do this?

This is absolutely stressful for my outgoing, introverted mind. I have to talk to people most of my days? I just want to read my books and listen to/play my music. I am not equipped for new people EVERY. WEEK. I am not ready to do paperwork and keep track of expenses. I am not ready to council kids. Why am I doing this? What should I do?

Trust

Then, I remember…

God put me here. God is sovereign and providential. I would not be here if I couldn’t do this somehow. But, how? Well, by trusting God, of course.

In his book, Jesus the King, Tim Keller discusses the idea that the Trinity is a “dance.” Meaning that God is perpetually joyful because all three Persons of the Trinity exist together in continuous glorification of each other. Meaning that God did not create man to worship Him, since He is always receiving glory, but rather created man to join into that Joy. In His great love, God saw that this Joy was to be shared. Therefore, God created man to join into the dance of Joy.

This leads us to John Piper’s Christian hedonism: “God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him.” How does this become a reality, though? How does one become fully satisfied in God? The answer is trust.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13, ESV)

We are given the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus left after His resurrection. The Holy Spirit is God WITHIN us. Through the Spirit, we are given the ability to trust in God. He allows us to do the things that go against our nature. When He is in us, we can trust in God. In fact, we have no excuse not to trust Him. When we are regenerated and given the Spirit, we become without excuse to do the things God want us to do. Now, we are still sinful and will continue to mess up, but the fact remains that we can do it. We can trust God.

We should never be discouraged and perpetuate the false philosophy that we can’t trust God, because we can. He has given us that ability. We just have to put our own selfish motives aside. Self motive gets in the way of Spirit motive. We often forget that God’s plan is going to be so much greater than our own, wherever He takes us. But, we can find satisfaction in Him and Him alone. We can trust Him and give our lives to Him fully, no matter where we are, because we have Him within us.