You are my friends if you do what I command you. (JOHN 15: 14)
Under the reign of grace, is the moral will of God (considered as a whole) a request or a command? The word request connotes desire; whereas the word command connotes authority to require. Response to a desire is optional; response to a command is not. So when Jesus said we love Him by obeying His commands, was He using the word command as we ordinarily understand it, or was He using it as an expression of God’s desire? In the realm of grace, does the moral will of God express the desire of God as to how He would like us to live, or does it express the requirement of God as to how we are to live?
Some people readily say God desires that we be holy, but God does not require that we be holy. They maintain that under grace we have been freed, not only from the curse and condemnation resulting from breaking the law but also from the requirements of the law as a rule of life. They believe that to insist on obedience as a requirement for a Christian is to teach legalism instead of grace. In other words, to assign the concept of requirement to the will of God is legalism, but to assign the concept of desire to it is grace.
I believe such a view is a misunderstanding of grace. God’s grace does not change the fundamental character of God’s moral Law. Rather, the grace of God provides for the forgiveness and acceptance of those who have broken the law. The good news of the gospel is that God has removed the guilt we incur by breaking His Law and has bestowed on us the righteousness of Christ, who perfectly kept His Law. Legalism does not consist in yielding obedience to the law. Rather, it is to seek justification and good standing with God through the merit of works done in obedience to the law — instead of by faith in Christ.
Understanding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is also vital to understanding God’s disposition toward the sin of sexual immorality in general and homosexuality in particular. The LORD is often accused as being capricious in the Old Testament and filled with uncontrolled anger. The accounts of Sodom and Gomorrah, specifically as they relate to the Abrahamic Covenant, reveals that the LORD is just the opposite of what He is accused. Yes, He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:15; Ex. 34:14; Deut. 4:24). However, His jealousy is provoked by His righteousness and holiness. The context of Genesis chapters 18 and 19 reveals that Yahweh has set His sights on Sodom and Gomorrah. Their wickedness is not merely an afterthought. Instead, her sins are crying out for judgment. Impending judgment solicits Abraham’s plea for mercy. In Abraham’s dialogue with Yahweh, it is evident that if there are among the wicked, righteous persons then a stay of execution will be granted to Sodom and Gomorrah.
If we fast forward, God’s holiness demands judgment. It demands that His wrath must be satisfied. His assurances to Abraham testify that He is merciful to the righteous. However, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are clear indications that there were no righteous ones present in Sodom and Gomorrah. What were her sins?
In Genesis 19:1-11, we read that there were angels who had come to Sodom. It was the men of the town who desired sexual relations with them, as they stayed in Lot’s home. Their behavior became aggressive and debaucherous. Their grievous desires caused them to pursue that which is abominable in the sight of God. In case there are any misunderstandings as to how this was viewed, even in the ancient world, Lot’s response to the men is revealed in Genesis 19:7, “…please do not act wickedly.” There was nothing natural, noble, or normal about what the townsmen desired to do with the angels. Their depravity is evident as Lot would rather give his daughter over to them if it would satisfy their perverse blood lust. The men were struck with supernatural blindness (v. 11), so that they could not consummate their vileness as they had hoped with the angels.
After this account, Genesis 19:12-25 records the warning from the angels and the destruction of Sodom. The LORD rained fire and brimstone upon the land, as He promised. Abraham surveys the damage in Genesis 19:23-27. This is not a mythological account, as the sinfulness of man would rather mythologize historical realities than face them. The justice of God demanded retribution for wickedness. Since the Abrahamic Covenant promised blessing for the nations, one can readily admit that Sodom, Gomorrah, and the respective villages had no allotment in this promise. The angels had come as visible warning to the city. Instead of responding in repentance, Sodom and Gomorrah responded with sexual perversity. One facet of her wickedness is identified as homosexuality. God’s love is expressed toward those who are recipients of His righteousness and have contrite hearts of repentance and faith in His name. He is not obligated to tolerate wickedness and vileness, no matter how much the modern society legislates sin or attempts to make it socially respectable. This reminder of God’s hatred for sin, specifically homosexual sin, is a timeless warning. We will continue to examine a biblical theology of God’s dealing with homosexuality, while pleading with those who are captive to this sin that they must repent of their sins and turn from this perverse generation, flee the wrath to come and turn to Christ Jesus. Do not excuse your sin, because a deceived society provides excuses. Do not genetically justify persistence in sin because novel, genetic arguments are ‘discovered’ with no basis. It is time that the Christian’s love in calling such sinners to repent, supersedes the world’s permissible hatred as she speedily rushes toward the judgement of God for her own sins. Sexual perversion, as we see in this Genesis account, and will see in the Scriptures to follow, is the last expression of depravity before the wrath of God is dispensed in unrestrained fury. The mercy of God in Jesus Christ demands, not smug replies and witty quips, but falling upon your face in mourning over wickedness that shall separate you forever from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Lev. 18:20 ‘You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her. 21 ‘You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. 22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as 1one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 23 ‘Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Lev. 18:24 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 ‘For the land has become defiled, atherefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 29 ‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. 30 ‘Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.’”
The Levitical mandate has been often misunderstood in light of what Yahweh commanded concerning homosexuality. Specifically, the case has been made that these commands are archaic, and that Yahweh has relaxed His standards concerning the prohibitions in the text. The case is also made that Yahweh failed to consider cultural and scientific advancements in the modern world, and thus miscalculated the necessities of modern man. Another argument is that the prohibitions were simply for BC Israel and that any consideration of these prohibitions outside of this context is a laughable imposition.
An exegetical and expositional consideration of this passage in its near and larger context must be examined to engage the aforementioned disagreements. First, it must be considered that God is not lacking in knowledge of His creatures (1 Cor. 2:10-11). It is serious folly and blasphemy to suppose that Yahweh lacks the necessary information or ability to understand the depths of His creatures (Gen. 1:26). Can man stand in accusation against Yahweh, when man is beneath his maker? (Job 38:4-7; Isaiah 29:16, 45:9; Romans 9:21) Scripture soundly speaks of God’s sovereign control over all things, even men and their affairs (Psalm 24:1).
Considering the Levitical text, it must be said plainly that this examination will reveal that homosexuality is not a mere afterthought in ancient Israel. It is not a cultural prohibition that has been abandoned in the modern day. In fact, it is a prescription for understanding the holiness of God, not a mythological account. The book of Leviticus is a mandate to the sons of Israel through the Levitical priest concerning the holiness of Israel before Yahweh and the nations. The text also reveals that the prohibitions for Israel were not unique to them. They extended to the nations (Leviticus 18:26). This is key because the argument is often made that certain prohibitions in Leviticus are too outlandish for modern society. Therefore, as the argument goes, since those commands are outlandish in our western context, then the prohibition concerning homosexuality and other moral statutes are equally outlandish. Yahweh could not have imposed these things if He considered at all the 21st century. However, this argument collapses on two levels. First, all considerations for Israel in the Old Testament must be understood as Israel is to pursue ceremonial purity and moral purity (Dr. Michael Grisanti, Israel IBEX notes, unpublished).
Ceremonial purity meant that Yahweh commanded certain acts and prohibitions for Israel, for the purpose of their coming to Him in worship. Moral purity was assumed and required to live in the presence of Yahweh as He dwelled among the people in the Jerusalem Temple. Each of these must be understood as calls for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, not as a pious testimony to themselves. These prohibitions and commands were commands to be distinct from the pagan nations. Also, these distinctions served to draw the pagan, Gentile nations to Yahweh and repent of such moral/ceremonial failures (Isaiah 49:6; Exodus 19:6). Paul will make the same case in Romans 1 when he argues that the wrath of God is upon all ungodliness of men, who are truth suppressors (Romans 1). Second, Israel’s distinction and holiness was not only for a specific moment in time. Instead, this holiness was to bear blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience (Deuteromony 28). By way of reminder, Moses is given the second rendering of law to the Israelites as they are to inherit the promised land (δευτερος =second,νομος =law). The moral premises are still built within the commandments. They are given, primarily for Israel, however they are simultaneously to serve as a demonstration to the Gentile nations. Yahweh’s name is directly attached to His commands and judgments. His prohibitions and commands in Leviticus 18, serve as a witness of Yahweh’s holy expectation, and as an indictment to those who fail to meet those expectations in the Gentile nations. Especially since Israel is supposed to be a ‘light to the Gentiles’. The Leviticus context (chapter 18) reveals that defilement and misrepresentation of the Holy One was at stake if the prohibitions were ignored. The Lord did not deal lightly with those who rebelled against His commands. The question remains, in His eyes has the absolute moral standard been lifted because we are in the modern era? Because God is immutable (never changing) in His divine perfections (attributes), to borrow the language of the apostle Paul, “May it never be!” The mandate in Israel was the death penalty for those who committed acts of sexual immorality, specifically those who committed acts of homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13). While the death mandate of theocratic justice for homosexuality has been lifted (we will come back to this), it is still considered an abominable sin before Yahweh, worthy of death. However it is a sin whereby death is deferred as one plummets down the cycle of this sexual sin. The wages of all sin is death (eternal death), while the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). The Levitical mandates are pertinent when we consider Yahweh’s disposition toward sin specifically. He will judge sin. Because He does not immediately administer a death sentence for some sins committed (exceptions include, in some states, murder), it does not mean that Yahweh has become lax in His judgment (Acts 17:30). Israel, specifically, and the Old Testament in general is not an ancient book with which we give a dismissive glance and mock its use for today. It is an example, as Paul mentioned in New Testament Corinthians, for us to heed and learn from its warnings (1 Corithians 10:11). The Old Testament is written for the dual purpose of informing how all must live before Yahweh, while historically/contextually/grammatically informing us concerning His righteous expectations for Israel. The unified corpus of both the Old and New Testament testifies to us which commands have been abdicated and which commands are pertinent for believers today. God determines this in His word, not modern cultural sensibilities, moral relativism, or supposed scientific findings.
Like Lazarus’s grave clothes, believers still bear the stench of their former, sinful lives. Through His work of sanctification, the Holy Spirit limits the effect and influence of the sinful flesh we still carry around. But what about professing believers who refuse to deal with the remains of their depravity? Does God intend for His grace to cover our ongoing, unrepentant sin?
by Jeremiah Johnson
In the apostle John’s account of the Lord miraculously raising Lazarus from the dead, there’s a short statement that never fails to make church kids smirk. Always with an eye for practicality and propriety, Lazarus’s sister Martha urgently warned Christ, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39 KJV).
As we’ve already seen in this series, Lazarus’s resurrection is a vivid depiction of God’s work of salvation in the believer’s life. And even in his revived state, Lazarus—still draped in his foul grave clothes—bears a distinct similarity to the believer’s new life in Christ. As John MacArthur explains,
The story of Lazarus offers a particularly graphic illustration of our predicament as believers. We have been raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). We “joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22). Yet we cannot do what we desire (Galatians 5:17). “The wishing is present in [us], but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18). We are held prisoner by the remnants of the very fallenness from which we have been redeemed (Romans 7:22). It is as if we were still bound in our grave clothes. . . .
There is, however, an important difference between our situation and the raising of Lazarus. His mummy suit came off immediately. It was merely a linen shroud. Fortunately, the corruption of death—such as the awful stench Martha feared—did not follow Lazarus forth from the grave.
Our predicament, however, cannot be resolved so quickly. It is not just a linen shroud that fastens itself to us, but a full-fledged carcass—Paul calls it “the body of this death” (Romans 7:24). It is the fleshly sin-principle that casts its pall over our glorious new lives throughout our earthly pilgrimage. It befouls our spiritual atmosphere, surrounding us with the fetid stink of sin. It no longer can dominate us like a ruthless tyrant, but it will plague us with temptation, torment, and grief until we are finally glorified.
Even though we’ve been transformed through Christ’s redeeming work, we still bear the stains of our sinful past. Last time we considered how the Lord, through the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification, diminishes the effect and influence of our sinful past.
But not all professing believers willingly submit to the refining work of sanctification. In fact, many reject the predicament altogether, instead adopting a cavalier attitude toward their sin and eschewing any rebuke or condemnation for it.
In past generations, defending that position usually meant invoking the idea of “carnal” Christians. Based on a misunderstanding of Paul’s rebuke in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3, many Christians have been led to believe that there are two classes of Christians—carnal and spiritual. Spiritual Christians display the evidence of their status through their godliness—righteous living and mature faith. On the other hand, carnal Christians make professions of faith, but remained mired in the sin and corruption of the world.
Today a similar idea is rapidly growing in popularity. When it comes to dealing with lingering sin in a believer’s life, the trendy solution is not to preach repentance and discipline, but to focus exclusively on the grace of God. Rather than dealing biblically with their sin—“Hacking Agag to Pieces”—they argue that salvation releases us from any expectation of obedience to God’s law, and that God’s grace dissolves guilt and defuses conviction of sin in the believer’s life. It’s not the guilt of our sin, they argue, but the striving for righteousness that leads so many believers to spiritual frustration and despair. In fact, they try to shame other believers out of their pursuit of holiness by mislabeling it as works righteousness, that is, works done to earn God’s favor.
In his book, The Vanishing Conscience, John MacArthur warns against twisting God’s grace into an excuse.
God’s grace does not mean holiness is optional. There have always been people who abuse God’s grace by assuming it grants leeway for sin. Paraphrasing that philosophy, Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1). If grace abounds most where sin is worst (Romans 5:20‑21), then doesn’t our sin only magnify the grace of God? Should we continue in sin so that God’s grace can be magnified?
“May it never be!” Paul answers in a phrase so emphatic that the King James Version renders it “God forbid!” The notion that anyone would use such an argument to condone sin was clearly offensive to Paul. “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:3).
Sadly, this corruption of God’s grace isn’t restricted to the fringes of the church. It’s coming from some of the most popular speakers and authors in the evangelical movement today. And it’s a threat to the spiritual growth and godliness of the countless men and women caught up in its deception.
My dearest sister and friend shared this wonderful sermon from her pastor with me, and I am now sharing it with you. If you are like me, you will recognize yourself in some things he has to say. Not the great things, the things that expose the uck still within the heart….so if you do, I hope that you will join me in repenting of what God shows you here, and will be encouraged to have a new resolve to live as our dear Father commands, as well as the courage to confess the things you see to others so that they may be encouraged to do the same. Repentance without change is not repentance. Sure He helps us in being molded into His image, but WE have to do some work too. He is not our servant, we are His. So buck up….hold up that mirror, and show the truth of you to you through this really good sermon….and the word of God it contains. It rightly defines exactly what it speaks of. So we don’t have that “out” either. Hey…sanctification is a hard process, but one we must ALL go through if indeed we belong to Christ. If you wonder why no one can see your fruit…..perhaps one of the reasons is here:
Most of Psalm 131 is holy eavesdropping. We have intimate access to the inner life of someone who has learned to have a calm and quiet soul. This man isn’t noisy inside. He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not on edge. The to-do list and pressures to achieve don’t consume him. Failure and despair don’t haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into free fall. Irritation and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s not stumbling through the minefield of blind longings and fears.
About the Psalm
First, think about who’s talking to us in Psalm 131.
We are listening to the inner conversation of someone whom God called “a man after His own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).
In other words, this man processes life the way a human being is meant to process.
We know many things about David:
the youngest of eight brothers;
a fierce protector of his flock;
a young man with striking good looks and evident talent;
a skilled musician and poet;
a deadly soldier;
a loyal subject even while a fugitive;
a tender and faithful friend;
a savvy military and political strategist who secured the throne;
the husband of a harem and father of countless children;
an adulterer who murdered by proxy;
a broken-hearted penitent.
But two characteristics stand out.
First, the LORD chose David, anointed him, loved him, and blessed him – God was with David.
Second, David knew this LORD – he walked with God. We are listening in the words of such a man.
A millennium later, someone else lived this psalm even more fully.
Update the heading: A Song of Ascents, of Jesus.
Psalm 131 expresses Jesus’s life experience, the inner workings of His consciousness.
The Father’s chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed Son lets you listen in.
God who became a man thinks out loud for you.
Second, get a clear picture of what Psalm 131 is not.
What it is not.
It does not portray unruffled detachment or stoic indifference.
It’s not about having an easygoing personality or low expectations.
It’s not retreat from the troubles of life or retirement to a life of ease.
It’s not the quieting of inner noise that a bottle of scotch or a daily dose of Prozac produces.
After all, Jesus and David were both kingdom-builders in real life, real time.
They expected—and achieved—huge things in the midst of commotion and trouble.
They experienced pressure, joy, heartache, outrage, affection, courage.
So Psalm 131’s inner quiet comes in the midst of actions, relationships, and problems.
Third, understand rightly what Psalm 131 does describe – this calm and quiet is learned, and it is learned in relationship.
Such purposeful quiet is achieved, not spontaneous.
It is conscious, alert, and chosen.
It is a form of self-mastery by the grace of God: “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
And it happens in living relationship with Someone Else.
1) We are “discipled” into such composure.
2) You learn it from someone.
Can we get to this quieted place, here and now, in our actual life? Yes, we can get there from here.
Psalm 131 aims to become our words as a chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed child.
Deliverance from Noise
Faith delivers us from our biggest problem, a proud self-will.
David says to the LORD, “I am not self-trusting, opinionated, and headstrong. I am not superior to others. I am not attempting the impossible.”
The process through which he was tamed is still implicit (until verse 2).
The reason for such astonishing calm and humility is still implicit (until verse 3).
We see the results first, and are intrigued.
David is quiet.
He has consciously distanced himself from everything that rattles inside us.
To be able to say “I am not something,” we must learn to identify the something.
What makes us so noisy inside? Turn the psalm into its opposite, the anti-psalm:
“Self, my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself), and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people), and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me. So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally, like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap, like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries. I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time. ”
Proud hearts are the source of the noise.
Do you remember Alice in Wonderland, how Alice was either too big or too small?
Because she was never quite the right size, she was continually disoriented.
We all have that problem – we are the wrong size.
We imagine ourselves to be independent and autonomous: proud hearts.
We become engrossed in trivialities of our own devising.
We pursue grandiosities and glories.
We become afraid of our own shadows.
Seventeenth-century English had a great word for how we stir up much ado about nothing: vainglory.
Of course, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem while we busily telemarket our pride both to ourselves and to others.
“I just want a little respect and appreciation. Of course I want the things at home to work and the car mechanic to be honest. That’s pretty normal. I want approval and understanding, to be included. Is that too much to ask? I want the church to thrive, my sermon to go well, the worship to be biblical. It’s for God, after all. I want satisfaction and compensation for the ways others did me wrong. If others would just own up, and then treat me right. I don’t want much. If only I had better health, a little more money, a more meaningful job, nicer clothes, and a restful vacation, then I’d be satisfied. I want a measure of success—just a bit of recognition. I want control. Who doesn’t? Comfort, ease, convenience. Why not? I want to feel good. Doesn’t God want me to feel good? I want to feel good about myself, to have more self-confidence, to believe in myself. I want…well, I want MY WAY. I WANT THE GOODIES. I WANT GLORY. I WANT GOD TO DO MY WILL. I WANT TO BE GOD…Doesn’t everybody?”
Our slavery to selfish desires seems so plausible.
Our restless disorientation seems so natural, so desirable.
But it’s noisy.
Anxiety, irritation, despondency, or ambition makes sense from within the logic of a proud heart.
If you are not proud, then quietness and calm make sense.
It also comes with the territory that we are opinionated, routinely judging and belittling others:arrogant eyes.
Pride is not just about ME.. It’s also about you.
I must look down on you in some way.
I must establish my superiority in some way.
Some people wear their arrogance and superiority openly, and even boast of their boasting.
But our absorption in judgmental opinions runs very deep.
1) Pride says, “I’m right in myself.” Arrogant eyes say, “I’m right compared to you.”
2) Have you ever noticed that even people who feel lousy about themselves are judgmental towards others?
a) When we feel inferior to others, we don’t admire and respect them, or treat them with merciful consideration.
b) Instead, we envy, hate, nitpick, grumble, and criticize.
c) Even self-belittling tendencies—“low self-esteem,” self-pity, self-hatred, timidity, fearfulness, diffidence, fears of failure and rejection—fundamentally express pride failing,pride intimidated, and pride
d) Such pride, even when much battered, still finds someone else to look down on.
e) It is no accident that the church fathers discussed fear of man as a subset of pride when they contemplated the “seven deadly sins” besetting every soul.
I read about a woman’s description of this problem in her life.
She said that she had almost no true peers, people with whom she related eye-to-eye.
Her relationships were not characterized by generosity, openness, or trust.
There were a few “pedestal people” in her life, people she thought walked on water, who could do no wrong.
There were many, many “pit people” in her life, people she looked down on for one reason or other.
The two categories were connected only by an elevator shaft!
1) A person could fall off the pedestal and end up in the pit.
2) But no pit person had ever been rehabilitated.
She had a long history of disappointment in every relationship – family and former friends lodged in her mental dog-house.
Unsurprisingly, she was a woman with a lot of inner noise: fretful, self-preoccupied, easily offended, depressive, competitive.
But as she grew in Christ, she grew in calm and quiet.
As she learned to live in the way of peace, lo and behold, she began to discover peers and to build friendships.
Another way of putting this is to say that she stopped pursuing impossibilities.
That’s the third phrase in Psalm 131:1: not going after things that are beyond you.
Even the small, everyday things that everyone races after are, in fact, “beyond us.”
From our daily bread to our abilities and opportunities, these are gifts from God that we don’t control.
What happens when we attempt to control another person’s attitudes and choices, to bend them to our will?We set ourselves up for despair or rage, anxiety or short-lived euphoria, suspicion or manipulation.
What happens when we attempt to ensure that we will not get sick and die? We become obsessed with diet and exercise, or litigious towards doctors, or plagued with fear that any nagging pain might be the big one that finally gets us.
What happens when we are obsessed with getting people to like you? We become flirtatious or artificial, a coward or a deceiver, a chameleon or a recluse.
But when we pursue what we are called to pursue, calm and quiet in the soul follows.
III. The Process of Peace
To gain calm and quiet in the soul is to go through a weaning process.
Something that once meant everything to you comes to mean nothing.
Notice that you are definitively different at the end of the process.
You aren’t “sort of composed, sort of quiet, sort of weaned.”
You once were noisy, and now you’ve learned quiet.
Dying to your restless, fretful, and irritable ways does not come easily.
There is no technique, automatic formula, or pat answer.
To quiet your soul means literally to level it.
Bulldoze the building site.
To quiet your soul means to silence the noise and tumult, to quiet your desires, fears, opinions, anxieties, agendas, and irritabilities.
In verses 2-3, we see that David had gone about unplugging the noise machines and knocking down the stairways that led to nowhere.
This sort of composure and quietness is not apathy, but alertness.
It is conscious, not unconscious.
It is the poise of self-mastery by grace, not the carelessness of sleepy ease.
How do you purify your heart? How does a proud heart become a humble heart?
We do not wrestle ourselves down by doing penance.
We can beat on ourselves, resolve to mend our ways and still be proud.
We do not destroy the tumult of self-will by sheer will: “I will stop being irritable. I will stop being fretful. I will stop imposing my will on the universe.”
Can the leopard change its spots?
We are not strong enough; We are too strong.
We only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness.
1) We need the invasion of the Redeemer in our lives.
2) We need great help, the way a drowning man needs great help from outside himself to rescue him.
3) Only one thing is strong enough to overpower and slay unruly cravings and a stormy life: what God promises to do in us and through us in Jesus Christ.
a) From God’s side, we escape ourselves by being loved by Jesus Christ through the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit himself.
b) From our side, we escape ourselves by learning a lifestyle of intelligent repentance, genuine faith, and specific obedience.
In the 1700s, Katarina von Schlegel wrote a hymn about wrestling to calm and quiet her soul. It is an extended personalization of Psalm 131:2, presumably written in the context of some great loss.
Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide. In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul. Thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Think about that, and still yourself. Remember the Lord’s favor, control, faithfulness, and friendship. Remain patient in your sufferings.
Be still, my soul. Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul. The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Why does she have to keep reminding herself, “Be still, my soul”? We need to be stilled. Who is strong enough to rule the unruly things that wail, rattle, or shout within us?
1) God is purposively active in His children.
2) He will have final say.
3) Christ ruled the storms, rules them still, and will rule them.
Be still, my soul. When dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears, then shalt thou better know his love, his heart, who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. Be still, my soul. Thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.
Perhaps irreparable loss is the hardest thing to face.
1) A loved one dies, and will never again walk through the door to greet us.
2) We retire, and can never again return to the work into which we poured our talent, time, and concern.
3) We will never again be young.
4) No second chance to do our college years or that failed marriage over again.
5) Such things devastate us. Can we quiet ourselves? Jesus gives us himself.
Be still, my soul. The hour is hast’ning on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul. When change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Katarina von Schlegel was the ultimate realist.
Most of the noise in our souls is generated by trying to control the uncontrollable.
We grasp after the wind.
We rage, fear, and finally despair.
But this wise sister refocused onto a hope more enduring than fragile, destructible hope-so.
Be still, my soul. All that is hard now will be forgotten amid love’s purest joys.
This slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).
Psalm 131 faith lives with eyes open.
David drives this home with a wonderful metaphor: like a weaned child on his mother, like a weaned child, my soul rests on me.
When a hungry child is placed on his mother’s lap, he is agitated.
He moves around, squirming anxiously.
If he doesn’t get immediate attention and satisfaction, he frets and fusses.
He is frustrated and cranky because he wants something.
He needs something – the mother’s milk means life, health, satisfaction, joy.
If the mother doesn’t deliver right now, he’ll thrash about.
His emotions range over the whole spectrum of noisy, negative emotion.
In this imagery, we witness the childish versions of things that destroy adults: anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, discontent, and confusion.
But then have you ever seen that same child two weeks later, when he is successfully weaned?
The difference is amazing!
A dramatic change has taken place.
Now when that child is placed in his mother’s lap, he sits quietly, giving his attention in a different direction.
The child rests upon his mother, at peace.
The child has changed.
That’s the picture of learning peace.
The Reason for Peace
The last line gives the reason – The LORD, Jesus Christ, is our hope.
Pride dies as the humility of faith lives.
Pride and arrogance lowers their eyes as the dependency of hope lifts up its eyes.
We stop pursuing impossibilities when we start pursuing certainties.
This simple sentence distills wonders.
Consider the command and invitation you are now receiving.
We are called to hope in the LORD.
Who is this person who topples all the stairways to nowhere and gives us something better?
He is the true God, the only Redeemer from the idols we construct.
Our hope is in “I AM,” who becomes known simply as “the Lord.”
Eventually, he more immediately and personally names Himself: Jesus Christ is Lord.
What exactly are you to hope for? Jesus Christ himself.
1 Tim. 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…
We are called to such hopes now and forever.
David speaks in a generality, literally, “from now until forever.”
That pretty much covers the territory!
But the time frame of our hope is even more clearly defined than David could have known.
We hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13).
Both now and forever shine with newer, brighter meanings for us who read Psalm 131 in the light of Christ.
(This does not mean you can play make believe and plaster on “grace” and continue in your old ways, or decide that you are already okay and don’t have to address anything here. If you continue in your old ways, even some of them, I would really begin to question the veracity of my profession if I were you. What it DOES mean is that you simply cannot continue in your self centered, haughty, proud, cowardly or “positive self assessing” ways. You belong to the biblical Christ. You have to LIVE it. It’s your choice. Life. Or death. You decide. If you love the Lord He will be everything to you, you will not be your main focus nor will you be constantly trying to get your own way. You will be working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to live HIS way. You will step up no matter how difficult because it is CHRIST’S reputation that is on the line in that, through you. If you find that you are doing some of or all of the things listed above, you need to repent and stop it. And if you truly repent, then you WILL obey His clear commands found in His word, regardless of how foreign to the flesh they may be or how difficult it may make your “world”, or how hard that self crucifying is. Being in Christ is a matter of dying to self and living FOR Christ alone. No man comes away from a true rebirth and lives even close to the same as he did before the event. As in birth of the flesh, does one come out of the womb and then live in a fetal position, seeking food from an umbilical cord, living in the dark? No. And it is the same in spiritual rebirth. No one continues to live as before except the still dead in flesh, and God says that only leads to what? You got it! Death. Listen…we can be David or we can be Saul….I choose to be David, or the female equivalent. I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. Not a woman who breaks it. How about you? His “well done” or His sorrow at seeing the yuck inside that you want to keep and not give up? And really….if you want to keep it, how can you ever truly have Christ, or THINK you have Christ? Ain’t no room for the “Me Me’s” in the Kingdom. We can only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness and specific obedience. Only through our Redeemer. Think about it. If you wanna talk, I’ll be in the repentance corner….pull up a chair.)
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” “Jesus said to him — Away from Me, Satan!” — Matthew 4:10 There is a dreadful intensity of meaning in the words, as applied to Jesus, “He suffered, being tempted!” Though incapable of sin — there was, in the refined sensibilities of His holy nature, that which made temptation unspeakably appalling. What must it have been to confront the Arch-traitor? — to stand face to face with the foe of His throne, and His universe? But the “prince of this world” came, and found “nothing in Him.” Billow after billow of Satanic violence spent their fury, in vain, on the Living Rock!
Reader! you have still the same malignant enemy to contend with; assailing you in a thousand insidious forms; astonishingly adapting his assaults to your circumstances, your temperament, your mental bent, your master passion! There is no place, where “Satan’s seat” is not; The whole world lies in the Wicked one. — (1 John 5:19) He has his whispers for the ear of childhood; hoary age is not inaccessible to his wiles. “All this will I give you” — is still his bribe to deny Jesus and to “mind earthly things.” He will meet you in the crowd; he will follow you to the solitude; his is a sleepless vigilance!
Are you bold in repelling him as your Master was? Are you ready with the retort to every foul suggestion, “Away from me, Satan!” Cultivate a tender sensitiveness about sin. The finest barometers are the most sensitive.
Whatever your besetting frailty is — whatever bitter or baleful passion you are conscious aspires to the mastery — watch it, crucify it, Nail it to your Lord’s cross! You may despise “the day of small things” — the Great Adversary does not. He knows the power of littles — that little by little consumes and eats out the vigor of the soul. And once the downwards movement in the spiritual life begins — who can predict where it may end? — the going on “from weakness to weakness,” instead of “from strength to strength.” Make no compromises; never join in the ungodly amusement, or venture on the questionable path, with the plea, “It does me no harm.” The Israelites, on entering Canaan, instead of obeying the Divine injunction of extirpating their enemies, made a hollow truce with them. — What was the result? Years upon years of tedious warfare. “They were scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes!” It is quaintly — but truthfully said by an old writer, “Sin indulged, in the conscience, is like Jonah in the ship, which causes such a tempest, that the conscience is like a troubled sea, whose waters cannot rest.” — (Thomas Brooks)
“Keep,” then, “your heart with all diligence,” or, (as it is in the forcible original Hebrew,) “keep your heart above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Let this ever be our preservative against temptation, “How would Jesus have acted here? Would He not have recoiled, like the sensitive plant, from the remotest contact with sin? Can I think of dishonoring Him by tampering with His enemy — incurring from His own lips the bitter reflection of injured love — ‘I am wounded in the house of My friends!'”
He tells us the secret of our preservation and safety, “Simon! Simon! Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you — that your faith fail not!” “Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.”~MacDuff, John
I Corinthians 10:12-13….12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
James 4:7-9….7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.… 9Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.…
James 1: 13-15…..13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.…
(Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883)
When we hear of men living in sin and yet claiming to be Christians, we are disgusted with their pretenses–but we are not deceived by their professions.
In the same manner, we care little for those who are orthodox Christians in creed–if it is clear that they are heterodox in life. He who believes the truth, should himself be true. How can we expect others to receive our religion–if it leaves us foul, false, malicious, and selfish?
We sicken at the sight of a dirty dish, and refuse even good food when it is placed thereon. So pure and holy is the doctrine of the cross, that . . .
he who hears it aright will have his ear cleansed,
he who believes it will have his mind and heart purged,
he who preaches it should have his tongue purified.
Woe unto that man who brings reproach upon the gospel by an unholy walk and life!
Lord, evermore make us vessels fit for your own use, and then fill us with the pure juice of the grapes of sound doctrine and wholesome instruction. Do not allow us to be such foul cups as to be only fit for the wine of Sodom!
I rarely, if ever reveal anything about my personal life. But I have been advised by godly counsel to do just that, so it is time. There is freedom in truth. And the truth is that I’ve been in a “relationship” (originally created by God) with one of these for 27 years (I’ve been but he never has been in more ways than I care to innumerate, and according to scripture). Now I say this, fully cognizant of the fact that people like this hate being exposed. I am sure he is no exception based upon past experience. That said, I shall not be trapped in his abusiveness any longer, nor will I condone or enable his sinfulness with my silence. No Christian should ever sit quietly and enable sin. Ever. These people hate truth, especially when it exposes them? Ever notice that so many of them claim Christ who IS truth? Yeah…another incongruity in the reality that is them. No one can hate truth, promote lies, and love Christ. Ain’t possible Cisco. Truth…..
“What is the one thing a sociopath does not want other people to know? The truth. More specifically, sociopaths do not want the truth about them to be known as they are insecure, malicious, and devious people. Beyond being embarrassed by the truth of their behaviors and thoughts, they have a deathly fear of being exposed and rejected. That’s in large part because they use lies, manipulations, and distortions to control other people and get what they want. If others were to know about their true nature, they…would lose the support networks of malicious minions they control and incite to abuse other people. Therefore sociopaths have a strong motivation to attack, discredit, harass, and ruin anybody who presents arguments and facts that might tend to raise questions and doubts about their behaviors and their false statements.”
We are not ignorant of the devil’s schemes. And it is truth that sets us free. And everyone trapped in this type of “devil’s fun house” needs to speak the truth, regardless of how much the “sociopath” may hate it and seek to retaliate. Which I’m sure mine will lay in wait to do. However, I have Christ and He is stronger than all forms of evil any day. So I rest on Him. Blessedly and securely. That said…
Back to stonewallers…..Trust me when I tell you that people who stonewall have NO genuine “want” to work anything out or to resolve a thing. What they want is for things to continue as they are, as they feel they can control you through this ridiculous tactic and maintain the status-quo that suits them (and they do until you have finally had enough). In other words…they don’t give a true rip about anyone but themselves and they want to keep it that way, so they can continue living as children and not really have to have a real relationship, indulging their many sins and not having to answer for their choices, actions, behavior. It seems that they love the “facade” of relationship more than wanting a REAL relationship (you know, where two adults talk together to come up with a solution to a problem that is healthy and works for both parties?), and they certainly do not want to have to actually put any work into building and maintaining a real relationship. They are too dead inside and lazy for that. Nor do they really care about any person other than themselves, regardless of what they say. Stonewalling is an ungodly and demonic practice that proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. But more than even that…in reality they are pernicious vipers who care only that they can do as they please while ensuring you have no say. A bit like psychotic 2 year olds. Well, we do have a say. We can say this is unacceptable, we can speak the truth, and then we can let them sit in their own bilious depravity. Face it, the worst company they can ever have is themselves. Let them have them. Pray God breaks them and grants them genuine repentance and leave them to Him to deal with. He will. He has promised to. We can walk forward in Him, leaving them in their own soul rot and bad company. While I do not promote divorce, the fact is, these people were never married to you to begin with. So in essence this type of behavior choice from them is both an act of never being married to you as well as an act of “divorcing” you from their lives. You only served a purpose to them, like every person in their lives. They are predators who use people like they are “tools” or objects, and as such, they have no problem leaving their new toy on the shelf after they have gained what they want from you. Once their toy expects anything genuine or real from them…on that shelf you go! Bad toy! Someone as wonderful as them should never have to actually LIVE like an honest adult, biblically and objectively love their spouse, friend, whoever…they have absolutely no concept of “real” (although many, as in my case, profess to be saved). When real is rightfully expected…Bam! To the “cornfield” for you! (Twilight Zone…look it up…it’s a really good picture of these juvenile little tyrants) Remember this truth…he who stonewalls does not love the one he is doing it to. It is an act of hatred, just as lying is.
But remember, if you are twice born there IS Someone who does love you…and you are not a tool to God if you are in Christ. If you are His, you are His Bride, His slave, His friend, and He never stonewalls. He seeks you out and loves your time together just as He loves you. Christ sought a relationship with you, and by the cross we see that there is no limit to what love will do for the object of that One’s love. Christ is the model for all husbands and He never pushes you away by any means. He never shuts you out. By Him we know what love truly is. He sought to communicate with us, we know this because He has given us His word. And He also has His vengeance on those who hurt His own. We also know that by His word we know evil when we see it as well. And stonewalling? That’s the devils forte’. Those who make a practice of stonewalling are nothing less than the devil’s children. Destroyers are like that. Every time. In God’s eyes they are an abomination. And if they never really repent, their eternity will be worse than their own company. That being a Hell that will never end. Stuck with themselves in the Lake of Fire forever. May God do whatever it takes to break them to bits and grant them deep and genuine repentance and a true rebirth through the biblical Jesus Christ. And may He keep us all still joyfully walking His narrow road to eternity with Him. When we get there, all of this will be worth it. We will have HIM forever. 🙂
by Steve Becker, LCSW •
Stonewalling is when someone shuts you down from communicating. He just “bails” on your efforts at communication, refuses to take you seriously; refuses to engage a discussion of your concerns. He may ignore or dismiss you, express fatigue with you (and your concerns); he may listen without offering a thoughtful, respectful response, and then credit himself for having listened.
In any case, his unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response to your feelings and concerns captures the essence of stonewalling and will reflect his pure contempt for which he’ll take no responsibility.
Rather, he may depict you as a boring windbag who doesn’t know when to “stop talking,” or who’s always making or looking for “trouble,” without recognizing or owning how his insistent refusal to listen, his determination NOT to listen, actually provokes, passive-aggressively, your very instinct to “talk” and “pursue him” until he gives a meaningful response. If you do persist, he may complain to others that he is being “harassed” for no reason, pointing out that he is doing “nothing” to you.
He may flat-out tell you he’s bored by, and uninterested in the concerns you raise, regardless of how strongly you feel about them, and regardless of how strong your need to discuss them is. It may be that the more urgency you feel to broach your concerns, the more he’ll contemptuously stonewall you.
His rebuff will feel cruel and leave you feeling especially helpless. It will also very likely be dripping with some form of passive-aggressive, if not aggressive, contempt.
Now this is stonewalling, and stonewalling is a nasty, hurtful thing to do to someone; it leaves the stonewalled party feeling as negated as a person can feel.
You don’t have to be a sociopath to stonewall. Plenty of non-sociopaths stonewall. But many sociopaths are stonewallers, andthe act of stonewalling itself contains the cold, callous attitude of the sociopath.
The stonewaller’s absence of empathy for the stonewalled party, perhaps even the relish the stonewaller takes in messing with the stonewalled party’s head, in watching her twist and squirm and perhaps make humiliating efforts and bids to be heard—there can be something actually sadistic about this.
Stonewalling will tend to elicit some common feelings in the stonewalled party—among them shame, anger, rage, infuriation, humiliation, desperation (to be heard), helplessness, and a sense of being driven crazy.
Stonewalling, then, is a form of “gaslighting” insofar as it can leave the stonewalled party feeling as if she’s speaking a foreign language inaccessible to the stonewaller even though she knows perfectly well the stonewaller speaks the language, literally, but either refuses to speak it or “acts” like he doesn’t.
This can have a “crazy-making” effect, as if he’s accusing her (as he may very well do) of speaking incomprehensibly.
Stonewallers, whether sociopaths or not, are seriously disturbed communicators. Their indifference to the stonewalled party’s experience, as noted, can be chilling. Their stonewalling often reflects character pathology, in which case they won’t change—they will always be stonewallers.
Stonewallers are destructive people and it’s best to avoid them for your sanity’s and dignity’s sake. I make this strong suggestion where the stonewaller refuses to assume total and genuine responsibility for his stonewalling, which is too often the case.
You need to stop banging your head against the “wall” (the pun is apt) trying to reach the stonewaller, because he is not reachable. Futility is what you are left feeling again and again, until you feel depressed and hopeless. The futility is not in your head. It is real, and will always be the experience with the stonewaller, whodisowns responsibility for the suffering his stonewalling causes you.
Identify the stonewalling people in your life; if they can’t, or won’t, take charge of their stonewalling, get them out of your life as best and fast as you can. Even if that way is in completely disengaging from their wickedness. In doing that you can still show biblical respect (you are respecting their wishes for not having to have a relationship) and honor God by blessing instead of cursing. Do not enable their wickedness by continuing to attempt a genuine relationship with those who are either incapable or unwilling. Do not return evil for evil…just emotionally remove yourself from their depravity and continue walking with Christ. And leave it all in God’s hands. He will repay both evil and righteousness.
By Steve Becker, LCSW.
If you are dealing with this type or any type of evil in your relationships, I highly recommend “How to Overcome Evil” by Jay E Adams.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.…Ephesians 6:10-12
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”