Saturday, January 24, 2015

TORMENTED SOULS (PART2)

(This post is a continuation of the previous one of a couple of days ago. Before reading below, please first scroll down to read part 1, if you have not already done so)
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          There a two things that I would like to say in regard to those who would respond negatively to my statement that our righteousness does not depend upon our own actions, as we see in the case of the  Old Testament man Lot (see previous post). The question being, if our righteousness does not depend upon our own "goodness," what is the point of trying?
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First of all, we must recognize that Lot may be an extreme case, but at the heart, this man is no different from the rest of us.  We are all like Lot.  We all pitch our tent as far as Sodom.  We all, in some manner, try to get as close to the world as we can.  We may not be so overt as was Lot, but that is only because we are sneakier.  If God was going to eliminate all Lots, we would all be condemned.

Righteousness cannot depend upon our actions, because if it did, we would all fail.  Is that not the whole point of the Cross of Christ?  Did Christ not accept the penalty for our unrighteousness so that we could live in His righteousness?

The second thing that I would like to say is this:  Note that Peter says that Lot’s “righteous soul was tormented day after day.”  Lot thought, as many of us think, that if he befriended the world, he could benefit from the world, and at the same time benefit from the righteousness of God.  Lot thought that he could live with two conflicting natures.

We notice that Lot wanted to have the angels in his home, but he also wanted to maintain his relationship with the men of Sodom by appeasing them. He called the men of Sodom, “My brothers.”  Lot was looking for benefits from both sides.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that the actions of Lot and our own actions may be different in degree, but they are the same in nature.  We want the blessings of God but we also want to maintain our friendship with the world.

But Lot was wrong and we are wrong.  It was because of this dichotomy in the life of Lot that, as the apostle Peter said, “his soul was tormented day after day.”  One who is called of God should never be comfortable in the midst of overt and extreme sin and rebellion.

Actually, when one thinks about it, the follower of Christ cannot be comfortable in this setting, because it is against his nature as a child of God.   Does a fish benefit from a breath of air when you take it into the boat?  It does not.  The fish is not in his own nature and he is tormented.  When a child of Christ tries to gain satisfaction from the world, he is out of his real nature. Instead of fulfillment, he finds only torment.

One of the greatest problems in the church today is that we are trying to live our lives as did Lot, trying to befriend ourselves to the world by living with the world's standards of what is acceptable.  We try to reconcile the ways of the world to our life in Christ and we fail.  We wonder why we live with a constant inner struggle, trying to follow our lives in Christ while at the same time hoping to benefit from the world.  We live as did Lot, with tormented souls, and we do not even know it.

The New Testament writer James is unequivocal about this condition:  “You adulteresses,” James says, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 NAS).

The question is not if God is able to deliver the righteous; even those who live as did Lot.  We see that God did, in the end, deliver Lot from the wickedness of the city of Sodom.  God can and will deliver.  The question is instead, how are we to live at peace with ourselves while living in this world?  If we are living with tormented souls, we are not at peace.

The Apostle John also gives this advice:

Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17 NAS).

What John tells us makes perfect sense if we think about it for a moment, especially in the light of what we have read about the life of Lot.  The child of God has been created to abide forever.  His life is one of eternity.  The things of the world however, are not only sometimes wicked and debased, but they are also only temporary and are passing away.  How can a being that is made for eternity find fulfillment in the temporal?  Lot did not.  He tried to, but instead only found his soul in torment.

If our true citizenship is of heaven, we can only know peace in our lives only by living according to the culture and the nature of that kingdom.  Is not that what Jesus meant when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give you”? (John 14:27 NAS).

 “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Words of Jesus in John 16:33 NAS)

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