Things of the Spirit: Confession

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. Romans 8:5

How do you practice this? What practices do you use to place your mind on the things of the Spirit?

Our church is reading through Romans together and the above question was asked on social media yesterday. Today I hope to do my best to answer succinctly (for me, that is – haha!).

Even before I read the post yesterday, I devoted some thought to this very question. And true to His glorious nature, God has provided me with an excellent example by using… me.

Specifically, He has pointed out my sin to me and provided the chance to confess.

So how do I place my mind on things of the Spirit? My answer is both simple and complex.

Simple because I don’t. My mind roves far and wide into terrain it has no business traversing. However, what I have done – and continually do to this very hour – is part of the complex answer.

First and foremost, I continually ask the Lord not to allow me to remain comfortable in sin. I pray He will give me true sorrow for my sin and genuine repentance.

Because He is faithful, He always does. Always – whether I like it or not at the moment (and I assure you, I am not always thrilled to be on the receiving end of discipline even though I find I am thankful later on).

Secondly, I spend time with Him every single day. I read his Word. I memorize it and meditate on it. I ask Him to show me my error and to bring me guidance through the Word.

And He does, because He is a good Father.

As I read this morning, several passages seized my attention. For example:

“Their throat is an open grave… The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
(Romans 3:13-14)

Aaaannndd… in reading, I find I am driven to confess. My mouth is far too often full of curses and bitterness. Take yesterday, for example…

I was talking to a friend, commiserating on some “delights” we share involving chronic pain and the feelings of frustration and depression which commonly accompany it. OK, perhaps I ought to have rejoiced in my suffering (Romans 5:3), but I have a much more unattractive sin to confess.

In the course of conversation, I switched gears and complained about something else entirely. I allowed a hurt from the past to well up as bitter words once again, and I fell far short of the glory of God. Very, very far.

So today, I not only confess (and my friend, if you read this, you know who you are! I am sorry!!) – I also repent. I want to reject my bitterness and any grudge and move forward into humble obedience to the One who died to set me free.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
(Romans 6:3, 8)

I want to die to my old nature. But to do so, I find I must not only put to death my old nature, I need to keep putting it to death.
For if you live according to your old nature, you will certainly die; but if, by the Spirit, you keep putting to death the practices of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13, CJB

I need to continually renew my mind by re-focusing on the goodness of God and recognizing my own weakness and folly. I must be humble enough to realize I am not exempt from sin, especially when I find myself highlighting someone else’s less pleasing habits…

When others hurt me, I am driven to recognize many situations where I have been the one inflicting hurt. I need constant reminders such as this – reminders than I am no better than the one(s) who hurt me.

In so doing, I find it easier not only to repent but to forgive.

But for all of this, I need God. His Spirit living within me. His guidance, His Word of Truth, His correction, His faithfulness.

Yet I must also cooperate with Him, even when cooperation hurts or is humiliating. Even when it means publicly confessing yet another failure to tame the restless evil of my tongue.

In the end, I do all of this because He is worth every single ounce of suffering, humiliation, and even injustice I may experience. After all, He suffered all this and more for me.

If I truly love Him,  how can I believe I should not suffer the same for Him? Particularly when I am at fault!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14, 16-17)
Lord God, renew my mind and heart! All that I am, I submit to You and ask You to set my mind on Your Spirit and not on the folly of my own weak nature, amen.

On Anger, Racism, and Other Foolishness

And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
(Genesis 4:10)

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
(Proverbs 18:6-7)

This rainy morning finds me somewhat melancholy. For one, I blew my top at my eldestFight004 yesterday. Although he did not deserve to shoulder the brunt of my wrath, he was the unfortunate person in my path when I reached a tipping point. I took my eyes off the Lord and focused on my problems instead, and I am heartbroken at my own foolish response to my child.

 

I am, however, proud to say that he handled the whole thing with maturity that put me to shame. But today, another problem also grieves my heart: the ridiculous and entirely insane fact of racism. I have never understood this issue. I never will.

In high school, I had the misfortune to be admired by a boy who belonged to a group of Neo-Nazi skinheads; a racist group that existed in my town in the 1990s.  I recall one of his friends handing me some printed material – some preposterous drivel about sending the black people back to Africa and taking back “our” country.

Far from gaining my respect, this nonsense raised a cold fury in my heart. One of my closest – and indeed, one of my only – friends at the time was black. Of all the people in my grade, she was also quite possibly the one I respected the most.

Refusing to be defined by any clique, Miss C was funny, gregarious, and cheerful even when life was hard. When depression eclipsed my heart and I became sullenly withdrawn, often behaving like a complete freak, she still always treated me with a dignity I knew I didn’t deserve. Thus, for some combat boot-wearing child to tell me that she needed to be shipped back to Africa aroused only my contempt.

Needless to say, that little boy never earned my affection, but he has since earned my pity.  How sad a life to believe oneself superior to another by a mere accident of birth! How wretched to be so lacking in logic as to think white skin gives one a “rightful” claim to a land mass that was originally wrested from a brown-skinned people. How horrible to live so full of hate and darkness.

My response to the Neo-Nazi race propaganda remains the same today as it was when I was a teen. Though we might share a skin color, we emphatically do not share an ideology. If anyone ought to be shipped back anywhere, it is us representatives of a lighter-skinned population – the descendants of land thieves, exploiters, and slave-owners.

Although I am ashamed that these things likely lurk in my ancestral closet, I am not my ancestors. Personally, I agree wholly with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. that each of us ought to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our epidermis.

Recently, the above-mentioned friend posted on Facebook about several instances of racism she has experienced in her life, some flung out by foolish peers and others perpetrated by authority figures. It grieves me to think of those incidents, and again I admire her that she has never given up hope in the human spirit despite such atrocities.

Then… then I heard about what happened in Virginia. May I state something for the record? As a white woman, I utterly reject any such notion as “white supremacy.”  The very idea of something as arbitrary as pigmentation offering any people group supremacy over another is not only abhorrent, it is entirely illogical.

As if my friend or any other person has any control over the very fact of being born! To hate someone for that is the very paramount of ridiculousness.

Oh, people! Have we still not learned? There is truly only one race among humanity; we are all of the human race. Despite differences in skin color, hair color, eye color, geography,  or intelligence quotient, we are all subject to the same curse of sin. It is sin that breeds such nonsense as racism. It is also sin that bears a grudge and refuses to forgive.

Today, I am sorry for all the atrocities of human nature, for every news headline that demonstrates the truth of words penned so many centuries before: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

I weep for those damaged by racism and hatred; both those who are its victims as well as those whose souls are devoured by such cancerous hatred. I pray for my beautiful nieces whose skin is browner than mine, that they may see the goodness of God more completely because of the evil of mankind. I love that my own children have friends of many colors, shapes, sizes, and nationalities.

I also long for mankind to judge rightly, assessing one another by the content and expression of character rather than arbitrary cosmetic differences. More than that, I hope that we will learn to humbly apply the standard most rigorously to our own sorry selves.

Yet even as I write, I realize that I stand condemned by my own character as evidenced by my childish outburst mere hours ago. It seems that we will need something more than character. As a species, we are in need of grace.

As Ravi Zacharias wrote, “…no matter what part of the world we come from or what strata of society we represent, we must all admit our own shortcoming–that we only feel exonerated when we gauge our level of saintliness in comparison to someone else of lesser esteem.”

My friends and brothers of all colors, we are all of lesser esteem.

The solitary standard by which we may rightly measure our own character or that of another is the perfect standard of holiness – the standard of God Himself expressed in human flesh by the works and person of Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ).

If you are tempted to look down on another person, look up to Him first. He alone offers true grace, for He is the sole owner of holiness and worthy of reverence. The rest of us stand condemned daily by our own, innumerable childish outbursts.

One final plea – as you do look to Him, be certain that you are looking to Him alone. Humanity has perpetrated many evils in His name, all of which will be called to account someday. Beware of discarding the veracity of God because of the fumbling mishandling of sinful humanity.

No matter where you stand on the issue of racism, know that the sinful expression of anger is only foolishness. Even those of us who are victims must be careful of our responses. My rather loud outpouring of fury to my son last night was no less an expression of foolishness than that of the anger-fueled murder of other people in Virginia days ago.

I feel deep sorrow for my angry words, and I feel no less sorrow for the very fact of racism. Yet as I was reminded rather painfully last night, responding in anger only feeds a fire which already rages out of control, damaging all who are caught in its blaze without regard to complicity.

With full understanding that by giving vent to my anger I have played the part of a fool, I leave you with a Proverb as it is translated from the original Hebrew by David H. Stern, a Messianic Jewish scholar:

Don’t answer a fool in terms of his folly, or you will be descending to his level; but answer a fool as his folly deserves so that he won’t think he is wise.

Proverbs 26:3-4, CJSB

My friends, let us no longer act as fools and beasts ruled by our impulses, but let us instead submit in humility to God and allow Him to set us apart for holiness instead, agreeing with His definitions of goodness and truth, imitating His example of perfect love, and shunning evil – especially the evil that lies in our own hearts.

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(As a side note, all comments on this website are modereated. While America may still play at offering freedom of speech, I do not, nor do I tolerate disrespect. Any useful, respectful, gracious words will published; all hateful comments or angry retorts will be heartily ignored).