Monthly Archives: June 2012

i don’t advise the yelling

(post from August 2010)

That we’ve already let our son fall prey to television’s deception is evident because he lives under this misconception: every construction project begins with a demolition. See, he watches “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on a fairly regular basis and this is the order of events: an old, broken house is torn down (or blown up or shattered merely by Ty Pennington’s habitual yelling), then a new one is built. So it seems an incontestable truth to Clive that every new building being built was preceded by an old, broken one that was demo’d.

I thought of this today when reading Phil 3. This passage (verses 3-11) is one of my all-time favorites and I re-visit it often to do battle with my self-sufficiency and pride. Several years ago I began to see Paul’s thinking in these words from a slightly different angle. Paul doesn’t just say that he won’t brag about his qualifications or achievements or rely on them to gain favor with God, but that it is only to the extent that he discards his confidence in himself that he is exercising faith in Christ. In other words, it’s a simple choice between living based on Christ’s merits or my own. Visually, I imagine it as a balance scale that can only tip one way or the other and my ability to live in the reality of Christ’s accomplishment for me on the one side will weigh heavier as the Spirit chips away at my “confidence in the flesh” on the other side. Or emptying out to be filled. We will not be found “in Christ” as long as we are primarily allowing ourselves to exist as ourselves, standing on our virtues rather than His. I’m convinced (by Scripture and experience) that we’re born living for ourselves and our own glory and that a lifestyle of glorifying Christ is only built by on the wreckage of self-glory. I am constantly glorifying myself and the only way to glorify Christ is for the Spirit to reveal how I’m using my thoughts, words, actions, responses, etc. to do this and then where that lifestyle can be torn down and a new way of living (faith) constructed. Unlike the order of events on Extreme Makeover, though, the old, broken woman I am takes a lifetime (and a death) to demo, so rather than a deconstruction then a construction, both are constantly going on.

The only way to life is through death, the deconstruction of confidence in ourselves for the construction of faith in Christ. Being conformed to his death in order that I might attain to the resurrection… (Phil 3.11) I would rather boast in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12.9) For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. (2 Cor 13.4) In his book Jesus and the Spirit, Dunn says that the new birth begins the forces of life working in you so that both death and life are always present. If you do not believe in Christ, death has the last word. If you believe in Christ, life begins to combat the forces of death in you, gradually overtaking them until it conquers death, creating the life of resurrection even out of the experience of death (p. 337-338). So we are always in the midst of demolition and new construction, death and life.

When we first believed in Christ and accepted salvation, part of the statement we’re making is that we cannot be right with God on our own—therefore, we need a righteous Savior who will stand in our stead. We must continue participating in the Gospel by continuing to grow in this truth, understanding it more deeply and applying it more thoroughly to our lives. To be a Christian is to understand that I cannot solve my own problems, that I don’t have the answers to life, that I cannot get what I need on my own, that I don’t make the right choices, that I can’t work hard enough or do anything well enough to gain God’s approval, that even the best of the best by the world’s standards cannot stand before God. Only Jesus can does. But, in the world and flesh, I still live as though it matters what others think of me, that it matters how much I get done and how well I get it done, that what is important in life is what I want, dream about, plan, and work for rather than what Christ has done and how God is forming me after His likeness. It’s usually obvious who the main character in a story or book is, right? Because the plot and everything that we as the audience know in the story revolves around that person or group of people. Well, I still live life as thought I’m the main character. Time for a rewrite.

And now for some massively postmodern reader-based hermeneutics on U2 (“Walk On”):

You’ve got to leave it behind.

All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind.
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme… 

The only baggage you can bring is what you can’t leave behind. Love is not the easy thing. Walk on. Press on to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of us. The new is only built on the ruins of the old.

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