There is nothing as crucial as living in positive reality, by faith alone, rather than in a negative movie film by trying to be “good.” As we saw last week, we are living in one or the other.
The irony is that by living life in a movie with the film a negative, the very characteristics we see in our lives that we desperately try to eliminate as being “bad things” are really “good” things. Being a sinner, losing, being weak, being last, being a slave (servant), and finally dying, constitute the only gateway into the positive reality of living by faith. “Unless a grain of wheat dies, it abides alone, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit” (John 12:24).
This life of faith is not “I have Jesus as my Savior so I will now do my best to shape up my life and live for Him.” Living by faith is “God is my Daddy, His love for me never changes no matter how much I screw up as a baby Christian (which is constantly), and I trust Him to take care of everything, including changing my ‘want-to’s’!”
This makes no sense to the natural mind we inherited from Adam. It is totally counter-intuitive. It seems as if this is calling good evil and evil good. But God is always working in opposites, as Martin Luther observed, in the reality of positive film. So, in actuality, we, living in a negative film by trying to be “good,” are the ones calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:2)!
The big, subconscious, unanswered question, the elephant in the room, is not in which film are others around us currently living. The issue is always, in which film life am I living? Here is a foolproof way I can know.
If I have a friend, family member (spouse, parent, child, brother, sister, etc.) or an associate with whom I have disagreed in some way, and my relationship with them has become strained or broken, why the rift? What happened? Who has sinned and caused that rift, for someone surely has. We are encouraged by Paul to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3), and if the relationship is broken, we must ask ourselves, “Why is that?”
The Bible teaches that we both have sinned in every situation (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-18). As long as I live in this sinful body, everything that I do will be fraught with sin. However, if I am living by trying to be good, I unconsciously ignore the evidence of my sin that is a flashing neon sign to everyone else, because success for me is being good, and I have a vested interest in succeeding! Therefore, I reason, since I can see nothing I have done to damage the relationship, our difficulties must be the other person’s fault. This is always my initial reaction in a personal conflict.
This self-protection is an indication that I am living in a negative film, and I am unconsciously doing everything possible to not be a sinner, because being a sinner is “bad.”
I know a pastor, now in his sixties, whose friends all testify that they have never heard him admit to a fault or sin of any kind. A string of broken relationships follows him. I asked him at one point what would have to happen to repair a particularly egregious and obvious breach with a brother, and his answer, without hesitation, was “He would have to repent.” He didn’t have a clue that he was at fault as well. He never even thought of it.
Here is the prima facie evidence of living by faith, in positive reality, in living color:
I find myself asking God to show me my sin in every disagreement, every tension, every conflict. Yes, as we saw in the verses above, it is there for sure, because in every strained relationship, there is plenty of sin to go around. But my sin is all I am called to address. My adversary will answer for his sin to his own Master, not to me, and I don’t need to even have an opinion about his problems.
Could my sin be my failure to forgive him, or to love him with agape love, a love not conditioned on the actions of the loved one, as Jesus commands me in John 13:34? Agape means I am to love him even if we view each other as enemies and he wants to persecute me, even destroy me! (Matthew 5:44).
What might my adversary say my sin is? Could he be right? Why couldn’t I ask him to honestly help me because I can’t see myself objectively, and then ask the Lord if he is right?
By brutally facing my own sin in this way, embracing it and repenting, I am taking step one in moving from living in a movie with negative film to one expressing God’s reality. Step two is really believing that I am fully forgiven for that sin. It has been completely put away at the cross and no longer has any bearing whatsoever on how God feels about me. He loves me with agape love.
I know it is impossible for me to ever even initiate taking these two steps. I naturally run from facing my sin and find it very hard to believe that my sin is no longer an issue with God in any way. God must lovingly take me by the hand and lead me through these unavoidable steps. When He does, I suddenly burst into God’s positive reality!
All whom God has brought through 1.) repentance from sin and 2.) faith in God’s forgiveness, will find, much to their surprise, a river of living water springing up that cannot be contained, gushing out of their innermost beings (John 7:38). All around them will be touched, not in spite of their continuing, unrelenting sin, but actually because of it!. It is not “when we are no longer weak and get it together that God’s power is perfected,” but “because we are still weak (still wicked, helpless sinners) God’s power rests on us” (2 Corinthians 12:9)!
That “roaring river of life” unconsciously produces the spontaneous, no-effort, fruit of the Spirit: genuine love for the unlovely sinner and the self-righteous Pharisee alike; joy that cannot be contained, even in the midst of adverse circumstances; peace that passes all understanding, Love, joy and peace are no longer words that describe unattainable goals, but now an experienced reality.
We are but fascinated, enthusiastic, spectators who ourselves do nothing. We can’t wait to see what God will do next. Incredible, impossible, but this is the reality of living by faith alone!
How does this affect our retirement from active, aggressive, inquisitive, involved Christianity?. My thoughts on that next week.