Friday, March 31, 2006

Dual Citizenship

For most of my life I have believed (and by 'believed' I mean more than simply 'gave mental assent to' -- I mean 'based my life's actions on') the purpose of following Jesus was to make me a better person so I could help those around me and, in the end after I die, assure me an eternity of spending time with Him.

That sounded simple enough to me at the time. Now I'm not so sure that is the whole enchilada; that is to say: I think there is more enchilada out there. Recently, I had something of an epiphany (and hey, who wouldn't like more enchilada?!).

=-=-=-=-= FOUNDATION =-=-=-=-=

I'll get to the epiphany in a second, but first I need to give some basic information about how I see life so you'll understand why this epiphany was so startling to me. Feel free to skip ahead if this foundational stuff is not news to you.

There are two of me. Well, not really two of me, per se -- I mean, I'm not suffering from multiple personalities or anything like that. I'm simply experiencing what (IMHO) we all feel from time to time. It is like having two passports, each allowing me access into a different world.

At first glance these two places seem to be related; seem to have something in common -- I suppose that seeming similarity is because they are both inside me. But the Bible and my own intuition and experience watching my life unfold around me say I have two natures within me, and they are at war. One "side" of me is set on making the universe revolve around me and become everything I want it to be in my grand design. The other side is set on allowing God, through His Spirit, to make me everything the universe needs me to be, in His Grand Design.

As I understand it, the Bible explains it this way (sorry, I'm gonna get very linear here, since it helps me imagine I'm actually getting my mind around these concepts):

  • there are two entities, and we can call them

    1. "the flesh" or "the old/sin nature"

    2. and

    3. "the spirit" or "the new/life nature"

  • we all have both, and

    1. because of Adam and Eve's blow-it ("original sin") when I was born into the human race as a baby:

      • my "life nature" was there, (but it was still-born)


      • my "sin nature" was running things.


    2. when I started following Jesus,

      • the "life nature" came alive (I was "born again") so that

        • I can be with God forever after I die, but
        • also have a better life here and now


      • the "sin/old nature" in me received the death penalty, but

        • is still trying to control me whenever it can even though
        • one day it will be killed and gone.

=-=-=-=-= EPIPHANY =-=-=-=-=

OK -- now that we're on the same page re: how I see life, here is my epiphany: I live a lot of my life trying to make the "old me" into a better "old me" instead of letting the "old me" die and just living as the "new me"!

It is sort of like standing there with the Gold medal around my neck wondering "Dang! When I am going to start getting any better at running the 100m???"

I've come to the realization God doesn't want to make the "old me" a better person. He already took care of that by making a "new me". But the "new me" is really the originally-intended me. I don't think God wants to make "old me" better -- I think what He is really doing is helping me become the person He already made me to be.

How silly, then, to try and make myself a better person. What I need to give my time and energies to, instead, is allowing Him to breathe life into the new person. I think it is a subtle difference and I'm still having trouble getting a handle on it in my heart and brain.

Here's where I'm at right now. I'm living in Romans 7:14-24.

For those who don't know the reference, or were confused by the twists and turns of those verses, I'll make it easy for you: If I honestly look at various aspects of my life, I find two things to be true which tell me the "old" me is winning:
  • There are unhealthy things I wish I would stop doing, but don't seem to be able to stop.
  • There are healthy things I want to do, but can never seem to get around to doing.
This frustrates me so much!!!!

But according to Rom 7:25 there is a way out, and this is a second epiphany, sort of. "...through Jesus Christ" is what it says, but that has always been sort of cryptic to me. I mean, I'm already following Him, but I find myself in this predicament, so what is new that will help me here?

Well, I woke up today with a bunch of bible verses swimming around in my head. Verse after verse after verse just kept coming to the surface of my brain as I woke up. I think it was God waking me up (literally and figuratively). At first the verses didn't seem to have any connection, but then I started to see the pattern. I didn't know the references at first -- had to go looking them up -- but here they are as links:

Galatians 6:7-9

John 15:5; 16

John 14:15; 21

Romans 8:5-6

Galatians 5:16-17

There may have been some others, but I think that is the bulk of them. I think they all have something in common re: how I have always seen them -- how I've always seen myself in and through them -- they all tell me what a lame "old me" I am.

For example the verse when Jesus says: "If you love Me, you'll obey My commands" -- I know for certain I don't obey His commands a lot of the time, so I guess I must not love Him.

Or "those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh" -- it is obvious to me that my mind is often on unhealthy non-spiritual things, so I by my very nature -- everything that is "me" must be "according to the flesh"

The message I hear in all this is I ought to try harder to be a better person. Not to earn God's love, per se -- but because He deserves it from me and I want it for myself.

But I think the voice telling me that stuff is lying to me.

What God woke me up to today is in all these verses and others, it is the "old me" that doesn't love Jesus; that isn't thinking good stuff; that is trying too hard to become a better person -- and is doomed to stay a "bad" person!


whew. this is cathartic!

And now that I've yelled the above, I can say this: I see new cause-and-effect at work in these verses.

If I want to begin obeying Jesus' instructions, then the key is learning to love Him more. The "new me" LOVES to do that, and Jesus LOVES to help me with that!!!

If I want to avoid "satisfying my flesh" in unhealthy ways, then "sowing to the Spirit" will help me there. The "new me" LOVES to do that stuff, and Jesus LOVES to help me do that stuff!

I guess if I want to really tear up the old/bad passport, the way to do it is not by going into that country and looking for the embassy there. That building was closed and locked along time ago. Why waste energy focusing on trying to tear up that old/bad passport!!??!?!?!?!! All that does is make it tougher to tear, and tire me out. Plus, along the way I get lost in that other land and get really really homesick.

The paths into that land are very familiar though, and easy to follow. But the more I walk there the muddier it gets and I hate that. I hate feeling stuck. I don't want to live there anymore. Plus, I'm pretty sure the old passport is due to expire some day anyway.
Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
~ James (4:7b-8a)
I'm finding the best way to "flee" the devil, apparently, is not by going into his land and then running around in circles trying to get away from him! The best way to flee the devil is by going more and more into God's land to hang out with Him there. Apparently, if I want to really tear up one passport and "not go there" anymore, the best way to do that is to actually use the good passport and spend as much time as possible living in the good place.

The paths into this new land are not as easy for me to get onto sometimes. I'm not as used to them. But I'm getting there. The more I do walk in that land, the easier my footing becomes. Far from being muddy and difficult to walk on, the roads here are nicely paved and actually lead me places I (the real me -- the "new me") enjoy being.

Paths and activities which I used to avoid in the old land, since they seemed like such boring, difficult, unfulfilling chores (like reading my bible, praying, thinking about spiritual things) can now be fun and useful adventures in the new land! I know that sounds like some corny childish vacation-bible-school slogan, but I'm finding it to be true for me. I really dig this place! And I really dig being "me"!

Have I mentioned to you how much I actually like my new passport photo?

~ cob


dave kellogg said...

That's a lot to wrap my mind around. I will say I feel like the "world" was my home but then I was granted citzenship in God's kingdom. And now I feel living in the "world" is a lot like visiting the old neighboorhood. Nothing is the same, and I miss some things, but I don't want it to be the same, because if it was, I know how unhappy, how unsatisfied I would be.

I think I'll go for a long run and think about that ;)

Can Opener Boy said...

As a footnote, Tomas Perez had these things to say about the related issue of Kingdom citizenship vs U.S. citizenship...

~ Keith