Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Grace To Submit (Part 1)

I am a corrupt, pathetically selfish creature, and of my own power there is absolutely nothing I can do about it except utterly fail, and pay the wages of my sin.

David knew this to be true of every person, and said as much more than once.

"The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." Psalm 14:2-3

Paul expounded further in his letter to the Romans, combining the verses of David with others of his Psalms, as well as Ecclesiastes and the prophet Isaiah.

"As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”" Romans 3:10-18

My corruption could not be helped, being the reality of all human condition from the womb; our varying stages of denial notwithstanding. My selfishness, fueled by pride the size of a gas giant, has the power to reach into the substance of which I am made, take hold of my inherited stubborn tenacity, put it to the flame of whatever the lust du jour is, and craft such mind-numbing defiance and rebellion of what I know to be right and just, that I become a living caricature of what Paul wrote to Titus regarding those who routinely reject truth:

"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Titus 1:15-16

I am here to tell you that submitting my will to the Lord only comes from *His* grace, because my corruption will not permit me to make the choice by myself. Apart from God, *self* preservation thinks the very idea is utterly foolish, and weak besides.

But this is *also* part of the plan of God, and identifies self-preservation as a feature of the world, rather than of the Spirit.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength." 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The grace of God, given to me by His mercy; to believe that He is the LORD and His only Son died for my sin, to acknowledge Him now in my thoughts and feelings as well as my words and deeds, to submit my will and pride in obedience to Him, is *the ONLY thing* that changes my condition. *Not* my desire to be something other than what I am. *Not* the strength of my will or determination. *Not* my revulsion in the face of my failures. The grace and mercy of Yahweh, His choice to transplant my heart of stone with one of flesh, and love and adopt me IN SPITE OF ME, is the only reason why I can write now free from it all.

My most recent example of this was my submersion into World of Warcraft. It lasted almost 5 years, and could have wrecked everything that matters most in my life.

I know what some of you are likely thinking at that last sentence; affixing it with:

"How pathetic. What manner of fool falls prey to a video game?"

You'd be surprised.

The close resemblance to the game's posted disclaimer warning players to do other things with their time, to that on a cigarette package warning the purchaser that smoking their product can kill them, is no coincidence.

It is a product designed to not only attract the right paying client, but bind them to it so that the payment continues in ongoing subscription format. Anyone with a large inner fantasy world, as I have always harbored, is easily drawn to its seduction of pursuing wealth and power, all within a steeply detailed world of well crafted lore; of noble heroes and richly flawed villains in all their warmongering glory.

There is little reason to spend much time bothering with the details of life when one can be submerged beneath the sea of their own fantasy for as long as they can hold their breath beneath the waves. One glance at the news will show you that here are people who never come up for air before it is too late. The game is quite literally filled with people chained to its seductive power by the millions, pursuing its reality-defying, ego-satisfying goals at virtually all ages, in virtually all cultures, encompassing the globe. Those who play it seeking any form of efficiency and success must pour time into it like fresh water into a bottomless, thirst-inducing pit, always taking more than it gives. One surfaces from beneath its seductive waves and takes a breath only to discover that what they presumed was a few moments was actually several hours, and time and events have moved without their awareness or presence (and all the consequences therein)... and this life-draining game is the pursuit of choice for literally millions of people.

I was one of them.

I can think of no more innocuous-seeming death than that which the game offers.

It binds itself amorphously to the paying host with their own permission, injects ego-soothing visions of beauty and power into it which they crave, and removes their very presence willingly from all that is right in front of them. It is an escape that lasts as long as the power, game servers, and internet connections are up and running. Pauses for food and sleep become irritating distractions, as are any and all attempts by other people to interact with them. It is the refuge for those who have no relationships with people, and the destroyer of relationships for those who still have them.

It is yet one more modified weapon formed from the lust of the eyes; one of the same, tired, yet grossly effective three weapons from the arsenal of the Accuser. This version of it dulls the pain receptors just enough for the player to feel nothing while it carves their life to shreds.

Such is my weakness that I succumbed to it for 5 years. Such was my dumb luck that my family stayed together through it.

In July of 2010, I was given the grace from the Father to recognize it among the hooks that felt so wonderful in my flesh as they were killing me, observe how it was going to destroy everything I held dear, starting with my relationships with my wife and children and spreading outward from there, and forcibly remove them all. The sum total of all my efforts, all the characters I had created and reached the pinnacle of self-sufficient might over the course of years, were destroyed in a scorched earth manner. I erased them all. I cancelled my subscription and deleted the software from my computers. I emailed the proof of cancellation to my wife, who had grown so tired of looking at the side of my head while playing the game that she could only sit in shock at what I had done.

The story should end there. But it doesn't.

This is because the Grace To Submit, as invaluable and necessary as the gift of salvation, is just the beginning of the requisite effort to enter the narrow door.

The Submission Must Never Stop.

No desire or act of will can be separate from God after that.

We who follow Christ must be relentless, and even ruthless, in our submission and obedience because that which we submit is founded in corruption and therefore *will* come again like a weed, and use whatever remnant of pride we yet harbor to become our *choice* to disobey God and obey our own will. The Accuser won't stop cajoling us to make the choice which sides with rebellion until he is finally destroyed. He will ask us, just as he asked Eve, "Did God *truly* say...?" We hear those serpentine whispers because in the face of the truth, our nature, whatever form it takes, be it quantifiable through DNA or simple accustomed preference, will reject God utterly when we do not deem it important to submit to Him and obey.

We are given the equipment to do this successfully.

We just have to put it on. The last suit we'll ever wear.

The Armor of God, detailed in Ephesians 6, preserves the new heart of flesh the LORD gives His adopted children, and maintains the sanctification the follower of Christ is gifted with... but we have to faithfully equip it every second of our lives. Take one step without all of the pieces securely in place... make one stupid decision to use a shield made of something *men* crafted instead of the Shield of Faith... select a belt made of your inherent desires rather than the Belt of Truth, and know what it is to bring a knife to a gunfight. We not only lose, we look exceptionally retarded doing it.

I told you all of that to provide the proper background for the story of how I did that very thing. I am a work in progress, so I have and continue to do it in more ways than this, but while this is just as poignant in significance, it is also among the least humiliating.

The tale is brief, in comparison with the background. 6 months after I quit, a friend I have not seen in 26 years told me he played the game and invited me to join him. I told him I had quit and why, which he respected, but left it with "Should you choose to return, you know where to find me."

Now, had I been dressed properly, I would have told the *desire to play*, which spoke up now with numerous, very reasonable excuses as to how I could do it with moderation, to shut up and die, and run it through with the Sword I was also given. I would have told it that my life is not my own, having been delivered from the slavery of sin and death to the servitude and adopted sonship of God, and that the choice to partake of that game in no way honors Him.

But instead of girding myself with the Belt of Truth, I put on my $39.50 black braid dress belt from Land's End, which serves no purpose other than holding up my pants.

This is disobedience, as Paul mentioned that the Armor needed to be put on in *full* for a reason.

So, without the truth, my rebellious nature, which can not obey God of its own free will anyway, can and will take any and all foolish excuses which it deems acceptable to satisfy anything it wants. So I did. I re-downloaded the bits for the game and installed them. I re-upped my cancelled subscription, and even had them recover the deleted characters.

But seeing them again, in all their glory, did not make me happy.

It made me sick to my stomach.

The difference, my friends, was that when I last looked upon them, my heart was a lump of stone the size of my fist within my chest.

But now...

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:25-27

Now that this has happened to me, and I dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide in HIS shadow, my old clothes and mantles I once bore reek foul with the sin which my pride had dulled my senses enough to thoroughly ignore. I saw those characters and remembered all of the time my wife spent talking to the side of my head instead of having my undivided attention... all of the times my children wanted to play with me but I was too busy wallowing selfishly in my batcave to do so. I remembered all of the time and energy and effort I had not merely wasted, but poured into a pit full of greedy swine which have neither thought nor care that I had given it my greatest, most precious commodity, TIME; stealing from those to whom it truly belonged, only to watch the game devour it with that of every human being too reprobate to even care what truth or righteousness or holiness is, and how much we will all want to know it when our hearts have stopped beating and we all stand before God.

I saw them, and knew that Jesus meant what He said in John 10.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30.

This is assurance. And it is true. I know it beyond all doubt, and have my life as evidence. Once we give ourselves to Him, we are His forever, and not even the warm, comforting stench of the things we once did give us pleasure, because He changes our hearts and turns them from stone to flesh. He makes us from broken pottery into vessels that don't even require wax to hide and shore up the integrity. He transforms us into new people, He conforms us as adopted children into the image of His Son.

I belong to YHWH, and nothing shall ever snatch me from His hand.

With tears of gratefulness, and repentance and deep sorrow for my failure to obey, I deleted the software, never to partake of that table again. I put on the Belt of Truth and fastened it in place amongst all the other pieces of the Armor of God, because it is the last suit I will ever wear. I submit my every thought to Him, my every desire and feeling, my every word and action. If it does not glorify HIM, it will not be done.

Should I fail, I will truly repent and do it no more, and will resist no more that which God put me here to become.

I worship Him with my life. HE alone is worthy.


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