I Wanna Cookie!

Heart string

Image by Elin B via Flickr

Recently Jackson, a good friend of mine, wrote a response to a blog post that was against emotional purity and courtship, written by Darcy, not a friend of mine (yet, at least). He did a very good job demonstrating and pointing out the fallacies in the original, defending our need to guard our hearts from dangerous romantic attachments.

However, I am here not to refute Darcy’s article (or all the people who commented on the post agreeing with her), but to point out the things she had right, and expound on them.

Her primary premise is that the Cookie Model of relationships (my name, not hers) “damaged the part of [her] brain that makes healthy relationships function.” She says that seeking to guard your heart (in this way at least) “shut[s] down a normal, healthy, functioning part of [your] human heart.”

So what is she mad about?

“The idea that everytime you fall in love or get ’emotionally attached’ to someone, you give away a piece of your heart. The more pieces you give away, the less of your heart you have to give to your spouse someday. … Love doesn’t work that way. The more you give, the more you have. My 3rd child doesn’t have less of my heart just because I’ve loved two other children before him. And, really, I haven’t given them “pieces” of my heart. I’ve given them each all of my heart. The miracle of love is that it multiplies by being given.” [Emphasis hers]

Let me summarize this viewpoint that she is talking about, which is very very very common. Imagine your heart is like a cookie, and in each relationship you have, you give a part of that cookie to the other person. And so the more relationships you have, the less cookie you have left to give. And of course, you want to give your whole heart to your husband, right?

There are a ton of problems with this model. One of which is that it isn’t in the Bible at all, and another is that it contradicts a ton of what is in the Bible about relationships (or all of it, depending on how you look at it). I presented the beginning of the actually biblical model in this article here.

So go read that, so you know what I am talking about here. Seriously. Go. Now.

Okay, now come back. Thanks. 🙂

The differences here are obvious. Sending out strings simply does not deplete your stock of strings. And if that string connects with the heart of the person, and they reciprocate, your heart will grow, it will get bigger, and you will be able to expend more energy in creating more relationships or strengthening the relationships you have.

That is the correct model. The Cookie Model has the problem that it doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of cookie bits that you give to people. Thus, if you reason that you can’t give bits to guys to save yourself for your husband, you therefore can’t give bits to anyone (including God or your family or other girls) at all: only your husband. (And vice versa for guys of course.)

This is obviously fallacious and contradictory to Scripture.

So what is my stance? Do I believe that we can fall in love with people willy nilly? Do I believe that it doesn’t hurt us or damage future relationships to draw close to people and then routinely sever our ties with them?

No I don’t believe those things, and here is why.

There are different kinds of strings that you can tie with people. There are strings of trust that you tie with business partners. There are strings of friendship and comradeship that you tie with your buddies. There are strings that you tie with your family. There are strings that you tie with authorities. There are strings that you tie with sweethearts. There are strings that you tie with your spouse. There are strings that you tie with God. Any and all of these hurt when they are broken. The stronger the string, the more it hurts when it breaks or is severed. And when that happens, you are less likely to tie that string again with someone (and some people, often enough burned, refuse to tie any kind of string with anyone at all).

And you are less likely to accept strings from other people. You are less willing to get involved in relationships that others offer you. This is because your heart has been damaged: hurt, scarred, hardened. You are wounded. And although time can heal open gashes, it does not heal scars. You can work through them, but they are there. Only God can heal them completely.

Psalms 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

And God does not always heal. Oh yes, He loves you, and He hurts for you, and He will forgive your sins, and renew His relationship with you when you turn and repent, but if you deliberately and repeatedly damage yourself because He can fix you, He just might leave you with the scars so you will truly turn to Him and learn your lesson.

So yes, things are not permanent if you make a mistake and have to sever a relationship, but do you seriously want to stab yourself over and over again deliberately? No. Do not tempt the Lord your God.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

And then there are kinds of strings that God specifically does not want us tying with certain people. He does not want us to make mentors (a type of relationship, and thus a type of string) of the ungodly.

Psalms 1:1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

God does not want us to marry (a very strong kind of string) unbelievers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Notice that doesn’t just talk about marriage: it applies everywhere.

All that demonstrates is that God cares about where we tie strings, but where does it say what kinds of strings we should tie with people of the opposite sex, or only with our spouse? Does it at all?

I believe it does.

First, consider this passage:

1 Timothy 5:1-2 Rebuke not an elder, but entreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren;

2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

What kind of purity? All kinds of purity obviously. Now there are several reasons why God chose to give this injunction just here, one of which I believe is that when you are entreating someone, you are tying some powerful strings, and you have to be doubly and triply careful what strings you are tying. And so we are to do this with every kind of biblical purity there is.

Now consider this passage:

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman.

2 Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

5 Defraud ye not one the other, except [it be] with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Here we have two sides to a very important string: physical touch. We are enjoined to not touch the opposite sex before marriage, and commanded to do so afterwards. Realize that it is obviously not talking about any and all physical contact: it would be impossible to help a lady from a car or carry stuff for someone or shake a hand in greeting or live life in any sensible way.

There is an obvious difference between shaking someone’s hand in greeting and sitting on the couch and holding hands for no reason other than… holding hands. Very different. This passage is pretty obviously talking about the latter (especially if you take into context the rest of the Bible and biblical examples of male and female interaction).

This is a string specifically for marriage.

Now look a bit lower down in this chapter for another passage:

1 Corinthians 7:32-5 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please [his] wife.

34 There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

This passage is bracketed with similar phrases, explaining its intent and purpose: to teach us something that will help us to serve God without distracting worries (which evidently will come upon us if we don’t heed this).

Paul explains that there is a vital, fundamental difference between married people and unmarried people, and implies a connection to a passage earlier in the chapter to explain it:

1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

When you are married, you are to love the other person as yourself, and care for them as yourself. They are your responsibility. And as such, you have a different focus when dealing with that person than with any other person in the world. You care about them, and you care about the world around you with a focus on helping and pleasing and building them up.

When you are not married, you do not have this responsibility, or you shouldn’t. This is a relationship that is specifically for marriage, and although it is possible to adopt it before marriage, it hinders your service to God: it is the wrong time and place for it.

This applies, as is made clear, in both the physical relationship and the spiritual relationship. If you tie these kinds of strings with someone you are not married to, you are being impure in spirit or in body or in both. That is simply the way it is, and the way God designed it.

But how do you know the difference? The problem that Darcy brings up occurs when we mistake friendship strings with romance strings, and thus avoid both, and I just showed the biblical problems that occur when you adopt both. The key is to know the difference, avoid the romance strings (out of their rightful place), and accept and create friendship strings as God commands (as brothers and sisters in Christ).

The key is in the same passage, look again:

1 Corinthians 7:32-5 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please [his] wife.

34 There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

If you are entreating someone, seeking to help them, showing them love, why are you doing it? Are you doing it because of a possessive motive, or because of a selfless motive?

Look at it this way: if they decide not to listen to you, what is your reaction? How would you view that? Would it be saddening, but not personal? Would you take it as a personal injury (not that they didn’t listen, but that they didn’t change)? Or would you look at it as their choice, and since you were just doing it to help them, it doesn’t change you at all if they choose not to listen?

If you are entreating them, referring to yourself as part of your reasoning to convince them, then you are probably working off of a romantic relationship string. If you are entreating them, referring to their own, independent good instead, then you are probably working off of a brotherly, sisterly type of relationship string. Think of it in a marriage context if it helps: “I am your husband, and I want you to consider this for our sake” as opposed to the obviously more friend oriented: “As a friend, I noticed this in your life that concerned me, you might like to look at it.”

This obviously takes discernment and wisdom through Bible study, prayer, and close fellowship with the Holy Spirit and seeking God’s will. It isn’t easy. I am not saying it is. It is very hard. But it is important to consider and think and pray about.

Now I am sure at least one or two of you are wondering if this doesn’t sound just a little bit legalistic. 🙂

Well, thankfully, Paul helps me out of that sticky mess. 🙂

1 Corinthians 7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

The whole point of this is not to add more rules and regulations to your life that bind and constrict your liberty in Christ. Most of these things aren’t even given as a command, but as godly advice (which, coming from the Bible, we ought to take as commands anyways, but I digress). The point is to help us, to show us something to help us to live better lives. This isn’t here to make our lives more difficult, but more good.

And also to help us to be better witnesses for Christ, to be able to behave in a comely, Christ-like manner without appearance of evil or making provision for the flesh. This is here to help us to serve God better.

So there is my answer. Yes, we should guard our hearts and reserve romance for marriage. But we also don’t have to be cloistered from the opposite sex, refusing to be friends with them.

Controversial topic (and passages), I know, so please comment with your perspectives; but also please be polite and back up what you say with Scripture — not anecdotes. 🙂

A New Kind of Modesty

Andromeda:  Textile Macro

Andromeda: Textile Macro by cobalt123, on Flickr

I walked down the high street of Cork, my head down, my ears dulled, and my heart aching. The atmosphere of the world washed over me like a warm wind laced with acid. I felt miserable. Every view my eyes beheld had an immodest diva as the centerpiece, framed by sensual suggestions. My stomach churned. I hate shopping. A strange glimmer of something caught the attention of the corner of my eye, and I glanced up. My eyes locked, and I smiled.

A girl. A real girl. Long hair. Long skirt. Subdued dress. Tastefully adorned. Probably homeschooled. Definitely Christian. Very pretty. At least to me she was. She might not be garishly redone and pimped like an android from Venus, but she was clean and wholesome. The sight of her refreshed me to no end as she walked through the teeming crowds of the world’s charms.

The winds of fleshly temptation blew about me unheeded; the heat of devilish suggestion beat upon me unnoticed. God had sent an angel to refreshen me in my battle, and even when she had gone, my heart was renewed, my eyes were alight with resolve, and my smile remained.

-a generic retelling of an all too infrequent occurrence in my life

Oooooh…! Jay is looking at girls!” I hear you say.

Yup. I do that.

Go ahead and gasp all you like; I am not apologizing. I want to talk about this. I want to encourage young ladies like the one described above (who I have never yet met, though I think I have seen the same one a few times here and there) in what they are doing. And to encourage those who aren’t, to start.

Please note what I saw in this girl: her outside features. All I could see was her clothing and her head. And yet I was inspired, encouraged, lifted, strengthened, and exhorted. How was that? The answer is pretty simple actually:

Clothing is a part of language.

Honestly, it is. It is a part of language just like body language or speech. This has been true as long as there have been clothes… in fact the first occurrence of clothes in the Bible (and in the world for that matter) emphasized this fact (Genesis 3:7-21). This quality of clothing is inescapable.

So what did this girl’s clothing say to me?

I am a Christian. I serve God with my heart and my body. I yield my personal desires to His requests. I seek to please Him in all I do. God is glorious, and worth serving. God has changed me. I am not beat down or trampled on: I am living joyously and full of life. I want to save myself for marriage, and I want to help you do the same. Live for God.”

Nice little sermon there, huh?  And that is why her appearance was like a drink of refreshing water straight from the fountain of life: she was glorifying God. She was pointing straight to Him. And His presence was there in that, blessing both her and me. And that was what gave me strength.

Of course I hear you saying, “But what if she doesn’t believe those things? What if she isn’t trying to say those things?” Well, the answer is rather obvious: there is a miscommunication. *grins*

But it doesn’t matter very much to me. See, if someone accidentally says they hate me, and I forgive them, it makes no difference to me than if they had really meant it and I forgave them. I react the same, and I am right to do so.

If someone gives out Bibles in an attempt to go undercover and subvert, destroy, and otherwise attack a church, those Bibles are not blocked from helping people. Lost may still become saved through his efforts, even if he didn’t mean it.

So it is with clothes. Whether you mean what they say or not, they still say it.

Therefore we all ought to take heed to what we wear to make sure we are saying the right thing.

Now, as with learning any language, there is a lot involved. Thankfully the Bible helps us out a ton in figuring this out (believe it or not, the vast majority of the language of clothing is not cultural, but built into us by God, and laid out in His Scripture). Unfortunately, there is also a ton of controversy on every single standard of communication that is in the Bible. Go figure. Lexicology is tough.

I want to focus on one particular part of this, though: adorning.

Leaving aside the standards of modesty, femininity, and cultural significance (assuming we are at least reasonably in agreement on those, though it would be surprising if we were), of course, because those would take a looooong time to go through.

I want to examine two passages in the Bible: 1 Timothy 2:8-10, and 1 Peter 3:1-5. This will be an exercise in hermeneutics, so hang with me. 🙂

Here is the first:

1 Timothy 2:8-10 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And the second:

1 Peter 3:1-5 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your
chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.
3
Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God,
adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

It is good to take these two in context with each other, since they are talking about the same topic, to a similar audience, in related contexts, and thus act as commentaries on each other.

There are two key words that tie these passages together (among other things of course): Conversation and Adorn.

Conversation means your way of life, plain and simple. 1 Peter actually mentions this word twice, and additionally uses the concept at least 3 times. 1 Timothy does not use the word, but uses the concepts around three times. The theme of these two passages is actually not really clothing, but your lifestyle in general.

This is what I was talking about just a bit ago: these passages are teaching us how to communicate godliness through our actions, including our dress.

Adorn is the important word. It is used in both passages, and provides the key to interpreting them.

ADORN’, v.t. [L. adorno, ad and orno, to deck, or beautify, to dress, set off, extol, furnish.
1. To deck or
decorate; to make beautiful; to add to beauty by dress; to deck with external ornaments.
A bride adorneth, herself with jewels. Isa 6.
To set off to
advantage; to add ornaments to; to embellish by any thing external or adventitious; as, to adorn a speech by appropriate action, sentiments with elegance of language, or a gallery with pictures.
3. To make
pleasing, or more pleasing; as, great abilities adorned by virtue or affability.
4. To display the
beauty or excellence of; as, to adorn the doctrine of God.

Webster’s 1828, of course.

According to Strong’s, every Greek and Hebrew word translated as ‘adorn’ in the Bible has the same definition presented here: to make beautiful by decorating.

With this definition, we are immediately presented with a logical problem.

1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

So, at first glance, this would say that women are not supposed to braid their hair or wear gold or… wear clothes?

Then you think, oh, right, it says ‘adorn’ not ‘wear.’ Therefore we aren’t supposed to decorate ourselves with those things.

Which means women are not permitted to put anything on them which would make them beautiful. Even worse, they are not allowed to put anything on them that will make them not ugly (otherwise it would adorn). In which case the Muslims got it right. 😛

This view is untenable, not because of the Muslims, but because in other parts of Scripture, women are commanded to adorn themselves for their husbands… with jewels (which would defeat the purpose of this verse entirely, with this interpretation at least).

An example:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.

Another interpretation is that they shouldn’t wear clothes at all, which is, ahem, obviously not the right one.

These are the interpretations you get if you look at only this verse. The only way to understand it correctly is to look at the context.

1 Peter 3:4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

The wearing of ornaments is not contrasted with drab apparel, but with a different adornment: good conversation. This is born out also in the sister passage in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And if you look at the example that Peter gives, it becomes even more clear (isn’t it great how the Bible interprets itself?):

1 Peter 3:5-6 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Notice how it didn’t praise Sara for dressing in a bland and ugly fashion, but by pointing out her beautiful spirit.

And that is the point. This passage is exhorting women to make sure that their primary adornment is that of their spirit. If their clothes outshine their conversation, then that is not a good testimony.

They are saying the wrong thing.

Yes, women can wear gold, jewelry, braids, and even quality clothes fit for a princess of the King of kings; as long as their soul, their walk with God, their good works, their faith, their meekness, their sobriety, their shamefacedness, comes forth with yet greater splendor. In fact they must shine forth to such a degree that those are the things that people see first and talk about.

Ezekiel 16:8-14 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time [was] the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
10 I clothed thee also with
broidered work, and shod thee with badgers‘ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
11 I decked thee also with
ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
12 And I put a
jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
13 Thus wast thou decked with
gold and silver; and thy raiment [was of] fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy
beauty: for it [was] perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

This is the word picture that God used to describe His redeeming work in Israel’s life, and ultimately, in our lives. God would not have used this word picture, which describes in fascinatingly vivid detail putting costly array (and even gold) on a girl, if He disapproved of those very things.

The focus of these verses is to exhort women to make sure their conversation outshines their adornment, not to forbid women from wearing gold or braiding their hair (etcetera).

This true interpretation is born out in the definitions and usage of the words in the context of 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 2:9 …that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.

Shamefacedness is easy: it is the opposite of ‘bold’, very close to ‘shy’ or ‘bashful.’ They do not put themselves forward.

Sobriety does not exclusively refer to the absence of drunkenness: it means “Habitual freedom from enthusiasm, inordinate passion or overheated imagination; calmness; coolness; as the sobriety of riper years; the sobriety of age.” Again, reserved, not putting yourself forward.

Modest really doesn’t only refer to sexual chastity, that is actually not even the primary definition. Webster has practically a sermon in his two definitions on this subject (‘modest’ and ‘modesty’), and I wish I had the space to quote it all here, but I am sure you have noticed that this post is fast becoming a book. But here is a snippet:

Not bold or forward; as a modest maid. The word may be thus used without reference to chastity.

Almost enough said, but I can’t leave without quoting this gem (pun intended) found at the end of Webster’s definition of modesty:

In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.

He likes to wax eloquent, doesn’t he? 🙂 But the point is made well.

God wants us to be beautiful for His glory, just like a flower, or a waterfall, or a sunset glowing over the horizon of the ocean.

But we have been given a great gift that God did not give to these things. Above and beyond this sort of beauty, God has given us the capacity to radiate His splendor through our actions and our spirits.

And that is the mark of a child of God, when we do that.

P.S. I want to link to another post on this subject by a good friend of mine, Mrs. Parunak, on her blog Pursuing Titus 2. We don’t disagree on much. 🙂 But we do happen to disagree on this point, and her article, in fact, inspired me to write this one. Mine is a bit longer, though. 😛 I am not here to refute her at all (though I do welcome her to comment and let me know what she thinks, and if I missed anything). The only reason I am linking to her article, is because she does a great job presenting the contrary view.

http://pursuingtitus2.com/2010/09/07/you-might-need-to-take-a-deep-breath-for-this-one/

Go Kill Yourself

I really hate myself.

I really do. I do stuff that is just plain evil. I seek after the wrong things. I do things that are utterly unpleasing to God. I am so far from God’s desire for me that it isn’t even funny. Every time I try to do right I don’t make it. It seems like everything I do is a waste a lot of the time because I simply am not doing it for God but for myself.

Bleach. Why don’t I just kill myself? I mean, that is what the Bible says, right? Paul said he ‘dies daily’ and that we are ‘dead to sin.’ The Bible also says that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, so why bother keeping it? Why not just go to heaven and cash in on that great and glorious body that doesn’t sin?

Yes, I do feel like that sometimes. I honestly do. Quite a bit actually.

But it is wrong. And you know it is wrong.

God loves us unconditionally, and He has a plan for us on this planet, even while we struggle daily with sin. That is clearly stated many times in the Bible, and we need to turn to those Scriptures when we feel down about our sin. We need to realize God’s glory in our lives.

But I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding underneath that attitude that is not commonly addressed as wrong, and which, I think, is actually commonly taught and promoted by godly pastors and teachers.

That is sad. And I want to address it here if possible.

The Bible talks extensively about the Old Man. It also talks about the New Man. It talks about our Flesh. It talks about the Holy Spirit. It talks about a lot of things. But how are these particular things connected?

Romans 6:6-7 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him,] that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.

So that is pretty clear, right? Our flesh is bad, really bad, and it needs to be as good as dead to us. Really dead. Seriously dead. As dead as we can make it. That means that anything that pleases our flesh ought to be completely cut out of our lives and treated as an abomination to God, right?

I mean, that is what the Bible says over in Romans 8:13 that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” And then if you throw in 1 John 2:16 (“For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”) it becomes even more obvious. Our fleshly bodies are absolutely horrendous things, incapable of doing anything good or liking good things.

Actually not that simple.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

Oh.

God wants… our fleshly bodies to be alive? And not only that, but somehow they are supposed to be holy and acceptable unto God! It almost sounds like we are talking about two different fleshes here.

That is because we are. We are talking about the Old Man and the New Man. Or, as we could also put it, the Old Flesh and the New Flesh.

To see this we are going to take a little trip through some parallel passages in Scripture.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We have seen that one already, but I want you to focus on the key phrases highlighted in bold, and keep them in your mind as we go on.

Ephesians 4:22-25 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Okay, I want you to notice the parallels between the mentions of renewing of your mind, and between the connection implied thereby between the Living Sacrifice and the New Man. And now we can continue this series with:

Colossians 3:8-12 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new [man,] which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

There is an obvious equivalence between the New Man and the Living Sacrifice, especially when you stack these passages up. And in connection with that is an equally obvious fact that the Old Man and the Flesh is the same thing.

So what does that mean?

It means that our flesh doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Think about it: God made us with bodies. He invented pleasure. He invented our flesh. He made its desires to be the way they are.

But He made them for a particular purpose: to be a Living Sacrifice. He designed us to live in submission to His Holy Spirit (which is the power that makes us able to obey His Word and become like His Son), so that the flesh does not serve itself only, but rather, Him.

A Living Sacrifice. We trade allegiances, and that makes our flesh into a New Man.

And suddenly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 make more sense:

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God wants our flesh to become like the flesh of Christ: wholly submitted to Him. So what does that mean for us, today? It means that we don’t just kill the Old Man, our flesh: we need to resurrect our flesh as the New Man by the power of Christ.

Romans 6:4-5 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection:

We can stop being miserable with our Old Flesh, and start living in victory with our New Flesh. Our ‘fleshly’ appetites are not our enemies… when submitted to Christ and His glory.

So, does that make sense? How do you see this affecting your daily walk?

4 Appetites that Change Your Life

Doesn't that make you hungry?I have been thinking about appetites lately. It started back when I listened to the Reformer’s Unanimous message on Principle # 4 again: “You cannot satisfy a fleshly appetite by indulging in it,” a couple weeks or so ago.

It is really a very good principle. There is a lot of truth packed into it.

Let me unwrap a little bit of it for you. It is what I have been pondering on, and putting into practice for the last couple weeks, and I am really excited about it.

There are a few different kinds of appetites, and you can classify them in a few different ways.

If you classify them by the object of desire, for example, you have basically two kinds: good and bad. An example of a good appetite would be reading God’s Word, or righteousness. God clearly commands us to desire and hunger after these things over and over in the Bible. And example of a bad appetite would be sinful sexual lust, drugs, and stuff like that.

Those are obvious examples, but it gets harder to categorize things when you start trying to classify things like healthy food. Is that a fleshly appetite? Is that a godly appetite? Is that an appetite that could grow to be a consuming appetite? It is actually all of those, which makes it tough to see whether it is good or bad. I mean, think about it. If it is kept under control, and it doesn’t become an idol (that is, your appetite for it becomes overwhelming), it is good and right, and should be encouraged. So it seems almost like….

A gradient! Oh no!

You have black (bad appetites) and white (good appetites) and gray (appetites that are… um middly). Gray areas are not good, are they? They just smell of compromise and wishy-washy-ness and relative morality and… bleagch.

So that is why I was thinking about this, and I discovered another way to categorize appetites: by the nature of the appetite.

Let’s illustrate with food, because it is near to our hearts and easy to apply.

Did you know that if you consistently eat food that satisfies your nutritional needs (yes, that is what food is for), you won’t fill your stomach up? It actually isn’t good for you to eat until your stomach is full: you are supposed to eat until your nutritional requirements are met for that meal. If you do it right, your appetite actually turns off and you can’t eat another bite.

Of course if you aren’t eating food that satisfies those needs, you won’t have that effect, and the only way you can feel sort of ‘satisfied’ is to eat until your stomach is full of food. The problem with that is that your stomach isn’t really made to handle that, and it will expand and stretch to hold it all. And your appetite will grow with it. So you will gradually eat more and more at each meal.

What happens then is that you start to eat to satisfy your mouth. You eat because it tastes good going through your mouth, and you keep on sending food through until either your mouth says it is enough, or your stomach begins to complain that it is overloaded, and you stop because you don’t want to face the consequences of overeating.

Unfortunately if you keep going in that direction you will get to the point where it doesn’t matter any more. You begin to despise your food, and your body is screaming in misery at you because it is being abused, but you can’t stop eating. You are eating to satisfy, not your needs, not your stomach, not your mouth, but your appetite itself. You are a slave to your … addiction.

So we have four kinds of appetites there, and the progression between them. Notice that you don’t start down this slippery slope unless you change your intake to something that doesn’t have safeguards to protect you from abusing it.

Here is where it gets exciting.

Our spiritual life has this same division of appetites!

When you are doing something for God, something that God wants you to do, by definition it won’t take control of your life. That is how it is designed to work. You can’t spend too much time reading God’s Word, if you are doing it for the right reasons, because it will drive you to get out and take action on what it is talking about. The same thing goes for prayer or any other spiritual discipline. This also applies to things that God calls you to do, like spending time with your family, having a successful job, resting, or recreation. Each of these things, when done with the right motivation, will fall into place in God’s big picture of your life and will never take over more room than they need.

But if you start focusing on anything for its own sake, it starts to grow, and you begin to toe the line of it beginning to encroach on your other tasks and duties in life. The problem with toeing the line, though, is that it moves. It moves farther and farther out (in your eyes, not in God’s), until you are far away from where God wants you to be, and that thing has become a stronghold in your life.

When that happens you start doing it just for the pleasure of doing it. Pleasure is not a bad thing: God designed many of things purely for our pleasure with no ‘practical’ benefits other than just that. But when the pleasure becomes centered on our flesh, rather than on God, bad things begin to happen. You do it as much as possible, and only stop when you fear the consequences. You sleep until you fear losing your job. You work until you fear losing your sleep or your family. You read your Bible (as a self-righteous hypocrite) until you fear losing other things that might be important to you.

But living like that is like playing Russian Roulette. Every day you take a shot at your head, and the cylinder moves the bullet one place closer to you. You don’t know when the day of reckoning will come, but be assured that it will if you don’t change your course. The closer you get the less and less you care about consequences, and you begin to recklessly throw yourself into it. You begin to hate your life; you hate your passion; you hate your appetite; and you hate everything that tries to drag you from it.

You become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

And at the end of that road is death. No hope or way of escape is in that direction.

You have to turn around and run for God, casting out all things that feed the wrong appetites: the ones that are not for His glory. You need to seek out those things that satisfy your righteous appetites: the ones that bring God glory. You need to starve those appetites which are displeasing to God.

And if you don’t.

Hell awaits you.

A Call to Arms!

About three years ago, I went to a boy’s home in Tennessee, called the Shenandoah Ranch Academy. It was for struggling teens (oftentimes runaways, addicts, or worse). I needed it.

The nine months I spent at the Ranch contained some of the hardest months of my life. They also contained some of the best. Several were both.

The regulations there were strict (among the most prominent was the outlawing of all interaction with girls. Period.), but we needed that. The guys there and the staff became some of the best friends I have ever had (have amazing friends, so that is saying a ton). They loved me, and I loved them.

But many (most) of the guys hated the Ranch. It was hard. It was difficult. It was constraining. They ran into every rule. They got into trouble.

I didn’t. At least not as much. I loved the Ranch.

When I went into it, I had a mindset that was new to me: I had forged it through many prayerful and tearful nights and days in the weeks previous. I was destroying my whole set of habits, attitudes, and worldviews, and re-building from the Bible up. One of the principles that I adopted was that I would obey my authorities, regardless of whether I thought they were right or wrong. That decision carried me through the Ranch, and I rarely got in trouble.

But it wasn’t me that did it. It was God. Just weeks prior I had been stubborn, rebellious, filled with wickedness and despicable sins. The difference was that I had been saved. God was doing dramatic and wonderful things in my life.

The staff there guided me in my life, forming new habits of humility, honesty, and strength. But mostly diligence and persistence.

Their Biblical teachings and counsel were invaluable to me, and carried me through a lot.

The Ranch has gone through a lot of tough times. Over time directors have come and gone. Boys have come and left. The campus has changed. The rules have changed.

But something has stayed.

It is a place where parents can send their sons to be helped Biblically, and where they really will be helped.

I left to go to my family, and we left to go to Ireland, and I miss the Ranch. I still keep in contact with my friends there, even those who have left (insofar as I am able). I call back and encourage as I can. I do this because they are special to me, and I want to help them.

So why am I telling you all this?

Glad you asked (now I am starting to sound like a salesman).

One of the crucial roles at the Ranch is that of Dorm Monitor. This vital part of the staff is a mature young man (over 21, so he can drive the van) to help lead by example, tend the grounds, and monitor the dorm. The guys need someone who is like them who they can look up to and model their lives after. They need someone who knows where they are and who has overcome. They need someone who is a spiritual and a physical leader, who will not cow to their whims.

They need a rebelutionary.

I was blessed to be there when a young man named Phil Dunlop (actually one of the sons of the author of the Terrestria Chronicles series, and yes, I did meet his dad. 🙂 ) was dorm monitor. But he is away at college now, and they need a good strong dorm monitor.

I told the Director (his name is James Scott, a friend who is like a father, an uncle, and a grandfather all in one to me) that I would ask my rebelutionary friends to see who would like to offer to take this job.

It pays. It is hard.You would need to go live in TN, hopefully for at least a year. It is definitely worthwhile.

If none of you guys are able to take this opportunity of ministry and service, pass it on to someone you trust. Help me help these guys. They need to hear our heart’s cry: the battle call of the Rebelution.

If you have any questions you can comment, drop me an email at sir.emeth@gmail.com, or email Bro. James Scott at shenandoahboys@gmail.com. You can also call him at (423) 618-4090.

Thank you so very much for passing this on!

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

Red and White Hearts

1 Timothy 5:1-2 Rebuke not an elder, but entreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren;
2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

I was going to use the above verse to talk about how we ought, as young men, to treat our sisters in Christ. But when I began to examine it for my discussion, I noticed something that I had never before noticed, and which at first sight renders it unusable for my purpose (and for the purpose that most people quote it for).

Most of the time you hear the last bit quoted all by itself (not good practice). So we forget what we are supposed to be doing with the younger women in all purity. I always assumed it was everything, until I looked at the whole verse (Yes, I know, bad Jay for forgetting to read the whole verse until now).

The context is that of rebuke. We are not supposed to rebuke those we are not in authority over, but rather entreat them in various ways depending on who they are. Treat them all as family: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters…

But wait: there it is again. The other three types of people are just given a role to model your entreaty after, but the younger women get an extra instruction: “with all purity.”

Now, this is talking to Timothy, not to, say, some girl named Deborah or Ruth (or whatever), so I would assume that the reciprocal is also true: young women are to entreat young men as brothers in all purity. I see no reason to not assume that, so this would apply to both genders.

Now think about it: if we are to treat them with purity when we are entreating them to change their ways to conform more closely to the Bible, then how much more ought we to treat them with purity in every other form of interaction with them (or in our communications about them)? Truly, when you are entreating someone to change their ways, there are many pitfalls into which one can easily fall and hurt both you and the other person, and so this injunction is well placed. But I see it as also setting a standard which applies across the board in our interactions with our peers (age-wise) of the opposite sex.

So what does it mean to treat them as a sister (or brother) in all purity?

The word ‘purity’ there is hagneia, meaning the quality of cleanliness, especially chastity. It comes from hagnos, which means innocent, modest, perfect. So let us take the two key words here and turn to Webster’s 1828 (with unrelated definitions removed for the sake of brevity):

CHASTE, a.
1. Pure from all unlawful commerce of sexes. Applied to persons before marriage, it signifies pure from all sexual commerce, undefiled; applied to married persons, true to the marriage bed.
2. Free from obscenity.
While they behold your chaste conversation. 1 Pet 3.
3. In language, pure; genuine; uncorrupt; free from barbarous words and phrases, and from quaint, affected, extravagant expressions.

PU’RITY, n.

2. Cleanness; freedom from foulness or dirt; as the purity of a garment.
The purity of a linen vesture.
3. Freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life.
4. Chastity; freedom from contamination by illicit sexual connection.
5. Freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs.

So we have here an absence of any sinful motive or action, and especially absence of any sexual connections.

These are pretty obvious, but in practice they can get pretty elusive. Both genders immediately start foaming at the mouth with questions about this situation and that situation, can I do this, or is that too far, etc. It makes your head spin.

But there are several things that are very simple that we can derive from this passage and these definitions, and then use those as principles to apply to our ‘sticky situations.’

One – We ought to treat people of the opposite gender differently.

That should be obvious to all of you. If it isn’t, and this comes as a shock, go read those verses again, as well as the first few chapters of Genesis, and if you still don’t get it, come talk to me.

How are we to treat them differently?

Therein lies the rub. The answer to this question used to be almost as obvious as the fact that girls and boys are different. But culture has blurred the lines so much, and the church has followed suit so ably, that everyone is very confused. It is very hard now to find a mentor who is able to tell you the right answers to your situations. But they are worth finding, and worth the effort. So my answer here is mainly: Go get a good mentor. Other than that, just hold on and be patient– I might drum up some advice for you before this article is over. 🙂

Two – We ought to be unselfish in our interactions with people of the opposite gender.

Again, this should come as no surprise (all these principles really ought not to surprise any of you actually). But again what this means in practical life becomes blurred because of our worldly culture. A lot of guys go and ‘unselfishly’ lay their heart at a girl’s feet (or vice versa) and then wonder later (after both their hearts get hurt or broken) why I say they were selfish (amendment: disgustingly selfish).

Three – We ought to be devoid of sexual… everything in our interactions with people of the opposite gender (or any gender 😛 ).

That includes our thoughts and our communications with others about people of the opposite gender (we already knew that too).

Now here is where I can start giving advice (I love giving advice… I wonder why?). 🙂

Nowadays, love is so mixed up that people cannot separate it from everything sexual. This is opposite to the Bible’s way of thinking. You are supposed to love your sisters and brothers very closely, without any tinge of the presence of any sort of sexual connotations. And everyone else too (one of these days I need to post a rant on homophobia…).

And here is where the title of this post comes in: White and Red Hearts.

This is how I separate these two kinds of love. Now, when you get married, you are commanded to have both hearts involved: red and white. Before you get married, you are commanded to have the white heart, the heart of purity, for everyone.

They are both hearts, but one is fired with sexual and possessive passion, the other only with unselfishness. When you can separate these two, life gets simpler… until things get confusing again. 🙂

What are your thoughts? Did that make sense? How do these two hearts look in real life?

What is the Gospel?

A lot of people normally go to 1 Corinthians 1-4 to find out what the Gospel is.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

And it seems like a good place to go: it says that Paul is declaring the Gospel here.

But what they seem to not notice is that the passage does not end there: it ends in a colon. And the passage continues for two more sentences after that:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Now, there is the Gospel. And if you do not include that specific order of appearances you are not preaching the true Gospel, and are in danger of heresy.

Ah… no. 🙂

This passage is telling a condensed history of the crucial things that Jesus did. It is also giving evidence to prove to the hearer’s mind that what he is saying is indeed true.

So what is the Gospel?

Well we can turn to another passage that purports to answer that question.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

What is the Gospel: it is the power by which God saves those who believe in it…

Jesus.

That is really the only thing in common between this passage and the other: Jesus. So now I can tell you what the Gospel is in one word: Jesus.

That also means that by yielding to Christ in us, conforming to His image, and doing as He would do, we are proclaiming the Gospel.

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Our ‘good works’ are the fruit of faith and of the Spirit: Christ shining in us.

And in that sense, every Christian ought to proclaim the Gospel from midnight to midnight, from noon to noon, from rising to rising, from setting to setting, from birth to death, to everyone and everything that we have any influence on, with no fear, with no compunction, with no vicissitude, with no compromise.