September 2012


  

DVD cover of the Region 2 Essential Collection...

DVD cover of the Region 2 Essential Collection release. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Parts 1-4, we sampled four of six habits, common to people of all cultures and time periods, that Jesus warned of in his Sermon on the Mount: Willful anger and contempt, an adulterous mind-set, swearing oaths, and score-keeping.

Each fortifies the next in a chain reaction that creates a toxic spirit incapable of loving anyone, including yourself and enemies, as Jesus does.

The bad news is that these habits are often seen as right and good, so people protect them the way a drug addict protects his supply. But the more the poison builds up, the more conditioned you are to react negatively at the slightest provocation. It owns you.

The good news is that as you flush each one and God blesses your obedience, the clearer your vision and mind become, and the more conditioned you are to not return insults with better ones. You’ll soon be blessing those who curse you and loving enemies the way Jesus does.

Poison #5

So, the fifth sneaky habit Jesus warns of is outer appearance, reputation, and the need to look good for public approval. In a word, image. The old fashioned term is “vanity.” (more…)

us vs them blue

Us vs Them (Photo credit: id-iom)

Progressing through the Sermon on the Mount, you’ve now sampled the first three toxic, universal habits that prevent spiritual well-being and God’s goal for humanity: the ability to love one another as He loves us.

Because each poison fortifies the next, the tainting effect is cumulative. Jesus therefore presented spiritual detox—sanctification, becoming holy—in a specific, necessary order.

Flushing out the most destructive habit (willful anger and contempt) makes the next one (an adulterous spirit) less difficult to flush. If you get rid of both, the next one (the need to swear oaths) is even easier.

Spiritual pollution builds in reverse. Maintain the first habit, and the second is harder to flush. Retain both, and the third is even more difficult. The less we see the masterful wisdom of Jesus’ sequence, the sneakier these poisons get and the blinder, more hard-hearted we become.

Unless you approach it his way, spiritual detox and maximum well-being simply can’t happen. Holiness gets reduced to minimal, random acts of kindness, for which we high-five and pat each other on the back. This is precisely Jesus’ warning to the unrighteous Pharisees who considered themselves spiritual A-listers, but whom he called a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs full of death.

So today, we’ll sample poison #4: score-keeping and payback. True to Jesus’ strategy, this one loses potency once the first three are less available to fortify it. (more…)

WARNINGS

Poison Warnings (Photo credit: hugovk)

Parts 1 and 2 looked at the top two toxic habits common to people of all cultures and time periods. They remain entrenched because we either believe them to be good (willful anger and contempt) or don’t realize we’re harboring them (an adulterous spirit that divorces God’s kind of love). Therefore, we’re in no great hurry to get rid of them.

Unfortunately, they intensify poison #3: swearing oaths. This is another broad, sneaky category that includes promises, commitments, or keeping one’s word, which always seem right and good, but can backfire into hard-hearted stubbornness and pride. So when Jesus addressed this in his Sermon on the Mount, he advised to not swear at all. Instead, just let your Yes be yes and No be no. “Anything further comes from the evil one.”

Warning: May Cause Blindness

Tied to this is insistence—insistence on winning arguments, for example, or forcing others to live up to our expectations, standards, or demands. Swearing and insistence are a common form of spiritual adultery that can kill a loving, gracious spirit. The opposite would be to not force or press a claim, one positive definition of the Greek word for divorce (apoluo).

I’ve said in other posts that the basic definition of pride is a pre-disposition to insist on having your way. It’s the opposite of love and brings with it impatience, unkindness, ego, compulsion, manipulation, and all sorts of inner and outer turmoil. (more…)

Toxic

Toxic (Photo credit: Aalay)

Moving on from retained anger and contempt as the #1 way to poison your spirit, according to the Sermon on the Mount, today we look at poison #2: adultery and divorce.

Because the subject is vastly complex, entire books are written on it. So I can highlight here only a few widely ignored points. As it is, this ended up longer than usual, but I hope there’s enough food for thought to make it worth your time. It won’t be what we usually “hear it said,” however.

First, when Jesus addresses this subject, he refers primarily to the spirit of idolatry and dis-union from God, secondarily to physical acts. It’s a broad mind-set, condition of heart, and life-style that cheats on Him, sometimes knowingly, but usually unknowingly.

Connected to this is lust. Many will argue that it’s strictly sexual in nature, but that’s exactly the sneaky mistake Jesus points out. It has more to do with a grabby, hungry desire to treat people as throw-aways.

This unloving spirit is second only to anger and contempt, and, in fact, feeds on them. Thus, Jesus explains that adultery has already occurred in the heart with just a willfully devouring leer. It may or may not be sexual in nature, though it often is; and rape is the ultimate expression of it. (more…)