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…)

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Colored Bullseye

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There’s a perception in the church that all people at all times continually “miss the mark” and will always miss it no matter what we do. Straight from the womb, we hear, humanity falls short of God’s perfection, glory, and virtue. There are no exceptions, ever, even after we come to Christ.

It’s based on a partial Scripture: “…there is no one righteous, no not one,” usually coupled with “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Rom. 3:10, 23) Some Christians quote these as if God has nothing else to say.

But, (A.) there’s at least one exception: John the Baptist. “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” (Luk. 1:17) And, (B.) nearly every verse on human wickedness is immediately followed or preceded by a contrasting verse of human virtue. The Psalms and Proverbs alone hold dozens of examples of the wicked doing such and such, but the righteous doing something else.

So if there were no one righteous ever, those Scriptures would be false. And wouldn’t it fly in the face of Abraham, Noah, David, Rahab, Job, Mary, Joseph, and others whom God describes as upright, blameless, or righteous?

We can’t use partial verses as the whole truth; and we shouldn’t confuse the words righteous or perfect with “flawless.” That only delivers shame-perpetuating bad news and produces all sorts of treasure-stealing accusations. There’s better news! (more…)