Thanks for taking time to read this series of posts “55 for 55: Passages of Scripture that mean a lot to me.” Below are the passages that continue in this series. Thanks again and may God bless you as He has done so with me by conveying His love and wisdom to me through the Bible.
41.Galatians 6:14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
I know my words here will fail to capture the full significance of the Cross. When Jesus lived on Earth, the Cross was an instrument of shame, torture and death. There was nothing glorious about it. A man was considered cursed if he “hung on the tree” (Galatians 3:13) as the pain that preceded his death was no doubt excruciating (another word from the Latin word “Crux” or Cross).
Dr. Spiros Zodhiates and his team of researchers interpret Paul’s words in this verse to mean…
a) May the world and all that is in it have no more appeal to me than a rotting corpse on the cross does, and…
b) …May I not crave the desires of the world any more that a man dying on the cross would yearn for worldly pleasures.
As much as I’ve wanted to be committed to living out the directives in this verse, where the desires of the world would have no appeal to me, unfortunately, I’ve made choices that indicated my heart, my desires, my focus and my commitment were in fact misplaced.
As the verse below states, I’ve given myself over to behaviors and processes that contaminated my effectiveness as a Christian and diluted my ability to be a fully functioning, positive and consistent change agent for my Lord.
42. 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
Desire (Epithumia) is a neutral word here. On one end of the spectrum, its the same word used in James 1:13-15 (“evil desire”) when James describes the process of temptation in our heart, which ultimately leads to sin, then potentially to death (which could be spiritual, premature or literal death).
On the other end of the spectrum, Epithumia is the same word used in Luke 22:14-15 at the Last Supper, when Jesus expressed He “earnestly desired” to eat this meal with them. Same word, same desire, different ends of the spectrum of human experience with of course, two different outcomes.
So I have a question for you. Have you ever purposed to aim your desire in a productive and constructive direction but for reasons known or unknown, you wound up with your desire “sliding toward” the other unintended and potentially destructive end of the spectrum? Do you know how and why this happened?
I know I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accomplish what I intended or purposed with my thoughts, feelings and behaviors because I walked, ran or crawled toward that which “satisfied” my flesh, my mind and my ego. In the next passage of scripture, King David wrote about the angst-ridden and predictable outcome that occurs (which I know all too well) when I gave into my urges, triggers and cravings and attempted to deny or cover them up from others. Perhaps you too may be able to relate to what he said as well.
43. Psalm 32:1-8: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. 7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Suffering in silence was the result of me misplacing my desire (or passion) and not talking about it. Even though I wanted to live out my commitment to Christ and not be controlled by my lust/craving for the desires of the world, I didn’t invite other “teammates” into my life to help me to deal with my secrets. There’s always shame in our secrets and theres an old recovery saying that “you’re as sick as your secrets.” I had secrets and I was sick!
Like David, I suffered in silence, and my body paid the price. Worry, anxiety, headaches, sleeplessness. Guilt, shame, suffering and despair, Ugh!
Jesus on the other hand (unlike David and myself), had others around Him in the midst of His suffering. As a human being who was about to experience an excruciating amount of Suffering (which we call the “Passion”), He invited and connected with safe people and practiced the spiritual disciplines of Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, Service and I’m sure others to the best of His ability for a man in His condition. He was able to accurately purpose His desire and passion because He not only talked with and invited God into His suffering, but He also talked with and invited His disciples to help Him (Luke 22:28; Luke 22:39-46).
Thats what “confession” or (Yada) means in verse 5: “to be known and to make oneself known.” Silence about persecution or abuse, addiction or relapse, guilt or shame, suffering or violence, fear or pain sets us up to suffer privately and in secret, but always alone. That could be a deadly concoction for some. What woke me up is when I got too tired of being torn up by the Enemy who prowls like a Lion, but didn’t have to hunt for me because I kept stepping into his cage…alone!
I’ve since come to realize that “taking a page out of Jesus’ playbook” and practicing these and other spiritual disciplines, especially the discipline of talking about my problems and making myself known in the context of fellowshipping with others has helped me to be more successful with my resolves (not perfect, but more successful). David figured this out, and confessed to God. And He penned a beautiful and heartfelt cry to God about it as we’ll see in the next passage. For me, I learned when I started to talk to others before I opened the door to the Lion’s den.
44. Psalm 51:10-12: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
All of Psalm 51 is a beautiful and penitent prayer to God about our need to repent and reconnect with God. When I’ve misplaced my passion, I ask(ed) God for mercy and I ask Him to not hold my transgressions against me or others close to me (v.1).
I ask(ed) Him to teach me about why I messed up in the first place and how to correct my behavior (v.6).
I ask(ed) that His Spirit empower me above and beyond my own abilities (v.10).
I ask(ed) that He receive me (v.11) and help me to get my heart, mind and priorities right so I don’t hurt myself or others (v.10).
Finally, I connect with David’s humility (v.17) and continue to approach God in humility. I’ve realized that I learned a lot more about God, myself, others, life and better ways to appropriate my passion and purpose when I’m in a humble, open and expectant state. But Paul’s words in the next passage remind me there’s more to learn and implement in my restoration and growth process.
45. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
The word “bought” here is the Greek word “Agora,” which means “marketplace.” Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6:15 the transliteration (word for word, Greek to English) that the Apostle Paul states bluntly about this verse is “shall the end result of who I am resemble a prostitute?” He’s saying that every time I misplace my passion, I’m not buying, I selling myself. This is a painful and ugly truth about the Enemy. He wants me to think I’m purchasing (a “prostitute”), when in reality, I’m actually the one being shopped!
Well, this passage reminds me that two-thousand years ago something remarkable happened in the Agora. Something miraculous happened. Paul reminds me that if I’m selling myself in the marketplace, then Jesus is buying. He’s purchasing me back at a very expensive cost, on the cross, because He values me and He has a plan for me.
His plan has always and only been for me to be a fruitful human being and this verse reminds me that my the “garden of my heart” belongs to Him. It’s my job to protect His investment, but its His job to invest and produce fruit in the soil. He has and will continue to do so if I allow Him access to the soil (my life and yours) that He paid for with a costly sacrifice.
So in closing I come to the end of the circle. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Help me Lord Jesus! Help me to help myself and to grow up in you!