November 20, 2006
"Self is the most subtle, the most stubborn, the most tenacious foe with which grace has to contend, in the soul of the believer. Self lives, and works and fights — when many other corruptions are mortified. Self is the last stronghold — the very citadel of Satan in the heart — which is reduced to the obedience of faith."
- John Angell James
If not for the pulpit in the middle of the platform one would confuse many a church services today, with the latest self-help, positive affirmation seminar. The bright lights, the gleaming smile, the carefully chosen non-confrontational words, preparing the audience for the next installment of yet another positive self image seminar in what has become an unending marathon of getting you to love yourself, and constantly tell yourself that you're all right, all is well. Positivism sells, and as long as we concentrate more on the exterior than the interior, as long as our focus is the flesh rather than the spirit, men will applaud in great jubilation.
Never mind the fact that our conscience continually cries out, condemning the duplicity in our hearts, never mind the fact that sin has entrenched itself in the midst of many a congregation unchallenged, never mind the fact that for many a year we have wandered in a spiritual desert, absent of the refreshing waters of the Holy Spirit. Never mind all that, just be positive, think positive, and act positive.
From the ever popular 'if you can think it you can be it', to the more unrealistic 'have a vision of yourself, and grow into that vision', to the outright foolishness of looking in the mirror and repeating the mantra, 'I am worth it, I deserve it, I am strong and I belong', it seems the church is no longer a place to learn of Christ and be taught mortification of the flesh, but rather a place where we are made to feel good about ourselves, a place where the flesh is given center stage and pandered to as though it were more important than spiritual growth.
The message of being positively positive and self-reliant is sweeping the nation, and the idea that in our own strength, and in and of ourselves we are nothing and can do nothing, has been replaced with the doctrine of positive thinking, and positive affirmation. We may be singing the song 'it's all about you Jesus', but the message of the hour is that it's all about us.
'You can do it', is the slogan that is being boisterously cheered, as the church suffers defeat after defeat, and sin corrupts even those we hold in the highest of esteem. Because we think so highly of ourselves, we are unwilling to face the true measure of our impotence, all the while deceiving ourselves into believing that it is by our might and by our power, and not by the Spirit of the living God that we are able to overcome.
Many a soul starts out with the best of intentions, believing in their hearts that they can do on their own what can only be done by the spirit of God. Trusting in themselves, they are quickly overrun, and overcome by doubt, duplicity, and even sin, because when it comes down to it, when we are called upon to stand, to make a sacrifice, if we are not sanctified, and born of the Spirit, our own flesh will betray us.
We all know Apostle Peter, the man whom Christ referred to as the rock upon which He would build His church. What some have conveniently dismissed, is that before Peter was the rock, before he was infused with the power of the Holy Spirit, before his transformation was complete, he exuded no rock like qualities, and though in his mind and heart he believed he was ready to be steadfast and uncompromising, to go to prison and even to death for Christ, his flesh would not allow him to follow through on his promise when the time came.
Luke 22:33, "But he (Peter) said to Him, 'Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death."
These were the words of Peter, shortly before denying Christ three times, not before men of great esteem, not before magistrates and generals but before a servant girl. I don't think anyone believes that Peter would intentionally lie to Christ, nor do I think anyone believes he made the statement, that he was ready to go to prison, and even to death with Christ simply to seem more steadfast and faithful than the rest of the Apostles. I believe, as should we all, that Peter was sincere, and he had the best of intentions, but as yet Peter had not been freed from the fear of men, nor had he escaped the prison of self. Peter had not been born again, sanctified and consecrated, he had good intentions, but absent the power of God in one's life, good intentions are worthless.
After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we see a new Peter, one who was freed from the fear of men, and became bold as a lion, standing before not merely a servant girl, but before the Sanhedrin proclaiming Christ.
The point of this article, why I felt the need to write it, is to reconfirm a truth that has been long abandoned in the house of God, and due to the fact that we have abandoned this truth, many are being overcome, rather than being over comers. That long deserted truth, is that without the transformation, we are ineffective, without the Holy Spirit in us, making us greater than all that we are, or ever hoped to be, though good intentions may abound, though we may have mastered positivism, we will not be able to stand in the hour when we are called to stand.
The weakness of today's modern Christian is that we are living the pre-Pentecost experience, able to serve only in times of ease and comfort, unwilling to sacrifice, to draw the line in the sand, to be the uncompromising soldiers that God is calling for today. We are able to be on the front lines only when there is no enemy, to be a Christian only when surrounded by other believers. We have reversed the rolls of spirit and flesh, assigning more value to how the flesh feels, keeping it comfortable even though it is detrimental to the spirit.
There is only one remedy for the general spiritual condition, the apathy and duplicity that we are witnessing, and that is to be that which God called us to be in the first place, true followers of Christ, wholly consecrated unto God, pure of heart, willing to live or die, suffer and be persecuted for the cause of Christ. We must be willing to once more be perceived as fools in the eyes of the world, to suffer loss for the cause, and to use the weapons of our warfare, empowered and emboldened by the Spirit living in us, to do battle against sin, and the enemy's devices. We must stand not in our own strength, lean not on our own understanding, and strive not for our own agenda, but once more truly surrender to Christ, and faithfully submit ourselves that He may guide us, use us, and empower us.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.