September 30, 2014

Praying Big To Get Small, Part II: Putting On the New

To follow up on my previous post about struggling to be humble and getting small (less pride), I present Colossians’ answer to those struggles. As I realize with all of my dangerous struggles in life I cannot handle them on my own. I turn to the Bible and prayer to help me through my inner and outer struggles. Getting humble is an internal thing and working through this issue is no exception to my Scripture and prayer rule. As a matter of fact the struggle with getting small is prayer and Scripture specific. The Scripture gives me much of the direct answers I need in the form or Colossians 3, the prayer gives be the strength through my much needed relationship with the Lord when failure and defeat mount unmercifully. I have found the battle with humility is laced with demonic partners of anger, pride and insecurity and these tag-teamed forces have become a protracted and pitted battle. It has been a lengthy confrontation I never saw coming. God has to be in these situations or I fail.

Colossians 3:12-13 ~ Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [fore]bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

I have needed to divest myself of behavior that was inappropriate for a Christian in the entirety of my life. This included what I did in the privacy of my home life. Humility in public and a false humility at home is leading a double life and is not Christian whatsoever. It is a textbook case of hypocrisy. My emphasis needed to not be stopping the actions but stopping the motives or emotions/feelings that instigated the undesirable actions. This included justifying two-faced behaviors.

Paul had taught this concept in Romans 6:4 too, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

I need to reminder myself that I as a believer had been specially selected and set apart to represent Him not only to the public but especiaslly to those in my family. As a man, i act as the conduit through which grace flows spiritually into my family. Up to this point I have failed miserably. First and foremost I am to project God’s love. It’s hard to do that when I was often sullen and brooding. Colossians 3:12-14 then goes on a roll that hit home to me like a sledgehammer in the head. Because of false humility, I was guilty of not projecting nearly all of these, mostly to those closest to me. I don’t humble well nor suffer well. When I am humble and loving things like compassion, kindness, gentleness, forebearing/patience (v.12-14) should come naturally. I certainly struggle with all of them. 

These are all mentioned together so it should be assumed that to some extent they should all be present in the new person I am to have become as a Christian. Compassion is putting myself in another person’s shoes in an empathetic manner and feeling their pain and having a God-given sensitivity to it. In the Greek it is σπλάγχνα/splanchna meaning internal organs or bowels, and οἰκτιρμοῦ/oiktirmou meaning deep visceral feelings. It’s as if Paul is driving home a near supernatural feeling in the very core of what I am. It literally means a twisting of the guts. I believe it is exactly what we mean today when we say things made our stomach turn. I need to have compassion in love for others that allows me to so acutely feel their pain that it turns my stomach to have to witness and empathize with it.

My kindness is χρηστότητa/chrestota in Greek. This word’s cognate or root comes from xrēstós which means useful, profitable". When used in conjunction with the idea of kindness which this word also means, it comes to mean a kindness that is useful or can be applied. It essentially begs the question, what am I doing for others that I love and are kind to? It is having a sweet disposition and have selfless dealings with people. Yes, I said sweet.

The attribute of humility really zeroes in on the point and pain of my post. In the Greek it is actually ταπεινοφροσύνην/tapeinophrosyne and it means to self-moderate internally based on an honest self-evaluation. I need to be lowly of heart. I must become insignificant and lift others up. It really means I must work to reduce myself and not be self-serving. I cannot be doing things expecting a positive outcome or immediate reward (Kittel, 2-21). 

I should truly be more concerned with the welfare of others. They are not to be treated as if they are more important than my own welfare….they are actually to be more important. This therefore really catches Jesus meaning when He described greatness through service and sacrifice. That means Jesus’ crucifixion is the pinnacle of this humility. He led by perfect example. 

My humility should therefore be created by drawing an honest parallel of myself up alongside of Jesus and see how I compare. I should be striving for his example. I should clearly see my moral smallness and act accordingly. To act large knowing my true sinful shortcomings is just pure sin by pride. Pride must be mortified or killed off in order to put one’s self under another to serve.

Does it mean the other person’s better than me? No. That has nothing to do with it. In reality, many people that I will end up helping are morally and spiritually corrupt. Many will be unrepentant sinners hardened and drowning in their sin. Without my service to them in giving them the Gospel, they may never hear another world from Scripture and die condemned. 

Remember folks, Jesus loved sinners and died for sinners, while they were still sinners and did not recognize Him as the Messiah. We may be required to present the Gospel to people under the same conditions. People may hate us and spit in our faces when we present the Gospel to them. This requires a willingness to serve and possibly be abused for doing so. This is true humility.

It may require that we pursue a hardened family member much of their ungrateful lives just to win them to Christ. This might take an entire lifetime of service to be able to pull it off for just one person. This is where the patience and gentleness comes in too. Some people are not going to be saved overnight. It will take prolonged work in humility. 

Gentleness is πραΰτητα/prauteta and is emphasizing a divine meekness. It means not behaving harshly, arrogantly, or self-assertively but with consideration for others even in the worst circumstances. I must be intentionally reserved in times of trouble or baptisms of fire. This gentleness is critical in maintaining our Christian character. If we mess up even one time and people see it...we come off as hypocritical. Our patience and gentleness must be consistent, therefore it must be real. If we are prone to snapping out. We certainly do not have what the Bible speaks of. I am exceptionally guilty of this one and it appears to be a systemic failure more than anything. I just fail to embody Christ on this one quite often.

Patience/ἀνεχόμενοι/anechomenoi and forbearance/μακροθυμίαν/makrothymia should be seen acting together and this is rather profound from a Greek translation especially μακροθυμίαν. This is a compound word made of μακρο/makro or macro meaning long, large or broad and θυμία/thumia meaning to burn slowly as if to produce smoke. In other words it is a low burning fire that is not prone to burst into raging flame or in the case of our context…an anger that is not impulsive and easy to explode and pepper everyone in earshot. 

In short it is a perfect illustration of long-suffering. I therefore need to not be prone to spiral to high temperatures quickly or become ill-tempered. I am not to be of aggressive temperament. I need to be slow to burst into anger (if at all). I should not blow-up or snap-out on people for trivialities. Understanding this I quickly arrive at the conclusion that my anger is never justified. There is no place in a Christian’s life for explosive and corrosive anger. I am mortified (as are many men) that I often battle with this emotion and behavior.

Forgiving and love are pretty much self-explanatory. I will note that the word for forgive in the Greek is χαριζόμενοι/charizomenoi and means not only to forgive but also to treat another person with grace. Forgiveness with grace is therefore like unto God. Not only would I be forgiving in this context but I would be showing favor to the person forgiven like a true friend…a brother or sister.

I will admit outright that I continue to struggle with all of these, some more than others. The devil wants to convince me that their very presence tells me I am not saved. This isn’t true, it means I am a sinner saved by grace and I am a long way from my own righteousness. It means it is not my actions that save me but Jesus’ work at the cross. My trek towards holiness is a slow progression of the work of the Holy Spirit in me. 

I now realize this process can be horribly slow and depending on indwelling sin, it can sometimes actually go backwards as it seems to be doing now. But I continue to pray, try to embody Scripture and hold out hope in the One that has saved me. I hold out hope that He will continue to do a mighty work in me so that I will be an asset to the Kingdom and not a liability.

Kittel, Gerhard, Geoffrey William Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids (Mich.): Eerdmans, 1995. Print.

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