Doing Whatever I Want (Part II)

Posted on August 16, 2011

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I continue to try and do whatever I want. I don’t know if my 30 days for this experiment has expired or not because I never wrote down a start date. It was an admittedly unsystematic process.

However, it continues to be difficult to explain to people the reasons behind this. One person I explained my project to said, “But what role then does sin play?”

I thought this really nailed the issue for me. It is the fundamental issue of defining ourselves by our sin (or potential sins) versus defining ourselves by the promises of Christ. Growing up in the Reformed tradition, I have been familiar with the concept of total depravity from a too-young age. And this theology has its proper place. But when I meet people who define their faith, not by the transformative power of Christ, but by a constant hyper-awareness of sin, I am left wondering, “Is that all following Christ means? A greater awareness of our own depravity?”

But when I read the Bible, I don’t see this. In fact, I see repenting of our sin as only the first step in our relationship with the divine.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

God does not only care about washing us clean, he cares about filling us with the Holy Spirit who will guide our hearts in a way the law could never. God’s intention for us is not that we become bland personalities who avoid killing, adultery, abortion, booze, drugs, and stealing. God’s law was given to us to point the way. To point us to the life we are called to live. To help direct our actions before our heart is conversant with the Holy Spirit.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

The law is the beginning, not the end. This means that there are things that we do that aren’t sins in the traditional sense, but are sins of a second order, because, like traditional sins, they deny who God made us to be. When I deny the urgings of the Holy Spirit upon my heart, whether to talk to someone or to change careers, I am sinning.

Here is a passage that tells it better, taken from Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis.

As I let all this come spewing forth the first time in my therapist’s office, he interrupted me. I was making lists of all the people I was working to keep happy. He said it was clear that there were significant numbers of people I was spending a significant amount of time working to please and that my issue was a simple one.

I was anticipating something quite profound and enlightening as I got out my pen.

He said this: “Sin.”

And then he said, in what has become a pivotal moment in my journey, “Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.”

The relentless pursuit of who God made me to be.

I started identifying how much of my life was about making sure the right people were pleased with me. And as this became more and more clear, I realized how less and less please I was with myself. What happens is our lives become so heavily oriented around the expectations of other that we become more and more like them and less and less like ourselves. We become split.

This is, in part, what I mean when I say that I’m going to do whatever I want. I am bringing the two halves of myself together. Or better yet, I am killing the half of myself who is concerned over those things that distract from the relentless pursuit of who God made me to be: money, stability, the future, the opinion of others, expectations, fame, approval from people in my past, fears, shame, attention, and whatever else in my subconscious that is influencing the way I live my life.

In this way, I am both learning about and actively pursuing who God wants me to be.

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