Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Enemies Within

Made it home safe and sound. It's been an interesting experience trying to get an internet connection. Luckily I have a friend who actually knows what he's doing when it comes to computers and after reconfiguring something, and as he put it, 'taking down a few firewalls', I'm able to get on the internet. I find myself eerily uncomfortable realizing how dependent I've become on technology. Not that I'm a big gadgets guy, up until a few months ago I still had a Nokia that couldn't text message, but it's amazing how easy it is to miss something as common place as an internet connection when you don't have one.
I am my own worst enemy! Likewise, you are also your own worst enemy. Why do I say we are our own worst enemies? Because it is through the self that the enemy is most often able to attack us, and in the flesh he has a faithful ally.
I realize it is hard to fathom, it is difficult to process the reality that there is something within us that wars against righteousness and sanctification. There is something within us that is wholly corrupt, wholly defiled, that is rendered inanimate when we come to Christ, yet still retains the spark of life, waiting and hoping to be resuscitated and resurrected, brought back to power and full life that it may commence its journey toward destruction and death.
I speak of course, of the enemies within the heart of every man, woman and child, who are ever patient, but also ever vigilant, waiting for an opportunity, a foothold, a crack in the armor that they can exploit and use to their advantage.
It is incumbent upon every believer to make war against these enemies of the soul, and be ever vigilant and watchful so that what was mortified will continue in its mortification, that we might daily continue to be transformed from glory to glory, into the image of Christ. There are four major themes that I want to focus on today, all equally destructive, but some more visible and active than others.
The first great enemy that strives for the hearts of men is pride. It is an old sin, and a formidable foe. The destructive power of pride cannot be underestimated, for when we underestimate our enemies we are sure to fall victim to their snares. Pride is one of those sins that only believers can be aware of in their hearts. The world names it by different names, whether self esteem, or a positive self image, but the world does not classify pride as a negative, it does not see it as a destructive and corrosive power, but rather as a positive attribute and something to strive for.
One of the most sinister aspects of pride is that it compels people to keep two sets of books, to have two different standards, one for themselves, and one for the rest of the world. What one might see as a weakness, a shortcoming, or a vice in others, he sees as a virtue and a strength in himself.
Pride also blinds men to their own impotence. There are few things sadder and more worthy of pity in this world, than a weak man who thinks himself to be strong and invincible. When God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, in their pride, they cried out, Lord, we will do as you command; we will follow your precepts to the letter, only to break all ten of the commandments on their first day. Only when viewed in the context of humility, can pride be seen for what it is. Only when we compare the two, can we see the stark contrasts between pride and humility, and conclude that they are indeed diametrically opposed. Humility bends its knee, and cries out for help, humility trusts in the strength of God rather than self, humility is dependent on what Jesus did on the cross rather than in its own good works. Pride believes that it can do all things in and of itself, while humility cries out, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!’
Contrary to popular belief, pride does not worm its way into a heart only after an accomplishment or a success, but is there far before that in the form of potential. I have known countless individuals who gave into the pride of potential, of what they might be able to accomplish if they really tried and applied themselves, only to see them go nowhere, and accomplish nothing of substance, because the pride of their potential blinded them to the reality that much potential in the world today goes wholly unrealized.
I realize this may sound contradictory, but many believers today are having to contend with the pride of humility, or as it is more widely known, the pride of false modesty. Any time you hear the words ‘in my humble opinion’, coming out of someone’s mouth, it is almost certain that you’ve just encountered the most prideful person within a stone’s throw. True humility is not aware of itself, it simply is.
I remember an encounter I had with a brother, who thought himself humble because he never wore a necktie. We had a long and belabored conversation about humility, and how he believed that wearing a necktie was a sign of pride, and throughout our conversation I kept trying to get him to understand, that thinking himself humble just because he didn’t wear a necktie made him more proud than those he looked down upon for wearing a necktie. As he was an older man, and very set in his ways, he became exasperated with me, and finally said, ‘you can try to talk me out of the way I think until you turn blue, I’m proud of my humility, and I’ll never wear a necktie. Whether it was a Freudian slip or he really didn’t see the irony in what he said, I simply responded, ‘Exactly! Thank you for making my point for me!’
Whatever it is we attempt to do in order to accentuate our humility, whether refusing to wear a necktie like the aforementioned brother, or a wrist watch, or a wedding band, because we are doing it to make ourselves seem more humble, we are in the very truest sense of the word practicing pride.
The second great enemy of the believer is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy has often been called the twin sibling of pride, and for good reason. Every time we see an ardent and vociferous champion of all that is good and just fall into the selfsame sins he was condemning everyone else of, we see the definition of hypocrisy live, and in living color. Hypocrisy is such a vile and detestable practice, that even the world has an aversion to it.
There has never been a clearer example of hypocrisy than that of the Pharisees during Jesus’ time. Their motto was always, ‘do as we say and not as we do’, and Jesus Himself had a very harsh and merciless reaction to such practices. It was not merely an indictment but the worst kind of insult to tell a Pharisee that ‘the prostitutes and tax collectors would see heaven first.’ These were men who thought themselves to be the highest religious authority in the land, these were man who had most likely memorized the first five books of the bible, and it was to these men that Jesus said, the worst kind of sinner would see heaven before them.
A sure defense against hypocrisy is always practice what you preach, and if you’re not practicing it, stop preaching until you are. We have seen the outcome and the end results of men who like the Pharisees of old thought that they could preach one thing and do another too many times for us to be ignorant of the dangers of hypocrisy.
I realize that the image of a holy warrior, riding a white horse, swinging his sword valiantly and felling anyone in his way is an exciting one, but if it is just an image we are projecting while the reality of our hearts is different, we will one day be counted with the Pharisees of old, and commanded to depart from before God’s holy face.
The third great enemy we must be ever watchful of is that of being overly sensitive, or what I’ve termed Christian egotism. Every one of us has encountered at least one such person in our lifetime, and if you haven’t, you just might be that person! When one is infected with Christian egotism, they feel slighted by everything and everyone. Whether the handshake in church was too long, or too short, or you didn’t spend an adequate amount of time conversing with them, such people read into everything, and do so to the extreme.
“Aha, he turned his head while he was speaking to me; I have a right to be offended!” Or maybe, just maybe, you needed a breath mint! Even kid gloves are too rough for such people, and if they find no reason to take offense, they’ll make one up in their own mind. If such a person happens to be reading this essay, well they’ll probably take offense at the tone of it.
Easily bruised, and unwilling to forgive, self pity is a constant companion for such individuals, because they always see themselves as victims and objects of scorn within the house of God. The underlying cause of Christian egotism however, is nothing as noble as being persecuted for the cause of Christ, but rather the unwavering belief that they are not getting the attention or the honor they deserve within the body of Christ. This is the reason for the umbrage, this is the reason for the protests, and this is the reason for the feelings of being slighted in so many cases.
“Don’t they know who was in their midst? Don’t they know the contribution I could have made to the fellowship of the brethren? They’re just jealous of my talents and that’s why they don’t use me in a greater capacity.”
If you’ve ever been guilty of these proclamations, I urge you to repent. It is when we humble ourselves that God raises us up, not when we raise ourselves up. Have any of your toes ever protested that they are not a nose? Have your eyes ever protested that they are not your ears? When looking at the body of Christ, we see a whole, and each member, each body part works in unity and complements the whole.
The last great enemy of the soul within the hearts of men is isolation. One of the glaring differences between the primary church, and today’s modern church is the fact that the primary church shared their joys and their hurts, their victories and their defeats with each other. They were united, a family, a body of believers, and they opened their hearts to each other in a most noble and glorious way. Today’s church is very different. In today’s church, you hurt alone, you experience joy alone, and you die alone. There is no cohesion, there is no unity, there is no openness, because too many are living duplicitous lives, and fear that if they open up, their true selves will come to light. Isolationism is not healthy for the spiritual man. We are encouraged time and again in the Word, to fellowship with one another, to bear with one another, to encourage one another, pray for one another, to correct one another, and even rebuke one another when it is required.
I realize it is difficult in times such as these to find a fellowship of believers that believe and preach the truth, but something as small as a Bible study in your home, with three or four people is better than never having fellowship with anyone. There is a reason we are called the body of Christ, and not the body part of Christ.
More often than not it is the unseen things that harm our spiritual growth rather than the visible vices and sins. Knowing this, our only recourse is to strive in guarding our hearts, and to be weary of the ever present and ever lurking enemies within. We have the power to overcome them, for our power is not in and of ourselves, but in Christ Jesus who conquered Satan, sin, and death.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.


Sue said...

Dear Brother Michael,

What a thought-provoking message for all of us. If I had read this years ago when I was a new believer, I think my immaturity would have caused me to miss the point, and be guilty of the very things that your message warns us to guard our hearts against! Praise God for the obedience and courage you have shown in writing what we, as members of Christ's Body, need to be enlightened and reminded of!
And Michael, you showed us what we can do, this very important step we can take to bring that about:
Michael, you wrote: "I realize it is difficult in times such as these to find a fellowship of believers that believe and preach the truth, but something as small as a Bible study in your home, with three or four people is better than never having fellowship with anyone. There is a reason we are called the body of Christ, and not the body part of Christ."
Yes, earnest, committed study of the Bible with God's true believers will keep us accountable in the love of God and walking in holiness.


Logan said...

Gee Mike, any time I use the phrase, "In my humble opinion," I do so with tongue in cheek, it's never occurred to me that someone might actually use it in a serious manner, I thought it was a type of joke. I guess some people think having an opinion on something needs an apology before stated.

As to neckties, I haven't worn one of those silly rags since 1982, and don't own one, but never considered myself humble for not wearing them, more like liberated from unthinking tradition and cultural pressures. To me neckties/suites are the uniforms of the ruling and professional classes, the spoken and unspoken leaders of society. Now my giving you a bad time in the past about wearing such clothes is because of the fact of whose uniform it is and the association it creates in the mind of the common folk, that one wearing such a uniform is above them, not of them. It silently promotes the whole idea of the clergy/laity split, a totally unbiblical idea. Now I realize that the whole culture of this religion called Christianity is all about the clergy/laity split but that doesn't mean you have to play it's game. Lose the uniform, Mike, after all, Jesus didn't wear the uniform of the Pharisees or Sadducees.

You end this article by talking about isolation in primary church vs. the modern church. Your so called primary church is actually The Way(Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, & 24:22, ASV, ESV, MKJV, WEB, though not KJV). The difference? Those on the Way were one in Spirit because the Way was a spiritual way whereas Christianity is a religious way: meeting centered, program centered, pastor centered, but not Spirit centered. Christians may indeed have duplicitous lives and isolation may not be health but these are secondary to the real problem, Christianity is religious, Christianity makes knowing the Bible an end in itself while the Spiritual Way to which the Bible points never gets more than lip service. Christianity is about isolation, unity would be it's oxymoron, seek out the Way if you desire unity. Shalom, Logan

Sue said...

Thank God for men who are humble in spirit and can wear a suit without being preoccupied with wondering what other people think of him. He knows he has taken care of his physical appearance as proper stewardship of what God has given him, while he has taken care of his soul by feeding upon the Word of God, being clothed with the armor of God, as well as walking according to & being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Michael, never mind man's opinion. We can weigh what others say, but we must ultimately obey what God has spoken to us by His Spirit. You are doing that. Keep on, brother!

Thankful for your faithfulness,


God does not judge by external appearance-Galations 2:6 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.-John 7:24

k.mag.. said...

Four lines from a poem I like, the last line I have to say more than once a day:

Our Father humbles me no flight, can't soar,
And when I'm snared I pray "God send your hand,
and place me on the Rock from sifting sand
Come honor integrety we fight a war,"

Logan said...

Sue dear, I fear you missed the point of what I was saying to Mike, it's not about what other people think, Christians can't think, which is the problem. Christians are so tradition based and controlled that they have no problem with how he dresses, just as they have no problem with the clergy/laity abomination. The problem is then, who or what is one going to serve. How don't Mike and others who dress in the old brain dead traditional manner then serve tradition, and thus Man?
Playing along with the tradition game is no one's calling and is only a stewardship to that game, not to the Lord. Serving tradition and serving the Lord also sends a mixed message, mostly sending it to the Lord, who then should Michael serve?

And thank you for the scriptures, they make my point exactly. Shalom