Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Burden of Kryptonite

Sometimes in life, you find that the weight of your decisions becomes very tangible.

This is never more true than when you make a decision that goes against the grain of everything within you. In light of recent events I've certainly been feeling this in quite a profound and very personal way.

I keep thinking of this scene from Superman Returns:

That's what it feels like to me, anyway.

Actually that sums it up pretty well... Kryptonite if you recall, is made up of the remains of Superman's homeworld, Krypton... and exposure to it is harmful to him. When Superman came to Earth, he gained powerful abilities, a destiny and a life beyond the imaginations of mortal men.

Thinking about that, isn't it exactly the same in the Christian journey?

We begin our lives, like everyone else... born into a doomed world. However we are saved... not by a rocket ship, but by the grace of God granted to us through the willing sacrifice of his Son, Jesus:

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."
Romans 8:1-4

He took the punishment of a dying world onto his shoulders and gave us the opportunity to change our destiny. We could choose to remain on our dying world... or find new abundant life in the kind of life the Father had originally planned for us:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8

Jesus said that he came that we might have life and have it in abundance... live it to the full... to remain in disobedience, is to remain on Krypton... and we know what that leads to...

Nevertheless, as the apostle Paul observed, even if we claim the salvation on offer to us and cross over from life to death, we are still broken people. Just as in the DC universe, fragments of Krypton made it to Earth and harm Superman when he comes near to it... when we come close to the remnants of our sinful nature, it also has a nasty effect:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

Romans 7:14-25

Basically if we go near the sinful nature, we come under it's influence... but it's not always as straightforward as you might think it seems. As all Superman aficionados are aware, Kryptonite does not come in a single flavour. Sure, green makes Superman sick and can kill him, but there are other forms that prove harmful in other ways. In the same way as Christians, the sinful nature tries to harm us in different ways. Sometimes a wrong choice in life might not necessarily be an "evil" one, it's just that it's not a beneficial one. In other words we can make choices that... whilst not overtly harmful, are disobedient to God's perfect will for our lives.

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.

1 Corinthians 10:23

Or perhaps we get ourselves into situations where the power and authority God grants in ministry to us... are neutralised by our behaviour or need to conform to the peer pressure around us.

As I said, it's not just a simple matter of being outright "naughty".

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

We need to take a good long hard look at our lives and start yanking the Kryptonite out of it... and that's what my current struggle surrounds. I may not be outright rebellious, but I'm certainly prone to my fair share of disobedience... and my struggle concerns me putting God first in an area of my life in which I too often have got carried away.

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

Luke 9:23-25

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:7-11

So I find myself lofting a huge chunk of my own Kryptonite out of my life and deep into space, it is a heavy burden... but it must be done. Someone might say that, if it's so heavy... why isn't God helping?

Ahhh but there it is, God is helping... without his strength it would be impossible to even lift that burden.

Remember that Jesus Christ himself suffered when he was tempted... we see a glimpse of this in the Gospels... but the most crucial temptation he went through, was that of being in the Garden of Gethsemane... and wanting the cup (the burden of having to suffer for our sins), to pass.

There are times when we all want the cup to pass but the book of Hebrews again offers us this advice:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Why should we do this? Well earlier in the book, we are told just why the temptations that Jesus suffered, matter so much to us today:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:18

The difference between the weight we carry as Christians and the weight we bore before coming to salvation is as fundamentally different as the difference a diver would notice between a life giving aqualung on his back as opposed to the millstone tied around his ankle.

That is what Jesus meant when he told us:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30

The weight that Christ gives us to bear brings life... if we choose to struggle on alone with the weight the world gives us, we sink to the ocean floor and die.

Finally we can be sure that our struggle is not futile. The battle is long and fierce... but in the end if we trust in God, we will triumph. This goes for everything... whether we are talking the major conflicts that shape our final destiny, or the daily battles that shape who we are and discipline us in order that we can claim what God has promised us in our temporal lives for:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-31

May God grant you victory in whatever struggles you face today.



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