"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Call on the Lord from a Pure Heart
            Second Timothy chapter two, verse twenty-two, presents two of the keys that, used in correct order, can unlock ones life from the bondage of worldly, corrupt pursuits.

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable—common, base, ignoble. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:20-26 ESV)
            The Apostle specifically named "youthful lusts," which include trespasses ranging from a "detailed" fond eye for the ladies—or men—to envy, unbridled ambition, greed, bitterness … the Scriptural list of human moral failings continues, but you get the idea. Our natural(fleshly, carnal) tendency is to name in our minds ten or so of those people who do such things, pointing the condemnatory finger at the ruffians, drunks, whore mongers, rapists, thieves and murderers that blight our society. The Apostle, however, didn't spend much Scriptural time condemning those people. Rather, he, as did the Lord, concentrated on reaming religious folks who practiced the "sanctified" version of those sins.
            The keys mentioned above can be distilled to just a couple of principles: call on the Lord from a pure heart(motivation), and flee youthful passions. Though the passage doesn't list them in that order, the process begins with calling for the strength and motivation to execute the orderly(or disorderly) retreat from temptation meant by the word "flee."
            Unlocking ourselves from the bondage of sin requires both keys. Though we may hope for eternal salvation through the rebirth we experience in Jesus' blood, that rebirth cannot end our habituation to ungodly behaviors and attitudes.
            Think of a new-born infant. The nurse or midwife cuts the umbilical cord that kept the pre-born person alive during gestation. But if the infant were to grab the scissors from the nurse's hand, glare at her and say, "You're not going to separate me from my lifeline," the infant that had birthed normally(if you can call a talking new-born "normal") would soon become infected. One could say the new-born's "youthful lusts" might lead to its demise.
            Like that outspoken infant, human beings of all ages tend to cling to our natural misbehaviors that are familiar or comfortable, even if those things cause endless trouble for us. In our own strength, breaking those habits is practically impossible, even though a few steadfast, "nice folks," manage to pull off a reasonable imitation of godly behavior without completing the spiritual prerequisite of death to self and rebirth in God's Holy Spirit.
            We've witnessed or heard of folks who "walk the sawdust trail" in response to hell-fire preaching, or soldiers experiencing battlefield "conversions" when death seemed imminent. Then, when the fear is gone, they continue their lives unchanged. Were they ever truly converted? Only God can judge that. We can "call on the Lord" all day long, but if our motives aren't pure—regretful sorrow for having done wrong, rather than fear of facing judgment with our sins exposed—all that heart-felt prayer is for naught.

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