July 23, 2017

He Takes the Death Out of Us!

Our Father is working to take the death out of us, out of men, out of our sons and daughters, out of our wives, out of His children. He does it with kindness, He does it with fire and He does it as a loving Father. While God is doing this life-giving work, our enemy is doing all he can to betray us, to have us betray ourselves and those we love, and to make us think and believe we love death rather than life.

While we do them, we love our sins more than we love God; we prefer them at that moment more than we desire to be with Jesus. We might as well say to him, “Father, I know Jesus suffered and died to deliver me from this fatal attraction, but for the moment, right now, I want what I want and I care more about what I want than what you did on the cross to deliver me from my darkness.” Try saying that to God about the mess you’re in. He might appreciate that more than an apology when your guilt is driving you insane.

I was in my middle 20s, caught in loneliness and self-gratification, developing unhealthy habits and patterns of sin that easily could have destroyed my life. I knew it, hated it, but the lonely call of the wild on Friday nights was too much. Too much, that is, until I sat in my apartment one Friday night and looked straight at the cross and told Jesus I preferred my sin over what He had done to deliver me from my sin and the kingdom of darkness. I wept that night; I think Jesus smiled. And it was the turning point for me. God was taking the death out of me.

Men live in the shade because they do not like the full light of day. Inside our secrets and shame, we prefer the half-light of truth to the bright light of life Jesus has promised. In these shadows of half-light, we can control our image, live in two separate realities, have a visible and vocal self-righteousness, enjoy “emotional affairs” which are nothing but adultery, cut business deals that are not fair for all parties, hide from who we really are, and project the life we want others to see. Unlike Moses, we have chosen “the pleasures of sin for a season.” This is the death and darkness our good Father will incinerate to take it and the last ashes of our death out of us until the Light of Life shines in us like the morning sun.

These “preferences”, dark comforts, self-gratifying pleasures are the predictable traps and ambushes that we knowingly walk into, even though we realize the danger. Those waking moments inside the snares we helped the enemy set for ourselves are the loneliest moments a man will ever know on earth. We can be among family and friends, and in our churches, but still be men of the walking dead.

There’s not much hope for a guy who persists in isolation without honest friends. Not much help or friendship for a man whose matrix of life and fulfillment is performance. I see it all the time. A man’s life disappears before his very eyes and suddenly, he does not know who he can trust and no longer trusts himself. In fact, he trusts no one unless he is lucky enough to have one last friend who knows how to help a brother find his life again. What he resisted before because it was light and life he now runs to in desperation. When we do go to Him, our good Father continues his work to take away our death so we can be made alive by his son, our Lord Jesus, and find comfort and help, direction and joy, peace and forgiveness, friendship and hope because the Holy Spirit generates rich life and love within us. Home never looked so good and all our good Father requires is our honest cooperation!

I got another fresh start in my early 40s when my father, then in his 70s, told his children and their spouses about some sin in his middle years that had deeply hurt others. He did this by way of confession and telling us his story. His honesty, despite the temporary loss of trust among his children, was the key to finally getting honest about my own secrets before they got a choke-hold on my life. My father’s desire to live in truth despite the anguish of telling his story was what God used to set me free. Dad went home to Jesus last summer, the last bit of death sent out of him by Our Father.