God Delivers Us From Ourselves

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
— James 1:23-24 ; C.S. Lewis

This week we are dealing with another difficulty and surety in life, that we need to be delivered from ourselves. It is the whole truth of the scripture that God sets us in our experiences so we can realize we are in need of being delivered, from ourselves. As C.S. Lewis says above, in different words, the closer we get to God the more aware of our sins we become (Romans 5:18-20). If you look at the verse in James above the C.S. Lewis quote you’ll notice that the farther we get from God, the less we are aware of who we are (Romans 1:18-23).

Why this topic and why now? Simple, personal experience. Some days you feel great and you are on top of the world. Some days you are stressed to an unbelievable extent and feel like you are going crazy. I have two things I do when I get stressed, I start to get obsessive over minute details and I lose track of time (so I obsess about dirt in the tiles of the floor and stay up all night scrubbing the floors - for instance). It is maddening. Enter the Joker - DC comics number 1 adversary of Batman. The Joker exists to exploit the struggle shown in the James passage.

The other night I was stressed and happened to come across the trailer for “Joker” the new DC stand along Joker origin story (no, it will not be tied into the greater DC story - for those interested). After watching the trailer 10 times (obsess), I came across reaction videos. After scanning through 150 (seriously - but I only watched like 2 minutes to see their reaction at the end of the trailer - but still crazy) reaction videos I thought, “wow, this is crazy - I’m going to bed” (loss of time). Now, that is not the point of bringing this up, but that is the honesty part of the obsessive small detail/time loss trait. The point is that I was fascinated with how the trailer was orchestrated and had a way of getting you to empathize (Matt empathize? What!? Yeah, it does happen - in this case with an insane person… anyway…) with the character of the Joker. If you are familiar with the character, he is not someone to really empathize with under normal circumstances. It reinforced a biblical principle of how quickly we are to identify with our old self rather than the new creation God has begun in those who confess and follow Christ. Many of the individuals watching the reactions were quick to share their empathy, sympathy, or emotional state created by the trailer and their ability to relate to the character. You relate not just to the character but to the excitement when he goes from a feeble man to the persona of the Joker. We sometimes get enthralled in the idea of letting loose to our passions and frustrations in the same way the character does. The trouble is, this is a part of us that needs to go (no, not the empathy - the insanity), a part of us we need deliverance from - the old man.

Traits of the Old Man

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually depraved.”
1 Corinthians 2:14

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Genesis 6:5

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Mark 7:21-23

“as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
Romans 3:10-11

It is in response to these things that we are called to seek an alternative. Although the Joker might be right when he says, 'All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day', he is not right in that madness is our only alternative to the pressures and challenges of this world. Colossians calls us to put to death this old man, this old way of thinking and put on the new man (Christ likeness) in response to the challenges we face:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:1-17

The old man/new man question really begins to delve into the question of freewill when you get deeper into it (and especially when you read Romans 8:26-30 linked later in this post). Here is a link to help you think about the concept of “freewill” a little more clearly (“Free Will” is … not really…). We’ll get into this more deeply at another time.

We have seen the madness of the world, and the result of giving in to it, through the stories of Cain/Abel, Lamech, The Flood Narrative, Noah/Ham,Canaan/his brothers, Abraham/Sodom, Canaanites/Israel, etc. The response we need to take is to put on the new self made accessible to us through the work of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Next week we will be looking specifically how God delivers us from ourselves through the promise of resurrection through Christ. We’ll look at the transformative work the resurrection accomplished specifically in delivering Paul (who was Saul) from desires, dreams, and ambitions he though were from God and turned out not to be - ultimately leading him to understand the resurrection he once denied and experience the life transforming power of the resurrection.

Add on
A fruitful result of my stress is when I look into scripture and search through music that reflects a Biblical view of our response to God’s work of deliverance in our life. I like to search through Christian music of all varieties but I really enjoy finding biblically sound (focusing on God’s work in their life as accurately as possible) rap and hip/hop music (plus then I can give you suggestions of acceptable music to play in the kitchen when working!) I think this two are examples of the proper struggle and response as shown in the James passage, C.S. Lewis quote, and Colossians 3 above:

 

This is the way to stay out of the madness and remember that God is in control, capable of taking you through the situation, and working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:26-30)

This is that battle of putting off the old and putting on the newness of Christ. Awesome to see people in this type of life coming out of it because of Christ rather than turning toward madness. (Colossians 3:1-17)

Scriptures Used in Post:
James 1:23-24
Romans 5:18-20
Romans 1:18-23
1 Corinthians 2:14
Jeremiah 17:9
Genesis 6:5
Mark 7:21-23
Romans 3:10-11
Colossians 3:1-17