Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Keeping Oneself Out of Christ's Sheepfold
The three things pride does not want: humility and trust in and submission to God through Jesus Christ.
In both the secular and Christian world, a lack of these can manifest as self-righteousness, impatience and egotistical self-sufficiency.
These missing elements can play out in two ways (probably more, but these have been the most predominant in my experience) and can apply to those who don’t claim to be believers as well as those who do:
1). A philosophical intellectual stance of thinking we are “good to go” as far as Christ is concerned, so we’ll stand over here outside of the fold, separate and distanced from those needy “sheeples” who circle Christ in never-ending emotionalism, religious platitudes and theological ignorance. We are way too advanced in our understanding for that, and smirk at the idea of the Holy Spirit's guidance in daily life.
2). A narcissistic stance that keeps us outside Christ’s fold because we have obsessively focused on ourselves to the point that we’ve told ourselves that we are not good enough to even be one of Christ’s sheep, brought under his forgiveness and care.
We may even understand all the basic tenets of the faith, and have a very high grasp of correct Biblical doctrine; we just cannot apply it to ourselves out of a sense of vain self-loathing.
This is a roundabout way of gaining the confidence and esteem we crave. The only problem is that it is confidence in how unworthy we are, not a confidence in Christ and His ability to transform us (a sub set of this group is those who believe God could regenerate them and remove, for example, their addiction, but since the addiction remains, God must not want to or is not yet “ready” to. Therefore, they are off the hook until God performs His “miracle,” which is only another way of using the apparent lack of God’s action to justify sin that a person is not yet ready to give up).
These stances are quite self-aggrandizing because, in essence, a person is placing themselves outside of and above the power, authority and reach of God. The result of this isolation from Christ is that the person God made them to be is selfishly cheated from ever seeing the light of day.
I need to be clear that this is not about separating oneself from Christian community. It is about cutting one’s self off from Christ. Many of these people attend church regularly and participate in Christian groups and activities. The problem isn’t that they’ve cut themselves off physically from people or Christian community. It’s that they’ve elected to cut themselves off from Christ Himself.
I do not have the answer as to how to live with or influence a person caught in this trap. It’s been my experience that anything I say or do, or don’t say or do, has little to no effect. It requires a huge reliance on the Holy Spirit on my part when I am interacting with such individuals, and the same humility, trust and submission to God in my own life that these folks require in theirs.
Jesus once said, when his disciples asked Him why they could not cast a demon out from a man’s son,
“This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).
Prayer is always the thing to do, and sometimes the only thing.
In addition, we can all trace the trajectory of our own walk with Christ, remembering how we kicked and screamed, resisted or otherwise delayed our finally opening the door of the sheep pen and walking in, fully committed (but not yet fully sanctified. That process of maturing in Christ is only just beginning).
Those of us who have been in the sheep pen for a while now can recall our early years filled with Peter-like moments of denying Christ, the Godly sorrow and repentance that ensued, and Christ’s always reliable and forthcoming forgiveness.
Through daily life, trials, victories, answered and yet un-answered prayer, we learned—and continue to learn—to walk with Christ.
It wasn’t always pretty: as Christians, we aren’t always pretty. But Christ was. And is. And always will be. He will teach us, conform us to His likeness and, through it all, love us. We know that is true for ourselves. We know it is true for all on the journey.
That is why we are—must be—deeply grateful for—seeking to grasp at all times—the beautiful lifeline of humility, trust and submission that Christ offers to Himself, through Himself. And make it our prayer for others, along with ourselves, to do the same.
copyright Barb Harwood
“I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd. John 10:14-16
“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” Romans 12:12