Dorian

Dorian (/ˈdɔːriən/) is a masculine given name of Greek origin. In Greek,
the meaning of the name Dorian is of Doris, a district of Ancient Greece, or of Dorus,
a legendary Greek hero.
... Doros was the founder of the Dorian tribe,
and the most likely origin of his name is the Hebrew word doron, meaning 'gift'.
Wikipedia

The Greek word for gift
is
χάρισμα, charisma

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, BWV 538 "Dorian": E Power Biggs

Scolling Score

The Hypocrisy of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the Victorian Era, same setting as Sigmund Freud

Back in the 1960's I toured the gay part of San Francisco with a friend. My trip report is posted.
As part of my search for the meaning and purpose of life,

I am still interested in wholeness and life offered to us in Jesus Christ by our Creator.

A big concern of mine has been the generation gap which has grown way worse in the past half-century.
Marriage has fallen to last place in what we value most. Love of God, love of country, and love of neighbor are mere myths today.
Sexual hooking-up and promiscuity are cultural norms tolerated by nearly everyone. Old-Paradigm Churches are becoming excinct right and left!

Recently while Surfing the Net I encountered a chat group populated by gay young men, twenty-somethings.
Publicly they may advertise being happy and gay, but in the honesty of the chat room I found they were most all in despair.

Extra credit: Gay dads of Reddit: What is it like being a father?

They were all Millennials and very difficult to relate to -- my only recourse was to intercede for them asking God to extend great mercy to them.
Telling them God loved them would probably turn them off even more. They'd been there, done that.
I thought about all the outspoken attacks on the gay community since Wilde and Freud.
Most of these apologist-dudes made sense theologically, doctrinally, but few ever talked about knowing Jesus Christ the Lord.

That's where it's really at! Life is all about Jesus, and hardly at all about us!
We are now at the end of the age when Jesus Himself is about to step-in and take over.

He's coming out of the closet, as it were, and Jesus has never been sexually active at all.
No lying, stealing, cheating, no honky talking around.
Jesus is seeking a virgin Bride (the true church).
He has had it up to His ears with all our idolatries,
--whether sex, or love of money, or just "fooling around."

Oscar Wilde's literary reputation rests largely on his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
and on his masterful comedies of manners Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).
He was also known for his wit, his flamboyance, and his trials and jail sentence for homosexual acts.

The paintings of before and after show a handsome young man gradually degrading physically into an ugly old man as his lifestyle continues to old age (if he lives that long).

The Seamy Side of Life

Sin pays a wage, the wages of sin is death, but gays are not the only ones who reap what they sow. We all do!

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.
If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh;
but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. 
So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
(Galatians 6)


C.S. Lewis

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.
All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual:
the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong,
of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred.”

High-Minded Hypocrisy

From Steve Zeisler:

GOD'S STANDARD APPLIES TO YOU

But Paul in his wisdom, noting the judgments of moral people, whether Gentiles or Jews, begins chapter two thus- verses 1-2:
Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 
Verse 2 states the universal point upon which good people agree: These areas of sinful practice are grave and the standards are unambiguous. This is the judgment of God who is applying clear standards and those who have not met them are worthy of condemnation.

The problem, however, is that once you admit that there is a clear standard, truths that are hard and fast to which you can appeal in judgment of others, then you have to be willing to sit under the standard yourself. And that is what everyone who issues judgment longs to avoid. Loud denunciation of the horrible failings of others (even when it is true) does not in any degree alter the facts concerning ourselves. 

David's words in 2 Samuel 12 are interesting. He is outraged by this rich man who has destroyed the beloved lamb of the poor man. David says, "As the Lord lives, this man shall die." In other words, God ought to get him! Yet in fact, as Nathan turns and says, he is the one who is guilty.

We see this sort of thing take place in political debate. As soon as one party or one candidate raises an objection to the morality or to some position of the other, the immediate response is to not let the examination do its work, but instead to fight back by pointing out the weaknesses of the opponent. This immediate casting of judgment on another to avoid the searchlight of judgment on oneself is the issue that Paul is raising here.

To think of a courtroom scene again, what Paul is saying that no one may do is join God on the judge's bench, saying in effect, "Lord, you and I can sit here together issuing judgments on terrible people...such as that one over there," assuming equality with God. Paul describes idolaters in chapter one as those who remove God and put themselves in his place. The idea in chapter 2 is very much akin to that. We are never permitted to stand next to God as his equal; that is idolatry as well. 

AVOIDING THE SEARCHLIGHT

The psychology of how we avoid being examined ourselves is described in verses 3 and 4. Let's look at verse 3 first:
And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 
Our hope---as with David's sin in 2 Samuel 12---is that if we redouble our efforts to speak harshly of the sins of others, to make sinners feel bad, to stand tall for righteousness and apply it rigorously to other people; then we will have covered over sin in ourselves. Paul is saying, "Do you really think that God will accept your version of exposing other people's sins and not ask you to account for your own? What a foolish notion."

There are a number of ways that we can discover ourselves doing that. Sometimes the most demanding parents, who refuse to put up with a moment's laziness or defiance from their children, are trying to avoid the discovery of laziness and other bad dealings in themselves. They yell at their son to get his homework done on time, but they never get around to doing their income taxes, or are avoiding other important responsibilities.

Sometimes in marriage counseling I see these circumstances: The counselor will say, for instance, "We'll talk about your husband's problems in just a moment. But let me ask you to focus on your contribution to the difficulties in your marriage. Now, aren't there some communication problems you have? Haven't you been slightly dishonest here? Isn't there a certain amount of manipulation? Let's just deal with that part of it for a moment." But it's impossible to pursue that approach, because the person who hears those things immediately says, "Yes, but if you knew what he was really like, if you could see the things that he's done...." And what fills their thinking immediately-on both sides-is their well-rehearsed speech in which they describe all the terrible things about the other person. They literally cannot hear any discussion of what they have done to contribute to the problem, so much is their thinking taken up with the sins of the other. Yet Paul's question comes back, "Do you suppose when you pass judgment and do the same things that you will escape the judgment of God?"

I know Christians who have deep antipathy to fellow believers who have been divorced; they treat them with contempt and believe that any failure in marriage at all is the nearest thing to damnation. "How can such people ever be afforded even common courtesy?" But this harshness is, in my experience, very often a reaction to enormous pain in the marriage of one who condemns. If they were honest for a moment, they would have to say, "I would love more than anything to be divorced, I am so distant from my partner. There is more coldness and real divorce in our experience than anybody can see from the outside." The inner reality is divorce even though the outer reality isn't. Yet instead of honesty they denounce and judge others.

MISUNDERSTANDING GOD'S PATIENCE

The second thing that Paul suggests is a defense against the searchlight that forces us to see ourselves, is treating lightly the kindness of God. Verse 4:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
In chapter 1 we talked about how the wrath of God is displayed from heaven; he takes his hands off and lets consequences descend on people. So we see the lives of people who are in rebellion against God coming to ruin, becoming dissolute: their relationships fall apart, they fall into habits of drugs or drink or get horrible diseases, or some other terrible thing happens to them. Their lives are debased precisely because their sin is leading them to ruin.

Meanwhile, some self-righteous people are cheering on all the terrible things that are happening to these people. Very few consequences, relatively speaking, are occurring to them; by the grace of God they retain friends and a sense of security, they haven't lost their jobs yet, their health hasn't deteriorated too far, and they have some standing in the community. The underlying assumption is, "Because nothing terrible is happening to me, God must be making an exception in my case. Perhaps there are things in my life that I ought to be ashamed of, but evidently God isn't concerned about them. I must be special."

Paul calls this "thinking lightly of the riches of God's kindness and patience." It costs God a tremendous amount to be patient with us. It cost him the life of his son to offer us forgiveness. His patience and forbearance are a very expensive business. He doesn't offer them because we're special and easy to love. The point of his patience is not to impress us more deeply with ourselves, but to lead us to repentance, to give us time while all sin's consequences haven't yet descended, in gratitude for his kindness, to call out to him for help. 

Paul next turns to applying the judgment of God in every case, not just to the overtly terrible people, but to everybody. Verses 5-16:
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God....
The day that is coming is key to his thought here. When we get to verse 16 at the end of this section, we'll find the same point again: "...on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." This business of God's being patient and not allowing his judgment to fall yet is all going to be rectified in the final courtroom drama, when all the secrets are made plain and God will evaluate what really is. That notion brackets Paul's thinking in this section. Let's continue with verse 6:
"...who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

OUR ACTIONS AND OUR CONSCIENCE

There are two themes, the importance of deeds and conscience, that I would like to use to gather up the truths of these verses. Paul is very concerned about our actions. Verse 6 says God will render to them according to their deeds. Verse 7 speaks of those who persevere in doing good; verse 8, those who obey the truth or those who obey unrighteousness; verse 9, the man who does evil; verse 10, the man who does good; and finally in verse 13, not the hearers of the Law but the doers.

This important concentration on what we do-our actions, our obedience, our works-can be confusing at first. Does it contradict the Romans 3:28, "a man is justified by faith, apart from works of the law?" It is not the works of the Law but grace apprehended by faith that pleases God. It seems a bit contradictory that this section is very concerned about the deeds of men and women, about obedience, so we need to ask how this can be.

The second issue that Paul raises here is the role of conscience, in verses 14 through 16. There are those who do not know the Law, who are uninformed about what God has said, and yet find "the Law written on their hearts." Is he implying that mere sensitivity of conscience is enough to bring about salvation for those who haven't heard the gospel? We will return to this question in a moment. 
Simply put, the issue raised in Paul's emphasis on deeds is not the tension between the works of the Law and grace. Grace has not entered Paul's argument yet. The tension here is between our actual experience and a fantasy we have about ourselves that is based on our knowledge. There are a great many people who know a lot about God and are able to discuss his thoughts eloquently. If they could they would sit next to him on the judge's bench with their arm around him, and render judgment with certainty regarding the failures of other people. They are wonderfully impressed with their knowledge of the things of God.

But what Paul says is, "Neither I nor God cares about how much you know. The question is, how do you live your life? This fantasy of making yourself the equal of God and having a mind like his of no value unless it affects the way you live."

In verse 7 the word perseverance is very important. Evaluation is not made on one action or two, or isolated actions taken throughout one's life. In perseverance over a lifetime we become one kind of person or another. We either become someone who cares inwardly about the things of God and acts on them, or we increasingly become someone who rejects the things of God. Taken altogether, the persevering quality of our choices is the thing that God cares about because ultimately it's going to declare who we are; it's going to describe the heart inside that is doing the deeds. That is the reason for Paul's emphasis on deeds. Verse 13 makes the point most succinctly: "...for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." It's not what we know, it's who we are. These things are the concern of God.

Now, the language in this passage is severe, deliberately powerful, almost cutting. The person whose life is what it ought to be (no matter what he thinks of himself), will inherit eternal life. The one whose life is not what it ought to be will receive tribulation and distress; there is a terrible future stored up on the day when the secrets will be revealed. Terrible judgment and wonderful reward---there is no middle ground. We observe self-righteous people hearing Paul say that they will experience the wrath or the judgment of God, discovering for the first time a group of people with few religious sensibilities and little knowledge who are destined for "glory and honor and peace." Paul is popping their balloons, deliberately deflating fantasies. Therefore the language must be strong. The role that judging others often plays is that of creating a fantasy world in which we think of ourselves as we are not. 

WHO CAN MEET THEIR OWN STANDARDS?

The other theme of this paragraph we'll consider is the role of conscience. Is Paul saying that someone raised far from the teaching of the Bible who has sensitivity of conscience is pleasing to God? No, because in verse 12 he is talking about those who sin without the Law and perish without the Law, and those who sin under the Law and are judged by the Law.

What Paul is teaching is this: There are some people who know a great deal about what God thinks and what matters to him. They have read the Bible themselves, they have been well taught. What they know ought to activate their conscience so that when they act contrarily to the Law of God, they see themselves in a dilemma, and if the dilemma isn't solved they are going to die in their sins. Then there is another group of people who don't have the laws of God, they don't know the history of Israel, and they have never even heard of the Ten Commandments. But what they do have is their own standard of right and wrong. Everybody, even the rankest of pagans, the most uninformed, unenlightened person you can meet, has their own standard, and breaks it. You cannot meet a reasonably honest person who can say that they have lived completely up to their own standard, that their life has been everything that it ought to be.

So everyone is in the same boat. Our consciences are going to alternately encourage us and condemn us. Every now and then we'll do something right and feel good about it; our conscience will clap us on the back and say, "That was commendable, you did a great job there." And other times our conscience will jolt us because we've broken the rules, whether God's laws or the ones we know instinctively. Everybody has a conscience that will sometimes condemn them, unless they sear it, or mute it. If they let their conscience do its work, it will proclaim their moral dilemma.

Then the question is, what will they do? The answer is that either they will deny the voice of their conscience, or they will let it teach them to call out to God for mercy. The point that Paul is making is that having a sensitive conscience in and of itself is not the same as faith. Once we realize we have a problem, will we admit it and ask for help? 

What the apostle is trying to do in this courtroom is not let anybody be a spectator. The indictment is given first to people who are in open rebellion. The self-righteous applaud this indictment but then he turns to them and says, "Once we establish that there is a standard by which all of us must be judged, we all are going to find ourselves in need of a Savior. And we can't hide from it by increasingly focusing on the awful things that other people do. We must turn the searchlight on ourselves."

No one's sins will remain in secret, unexamined by God. The king had a prophet sent to him. Nathan proclaimed, "You are the man!" and David repented. He didn't cover up that day's events and swear to secrecy everyone who heard Nathan expose him. Instead, he spoke to God and asked for forgiveness. Psalm 51 is David's word of appreciation for God's grace. David's story is that of the self-righteous one judging others, being judged himself, and then becoming not a self-righteous king but a redeemed one.

God will answer our cry for mercy and redemption. Instead of redoubling our efforts to condemn other people, if we once admit that we are in the same boat, we will find that he will help us. Recall the old spiritual, "It's me, it's me, it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. It's not my mother, not my father...not my brother, not my sister...not the rich man...." The honest person says, "It's me standing in the need of prayer." That is exactly the point the apostle is trying to drive us to. (Steve Zeisler)

Miscellaneous Related Reading

Dorian Mode

Jesus and the Homosexual

A Grain of Wheat

Jesus, the Hound of Heaven

Taking God Seriously

Our House of Cards

Mirrors

Christ in You

The Consequence Engine

Sex and Worship

Brokeback Nation

The Ego Papers

Circumcision

Christ in You

Recovery

Jesus our Healer

Disconnected
!

Conformed to Christ

The Exchanged Life



Old Life/New Life

From Ray Stedman:

Our new life in Christ begins with an initial period of joy and gladness, frequently with fruitful activity and observable changes. I always question the conversion of someone who doesn't soon experience some changes in his life, because the very purpose for which Christ enters our life is to redeem us, to buy us back out of uselessness into usefulness. This initial period is almost always a period of great joy. We recognize that we have found the secret of life, that all the empty cisterns from which we have been trying to satisfy our thirsty soul are no longer of any avail and we turn to the fountain of living water. The result is always an experience, varying to some degree by the personality involved, of genuine gladness in the soul.

Also our conversion is almost always followed by a period of failure and frustration, alternating with times of peace and joy and victory. This constitutes a problem to many young Christians. They believe they are going to continue on that initial level of gladness, triumph, and victory, and are very disturbed at first when failure, frustration and defeat come into their lives. They will struggle on through that and come into a time of renewed peace and victory, and then experience another failure. This sometimes goes on for years and years. It doesn't need to go on that long, but it often does.

I think many waste years trying to recapture the first love they had and the joy they first experienced when they came to Christ. But this is a mistake, and Christians need to realize that these periods of frustration and failure are part of the divine plan of God. When we fail to see that, we become like those Galatians to whom Paul wrote saying, "Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?" (Galatians 3:1 RSV). Are you going to be able to work this out in your own strength, having begun in the energy of another? Thus he corrects them and this is what we need to learn. The periods of failure are simply designed to teach us how to live the new way of life.

We have two centers of being from which we can operate: What we were in ourselves, and what we are now in Christ who is given to us.

Whenever we operate from self, it results in failure. Whenever we depend upon Christ, it results in victory. The Lord simply lets us experience this truth until we finally learn the difference. We are not to depend upon self! Victory comes only through total dependence on Christ and him alone! As we gradually begin to learn this lesson, there are increasingly frequent times of victory, peace, joy, effectiveness and fruitfulness in our life, and there comes at last the long promised era of continuous fruitfulness. One morning we take a good look at our lives and notice what is happening. That nature, that disposition which we have long been trying to achieve -- love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, patience, meekness, and self-control -- is beginning to manifest itself more and more regularly in our life. That first long-promised joy has begun to be fulfilled.

This is the place to which we come in the life of Abraham. At the beginning God promised him a son who would bring joy to his heart and begin the long line of descendants which would finally be more numerous than the stars in the sky. This is the picture of fruitfulness that is promised to the believer. The promised joy was long delayed in Abraham's life. He went through many trials and failures in which he learned much about himself in terms of defeat and folly; and he learned much about God in terms of victory and fulfillment. But now he has begun to walk so consistently in the Spirit that the continual fruit of love, joy and peace begin to appear. This is what is symbolized by the birth of Isaac here; when Isaac is born, Abraham's joy is fulfilled.

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; every one who hears will laugh over me." And she said, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would suckle children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age." (Genesis. 21:1-7 RSV)

This is the picture of the joy of fulfillment. At last we have two sons of Abraham living side by side, Isaac and Ishmael. We don't need to wonder what this means in the life of faith, because in the letter to the Galatians, Paul tells us. He says that Isaac is a picture of that which is born of the Spirit and Ishmael is a picture of that which is born of the flesh (Galatians. 4:28). Isaac is the result of a life controlled by the Spirit. What does that mean to us? Well, in that same letter he tells us, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," (Galatians 5:22-23a RSV). These are the Isaacs for which we have been waiting. Ishmael, on the other hand, stands for the works of the flesh that are outlined in that very same chapter.

Notice how that is confirmed in this passage. First of all, Isaac's birth was supernatural. He was not born until Abraham and Sarah had reached an advanced age. Sarah was 90 years old and Abraham was 100. It occurred at the set time, some 30 years after God had first promised to give Abraham a son. In Romans 4:19a, Paul referring to this time says, "He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old." This was a supernatural birth. God quickened the natural processes again and a child was born, but it was a supernatural quickening. Rather amazing, isn't it?

Do you see now why God waited all this long time to fulfill the promise to Abraham? He was waiting until the ability and forces of natural man had ceased, so his promise could definitely be a supernatural fulfillment. This is exactly what God says to us about the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It will never come from the flesh. It will never come from self-effort, nor by positive thinking, nor by perpetual trying. Love, joy, and peace, those wonderful gifts of God, never come from any attempt on our part to imitate them. You can imitate them, but they will never be anything but an imitation. You cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit by the flesh, because that fruit is the supernatural gift from the life lived in the power of the Spirit of God, born as Isaac was here. It comes simply by appropriating the life of Jesus Christ.

The second principle about this new life is circumcision. Abraham set upon Isaac the sign of God's ownership, which is the picture of what the Christian does when he recognizes that the love, joy, and peace in his heart is not given for his own private enjoyment, but to share with others. God doesn't make you easier to live with simply to clear up some of the problems in your home, but to demonstrate through your life the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. And you are to use it for blessing for others.

When I was a boy in Minnesota, we had a neighbor woman with a large family who was regarded in the neighborhood as a religious fanatic. We'd hear stories about how she would take her Bible and go out into the fields and spend all day in a haystack. The result was that she neglected her own household. Her children were always running around without proper direction in very dirty clothes, her house was always filthy, and her husband was always complaining about the situation. Nevertheless, she would come into the church meeting and stand up and testify about what a wonderful experience she had had out in the haystack and what a joy and ecstasy had come into her heart. She may well have had those experiences (we have to take people at their word in this respect), but it was an uncircumcised joy and love. It was not devoted to the purpose for which God had sent it. It did not bear the mark of God's ownership. It wasn't used in the way God intended it to be used.

But when Isaac is born in Abraham's household, he is circumcised.

The third principle in this account is the reality of a satisfying experience. Isaac means "laughter," and when this son was born, the whole household was beside itself with ecstasy. I wish we could have seen Sarah, ninety years old, with that little babe in her arms, her face radiant with the delight of the long-awaited fulfillment of the promise of her heart. What a picture this is of the joy that Christ brings into the human heart. Sometimes language almost seems extravagant when we try to describe this, but if you have ever known what Christ means to the heart, you know that all language is inadequate. The song writer has said:

Heaven above is softer blue,
  earth around is sweeter green,
Something lives in every hue,
  Christ-less eyes have never seen.
Birds with gladder songs o'er flow,
  Flowers with deeper beauties shine
Since I know as now I know.
  I am his and he is mine.

This is the experience of those who have Christ dwelling in their hearts. Have you ever had an Isaac experience, when after a long period of struggle in your Christian life, you discovered the secret of walking in the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit became evident in your life? What a day of glad release this is when you have put away all the selfies-centeredness and begun to manifest that wonderful fruit of Christ-centered love, joy, and peace.

Now this is not the whole story. A sharp contrast appears in the next section:

And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring." So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:8-14 RSV)

Now if Isaac represents the gladsome fullness of the fruit of the Spirit in our life, then Ishmael represents some pet manifestation of our self-life in which we find comfort and delight to which we do not want to surrender. You see how perfectly this is pictured here in this story -- some value which we have long suspected is not what God would have, but which we were reluctant to give up. Perhaps it is some long-standing habit that we have been defending, such as smoking, or overeating. I am not making any lists of forbidden things; I am merely saying there can be habits or values in our lives which are really some form of self-indulgence. God may allow them for a time, but the time comes when he says, "Now, these have to go."

It can be anything: It may be some pet doctrine you have been insisting upon, which has been causing division and separation among the brethren. You've gained a reputation in this field as an authority and you are not going to give it up. Maybe it is an insistence on a particular mode of baptism, a matter of tithing, some partisan political view -- something that separates -- which you hold as distinctive. It may be some friendship, or membership in some lodge or club. It can be anything that rises from self-indulgence which we defend, protect, justify and delight in, just as Abraham defended, protected and delighted in Ishmael -- until the time came when he had to make this choice.

Notice some things about this: First of all, this was a distressing matter to Abraham. He had to go through an agonizing reappraisal when the word came from the Lord, "Ishmael must go." He loved this boy -- though he had often grieved over his arrogance and hasty ways -- and he didn't want to give him up. I think he was angry with God for bringing the matter up. He probably said to God, as we frequently say, "Oh, this is really nothing, it is such a trivial thing. Why bring it up, why bother with it? Let's go on the way we were. We have been getting along for quite awhile with Ishmael, why change now?" But the agony of his heart showed that it was not a trivial matter. If it had been a light matter, he could easily have dismissed Ishmael. But is was not; it was something that would cost him deeply.

I remember a telephone call from a lady who had been at a class I had previously held. She said, "I've been thinking so much about what you said in class about God asking us to turn away from things in our life that are hindering us, I have a problem, and I don't know what to do about it." She named what it was, and said she had heard testimonies from people about what God had done for them when they became Christians and how they had had problems with smoking or drinking or sex or some other habit that God had laid it on their hearts to stop.

She said, "They tell me God just takes the desire away and they don't ever have the desire to do this again. I feel that God would definitely have me turn from this particular problem in my life, but he doesn't take the desire away. What should I do?"

I said to her, "Well, God does sometimes deliver us by taking the desire out of our hearts, but in most cases, I think, God leaves the desire right there and tells us to obey anyhow -- even though it costs us some heartache and anguish." I quoted this story of Abraham to her, of how he obeyed when it hurt, when it caused anguish to his heart to say good-bye to Ishmael, but this was what God said was harming him, and he obeyed God and sent him away.

I want you to notice that this was a delayed judgment. Ishmael was fourteen years old at this time, and Abraham had known from the beginning that Ishmael was not God's choice. He had come from Abraham's deliberate choice of self-indulgence. Since God had not chosen this boy, he would not be Abraham's heir. Yet God permitted him to stay, saying nothing to Abraham about it, until Isaac came along.

When we come to choices like this and the Spirit of the Lord speaks to us about a matter, we tend to think God is very harsh, very cruel, and very demanding when, in reality, he has been patient, forbearing, and tender. For fourteen years Ishmael was allowed to stay in the house without a word, but when Isaac came, then Ishmael had to go at last. He never takes away an "Ishmael" until he has given an "Isaac"! Because this is so, we need to be very careful about judging others. We may see Ishmaels in their lives and want to root them out, saying, "You must get rid of this habit." But when God takes away an Ishmael, he first gives an Isaac. In other words, he never tells us to give up some manifestation of self-indulgence until he has first given us some fruit of the Spirit of grace to take its place in satisfying that longing of the heart. However, when he does give us that manifestation of grace and blessing, then the self-indulgence has to go.

When we first become Christians, there are some obviously evil things in our lives brought over from the old days that have to go immediately. But there are others that appear more innocent which God permits, allowing us to struggle and fight until we learn to walk in the Spirit. Then the fruit of the Spirit begins to appear and these things have to go.

A friend of mine was telling me about a prominent evangelical leader who had been given a great opportunity, and he was looking forward to the fulfillment of it as the greatest occasion of joy that he had ever experienced. Others had been praying for this man for a long time, because they saw some Ishmaels in his life. One day as he was looking forward to moving in on this opportunity, a friend sat down with him and, in a painful time, faced him with some of the things in his life. It was the voice of God to him. The friend told him that he was trying to be a big shot, always wanting to run things himself. He had to learn to let others step in. He put his finger on a personal habit, a bad temper, and told him that the next time he displayed that temper as he had recently been doing, he would find his opportunity gone. He just laid it on the line with him, and said, "Now that this opportunity has come, these things must go." This man, in relating the incident to someone else said, "I realized that this was the Spirit of God speaking to me." And he responded to it and faced the things, recognizing that they must go. This is always a distressing time, but it also represents the faithfulness and patience of God, who has allowed this Ishmael until we are ready to give it up.

Notice the last part -- it is decisive. When God speaks, there can be no dilly-dallying any longer. It is imperative that Ishmael goes. This is what our Lord Jesus was speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away," (Matthew 5:29a RSV). "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away," (Matthew 5:30a RSV). If you are going to walk in the power of the Spirit, you cannot walk in the power of the flesh. You cannot have both -- one must go.

Now, observe the following: God says definitely that Ishmael could never share in the inheritance with Isaac. This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:6 RSV). When the time comes for us to stand before our Lord at the judgment seat of Christ, our lives will be classified into two areas: Those that are wood, hay, and stubble, which are of the flesh; and those of gold, silver and precious stones which are of the Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The Lord says to us as he says to Abraham, "Ishmael must go." If you refuse to expose, to examine and remove that which is born of the flesh, even though you know God has said that it hurts you, and even though he had shown you the peace, joy, and love which is the fruit of the Spirit, then you must face this choice as Abraham did. Ishmael must go.

I recall reading an article about Dr. Barnhouse and was struck by evidences of this very choice in his experience. He said, "Early in my ministry, I had the idea that I must strike out against all error wherever I saw it. I hit Christian Science, Unitarianism, Romanism, and if error was in some fundamental leader with whom I was in 95% agreement, I swung hard at the 5%." This made Dr. Barnhouse a highly controversial figure, often unmercifully sharp and dogmatic. This zeal for truth within him became an Ishmael in his life. Then he tells how there came a time when the Spirit of God taught him to love and he faced the choice -- Ishmael had to go. He had to learn to be more understanding and more tolerant of some of the variant views of others. He wrote, "Some time ago, I published a New Year's resolution expressing regret that I had had differences with men who are truly born again. The results of that resolution were astounding. In the years which followed its publication, my ministry has been transformed. I need to know all who have been redeemed by Christ, for I will never know my Lord fully until I see him in every individual whom he has redeemed and saved by the outpouring of his life for us all upon the cross. This," he says, "is true fellowship." It was wonderful to see in the life of Dr. Barnhouse the removal of an Ishmael. The closing years of his life show much of his mellowing and of the sweetness of the fruit of the Spirit in one who before had been so harsh, critical, and demanding.

I don't know what form Ishmael may be taking in your life, but I know there are times when God says to us, simply, this must go; no longer may it be permitted. There can be no manifestation of the life of the Spirit any longer until this is dealt with.

You know how Abraham obeyed. Early in the morning, he got up and took bread and a skin of water and though it cost him heartbreak to do it, sent Hagar and Ishmael out, so that he might have the fullness of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. From the Ray Stedman Library.

Romans Seven and Eight

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime? Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted 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, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.



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June 21, 2021