Recently I’ve been reading a book called Jesus Today by Albert Nolan. A great book looking at the spirituality of Jesus in light of the signs and the times of today.
In one of the chapters he speaks of the misinterpretation of the flesh and the spirit presented in Gospel and taken out of context by us. He speaks of how we have used the dualism of the body to give reason to mortifying our bodies and depriving ourselves. It is not discouraging the disciplines but a reinterpretation of the flesh being the desires of ourselves that look to tear down anything that might be good going on with us. I know this sound cryptic. But he goes on to explain that a better interpretation is that our ego can be a deceptive part of our being that in some strange way can be without notice performing in us its on agenda without our knowing.
So when Paul speaks of not fulfilling the desires of your flesh he is not speaking of the desire to watch the one eyed devil (the TV) or necessarily the Big Mac, but he may be eluding to the motive that lives in us that would rather use these things to keep us from facing the truth. That we would use things things the TV and the Big Mac from being humbled and challenged by the spirit of God. Our desires are not bad in themselves but our egos can work in contradiction from the spirit of God. Our egos have silent motives and ways of running our lives that is like a silent killer. It wants to protect us and make us look like we have it going on. But the spirit of God humbles us every time we encounter Him. Our egos can even deceptively turn our humility into a prideful and boastful character. Our egos can even make us believe that we have earned our salvation. “I prayed today, and fasted for two days, I preached a sermon, I gave away my money…I have earned God’s love”. But the truth is that God is bigger and more mysterious than we can even begin to imagine and he isnt even confined in the same time dimension as us. He stands outside of time and space, is time and space, and created time and space and yet interacts with us personally when we choose to recognize Him. Our egos would much rather have our little safe worlds where we have everything figured out and explained. Where we provide for ourselves and control our own destinies. But God calls us to the Kingdom of the heavens where he is…. inescapably is.
Our ego is like the animal instinct in us that wants to control everything. I had a stupid bird that built a nest in my dryer vent outside my house. My clothes would not dry and I had finally had it. I took my super suction vacuum and sucked the feathery nest our like a black hole. Then a day later she had built the thing right back in the same spot. I sucked it out again and put a screen over the hole. This is how my ego is this is. This is why I must pray everyday. My ego says “your a successful pastor sit back and hang out, call a few people, write a few blogs, justify yourself, show others you are smart and discerning.” But God says “You are a sacrifice… just not for me”. God calls me to prayer where he breaks my heart and reminds me that He is holy and fulfilling and that I need His otherness to even begin to be helpful to others. His spirit transcends my ego and demolishes its life making me whole. Whole… mind body and spirit…whole… in Christ.
My original purpose in writing this was just to set up a link to an online Ennagram test that ask hard questions about you that reveals your personality and your motives. But I got off on a tangent… the test like I said, asks questions that are uncomfortable to answer, but if answered truthfully reveal a lot about the motives of your ego, that might not be motivating. But as a result we can be more aware of the continued renovation that has to take place in our beings.
May your heart be at peace in the embrace of the Father.