‘The changing of the guard’

First off, I found it an interesting title, which Selwyn gave to today’s study – as it has only a little to do with the subject of today’s study: anger. In particular King Saul’s anger directed at David. [1 Samuel 18:1-9]

He writes: “As we have said that anger is usually the direct result of a goal being blocked, we need to ask: what was Saul’s goal? Probably the approval and commendation of his people. … David’s popularity was now blocking that goal – hence the arousal of his anger. …

If King Saul’s goal in life had been to please God, nothing could have blocked his goal, but because he was more interested in the praise of the people than in the commendation of God, he lost his way and ultimately lost his kingdom.”

The same is true for us; when we focus more on what other people think of us  (and that is an issue to do with pride) – the less we will focus on God’s will for our lives. A simple truth; but so hard for many to understand and apply it to their own lives. Do you agree?

Unrestrained anger

These verses of Genesis 4:2-8 (NIV), are – for me – full of sadness. How, a brother can murder his own brother, is difficult to understand: ” … Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. … “

An important point – I feel – is that Satan takes advantage of our feelings; and actively pushes us towards sin. He is crouching at the door of your life – waiting for the best time to take you. Yet, we live in victory – a victory won for us by Christ; and, with God’s help we can turn away from Satan’s influence.

In today’s study, Selwyn makes two important points; first, there is nothing predetermined (by God) in Cain’s actions – Cain has a clear choice before him. The second point is that sin quickly takes hold when we allow unrestrained anger to rule our heart.

I liked the following bits: “God is telling Cain that his acceptance does not depend on the quality of his offering but rests on the attitude and motivation of his heart. Had he looked into his heart at that point and considered his motives, brought them to God and repented, things would have been quiet different.

Cain was being given another chance, which was then followed by a significant warning: “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door … “. This is a graphic image of sin as a dangerous predator lurking in wait to pounce upon its victims. [This is also, a good image of how Satan works.]

But note again: there is nothing predetermined here. God gives Cain a challenging choice: ‘ … it desires to have you, but you must master it’. The implication here is that Cain could, with God’s help and power, stop the tide of anger.”

This is a challenge in today’s world –  the idea that we can (when walking hand-in-hand with God) master sin – we can become more and more like Jesus; and, as we progress on our journey carrying our own cross; we can resist Satan:  as God – told Cain; and He continues to tell everyone – we must master sin. What are your views?

A tragic split

In today’s study, Selwyn talks about the lack of balance between head knowledge and expressions of the heart – found in many churches.

He says: “So many Christian communities fail to achieve the necessary balance in their attempt to bring Christians to maturity. If a church focuses on giving people good biblical foundations and teaching, but does not encourage heartfelt corporate worship, it will produce lopsided Christians, The same will happen in churches which focuses on worship and praise but have no solid Bible exposition. … Invite the Holy Spirit to help you restore a balanced approach. Seek to be the kind of person who is not only in touch with their thoughts but also with their emotions. … “

I’ve also found that it’s hard to find a church – where the balance between head knowledge and honest expression of emotions – is somewhere close to being level.

In the area where I live, the local Anglican churches have a definite bias towards head knowledge to the extent that any type of spiritual experience is viewed with deep suspicion. It has come about through the teaching of the theological college which serves the area;  it is well known for its emphasis on intellectual analysis of Scriptures.

 I’ve talked to two ministers, on different occasions, about my conversion experience and they have both bluntly told me (using slightly different words) that I probably imagined it. I don’t try to convince such people that there might be a different explanation – as I really think it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to help people discern between truth and fiction. I know, what I know; and, if people are showing a noticeable discomfort to my telling of the various spiritual experience, which I’ve had – then I stop. It can serve no useful purpose and does not help the person at the time. However, I’ll praise God for these glimpses of His glory – for all of my days, and then forever!  🙂

What are your views on this topic?

No pretence

Selwyn continues to discuss the anger expressed by Cain. To a certain extent, I have to leave comments on the psychology of anger – to those better qualified.

My understanding from what Selwyn has written is that when a goal or objective (what we want) is blocked  – we first feel hurt, but as hurt is not an easy emotion to live with, we overlay it with anger.

He goes onto say:“There are some Christians who feel anger but pretend they do not. … But integrity and honesty requires us to acknowledge whatever is true, and if it is true that we are feeling angry, we must be willing to face it and feel it. As we have said before, only problems that are known can be dealt with.”

Upon reflection, after just having typed the above; I think that the best, first step is to ask God in prayer to shows us the true nature of our heart. He alone knows completely its inner workings and the emotions which drive the way we feel, and our actions. Jesus loves us, to such an extent that He will always help us to overcome those emotions, like anger, which cause us and others harm. Often, it’s only through the power of God’s Spirit, working in our heart and mind that real change occurs.

Jesus died on the cross for you; and in a very real sense, the flow-on affects of His sacrifice is that His love continues to work in everyone of His followers – to ensure their transformation into His likeness. His love flows now, and will continue to flow to the end-of-ages. There is nothing that can prevent God’s love flowing to you; the extent His love is taken up by you – depends on how closed and hard you have made your heart; yet, He can always break through.

Your views?

Establishing godly goals

To be honest – I didn’t find much in today’s study that I thought needed repeating here.

Perhaps the following sentence from Selwyn’s study – sums up, what I thought was the best part.

“When coming to God, the attitude and  motivation of the heart is all-important.” We approach God, in faith – meek in spirit and eternally thankful for calling us to be in-Christ; co-heirs to the richness of Jesus.

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV): “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did.”

Troubling the comfortable

Selwyn moves onto the next of God’s questions. The one asked of Cain: ‘Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?”

Selwyn’s speculation of a possible answer, I though was insightful: “Why am I angry? I thought I could please You by giving You the bear minimum as an offering, but I have not got away with it. I am really angry with myself, but I want someone else to blame.”

He goes onto say: “Honest recognition of one’s feelings and what is causing those feelings sometimes helps a person understand what is going on in their soul/heart. … No one understands the soul as does our Maker and Creator. He is always ready to comfort the troubled, but He is also ready when necessary to trouble the comfortable.”

I think Cain’s main area of difficulty was his pride – not having his offering accepted by God  – hurt; because it exposed his true intentions; in a way that could be easily seen.  Yet, it’s still hard to understand how his feelings become so enraged that it led to murder. What do you think?

The best thing to do

I really liked today’s study – Selwyn talks about some really important issues.

I’ll quote a lot of his study – mainly, because it’s just so good.

He writes: “We remind ourselves that the reason God, asked Eve the question ‘What is this you have done?’ was not to condemn but to help Eve deal with the reality of her predicament and to lead her to confession, and through that to forgiveness and back into fellowship with God. …

We live in a moral universe where we can choose to obey or disobey. When we obey we get results; when we disobey we get consequences. Breaking with God’s moral laws exposes us to real guilt, not self-remorse; real wrath, not simply self-reproach. But the cross answers this perfectly by the forgiveness and non-condemnation it provides. We need not shift the blame to others but can face our culpability and confess our sin, as Jesus has paid the price. …

The best thing God has done about sin is to provide forgiveness for it. The best thing we can do about sin is to admit it and confess it.”

We should keep in mind that not everyone can react in the same way as the prodigal son; to turn back to the Father and to seek forgiveness. Those who actively hate God – as demonstrated by their actions – develop depraved minds and lose the ability to see their sinfulness – they become blind to the spiritual aspects of their short lives.

In Romans 1:24-32, we read Paul’s words on what happens when people permanently walk away from fellowship with God. ” …  God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Do you agree that these words are reflected in the faces of many in the ‘western’ world?