NB: This note is kind of like someone saying, ‘I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which do you want to hear first?’ I’m starting with the bad news, so please keep reading, OK? I promise it’ll be good.
I’ve got it! I see our problem more clearly now, and it’s this: since Adam, we’ve all been born ‘intoxicated.’ Per the dictionary, the verb ‘to intoxicate,’ means to stupefy with a toxin to the point where mental control is markedly diminished. The toxin with which we are in-‘toxic’-ated is, in our Christian context, sin. That’s what Jesus was referring to in Mark 7:18-23, VOICE:
“Whatever goes into people from outside can’t defile them because it doesn’t go into their hearts. Outside things go through their guts and back out, thus making all foods pure. No, it’s what comes from within that corrupts. It’s what grows out of the hearts of people that leads to corruption: evil thoughts, immoral sex, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wicked acts, treachery, sensuality, jealousy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from within, and these are the sins that truly corrupt a person.” (I think you’ll agree, it doesn’t take long, reading Scripture, to come across multiple sad, often graphic, illustrations from this tragic list.)
Of course, Jesus’ hearers, in one of their many adventures in missing the point, focused on what sounded like his abolishing of the requirements of the Law. That’s why his equally shocked disciples needed him, once they were alone, to explain himself. So, what I hear Jesus saying is, a vile cauldron is entwined in our fallen, since Adam, DNA. We don’t fabricate it out of thin air. We’re ‘under its spell’ if you will, are intoxicated by it, have markedly diminished mental control over it. Given that grim reality, we find ourselves in desperate need of an antitoxin (an antibody capable of neutralizing the specific toxin that stimulated its production in the body).
And now to the good news! God, in Jesus, has provided the ideal antitoxin for sin. It’s his enormous, multi-faceted, ferociously powerful, unstoppable, un-cancellable, love-soaked, gift called Grace! Paul explains it like this: “…sin entered the world through one man, Adam; and through sin, death followed in hot pursuit. Death spread rapidly to infect all people on the earth … if one man’s sin brings death to so many, how much more does the gift of God’s radical grace extend to humanity since Jesus the Anointed offered his generous gift.” “…wherever sin grew and spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace.” Rom. 5:12,15,20 VOICE. “But God, with the unfathomable richness of his love and mercy focused on us, united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life – even though we were buried under mountains of sin – and saved us by his Grace!” Eph. 2:4, VOICE (emphasis, my enthusiastic Amen!)
But there’s even more! Paul again: “It’s clear that our flesh (the DNA we’re born with) entices us into practicing some of its most heinous acts … (but) the Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this.” Gal. 5:19,23,24, VOICE. God is aware that, in our weakness, we can’t even produce good fruit (otherwise described as growing in our discipleship) without his intervention. He empowers the Spirit living in us to do that. No wonder Paul said it was in his weakness that he was made strong!
Here’s a good question to ponder over this coming week: “How am I growing in my discipleship?” See y’all tomorrow, 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM. PD