Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are at war with God. Intuitively we know this but consciously, we want to convince ourselves that we’ve always been on the good side–God’s side. After all, we love his music (when we are not listening and dancing to something else), we praise him at church (just before we throw shade at the member who didn’t call us by our title: Grand Imperial Poobah ELDER), and we preach powerful sermons about him that make people stream to the altar in tears then we hurry home and cheat on our taxes, overeat, or watch pornography. Even if we don’t do these things, lying of any kind; ungratefulness; proud, haughty attitudes and behavior; unkindness and fearfulness are listed in scripture as lake-of-fire offenses to God. Hence, according to Paul in Romans 8: 6, 7, we are at war:
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Here Paul uses the word enmity. To get a sense of the word’s meaning, look at the synonyms for enmity: hostility, animosity, antagonism, friction, antipathy, animus, acrimony, bitterness, rancor, resentment, aversion, ill feeling, bad feeling, ill will, bad blood, hatred, hate, loathing, odium; malice, spite, spitefulness, venom, malevolence. These synonyms make it clear that our carnal or natural mind (that is not transformed by God) hates Him and is in mortal conflict with him. As I wrote in another post, “. . . our struggle against sin is rarely a struggle against sin; it’s usually a struggle against God! If you’re honest, the agony is in knowing that something we want so much is wrong. We identify with it–we can taste it, feel it, we’re stimulated to the breaking point by it and God is saying no. At that very moment, our minds and bodies are screaming yes! Ask yourself the question: At that moment, are you frustrated with sin or with God? In the middle of a porn movie, do you want to talk to your pastor about ministry? Do you want to read Counsels on Diet & Food as you are eating your cheesecake?”
This is the shape of the war between man and God. Our love for the pleasures of sin, our enslavement to habits, our fear that we cannot go a minute without succumbing to the temptations that prey on us, lead us to wage war to maintain our status quo of “normal”. Sin may be our captor, but we know him well and have grown comfortable with him as our dance partner. God? We don’t trust him. He’s trying to take away the joys of normal life. He wants to strip us bare and humble us (read humiliate us). His joy is not funny, sexy, spicy or fattening! God’s way, in our minds, is abnormal, bland, lifeless, tasteless, straight-laced and, worst of all, unsustainable. It’s the sure road to pain and defeat; why bother to start since we’ll be back at the doughnut pile in no time! In our sin-twisted thinking, we believe that God hates what we love and hates fun! He wants us to be out of style and out of touch–not cool. So we have to duck him, discredit him, obliterate him from our minds so that we can be normal, acceptable and comfortable in this world. In our minds, He stands only for what we can’t do. This is why Paul says the carnal or fleshly mind is enmity against God.
Natures and Browser Tabs
BUT, there is also this crazy dynamic that Paul tried to explain in Romans 7 that presents the complexity of the war between man and God and why the white flag must come into play. Listen to Paul’s description of our internal battle in Romans 7: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For 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 with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Did you catch it? We have two warring natures living inside of us. There is a spiritual nature that yearns after God and his way and hates the sin and enslavement that comes with it. Then there is that ugly sinful nature that rages against God and anything like Him. Think about it, at any given time we want to both win the war against sin and win the war against God. One way to look at this is to compare it to what happens when we have two browser tabs running videos at the same time. We’re watching one tab, but the audio from the other is playing loudly and the mixture of the two is confusing. This is why many of us feel that we have always been on the good side–we have. It’s just that the bad side has been running in the other tab with the volume up. One browser, two tabs; one life, two competing natures. But that nature running in the bad tab is sucking the life out of the good tab. It’s putting you in a position that has you loathing the good tab but feeling compelled to keep it open because it’s where you belong even if your soul is wishing the bad tab was acceptable. The duplicity and mental conflict are exhausting. Sooner or later you’re going to hit the X on one of the tabs. It will most likely be the good tab. Your addiction to the bad tab will eventually cause you to feel that you are a hypocrite and there is no use pretending you’re a Christian anymore: Close the good tab; it’s not real!
But wait, you really want to get the victory but you have no confidence. You’ve drifted back to sin so often that you hate the thought of trying and failing again. I have been there! But I have found a solution that has brought me great joy and peace. I believe that this post will make a powerful difference in your life. I want to teach you how to wave the white flag and win!
OK, Let’s look at the meaning of the White Flag. I found a good description of it on Wikipedia (you use it too, so be quiet and read.): “The white flag is an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation. It is also used to symbolize surrender since it is often the weaker party which requests negotiation. A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Persons carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire. The use of the flag to surrender is included in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.”
If you look at Isaiah 1:18 God takes the initiative by opening the door to negotiation: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV). God knows that we want to negotiate terms of peace with Him, but we don’t believe that it is possible. We figure that if we were in God’s spot, we would kill us for the way we’ve dealt. But thank God he does not have our blighted thought processes. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8 – 55:9 KJV)
The fact that you’re even reading this may be saying his spirit is at the negotiating table laying out for you the terms of peace that you so desperately need. So, here’s the powerful prescription for a painful life running in two tabs with the good tab about to be shut down:
- Acknowledge the reality that you are at war with God and that you’re losing. This is the hardest part of waving the white flag. Pride in our exemplary good tab makes us gloss over the seriousness of the stuff in the bad tab that we’re half-heartedly trying to fix behind the scenes. You can’t fix it–especially when you love the evil and only hate the guilt and failure connected with the sin. Minimizing the browser and erasing the browser history may fool family, friends, and church, but God remembers all and angels are watching all the time. Of course, this does not mean that you have no good feelings about God or that you are blatantly evil with no spiritual life. It’s simply that as long as that other tab is open in your life and the volume is up, you are at war. Your carnal or untransformed nature is fighting a death match with your spiritual life. So, do this: admit to yourself and God that you are sinning while you are serving and that you love the sin and wish it were not sinful. Admit that you get angry when God frustrates your opportunities to sin. Admit that you want to be right but you need someone to fix the confusing mess you’re in and change your heart. This is waving the white flag. God wants to reason together with you not destroy you. Follow these steps:
- Confess the sins running in the bad tab.
Wasn’t all that stuff above enough? No!!! We’re about to drill down into the critical part of the negotiation process. You’ve waved the flag and God is at the table. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9-10, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” I’ll just say this: when you know you are losing a fight and you don’t have a leg to stand on, that’s not the time to tell the winner he’s a liar by denying that you are a sinner–especially when he has extended you mercy and grace to allow negotiation in your favor. This is why confession is so important. Confession fixes in our consciousness a clear illustration of our proper standing with God. He is our friend but he’s not our buddy. This is not a relationship of equals. God is not looking for our advice on how a good God should view us and treat us. We lost the war. We must bow to him with a deep respect for his sovereignty and merciful kindness.This is the point at which we openly determine if we really believe in God or if we are practicing religion as a cultural ritual. Confession is the great un-equalizer and is a major step toward breaking free. Let’s look at how it works.
- Open the Windows and Doors!
Have you ever gone away from home for several days and returned to find that, though your house was clean, it seemed stale and stuffy? With little or no air conditioning running and your insulated windows shut and locked it’s no wonder the place needed airing out. But when you opened a window or door, AAAAAAHHHHHH! Fresh air, circulation, coolness; Now it’s good to be home. Confession is the opening of the doors and windows of a life stuffy with the stagnant, airless atmosphere of sin and the artillery smoke from the warfare with God. So let me share with you how to step up to the negotiating table and find the freedom you crave. First, recognize that sin is not a set of isolated indiscretions that must be checked off a list. Sin is an attitude issue that manifests itself in actions hostile to God. This attitude and its manifestations must be confessed. Next is the interesting and scary part: Ask God to reveal to you every instance of this sin attitude in action over the span of your life so that you can experience collectively what he has been enduring from you for years. As they come to mind, confess that each one was an affront and an abomination to Him. This may take days. Confessions like these need to be done early in the morning in the quietness before the day begins. You’ll be amazed at what has been forgotten. Every person you trashed, every pencil stolen, candy bars under the mattress, videos with x on them, white lies, black lies, half-truths, gossip, bullying, affairs, thoughts or attempts at affairs, staring, lusting, cheating, etc. Piling it all on the altar before God acknowledging that these each caused the death of Jesus, and asking for forgiveness for each, put them in the past and removes them from the guilt pile.
Confession and acceptance of forgiveness are faith actions.
By confessing our sins, all of them, we finally hit the X on the bad tab, by faith. We commit to never having that tab open on a continuing basis again! We know that we don’t have the power to shut out sin on our own but we now have a new mind that is in right relation to a loving God eager to empower us to do right. You are not on your own trying to prove to God that you can be holy. You are in partnership with God who promised you victory. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6) Now you can move forward with your spiritual life. In Chapter 3 of the same letter, Paul gives this encouragement for the life after confession and acceptance: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13, 14)
Rebuilding the Broken Good Tab
Closing the bad tab is not enough to guarantee joy and peace with God. Our good tab is busted and corrupted due to neglect and improper use. So how do we rebuild that tab? The first step is prayer–genuine, communicative, honest talk with God about our real state of mind. Don’t tell him what you think he wants to hear. Tell Him what he knows but that you are afraid to say. Say, “Lord, I really hate reading the Bible. But, I know I need to. you said you have all power. Give me the love and power to receive from your word what I need to serve you and conquer sin. I cannot make myself do it right but I commit myself to reading it today; empower me to fulfill my commitment. Thank you for the yes answer because this is what you want for me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen!”It is also good to anticipate Those areas that trip us up and make us open a new bad tab. “Lord, When I’m at this place, or alone or when I see certain things or am around certain people, old bad thoughts and feelings come and I want to open those old bookmarks in a new bad tab. I cannot, through mere self-control, stop my desire. Give me a hatred for sin. Direct my steps to avoid situations that bring defeat. Be my victory! Amen.”
Understanding Real Righteousness
Real righteousness is not the absence of sin; it is right-doing as judged by the standard of God’s holy law. We cannot achieve righteousness by the process of elimination. It is achieved by acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice (the shedding of His blood) as the substitute for our sin and the acceptance of His righteousness as the substitute for shabby moral goodness. Isaiah says our righteousnesses are as filthy rags! Finally, it is acceptance of His life purpose and mission as the substitute for our shallow religious life that sees going to church and holding offices as serving the Lord. A passive, part-time religious experience is a guarantee that you will be back on the bad tab in short order. We must seek God for a mission-driven, purpose-filled life of sharing the good news of how we were set free. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” When Jesus healed the demoniac in Mark 5:18-20, The uncontrollable man who had wreaked havoc in his community and was filled with a legion of demons found himself free, forgiven and sitting at the feet of Jesus in peace. He who resisted the call of God to the point of being possessed by the devil now wanted to unite himself with Christ as a disciple. He begged Jesus to let him travel with him. Listen to Jesus’ response to his request: “And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.”
When we wave the white flag, we let God know that we are ready to come to the negotiating table. We let him know that we accept our defeat. We have fought him to hold on to the husks and swill of sin. We have rejected the bounty of heaven and now we are starving for life and need him to save us. When we wave the white flag we say that we are ready to let God hit the X on the bad tab and rebuild the good tab. When we wave the white flag we win by losing–never has being a loser felt so good. When we wave the white flag and begin to publish in our world the great things Jesus has done for us: all men will marvel!