Pastor Phil's Blog


The Proverbial Disciple - Pastor's Blog

  1. Of Lustful Thoughts
     - The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis

    "Whenever a man desires something he does not have, he immediately becomes restless.  
    The proud and greedy are never at rest, while the poor and humble of heart abide in peace.  
    The person who is not yet wholly dead to self is easily temped and overcome by small matters.  It is hard for the one who is weak in spirit and still partly carnal and inclined to the pleasures of the senses to withdraw himself altogether from earthly desires.  And therefore, when he withdraws himself from these, he is often sad and easily angered if anyone opposes his will.

    But if, on the other hand, he yields to his desire, immediately he is weighed down by the condemnation of his conscience, for he has followed his own desire and yet in no way attained the peace he hoped for.  For true peace of heart is to be found in resisting temptation, not in yielding to it.  Therefore there is no peace in the heart of a person who is carnal, but only in one who is fervent toward God and living the life of the Spirit."


    There is a danger embedded in this passage.  If we forget to keep first things first, we can easily follow Thomas' advice into an unholy dualism that pits "flesh" against "spirit".  But, to separate these two parts of our nature, esteeming one and despising the other is to follow the gnostics and not 
    Christ Jesus.  The Word-made-Flesh is the ultimate example of God's desire for all of material creation to be permeated again by God's creative and redemptive Holy Spirit.  We are not meant to be merely material creatures, nor are we to strive to transcend our creaturely enfleshment.  Rather, by the grace of God we shall receive both will and power to regain the fullness of existence for which we were created - the communion of flesh and spirit.

    So, the opening line is most instructive:
    "Whenever a man desires something he does not have, he immediately becomes restless...."

    In all I do, I will choose either to attempt to possess; or, to yield to being possessed.  This is to say, 
    I may either strive after objects I do not have and so become restless because of the inability of said objects to fulfill me; or, I will seek the will of God - to be known by and to know God as a subject - and yield to possession by the Holy Spirit.  Either way, I will be restless until the day I die and pass from this sin-soaked world into the next life.  The question is, will I be engaged in restless wandering after illusory objects, or a fruitful restlessness for God's will to be done here, now, in our midst, as it is done in heaven.


    It is only by paying attention to the first things, that we can be free to live lives of faith given the ambiguity of this world and our imperfect existence in it.  Without the knowledge that restlessness cannot be avoided only offered to God, Thomas' advice is easily mistaken for a call to perfection.

    "The person who is not yet wholly dead to self is easily tempted and overcome by small matters."

    Yep, that sounds like me.  Impatience with the kids too easily turns into frustration and anger.  Watching a favourite program on tv too easily turns into time wasted channel surfing.  Thinking about how to improve our living space too easily turns into covetous greed while checking out houses for sale in the neighbourhood.

    So what?  Does that mean I am a lost cause because I have yet to wholly die to my sin-sick-self?
    No!  For this is the glorious paradox of life in Christ: Even as I am dying to myself I am being resurrected to Christ.  This process will only be completed in my death, but it is already guaranteed and underway because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  

    The power of this promise propels me forward through all temptation, failure, doubt and despair.
    As I and others around me focus less on trying to possess perfection apart from God we are being in-dwelt (possessed) by the Spirit and we are seeing real breakthrough in our lives.  Patience is growing.  Discipline is increasing.  Grace and charity are crowding out pettiness and greed.

    And, the best thing... this promise is "for you" too.


    Today, I note how these themes come alive in the prayer that Jesus teaches us.

    9 "[Jesus said] Pray then in this way:
    Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
    10     Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
    11     Give us this day our daily bread.[c]
    12     And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,[d]
            but rescue us from the evil one.[e][Matthew 6:9-13]


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