We ended our last message and began this message by pulling a piece of pipe from the “Body of Christ Pipe Man” which we constructed on the communion table over the last several messages.
I held it up and said, “This is who you think you are; this is a metaphysical impossibility; this is a dream.” I reattached it and said, “This is reality; this is waking up; this is putting on Christ.”
In Romans 13, Paul writes, “For us, the hour has come to wake from sleep… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision [provide no food] for the flesh, to gratify its desires [epithumias: lusts].”
So, what are the lusts of the flesh?
When I was a youth pastor, parents always wanted me to draw lines for their horny teenagers, It seemed that the logical end to this process would be the legislation of burkas and Sharia Law, but I’m not convinced that would eliminate the “lusts of the flesh.” The “governing authorities” are all about drawing lines and making people “pay” for crossing those lines; they call that “justice.” For 1500 years the institutional church has been a powerful governing authority. In the last 500 years, we’ve often argued that Jesus paid, so you don’t have to pay, as long as you have “faith,” evidenced by works, which means you don’t indulge in the “lusts of the flesh.”
“So, what are the lusts of the flesh, Pastor? We need more knowledge of Good and evil!”
“My flesh is hungry . . . Can I feed my flesh? . . . Can I even eat?”
Romans 14:1 (Next verse, remembering the chapter divisions were added 1500 years after Romans was written): “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him… let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
We were just asking “What does it mean to feed the flesh?”
Paul’s answer appears to have nothing to do with what you eat or don’t eat, but everything to do with judging people for what they eat or don’t eat; apparently, it has nothing to do with where you draw the line, but everything to do with drawing the line in the first place. Isn’t that what Eve and that first Adam desired?
The lust of the flesh is to judge, not be judged, and to go back to sleep.
The lust of the flesh is to dream that you can justify yourself.
Attempting to make ourselves like God, we take the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil; jealous of Jesus we take the Life that is Jesus.
We killed Jesus—We broke his soul (his psyche), and yet he delivered up his Spirit, his “indestructible life” (his zoe).
We dream that we took the Life of God, and we feel it as shame.
In reality, God gives his Life and we wake to the eternal reality of Grace.
The problem with flesh is not that it lusts, but that it lusts to be alone; it lusts for death and non-being, and yet it cannot take its own life, for the life that’s trapped alone in the flesh is eternal.
It’s important to note that Jesus—the Life—”lusted.”
“I have earnestly desired [epithymia, epethymesa: ‘in lust, I have lusted’] to eat this Passover with you,” said Jesus to his disciples as he prepared to break the bread and pour the wine (Luke 22:15).
Our flesh lusts to be alone; the Spirit of Jesus lusts for communion.
So, justice is not about drawing lines; it’s all about expressing (bleeding) a new (eternal) desire.
In Romans 13:8, Paul just told us, “Owe no one anything, except to love them.”
Does that include God? “Owe God nothing but Love.” What is Love?
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends,” wrote Paul. As John puts it, “God is Love.” That means real love is God—what else could it be?
So, what do I owe God? . . . God.
If I imagine—if I dream—that I’m separate from God and just took the life of God, how could I ever pay God, God? I just killed God and became my own god forever alone in the kingdom of I Am Not.
If I wake to the revelation that I could never be separate from God, I wake to the realization that I could never take from God what he is not giving to me right now; I wake to the knowledge that everything is Grace (the Good), and I begin to live the life of Love (the Life); I bleed the blood even as I receive the blood, and the Life is in the blood; I am the incarnate body of I Am that I Am.
Before we took his Life on the tree in the garden, he gave his Life as communion the night before.
He commands Love, for he constantly gives Love; he gives himself . . . and he himself is the one that gives, for love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
The nightmare in time is that I take what God has not given.
The reality of eternity is that God has always given everything I take—in particular, “me.”
So, wake up sleepy head, and pay what you owe!
Now, back to ethics: What is right; how do we do what’s right, and help others do the right?
Well, we don’t judge our neighbor; we “welcome” our neighbor, because, in reality, which is eternity, they’ve already been judged.
Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be made to stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
We don’t judge our neighbor; we accept our neighbor. And just our judgment of non-judgment is judgment upon our neighbor’s judgment—his dream that he is alone. It’s out of a lonely soul that flows all manner of bad judgment; But out of a soul that receives love, flows love, and love is the fulfillment of the law; it is God’s Judgment.
Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, and then they chose to not be tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus accepted all who thought they were rejected and so rejected their dream of rejection.
If you think you’re accepted because others are rejected, you’re dreaming a dream that will turn into a nightmare.
Jesus descends into every nightmare to wake us from our dreams.
He does it in you and through you for others, even as he does it through them for you.
In 1935, Bill Wilson, who had been a hopeless drunk for decades, found himself standing alone in a hotel lobby depressed and longing for a drink. “I need a drink,” he thought, as he turned toward the bar. Then a new thought stopped him in his tracks, “I don’t need a drink; I need another alcoholic.” He found a drunk named Bob who agreed to talk for fifteen minutes. They talked for five hours and then founded Alcoholics Anonymous—by far the most successful “program” for freeing alcoholics from alcohol.
At an AA meeting, one introduces oneself by saying something like, “My name is Peter, and I’m an alcoholic—I’m addicted to alcohol.” Perhaps at church, we ought to introduce ourselves by saying something like, “My name is Peter, and I’m a sinner—I’m addicted to my ego; I think I’m God . . . and you’re not.”
Maybe then, we’d wake to the revelation that we’re not alone; we’d begin to love as we are loved; we’d pay what we owe (not endless torment, Love).