The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Understanding God’s Definition of Success: Encouragement for Chronic Sinners

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Among Christians, the folks who practice constant repentance tend to be those who shouldn’t be repenting at all.  In other words, they’re overdoing it.  They’re claiming responsibility for soul attitudes that they don’t even have and they are striving to appease a God who isn’t even upset with them.  As harmless as this might sound, it’s actually very damaging to your relationship with God for you to be constantly assuming that He’s irritated with you when He’s not. You simply can’t develop the kind of relaxed confidence that God wants you to have when you’re always projecting anger onto Him that He’s not even feeling towards you.  The purpose of this post is to help you get better at recognizing when you are in a good place with God.

Now suppose you have a cousin named Greg.  Greg is a rude and crude fellow who has no regard for the feelings of others.  One day you’re at a wedding reception for an older man who you greatly respect.  The older man’s name is Rob, and he’s been like a mentor to you.  Around Rob, you’re always on your best behavior, and you feel very complimented that Rob has invited you to share his wedding day with him.  Everything is going well at the reception until your rude cousin Greg suddenly barges in on the scene.  Greg was not invited to this event, but that hasn’t stopped him from inviting himself.  When he sees you in the crowd, Greg shouts out, “Hey, cousin!” in a very loud voice, then he strides over to you and puts his arm around you.  “Nice party you’ve got here!” he bellows.  It’s right at that moment that Rob comes over with his new wife.  Before you can say anything to the couple, Greg looks the bride up and down with hungry eyes, whistles provocatively and says, “Dang, hot momma!  You got plans for this evening?  Because I could sure use someone to warm my bed tonight, and you look like the perfect candidate!”  The bride’s eyes narrow in disgust.  Rob’s eyes narrow in anger.  You are so embarrassed that you wish you could crawl under the floorboards.  But Greg, he’s just warming up.  Grabbing a glass of wine from a waiter who is just passing by, Greg continues hitting on the bride in a loud, blustery manner while he keeps his arm around you.  When you try to hush your cousin, he ignores you, so what then?  What should you do in this situation?  Should you apologize to Rob for the way that your cousin is behaving?  Does the fact that Greg is genetically related to you mean you should take responsibility for how he is behaving?  When Rob orders Greg to be escorted out of the party, should Rob have you evicted as well?  Would that be fair?  How much should you be blamed for your cousin’s behavior?

Now let’s pretend that in this story, Rob represents God, Greg represents your earthsuit, and you represent your soul.  In real life, you will often find yourself in this kind of situation.  Your earthsuit is a sexual entity that is quick to lust after anything that it finds sexually arousing.  Your earthsuit doesn’t care about things like morals and manners.  It wants what it wants, and it doesn’t mind mowing people over in order to get its hands on some coveted prize.

Your soul is a totally different kind of entity than your earthsuit.  Your soul has no gender, no sex drive, and no ability to become sexually aroused.  The only time your soul becomes interested in sex is when your earthsuit wants some.  You see, just as you would feel very stressed traveling in a vehicle that is malfunctioning, your soul feels very stressed when the vehicle it is traveling about in—which is your earthsuit—becomes upset.  Because your soul can’t escape your earthsuit until your earthsuit dies, your soul feels like it is in its own best interests to keep your earthsuit happy, and that means cooperating with whatever your earthsuit wants to do.

But then God comes along and suddenly everything becomes complicated.  God says that much of what your earthsuit wants to do is morally wrong.  This puts your soul in a situation where it now has to choose who it is going to side with.  Is it going to side with God or your earthsuit?  Going back to our metaphorical story: are you going to laugh along with your cousin Greg as he’s making those rude comments, or are you going to side with Rob by condemning Greg’s behavior and voting for him to be ousted from the party?  No matter what you decide, you are not going to be held responsible for Greg’s behavior—only for how you responded to his behavior.  This is how it works with you and God as well.  Your earthsuit can behave quite rudely and crudely.  It expresses many desires which God says are very wrong—such as desires to hurt and disrespect others.  But God never holds your soul responsible for what your earthsuit is doing, only for who your soul sides with.

In our story, your friend Rob isn’t angry with you for Greg’s rudeness.  Rob doesn’t consider you responsible for Greg’s bad manners, even though Greg is your cousin. Rob understands that Greg is an adult with a will of his own who you cannot control.  So after Rob has Greg thrown out, he’s not angry with you at all, nor does he want you to apologize for your cousin’s behavior.  The only way Rob would be upset with you is if you laughed along with your cousin’s rude comments and applauded Greg’s behavior.  In that case, Rob would have had you both thrown out and he would expect an apology from you before he would be back on friendly terms with you.  This is how it works with you and God as well.

God never blames you for what your earthsuit is doing.  Instead, He judges you by who your soul sides with.  When God tells you that your earthsuit is behaving immorally, He wants you to agree with His assessment of the situation.  For example, when a sexy looking woman walks past Jeff, Jeff’s earthsuit immediately feels aroused and thinks, “She would sure be fun to make out with.”  God then says to Jeff’s soul, “Lusting after other women is wrong.”  Jeff’s soul then chooses to side with either God or his earthsuit, and it is that decision that God judges Jeff by.  Jeff’s soul might say, “Shut up, God, I don’t care what You think.”  This is an attitude of spiritual rebellion.  Spiritual rebellion is never about a specific sin such as lust. Instead, it’s always about refusing to respect God as the Supreme Authority.  In this case, God would be angry with Jeff’s soul for disrespecting Him.

Now maybe Jeff’s soul says, “Okay, God, I agree with You.  Lust is wrong and I don’t want any part of it.”  In this situation, Jeff’s soul is pleasing God because it is respecting God’s opinion.  It doesn’t matter what the specific issue being discussed is—what matters is that Jeff’s soul is treating God with respect.  But while Jeff’s soul is pleasing God, what is his earthsuit doing?  Does Jeff’s earthsuit suddenly cease to have any carnal desires just because Jeff’s soul is honoring God?  Some Christians like to pretend this is how it works, but it’s really not.  Your earthsuit simply doesn’t care about what God wants.  God intentionally designed your earthsuit not to care about pleasing Him for two reasons.  First, God isn’t interested in forming a relationship with your earthsuit any more than you’re interested in becoming friends with your shoe.  Your earthsuit is just a vehicle which God has paired your soul with while you’re living in this physical realm.  Your earthsuit is temporary and expendable.

The second reason God designed your earthsuit to have many desires which naturally oppose His moral code is to give your soul many opportunities to honor Him.  You see, if God had plunked you down in a body that only ever wants to do right, you’d have very few opportunities to truly honor God.

APPRECIATING THE GREAT GIFT OF DEPRAVITY

Here’s a common trap that Christians fall into: they say that they really want to please God, then they moan and groan about what a trial it is to have to be stuck inside bodies which love to sin.  And yet if pleasing God is what you’re really into—if you long for opportunities to express your love for Him—then being stuck in a depraved earthsuit is a wonderful gift.  It’s precisely because your earthsuit is such a craven yuck that your soul finds itself bombarded with opportunities to honor God in very intentional ways.

Suppose you really like birds, and on holidays, your friend Adelle gives you bird paraphernalia.  That’s nice, right?  Adelle knows you like something, so she makes a point to give you cute little bird trinkets and bird art.  But it’s not like it’s hard for her to do this—the world has many bird lovers in it and bird gifts are readily available.

But now suppose you have problems with pedophilia and suppose one day you get caught molesting some little kid.  Now everyone in your community hates you, and all of your friends have dropped you.  As you sit in jail, feeling despised and ashamed, no one comes to visit you because no one wants to have their reputations soiled by being associated with you.  But then one day Adelle comes to see you, and she isn’t at all ashamed to be associated with you.  She treats you like you’re still her very good friend—like what you’ve done hasn’t changed her affection for you one bit.  This kind of gift is far more valuable than bird trinkets, isn’t it?  The bird gifts were a simple thing for Adelle to get, but remaining your friend after you’ve been socially shunned is costing her.  You know that she’s getting a lot of flack for staying loyal to you in this terrible chapter of your life.  She’s getting threatening phone calls and emails.  The media is saying ugly things about her and her boss is threatening to fire her if she doesn’t cut ties with you.  But Adelle simply won’t be deterred from standing by you.  She visits you often in jail, giving you much needed encouragement.  When you get out, she moves with you to another town and helps you start over.  Adelle is willing to endure a bunch of loss and persecution for your sake because that’s how devoted she is to you.

Now before your crisis began, Adelle didn’t have the level of devotion to you that she does now.  It was seeing you go down and realizing how much it would cost her to publicly side with you which forced Adelle to really ponder who you were to her.  She didn’t come to see you right off because she had to think things through.  She wanted to really assess the cost, do some soul searching, and decide if she was going to take things to the next level with you.  In the end, she decided to go for it.  She decided that you were worth giving a whole new level of devotion to, and once she made that decision, she was all in.  It was the crisis that gave her the opportunity to decide if her commitment to you would deepen or not.  And it was the severity of the crisis that determined how strong her commitment to you would have to be if she was going to persist in being your friend.

Now as a Christian who really wants to please God, your earthsuit is giving you an opportunity similar to the 0ne that Adelle had.  God hasn’t paired you with an earthsuit that feels “whatever” about sinning.  He has given you an earthsuit that wants to really wallow in a long list of things that He says are despicable.  By doing this, God is giving you the opportunity to choose a level of devotion to Him that you wouldn’t be able to choose otherwise.  If your earthsuit was naturally opposed to sin, you’d be like Adelle back when she was in bird gift mode.  She knew that she sincerely liked you—but she hadn’t had the opportunity for those feelings to develop into a deeper love.  The relationship was so easy, smooth, and storm free that deep bonding simply didn’t have the chance to happen.  But the day that she showed up at jail to see you, everything changed.  You both knew that the relationship had progressed to a deeper level and that the bond between you had suddenly grown a lot stronger.

By trapping your soul in an earthsuit that craves evil, God is giving you the kind of opportunity Adelle had when she read in the news that you’d been caught doing something terrible.  First God locks your soul in an earthsuit that wants terrible things, then He puts you down in a world which greatly rewards those who wallow in immorality while it punishes and shuns those who honor God.  This forces you to decide how much God means to you, and it forces you to consider levels of devotion that simply wouldn’t come up in a world that honors God.  So, you see, if honoring God really is what you’re after, then you need to stop pining for opportunities to serve in some big ministry and realize that He’s giving you opportunities every day to express your devotion to Him.  Every time your earthsuit expresses its desire to do something immoral, your soul has a chance to side with God instead.  Sometimes God will even give your soul the ability to rein in your earthsuit and stop it from following through on its base desires.  But plenty of other times, your earthsuit will win the day and you’ll find yourself engaging in activities which your soul wants nothing to do with.  Here again, God is giving you the opportunity to express deep devotion to Him, for it would be a lot more comfortable for your soul to just coast along with whatever your earthsuit wants.

Your soul gets no immediate reward for opposing your earthsuit. Every time Adam looks at porn, his soul is miserable while his earthsuit loves it.  Certainly it would be easier in the moment for his soul to try and get into what his earthsuit is doing.  After all, no human is rewarding Adam’s soul for being loyal to God by choosing to hate what God says is wrong.  The few Christians who know about Adam’s addiction all look down on him for it.  His coworkers mock him for walking away when they pull up porn at the office.  God is the only One who appreciates the great love Adam’s soul is expressing by stubbornly siding with Him in the face of so much misery.  No one else is applauding Adam’s soul choices, just as no one else in Adelle’s community was applauding her for being a true friend.  You see, it’s the combination of being stuck in these depraved earthsuits and living in this immoral world which gives us all the opportunity to develop epic devotion to God.

The kind of devotion God wants from us is when we are loyal to Him for the sake of pleasing Him alone.  When Adelle came to see you in jail, she knew that you would be the only one who was blessed by her efforts.  She knew everyone else would look down on her for what she was doing.  She did what she did to please you—not to please an audience of other people.

In Christendom we spend a lot of time and effort going through holy motions in order to hear the applause of human fans.  We serve in ministries not for God’s sake, but for all of the attaboys that other humans will give us.  Far too often what we call our “love of God” is really just a love of human accolades.  Such devotion is worthless to God, because He knows it is not directed at Him.  God is not a fool—He sees our true motivations, and He knows the difference between pretense and sincerity.  What God wants from us is sincerity, not showboating.  To give us the opportunity to choose sincere love for Him, He traps us in our own private wars.  He saddles us with internal struggles which no one else can see and which we don’t dare to talk about for fear of being shunned.  Then, in the midst of that dark and secret place, He challenges us to side with Him when there is no external reward available.  Michael’s wife has no idea about the dark impulses her husband struggles with on a daily basis.  Only God knows, and only God hears when Michael’s soul expresses its desperate desire to please Him.  Meanwhile, on the outside, Wendy looks like she couldn’t care less about God’s moral code as she wallows in sin day after day.  Only God can see the true desires of Wendy’s soul and how much she longs to please Him.

God has intentionally fixed it so that we cannot make our behavior consistently reflect our true feelings about Him.  Some of the most devoted among us look on the outside like we’re not even trying—like we don’t even care.  When Adelle’s neighbors heard that she’d gone to visit some icky criminal, they all said nasty things about her.  They slandered her character and decided that she had shady motivations.  No one saw or appreciated her true motivations.  Everyone was so biased by their own prejudices that they couldn’t recognize real love when it was right in front of them.  In the same way, even truly devoted Christians have a hard time recognizing each other, because we’re so easily distracted by external actions.  God is the only One who is seeing, appreciating, and applauding our sincere love for Him, and it is our soul choices that He is judging us by, not the desires of our earthsuits.

WHEN TO REPENT

At your friend Rob’s wedding, when other people saw your cousin standing there with his arm around you, they leapt to the assumption that you were in agreement with what your cousin said and did.  So when your cousin was rude, people glared at both him and you.  But your friend Rob knows you, and he didn’t doubt your intentions towards him for one second.  After Rob had your cousin ousted, he wasn’t upset with you, and when you try to apologize, he shushes you.  “Don’t apologize for that jerk.  He has nothing to do with you.”

In the same way, when your earthsuit is acting like an ogre, and your soul is groaning with repulsion, God doesn’t want your soul to start taking responsibility for what your earthsuit is craving, as if you could actually control its desires.  Instead, He wants you to align with His judgment system and realize what a good place you’re in with Him when your soul sincerely cares about pleasing Him.  Repenting for your earthsuit’s choices is like you trying to apologize to Rob for your rude cousin.  Why should you feel bad in Rob’s presence because your cousin has no class?  Why should you let your cousin’s foul mouth stop you from enjoying the very positive friendship that you and Rob have?

Demons are all about trying to con you out of enjoying God’s pleasure with you.  So when they see that your soul sincerely cares about pleasing Him, they work overtime trying to get your soul to take responsibility for what your earthsuit is doing.  They tell you that your soul ought to feel terribly ashamed about things which it cannot control.  They try to get you groveling and cowering in God’s Presence when you haven’t even done anything wrong.  This is a game that demons successfully work on every Christian countless times until God starts teaching us how to defend ourselves from it.  The key is to align with God’s judgment system: to realize that it is our soul’s choices that determine whether He is pleased with us or not.  Then, when our souls are groaning in repulsion while our earthsuits wallow in some depraved thing, we can recognize the clear evidence that our souls really do long to please God, therefore He is pleased with us.

Repentance is only appropriate when our souls are the ones turning against God.  For earthsuits, blowing God off is standard procedure, and they are not capable of true repentance because they have no desire to please God.  When you stop trying to repent for your earthsuit and you keep your focus on your soul, you’ll discover that God really isn’t telling you to repent.  Instead, He’s telling you that He’s pleased with you because your soul sincerely longs to please Him.  As all of that negative feedback is replaced by positive affirmation, you’ll suddenly realize that we aren’t just making it up when we say that God is easy to succeed with.  He is very easy to succeed with because He is only holding us accountable for things which we can actually control and not for the things that we can’t.  Gaining an accurate understanding of how God judges us is critical to experiencing the kind of relaxed confidence that He wants us to have in His Presence.  God is very pleased with souls who sincerely care about pleasing Him.

FURTHER READING:
Understanding Repentance
Understanding Divine Judgment: Illumination, Empowerment & A God Who Delights In Mercy
Identifying False Conviction: Three Easy Tests
Conviction Q&A
Relating to God: Recognizing the Trap of Symbolic Pain
Yearning for More Spiritual Fruits: Wrong Focus, Wrong Priorities
Confession, Penance & the Old Covenant Sacrificial System: Unlearn the Lies

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