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example flesh influence self self-control Uncategorized

The Eye Test

Neal Pollard

We covet those parking spaces close to the store, whether because we think we will save a little time or several steps by nabbing them.  Yet, we are in “competition” with others who are seeking the same spaces. No one rushes to the back of the parking lot to grab up those spots. But at a Costco in Canada recently, this vying turned violent as two middle-aged couples literally fought over a parking space. As in, it came to fisticuffs. As of this writing, police are still investigating and there may be fine details to be added to the story. Basically, however, as a YouTube video shot by a local realtor shows, anger over who should put their automobile in that space escalated to foul language, pushing, shoving, name-calling, and thrown punches. Four people who might otherwise be respectable, dignified contributors to society now share an infamy that may dog them for a long time. All because of a failure to conduct themselves properly in a public place.

We shake our heads at this animalistic behavior, but in our self-righteous sense of superiority we might do well to examine how exquisitely we execute our example before the eyes of the world. Consider some places where Christians can be oblivious to the watchful eyes of others:

  • Social media brawls, whether over matters clearly addressed in Scripture or matters of judgment and opinion.
  • Bible class discussions, where visitors, new Christians, and weak Christians might see the redeemed’s  inhumanity to the redeemed.
  • Public arenas, from the retailers to the restaurants and from the grocery store to the department store, where subpar (or even adequate) customer service evokes an unChristlike response from a disciple of Christ.
  • Arguments between spouses or parents and children, members of a “Christian home,” who resort to the tactics of their worldly counterparts as they wage war before such witnesses.
  • At ball fields, concerts, movie theaters, and the like, where something displeasing to us provokes an impatient, harsh, and retaliatory response that eclipses any view of Christ.

Certainly, these are just a few ways and places where we might forget ourselves and squash our precious influence by allowing the flesh to dominate our presumed spirituality. It is good for us to consider that those things cannot come out of us unless we are allowing improper things come into us. We must guard against the things that might creep in—“immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col. 3:5), “…enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions…” (Gal. 5:20, which are a bulk of the works of the flesh specifically identified by Paul), and more (cf. Mark 7:22-23, etc.).  We must work to control what comes out, harnessing the tongue (Jas. 3:2ff) and controlling the temper (cf. Eph. 4:26). We must strive to cultivate thoughts and feelings that, when expressed, build up and draw others to Christ (Col. 3:12-13; 1 Pet. 3:8-11; Gal. 5:22-23; etc.).

Like it or not, we’re hilltop cities and lighthouses (Mat. 5:14-16). Let us keep our behavior excellent among the “Gentiles,” as they observe our deeds, so that they will see Jesus at work in us (cf. 1 Pet. 2:12). Our attitudes, speech, and actions may not become a viral video, but we are still being watched. Let’s take care to display ourselves in a way that would not embarrass (or condemn) us were we to see it again, played by the Lord, at the Judgment Day.

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Current Events salvation

PLAGUE IN MADAGASCAR

Neal Pollard

It is hard to believe that bubonic plague could be a problem in any country in the 21st Century, but that is exactly the case in the African nation of Madagascar.  Helped mainly by extreme unsanitary conditions in that nation’s prisons, 20 people died from the plague there just in the first week of December. There were 256 cases and 60 deaths in 2012, and while that is nothing to compare to the 25 million deaths in Europe during the Middle Ages it is alarming.  Since inmates’ relatives visit those detained, the disease can leap the walls of confinement and become an epidemic throughout the impoverished country bereft of a good, organized public health system. Though 90% of the world’s plague cases have occurred in Madagascar and the D.R.C., there have been outbreaks in India, Indonesia and Algeria in the last decade or so and this summer Kyrgyzstan had its first plague case (and death) in 30 years.  While it seems like ancient history, the last global pandemic occurred just over 100 years ago ( (BBC Scotland, BBC Africa; Quartz).

Read any medieval chronicles of the black death and they seem like horror stories, compounded in those days by the people’s ignorance concerning how the disease spread.  But what was obvious was how swift, painful, and fatal it was.  The resilience of the disease is demonstrated in the fact that it can still be a story today, despite the development of antibiotics and sophisticated means of detecting and preventing it.

Sin is a spiritual disease that cannot be contained by geographical boundaries, technology, medicine, education, or any such potential preventative.  While its effects impact the unseen part of a person, its threat is eternally more great.  People who die with it untreated are lost forever.  There are ways to cope with the symptoms, but there is only one cure.  It is universally accessible and no one who seeks treatment will fail to have the cure.  If we can fathom ourselves, as Christians, and relay to the lost how terrible the sickness of sin really is, we will reach more people and lives will be saved!  Of all the Bible passages that speak of the matter, perhaps none is more impassioned than Paul’s words to Rome as he says, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 7:22-8:1).