TeachingAugust 25, 2019

How To Not Give UP

“Fight the good fight… run in such a way, as not without aim; box in such a way as not beating the air” (1 Tim. 6:10/1 Cor.9:26).

I was face down on the floor of a Michigan Jail cell.
My CMU football coach and I were arrested in a barroom brawl. This incident set my image amongst my teammates. I’m an old dog now, but back then, I benched 400 lbs. and welcomed anyone to “bring it!”. So I get the whole ‘badass’ thing. It is building an intimidating image to back people off so you can hide from reality. Images come in many costumes.

Why ‘give a damn’? No one else does. Why waste good energy on caring about others when hurt and self-pity come so easy? Even parents, a spouse or children can, without regard, drop unbearable grief upon our soul. Mental anguish can swirl in our minds like a tornado. My darkness was so dark, even my shadow left. But giving up was not in my blood. Is it in yours?

Life is just too short. I remember thinking that I was not going to let this weird unseen feeling of pride lead me to the monumental consequence of hell. Playing games with pride is like one of those “expert” animal trainers who end up being killed by the animal they think they know so well. Accepting reality can be very tough. I could easily end up in prison if I didn’t “come to my senses” (literally “came to himself”) (Lk.15:17). The word ‘beautiful’ had no place in my world… until then.

My mind was an empty warehouse, but I realized then, that it was up to ignite my intelligence. No more excuses. No one was going to change my life for me. If we don’t deal with the truth we will never know the truth. We have to face the hard issues. Like many, I asked “Where was God when I was broken by false accusations and terrible circumstances? Why did He not see my needless pain and invisible tears?” Please, my friend, give me a shot here. I won’t let you down.

Fighters Fight

When a man faces his nothingness, it can be his end or the beginning. It can be the very catalyst that kindles the level of fight necessary to become a champion. There is one thing better than fighting for what you imagine. It is fighting to obtain the promise to become what you can not imagine.

“God has chosen the foolish things…the weak things…the base things…the despised…the things that are NOT… to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works with us” (1 Cor.27ff /Eph.3:20).

It is saying nothing to say that we must fight for our life. Reaching beyond ourselves requires a Degree in Resolve. If you want something you’ve never had you must do something you’ve never done. For every famous boxer or athlete, there are tens of thousands of fighters defeated in the ring. Words like bravery, defiance, audacity, and intensity are words of the conquerer. This is the experience of being an individual in Christ. Not bound to the ways or opinions of any man. David rejected the armor of fear for the assurance of his own sling and stones.

A prison in Brazil asked us to come back as often as possible. Men living in deplorable conditions desperate for the authentic love the Father offers to those who believe. We have seen God use us with a profound impact on multitudes of prisoners and we are full of awe and praise.

Sincerity is not enough. Tons of people are sincerely deceived. In any field of life, there are men of heart and men of pretense. I have known a lot of guys who talk good B.S. They know a lot. It’s great stuff. They go on and on about how to do things, the “right” way. But they get their butt kicked in the ring of reality because they refuse to lay down their pride for Jesus. Armchair quarterbacks don’t have a clue to the vision for victory.

When we are punched in the face, “something” rises up within to punch back. It does not mean we are a fighter. This ‘something’ can lead to further heartache, anger bitterness, etc. and, at times, tragedy. The question is whether we will distinguish between the fight of hostile impulse, the flesh, and the fight of individually calculated, and anointed, grit.

There was a Saul and there was a David. Two kings of Israel. One who had a heart. There was a Jacob (“supplanter” -wrestled with God/ and an Esau who was a great hunter (macho). Jesus spoke of two sons. One focused on talking and the other applied himself to learn what really mattered (Mt.21:28/ Lk.15:11ff).

When I first considered God, I resolved, that I was not going to be a phony. No one in the world cares about your image. All I wanted to know is whether Jesus lives. Reckless abandon is the fast-track to the truth. You can get beyond all the B.S. of self-made excuses and religious “experts” in the snap of a finger.

It was in solitude that I contemplated how there is absolutely NO VALUE to pretense. None. Who cares? It’s about eternal life or eternal hell.
I once saw a documentary on the very moment U.S. soldiers apprehended the German guards in a concentration camp. The most astounding scene was the expression on their faces. It was not, as one would expect, a look of shame. Rather, it was a look of being stunned and bewildered. They couldn’t believe what they had done.

Paul was a very “righteous” man but yet he killed men, women, children, and even Stephen; who was the 1st martyr. One day, he was bucked off his horse. While laying face down, God showed him the hole in his soul. How could he be so blind as to identify his own bitterness as the love of God? He fled into the Arabian desert all alone, for fourteen years, to try to understand himself (Gal.1:12, 2:1).

What he uncovered was nothing less than unfathomable. He said it generated a “waging war” within him like no other fight on earth. (Rm.7:23). Albert Einstein (E=Mc2) was a brilliant German scientist who said: “Education is not the learning of facts, it is training the mind to think”.
These days, faith is identified by the nonsense religious sentiment. It is not. It always makes me laugh how people quickly identify an emotional hoot-n-holler frenzy as “anointing”. When I was in seminary I watched guys take on these ways as if they were learning the secret code to a secret society. There is nothing “anointed” about these common and generic intonations. It does not reflect an ounce of Holy Spirit anointed individual. It is always exactly the same because these blind leaders of the blind know that the blind can’t see.

Jesus calls us to His salvation based on a personal decision to “calculate” His reality using intelligence (Lk.14:28). The word calculate is a mathematical word (study synonyms). It is faith. It is the power to withstand Satan. No warm fuzzies. No room temperature feelings and experiences. Faith is proven by the power to conquer all aspects of selfishness. The things God showed Paul about himself broke him. All self-righteousness went out the window (Phil. 3:9).

Truth generates a level of fight to comprehend everything about self is “hostile” to God. This humiliation of self does not manifest itself in a forlorn melancholy, but in a newfound audacity to grasp and participate in a real process of transformation. It isn’t striving to be a “good person”. Quite the contrary. It is the ultimate payoff of freedom. Abraham calculated and defied the feelings of his aging body for FAITH (Rm.4:19/Heb.11:1).

This “good fight” is between two warring natures. Paul explains “I do the very things I hate… it is not me doing it but sin which indwells me… I find the principle that evil is present in me… waging war against my mind and making me a PRISONER OF SIN…wicked man that I am!” (Rm.7:21ff/Is.59/Job17:14, 25:6). This conflict makes most people give up on God because the bottom line is they love themselves. But it wasn’t in Pauls blood to give in to self (Phil.3:14).

Paul saw in himself what those German guards saw, and what I have seen. The monster of sin hides in the basement of our ego. We can never be a “good person” because God says “There is no one good… not one… all have become ‘nothing’…” (Rm.3:10).

I constantly tried to blame God for the consequence of my own wicked ways. It set my conscience on fire. Adam blamed Eve and she blamed the serpent. Blame is in our nature of sin. It impacts every moment of our existence and makes our life hell on earth. We wrongly blame a person, a crime, an event or our personality. Exactly what Satan wants, because then we never deal with the root of our problem. The cross is not waiting for them but for YOU.

Ignorance leaves us in a bitter winter storm, deep inside, that freezes our heart in cold isolation, pain, bitterness, and depression. Our mind drops to 50 degrees below. We become like a zombie existing in conscious torment. God says we are “desperately sick” (Jer.17:9).

This is not a religious issue, my brother. It is life or death.

Understanding sin answers thousands of questions to why we feel and act the way do. It is not by using a fist, muscle, and strength that we can conquer our greatest enemy of self It is by the fierce battle of faith, using intelligent comprehension of the work of Jesus to strip the rights of our future from the hands of Satan (Ps. 51:17/ Jn.12:25/Rm.6/ 1Tim.6:12).

The Ultimate Fighter

Bearing a thousand tears, and a face full of blood, Jesus bore every punch of man and Satan. He cared so much about our predicament that He bled in prayer. Imagine the FIGHT of such a Lion. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood…” (Heb.12:3-4).

Old red boxing gloves on wooden background.

Jesus descended into our every ‘hell hole’ of filth and disgust and became the ‘Ladder’ for our escape. Do not gloss over this. You must stop and imagine.

This was not so you could feel all gooey and “righteous” about yourself, as a “better” Christian. It was so you could become a hero, of reality and truth, standing for Jesus in an insane world. Jesus offers the greatest power in the universe to ACTUALLY free you from every single thing that bothers you. No exaggeration.

When a ruthless soldier thrust a crown of thorns into His skull, and His body was hung from nails, Jesus revealed His heart to you, about you; “Abba”, meaning “Father… forgive him” (Mk.14:36). You and I are not “nice guys”, dude. We deserve hellfire. Jesus chose to come in the likeness of our wicked nature so He could bear the wrath we will receive for our sin. By “out of nothing” I mean… out of sin (Rm.5:20/1 Cor.1:28).

When Jesus was killed, our human body, corrupted by sin, died (1Pet.2:24). It was brilliant. God’s holy wrath for our sin was appeased. Jesus became our Substitute. He offered atonement to cleanse our conscience from all guilt once and for all time to cover all our failures on earth with unlimited forgiveness and redemption. Jesus can now “reckon” to us, by faith, everything He accomplished (Rom4/Heb.9:12).

Jesus rose with a new body. He offers us the resurrection life now, and a new body, when we die. Many of today’s “Christians” act “ho-hum” about all this because it is mere theory. They have never come personally to the living Jesus, Who alone imparts this revelation (Jn.11:25).
The contrast between the Father’s offer of love, forgiveness, and compassion, and our persistent despicable ways is a reality that ignites a life-changing depth of gratitude and breaking of every self-centered claim of pride.

Multitudes have a troubled conscience because they wrongly think the gospel is to make them a “better man” by works of good behavior (Read: Rom.3:20/ Gal.2:16-21).

Don’t let “preachers” or “professionals” undermine the future that God promises to give you. Satan wants to neutralize and minimize the supernatural provision of the living Jesus.

The Right Fight

It is easy to expend your energy fighting to defend the very enemy that destroys you, self. You are “boxing the air”. Few things really matter. Really, only one (Lk.10:42). The right fight is to sit at the feet of Jesus, not just physically, so as to become the ultimate sensitive person to receive and give Love. Jesus was so loving that at the very time when He bore the sins of the world, He listened to the thief next to Him. Imagine that conversation. This thief was the first person in heaven (Lk.23:43). Imagine what kind of heart this thief had to admit he deserved to be crucified and watched, face to face, the Messiah die just like himself.

His same love is in me here and now so that I can now touch you with Him. Selfless love is the ultimate fulfillment. His call to you is not about you, but using you to express His love to rescue others (2 Cor. 5:15).

God does not just offer us a 2nd chance at life. He offers a life of 2nd chances.

Your future is not subject to anything you did in the past. It is based on what Jesus did in the past for your future. We can’t go back into the past but the living Jesus can redeem all things in proper perspective and heal any wound. Your future depends on the level of your fight. “God looks on the heart” (1Sam.16:7).

Time to get smart, my friend. Laziness and self-pity rendered me one level lower than a rock. Scale the mountain of excuses to get to the summit of your intelligence. Be an individual. You are the artwork of God. Deal with sin and repentance in a logical, calculated faith to become beautiful through Christ (Lk. 14:28/2 Cor. 5:17).

What we become on the inside automatically determines how we deal with things on the outside.

The true “sinner’s prayer” does not resolve sin by a one time feeling of sorrow. It is a 24/7 “prayer formula” of seeing your wicked self, yet living in grace. Jesus can stop the bleeding of any wound (Is.53). He promises “I have come for the sick” (Mk.2:16/ Heb.11:6/ Rm.1:17/ Jm.2:23).

I could never have imagined that such a scumbag like me could ever be given such a revelation. I am a “wretched man” who lives in a body of sin, but my heart loves God (Rm.7:24). I sought Him and asked Him to be born again (Jn.3:3/1Cor.15:45). What else matters but eternal life?

I was in the football stadium of Notre Dame. Jesus says “Ask, seek, find and receive” (Mt.7:7). I did. He did. No man can ever say of this “Criminal”… He doesn’t care about me. The hell we face is due to a world owned by Satan (1 Jn.5:19). Jesus came into our “hell” with everything we need. He pleads with you, “Come to Me… nothing is impossible… I am the bread of life; the Good Shepherd; the Way, the Truth, the Life,…Living Waters” (Mt.11:28/Jn.10,14,7:38).

Things can get much worse than they are right now. The Father can, not only prevent this but like a Potter and clay, form new life “out of nothing (sin)”.

Bitterness can poison your soul. Forgive yourself. Then, forgive everyone who has ever harmed you (Mt. 6:14).

Don’t be afraid to be alone and think alone. It is crucial because you will stand alone. Appreciate solitude. Talk to God about everything. Change is a simple choice of faith. The thief on the cross never went to a “service” or became a better person Luke 23:43). He could only offer a broken heart. He was the first one to go to heaven. My friend, I beg you. STOP! Quit being so passive and presumptive about something that demands you be desperate and become an intense fighter: ETERNAL LIFE OR ETERNAL HELL.

Don’t fight the wrong fight. Humble yourself and fight for a purpose beyond what you can IMAGINE (Jn.12:25). Paul says “Forget what lies behind and press on” (Phil.3:13). Don’t base your future on anything you may have done or accomplished in the past. Go deep (Study 2 Cor.10:3/Eph.6:12/Jn.8:44,10:10). Study God’s Word. I pray to see you on the other side of death. Remember, it is not by self-strength (2Co.12:9). He works in us out of nothing, IN WEAKNESS.