A Path to Imprisonment

A Path to Imprisonment – Part Four

Shackles

Ingratitude
~
Idolatry
~
Immorality
~
~Imprisonment~
____________________

We know that our old self
was crucified with him
in order that the body of sin
might be brought to nothing,
so that we would no longer
be enslaved to sin.
For one who has died
has been set free from sin.
~Romans 6:6-7~

Imprisonment:
captivity through habitual immorality.

When God gives a person over to their sin, they are in a most desperate, dangerous place. In that place of ‘being given over’, there is opportunity for a hardening of the heart so that the senses are progressively dulled to the possibility of a different existence.

None of us is exempt from empathizing with one imprisoned by a course they have plotted, cleared and traversed. I believe those who find their way out of this kind of bondage, discovered that all along, the key to their shackles was clenched within their own hand.

I do not believe this is the only way to become imprisoned. We sometimes fall prey to predators who capture us and keep us. We sometimes inherit generational sins that unknowingly bind us. We sometimes construct prisons in which we live out unhealthy cycles with other people. But for all of these, God has made provision and asks us to work with Him in the breaking of those chains.

It is for freedom that we have been set free. God is all about dissolving anything that would keep us from living unencumbered. He is bent on the annihilation of every chain, every false notion within our system of belief, every practice that is contrary to abundant living, anything and EVERYTHING that would bind us. And why not!? God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. No one has ever displayed such radical love! God is ‘all in’, and He’s asking us to give Him every bit of who we are in response to that all-inclusive demonstration of love, something an imprisoned person cannot do.

If the path to imprisonment begins with ingratitude, I want to stop the progression there. I want to overflow with a heart of gratitude for the bounty that is mine as The King’s daughter. If I find that I practice self-worship, being the center of my own universe, then I want to de-throne ‘me’ allowing God to take His rightful place. If I find myself practicing behavior I know is contrary to God’s way (sin), I want to stop and repent and return to Him. And if I have gone unchecked so that I now find myself enslaved to sin, bound and shackled, I want to cry out to a merciful God for deliverance. He has the power to take the key in my hand and release the bindings of my self-constructed prison. As long as I have breath, freedom awaits.

You are slaves of the one whom you obey,
either of sin, which leads to death,
or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.
~Romans 6:16~

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A Path to Imprisonment – Part Three

Shackles

Ingratitude
~
Idolatry
~
~Immorality~
~
Imprisonment
____________________

Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?
~Proverbs 6:27-28~

Immorality:
non-conformity
to Gods moral code.

Once I have embraced ingratitude, and placed myself and my desires on the throne of my heart, it’s only a matter of time before immoral behavior surfaces. Romans 1 tells the tale of descent, when three different times God gave the people over to their desires. The description of their hearts screamed of idolatry. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie. They did not see fit to acknowledge God. Because they were determined to go where they wanted to go, God essentially releases them into their sin. Terrifying.

The thing that strikes me, as I replay my own history, is that the door of immorality just doesn’t suddenly appear. I have to do a bit (or more than a bit) of conniving; of exchanging to get there. I have to elevate my own logic and self-justification and turn a deaf ear to God, whose name is Peleh Yo’etz, Wonderful Counselor.

Does my enemy, the master deceiver help blur the lines? Yes. Do the wounds of my past speak? Yes. Does my independent nature influence the way I make choices? Clearly. These are voices I hear. But the fact that I cross the line into immorality indicates that not only did I hear those voices, I took council with them. Their voices prevailed.

God will not enter into competition with the other voices, but He offers me entrance into His council chamber. He mercifully invites me out of the destructive to the constructive; off of a dangerous path onto one that can be safely traversed. He invites, reminds, calls….. He extends His hand of help. He does it because of the beauty of His own character and because He relentlessly loves humanity. He relentlessly loves me.

We are more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.
~Romans 8: 37~

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A Path to Imprisonment – Part Two

Shackles

Ingratitude
~
~
Idolatry~
~
Immorality
~
Imprisonment


Idolatry:
excessive or blind adoration,
reverence, or devotion

I’m not sure the transition from ingratitude to idolatry needs too much fleshing out. What happens to me when I become consumed by what I don’t have, to the degree that I’m no longer grateful for what God has placed in my life? It’s really not complicated. I find that before long, determined to look after myself, I begin clearing a path to the thing I mean to have. My happiness, defined by me, driven by my desires, laid out according to my timetable.  That is self-worship and that is idolatry.

I can be an expert in justifying, in re-writing God’s law, in deflecting so that I blame someone else for my shifting priorities. In many cases, God is often the object of my contempt, something I’m usually not honest enough to admit. Really though, the part I never want to own is that I, in my autonomy, make a brazen statement about my lack of trust in God and my waning belief in His goodness. I doubt I need to elaborate.

Idolatry shows up in my self-oriented behavior. I become less willing to invest in others. God-worship is progressively replaced by a preoccupation with self. I spend my best energy shuffling and contriving to get things to align as I think they ought to. By this point, I’ve traveled a good way down the road marked SELF. What I may be unaware of is the looming danger ahead.

Like ingratitude, idolatry unchecked will morph into something very formidable. It’s difficult for a person consumed with self to pause and take stock of their life. But if they would, they would find the Father willing and eager to assist in the de-throning of self, and the re-establishment of Jesus as the object of their worship and true devotion.

Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
~Proverbs 4:25-27~

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A Path to Imprisonment – Part One

Shackles

~Ingratitude~
~
Idolatry
~
Immorality
~
Imprisonment

Recently I heard a pastor talking about the way the words listed above relate to each other. He posed what for me was a very compelling progression of thought that I want to try to dig into for myself. The premise is this: a person who embraces ingratitude can potentially move through the above sequence until they find themselves imprisoned; shackled because of their own unchecked behavior. Each step deserves a bit of time, so I think this will be 4 entries.

Ingratitude:
the state of being ungrateful.

I don’t like thinking about my own ungratefulness. For a follower of Jesus, there is simply never a good reason to entertain the poison that ingratitude is. It’s a simmering bacteria that won’t be contained. It will seep and drip and soak and infect everything in its path. Where once you might have been satisfied, you now find internal discord, inviting you to loath what you once loved. It’s a very nasty business. I speak from experience.

Some of us may think ingratitude can fly under the radar, without drawing too much attention. We can be ungrateful and to some degree keep it out of sight if we want to. But not for very long. It’s like a bad smell that find its way out into the air. A bystander might not be able to pinpoint its origin, but they know something’s not right.

Ingratitude first showed its face in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). The serpent drew Eve’s focus away from all that was freely hers to enjoy, to the singular forbidden tree. One swift move of the adversary had her hyper focused on the only ‘no’ in a sea of ‘yeses.’ Lest we judge Eve too quickly, Genesis 3:6 tells us that she was seduced on every finite level. That the tree was good for food appealed to her physical being. That is was a delight to her eyes drew her in emotionally. That the tree was desirable to make one wise engaged her intellectually. This was a comprehensive lure. Her enemy knew how to entice her and it worked, the first time.

Here is the glaring caution for me as I get into this study: Ingratitude unchecked will morph into something dangerous, something that might surprise us by its seriousness, like a cut that becomes infected through neglect.

Sifting through the archives of my own journey, I have an idea the high cost of fastidiously tending my ingratitude. And the implications are at a minimum, sobering. Sobering because I’m beginning to see the link between embracing ingratitude and the onset of idolatry. So maybe for me, this needs to be a daily introspection… am I a grateful woman? Do I know what I’m inviting if I wrap my arms around ingratitude?

But understand this,
that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, 
proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents,
ungrateful,
unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous,
without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous,
reckless, swollen with conceit, 
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 
having the appearance of godliness,
but denying its power.
~ 2 Timothy 3 ~

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