1 John 1: 9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Ok so what does this have to do with breaking a spiritual stalemate?
I spent way too many years being driven by the frustrations in life, only to let anxiety get the best of me every time. It seemed to go on and on and even though I was a Christian, I was perplexed for decades about how the following pattern played itself out in my life.
I got frustrated… and the longer it went on the worse it got. It didn’t particularly matter what the event of frustration was per say, we all have our particulars, what was important was it eclipsed everything and sucked the joy out of my relationship with Christ. Somehow not “growing in the things of Christ…” I had concluded my Christian faith should produce a type of “feel good peace” that was “tangible” and existed 24/7. That was an assumption of spiritual ignorance. I guess I assumed somewhere in the back of my mind there would be this overwhelming “spiritual bliss” that met life’s adversities and dismissed them as readily as they appeared. It was the Jesus “superman complex” and completely out of touch with living in a fallen world. That was a set up for disappointment for sure, and when I strung along enough disappointments then came the sin response. Yep, many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a thought, attitude or a behavior that pushed back to the frustration that was sinful, often repeated and produced the miserable temporary fruit of some form of reprieve to my inner frustrations. What was I doing wrong? Why was my walk in Christ dry as a desert and marked by repeated failure?
What I didn’t know was I was stuck in a very familiar pattern that plagues so many of us Christians… Spiritual Stalemate. Spiritual stalemate happens when we respond or react to the world from an anti-Christ perspective. It leads to dissolution, disappointment and when you throw in a dose of discouragement and you’ve got the three killer “D’s” in place which inevitably lead to sins expression in our lives.
And it ruthlessly repeats itself entrenching in us a spiritual flat tire as the frustrations from sins expression produce more discouragement, and more frustration sending us right back around to the starting point.
Frustration and anxiety.
In Christ we are expected to mature in our faith and practice spiritual principles that grow into increasing maturity, Breaking this type of spiritual stalemate (or minimizing its effect on our life) requires the practice of biblical principles to chart our course in Christ. We talked about the first principle in “Breaking the Spiritual Stalemate” catch it on SentinleforChrist.com which requires us to practice a specific spiritual discipline, (Whoa you mean I have to do something in my faith!) yes I’m afraid we do! Anxiety and frustrations are to be met, in faith according Philippians 4:5-7 with a mind framed with thanksgiving, dependant on God and willing to bring life’s adversities to the feet of Jesus. Listen, you miss that one and what follows won’t make sense at all! Life will continue to push us around like “chaff in the wind” marginalizing our impact and robbing us of joy.
But what do we do when we compound our frustration with sins or as us savvy new millennium Christians, coin rebellion against God? (it’s still sin by the way, no matter what you package it with) but how about we call it spiritual cancer that is terminal leading to spiritual death if that lightens the term?) Well I guess after reading that it didn’t!
Ok back on track and this is where our focus verse gets traction because some have discouraged themselves assuming this verse implies there non-forgiven sin in our lives after becoming Christian that needs to be repented of to maintain salvation. Fortunately that’s not what the verse means, can you imagine the absurdity of coming to Christ and then being required to remember and confess every sin to maintain salvation? That would destroy the power of the cross! This verse is about the quality of our walk with Christ. John knew how we could live miserable in Christ like in a prolonged broken marriage. We may still be married but the relationship was one of pain! The lack of joy in our walk with Christ, manifested in a spiritual stalemate isn’t simply that we got beaten down by life, quite often we simply are not coming clean with God!
Have you ever wondered why the Bible repeatedly refers to our relationship with God and Jesus as a marriage between the bride and bride groom? It’s because marriage or any authentic human relationship requires honesty, openness and yes repeated doses of humility to be healthy and mature. So does our relationship with Christ.
We have a guarantee as Christians God will make his will known to us and teach in the way of truth. John 14:23, and we won’t be confused if we are in line with the Spirit because the Spirit is Truth, John 14:16-17. For many years in immaturity I underestimated what it meant to be living in the Spirit, listening to the Spirit and then acting on that truth. The truth was the Spirit impressed on my heart areas in life I needed to surrender, and some areas I needed to confess as Christ Jesus sought me as part of His “bride” to his church. The reality was I spent many years living in the “cheap grace” spoken of by Bonnhoeffer, instead of confessing my life in grateful response and expectation to what God had done and what He was trying to do in me I threw out empty prayers of repentance without the accompanying contemplation required to act on them. That means I had the truth of Christianity, with the knowledge of the promises without the spiritual maturity to experience them do to my own cavalier attitude to grace. I cheapened it, and grace when cheapened has no impact. Truth when apprehended or revealed that hangs out there as the unreachable fruit becomes very frustrating or the Spiritual Stalemate. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not offering a formula here, I discussing a spiritual principle. The confessing John is speaking of here is the contrite heart spoken of in Psalm 51. That is a beautiful self examination guided by the Holy Spirit which is meant to be a gift! It produces the transformation of the heart and mind to be more conformed to the image of Jesus. Its a practice of your faith and something to be developed.
There’s a difficult price to pay for cheap grace. Psalm 66:18 makes it very clear from the one man who knew for sure what it was like to live marginally, David. He writes: “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear..” There’s a reason we actually “feel” far from God sometimes. When we are unresponsive to His attempts at openness our prayers are not heard. We know this feeling too if we look back honestly at our walk in Christ. The “feeling far” is different from the longing for God caused by a trial of faith where God is allowing something to happen as a means of refining us, the split from God do to uncontested sin produces an awareness of the lack of intimacy with Him and it is unique to this spiritual principle. As both produce frustration, i.e. trial and sinful rebellion we erroneously assume they’re the same they not. I have been tried in my life, severely in fact which I have wrote about in the Book “Why Men Kill” but even in the midst of the severe trial when God felt far away, I never lost the sense of His intimacy. When I failed to come clean with Him though, it was different. I had broken fellowship, and until I returned in a willing atmosphere of humility regarding the behavior or attitude at hand God waited and many prayers were left unanswered. (check out Zechariah 7:9-13 and Isaiah 1:15-16).
You see God wants and desires to develop in each of us a wonderful intimacy that reflects marriage. It’s meant to free us from the entanglements of sin which diminish our relationship with Him and he does it through this constant process of spiritual intimacy with us. This is principle two of beginning to “break the spiritual statement,” openness, authenticity, willingness and thankfulness to be examined to “come clean” in the relationship” so we live as stars shining in the darkness.
I had to go to court again recently to have the court enforce telephone calls with my children from my previous marriage. At the time I filed the papers for the request, I could have filed it as a contempt matter that had punitive results against the children’s mother. I didn’t.’ Why? Because God in his infinite goodness had expressed so much grace towards me at the time it made no sense to use the courts to express my anger and frustration at my children’s mother, who I believe is still a seeker and not in the kingdom mind you. This principle of self examination and confession of 1st John 1:9 made it possible for me to see the grace God had given me and offer to someone else in return. Spiritual principles are always like that. They reveal and authentic life of faith and then are meant to express outwards to the world it in return. Without confession or authenticity there is not sense of humility that honors Christ, and I’m afraid a lot of judgment out there though that doesn’t reflect the Jesus I know. The dividend of our authentic marriage to Christ is not only is our own marriage to Him perfected, and healthy, its’ fruit of a supernatural relationship that the world can see and is irrefutable proof of who God is in Christ Jesus. It also produces the type of faith where we can live in the joy of what God has done which is the platform live in and limit the occurrence of stalemate.
J.P. Grier is the founder of SentinelforChrist com – A network of Christian men helping each other to press deeper in Christ.