Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why do we do what we do? Spiritual formation (II)

Rom 7.15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

The French captain, Zinedine Zidane, living legend, respected, honoured as one of the best players of his generation if not of all time, who in playing his final competitive match at 34, opened the scoring but lost his cool in extra time, butted Marco Materazzi in the chest and was sent off with the score at 1-1 with around 10 minutes to play.

As result his team was left captianless, his services not available in the penalty shoot up later.

'There are moments, when you take blows ... I'm not saying I'm excusing it but I can understand,' Domenech told reporters. 'It was too bad, a totally useless gesture. We regret it and he also regrets it.'

Why did Zidane do what he did?

Newspaper reports noted that Zidane grew up in impoverish immigrant neighbourhood of Marseille, where fouls and insults are met with instant retribution. The reporter wrote,” Perhaps he could never shake off that you-or-me mentality.”

“You can take the man out of the rough neighbourhood but you can’t take the rough neighbourhood out of the man”, Thierry Henry is reported to have said.

This habitual ‘retributive’ response of Zidane’s tough childhood has never left him and when push turns to shove, Zidane reacted habitually, the way he had done countless times before in his youth.

As a youth, Zidane gave in to anger, that sudden fierce, strong, violent, driving, urge to retaliate, to strike out, to avenge oneself. As an adult this habitual reaction stayed with him, he had been red carded many times in his career – but this time, at the world cup final, where millions of people were watching, surely he could restrain himself? Sadly again, he could not. But now, because of his stature, his position in life, he has so much more to lose than when he was young.

Now we want to say that, the evil that we do is not a result of our upbringing, nor the tough, rough neighbourhood we may have grown up in. The bible says, it is from within, out of men's hearts.

Jer 17 9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

Mk 7.21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

From within us, we are constantly inclined to do what is wrong. But where do those inclinations primarily reside? That is where and how do these inclinations work itself out?

The answer is that is, they primarily reside in the parts of our body. Dallas is right when he says:

“ those inclinations are actually present in those parts and can even be felt there by those who are attentive to their body and who are informed, thoughtful, and willing to admit what they find upon careful reflection.

Note what proverbs 6 have to say,

12 A scoundrel and villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

13 who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,

14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart
he always stirs up dissension.

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

Others, too, can recognise the tendencies present in our bodily parts- hands, feet, shoulders, eyebrows, loins, tongue, overall posture – and they can play upon those tendencies, to trap us, ensnare us, use us, destroy us. Those who purposefully prey upon others constantly do this. They become experts at it.

Professional footballers – ( constant provocation, Wayne Rooney, red carded [Ronaldo winking at his Portuguese bench]; David Beckham, red carded at last world cup, Cantona by rival fans). Others: Conman, the pimp, the cynical and exploitative boss and CEO They can sense our greed, our lust, our insecurities and our ambition. How? Our eyes, our postures, our body betrays us.

We are embodied spiritual beings and our bodies have a lot of influence on us. From within, we find ourselves driven by desires, influenced for good or evil by moods and emotions, channelled by ideas and stirred by sensations, whether pleasurable or painful, good or evil.

The Centrality of spiritual formation of the body

So, more than environmental, family, influence, for good and evil, the body lies right at the centre of the spiritual life ( p 159,

Hence a person caught up in rage, or lust or resentment is basically one whose body has taken over and at least for the moment is totally running his or her actions or even life.

You see as Dallas pointed it out so well, (divine conspiracy p 375) patterns of wrong doing are simply our habits, our largely automatic responses of thought, feeling, and action. Typically we have acted wrongly before reflecting. And it is this that gives bad habits their power….by and large (the habits) do not, bother to run through our conscious mind or deliberate will and often run exactly contrary to them. It is rare that what we do wrong is the result of careful deliberation.

Instead, our routine behaviour manages to keep the deliberative will and the conscious mind off balance and on the defensive, that leaves us constantly in the position of having to deal with what we have already done.

So road rage

Losing our tempers with service personnel, waiters, government servants….

Physical, verbal abuse in the family

Addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, computers

Renovation of the heart(p 166)

Note Paul’s teachings about the body.

Col 3. 5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

(5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them –NKJV)

What does it mean: “members which are on the earth?” Those parts of a life that live entirely in terms of the natural powers of the embodied self. We need no supernatural help to indulge in passions and desires for what is evil, or greed to possess what belongs to others. Just follow the inclinations now built into your bodily existence and they will all happen.

The only reasonable use of the body

Col3. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Rom 12.1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

What does it mean in practical terms, to put to death, the old self and to put on the new?

Consider the tongue

James 3.5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Dallas assert: It is only as we habitually subject the tongue to the grace of God as an instrument reserved for him, to do his will, that grace comes literally to inhabit and govern it,. And when that happens the effects spread throughout the body. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.(James 3.2)

Putting off the old and putting on the new means “breaking the power of patterns of wrongdoing and evil that govern our lives because of long habituation to a world alienated from God. It is to form new and godly habits, so that instead of habitually doing the wrong things, we now habitually do the right thing, that which is pleasing to the Lord. ( we will talk more of this when we deal with spiritual disciplines)

So that by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit enablement we develop self control. (one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit ). Dallas defined self control ( Renovation of the Heart, p 127) as the “steady capacity to direct yourself to accomplish what you have chosen or decide to do and be, even though you ‘don’t’ feel like it’. Self control means that you do what you don’t want to do when that is needed and do not do what you want to do when that is needed.

Taking practical steps

  1. we must actually release our body to God as a living sacrifice
  2. we must no longer idolise our body, we no longer make it an object of ultimate concern, or live in fear of our body and what it might ‘do to you’.
  3. The body must be weaned away from its tendencies to always take control, to run the world, to achieve and produce, to attain gratification. If we do not do this, the body moves to the centre of our focus and makes its presence more strongly felt.
  4. we must not misuse our body – addiction, to control others
  5. our body needs to be properly cared for and honoured


God has made every provision for the body we actually have to serve us and him well for his purposes in putting us here on earth. There may be severe problems with our bodies, at least from the human point of view. But the Lord’s power and strength is made perfect in our weakness. So that in the end all glory goes to him!

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