The Power of Covenant Community

In Christ, we are not only "saved."  We are also "formed."  As you live your life, ask yourself, "What is forming you?"  You will be formed by default or design.  You cannot escape powers that form you; you can choose which powers to allow.

The most insightful portrayal of the human condition can be found in Genesis 3.  The serpent approaches Eve, who with Adam was enjoying life as it should be (i.e. "Eden.")  And it tells a lie about FREEDOM: "Did God really say 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'"  He develops the idea that when she eats of that tree (of the knowledge of good and evil) you will be LIKE GOD.  

The deceiver came to her not with an obvious weapon, but with a subtle one.  A lie.  A lie about the character of God, suggesting that a life with God is not free, and a life without God is free.  Sound familiar?

The deception is twofold:
1) To be autonomous from God in the pursuit of "freedom."
2) You can't trust God, but you can trust yourself.  
That is, your intuition is the most accurate roadmap to your life.  Do you believe this?

In Philippians 2:19-30, Paul refers to this deception as "the flesh."  When he writes about "mutilators of the flesh" he's referring to people who are trying to "judaize" new Christians into believing they must do something to their physical body to be acceptable to God.  The wrongness of mutilating the "flesh" isn't the act itself, but rather the trust it places in the "flesh" instead of in the character of God and the saving work of Christ.

Misplaced desires are how St. Augustine referred to God-given desires that are not intrinsically wrong, but rather aimed in the wrong direction, at the wrong things.  It is right to want to be more "like God," in fact it is the end goal of Christianity to be Christ-like.  But it must be on God's terms, not our own.  Being entirely governed by the self is like giving $1,000,000 to a ten-year-old.  Historically, humanity does not do well with unbounded freedom.  Thus Adam's and Eve's desire became "misplaced" at the tree in Genesis 3.  Indeed, our "strongest" desires are often in contrast to our "deepest" desires.  

Having boundaries on our strong desires (typically called "self control") does not just apply to traditional "vices" like smoking, drinking, gambling, and lust.  What about gossip?  What about over-indulgent shopping?  What about overwork ("workaholism")?  What about binging TV?  These desires feel irresistible.  They are "strong."  But the reason they end up feeling empty is because they are not "deep."  No one ever wrote on their gravestone, "So glad I bought another pair of shoes."  

There is an ancient practice for putting our misplaced desires back where they belong -- Fasting.  When is the last time you deliberately skipped a meal in order to focus on the health of your spirit?  Or skipped all of your meals for a day?  

Another practice is accountability.  Have you ever had an accountability partner in any area of your life?  In what area do you most need it?  

Could you make a list of your "strong" desires and your "deep" desires?  Where do they overlap?  Where do they contrast?

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