Greed is lust expressed in nonsexual ways. Grows out of the suspicion that God will not take care of our needs as well as we can do it ourselves. Expressed in five ways:
- Avarice is inordinate pursuit of wealth and material things by either honest or dishonest means. Antidote: generosity or liberality
- Inordinate ambition captures the lust of power and status. Antidote: servanthood or sacrificiality
- Prodigality is wastefulness and extravagance. Antidote: discipline, self-sacrifice or simplicity
- Penuriousness is stinginess. Comes from an obsession with security and imagine that wealth can project us. Antidote: faith in God’s abundance
- Domination insists on having things our own way. Opposed by surrender or pacificsm
Found this on beliefnet about this deadly sin
In the Inferno, Dante decided that the punishment for avarice should be having your face pressed into the earth for eternity (in Circle 4)–a reminder that you had cared too much about earthly concerns.
Just read an article in which “knowing God” was stated to be more important to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism versus the importance of “knowing about God” of to Christianity. While I beg to disagree, there does seem to be some element of truth when you look at the experience of many Christians (and yes, I am including myself here). According to Gary Moon, the reason why there is so little distinction between Christians and non-Christians is because Christians (and I would add especially evangelicals) tend to focus on salvation as judicial pardon from sin instead of intimate “knowing” of God.
BUT John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” According to Moon, we enter into eternal life by “knowing” God, a knowing which he would describe a “deeply intimate, interactive, and transforming friendship built upon abiding, living in the other.” Apprenticeship with Jesus, p. 125
Moon gives a great quote at the beginning of chapter 14 in the above book from Dallas Willard,
In the purpose of God’s redemptive work communication advances into communion and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and “For me, living is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
I know the progression is not yet complete in me! The last few days I have been wrestling with lots of self-doubt and fear and only minutes after spending a lovely time alone with God early this morning reflecting on what it means for me to fear God, I found myself furious over an email that I received in which I felt publicly humiliated (another story). But, I also know that God is not finished with me!
Moon suggested the following spiritual exercise to help us celebrate salvation as living in intimate union with God:
Spend the next twenty-four hours abiding in God and then resolve to spend as many present moments of the day “with God” as you can. (italics mine)
Helpful Hint: At any point you become aware of yourself thinking about either the past or the future, let those thoughts go and return to being with God in the present moment. After a few deep breaths, ask him simply, “What should we do together right now?”
Let’s see what happens.
More from Michael Mangis on this most interesting topic
Lust is rooted in the belief that God’s love is not enough to satisfy our longing for intimacy. Purity is the antidote. Various expressions of lust:
- Unchastity—all forms of sexual expression outside of marriage, including unfaithfulness. Fidelity and chastity
- Immodesty—attempt to stimulate sexual desire in others or in oneself thru inappropriate dress, words, actions, images or fantasies
- Prudery—fear of, or condemnation of sex and sexuality. Playfulness or passion
- Cruelty—desire to inflict physical or mental pain on others. Needs compassion or empathy
- Masochism—lust of power over another person or animal
“I believe that the essence of sin is the fear that God does not have our best interests at heart.” 97 So said Gary Moon in Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to live like the Master. I am currently in the section called “Know Yourself” and there are four chapters here, The Good, Bad, The Ugly and The Beautiful. Naturally, I want to write about “The Bad.”
Moon says that when we begin to fear that God does not have our best interests at heart, we try to control things. Then, he concludes the chapter with some reflections and says, “Consider that apart from God’s presence and grace, your soul is lost and ruined.” He then asks us to consider what happens when God is not in control of your life and when he is not in control.
Three questions for reflection come out of this
What happens when I am in control of my
What happens when God is in control of my thought
What can I do to allow God to be in control in my life?
Maybe I will share my answers later in the week.
Continuing in the series from Michael Mangis book, Signature Sins
He offers self-discipline as the antidote for gluttony but notes that we need to address the specific desire which is being pursued. Others would use the word “disordered desire.”
An inordinate or inappropriate anger is directed at selfish and mundane matters. The antidote to anger is dependent on the source of the anger. If control is the problem, then we need to surrender, if criticism is the problem, then we need humility, if rage is our issue then we need peace etc. Mangis gives five different forms of anger.
Resentment: a refusal to accept God’s will and a refusal to move on. Responds to forgiveness and release.
Retaliation: refuses to forgive and seeks vengeance on those who have done wrong. Needs pardon
Paranoia: anticipates the worst. Met with trust
Obsequiousness: inordinate rejection of anger and a refusal to take responsible dominion in the world. Although I didn’t write down what Mangis said, I would guess the need here is self-awareness and honesty.
Envy is “constant discontent, suspicion that God is withholding. Greed is primarily about material possessions and envy is about one’s place in the world. Greed wants the good things others have, envy wants to be the only one who has good things.
The antidote for envy: contentment, gratititude, joy and satisfaction.
Three forms of envy:
- Jealousy—a form of envy that guards what one already has. Antidote: liberality, good will, kindness or abundance
- Malice—a form of envy that truly wishes ill for others and delights in observing and contributing to other’s pain. Antidote: peace, kindness or gentleness
- Contempt—heaps scorn on others virtues or abilities. May end up as racism, sexism, or classism. Antidote: love and generosity
The first signature sin Michael Mangis talks about is pride–the greatest sin for C.S. Lewis (see Mere Christianity). Following are an expansion of the various types of pride that Mangis gives–sorry, I didn’t write down the pages on these. On a side note, as I was trying to find some pictures of pride, I discovered to my surprise by the extent that pride has been co-opted by the G-L-B movement.
Pride—refusal to submit to God; antidote–humility. Wikki gives the following definition from Augustine, “the love of one’s own excellence.”
Outward Pride—arrogant, haughty and snobbish manners, oblivious to others
- Vanity—taking credit for, and boasting about that which should actually be credited to God. An inordinate focus on one’s own image—antidote is modesty
- Arrogance—a demanding, overbearing and opinionated form of pride
- Snoberty—pride over race, family class etc that artificially creates a sense of superiority; antidote of simplicity
- Disobedience-disregard for God’s law-obedience is antidote
Inward Pride—obsesses with others and how they feel about him. Secret pride
- Distrust—rejection of God’s will in favor of one’s own will
- Perfectionism—desire to do everything perfectly—grace or brokenness is antidote
- Sentimentality—substitutes pious emotion, pomp and beauty for true private reverence and obedience to God. Antidote is seriousness or simplicity
- Presumption—distortion of hope, Placing inordinate and disrespectful reliance on self rather than on God. Anitidote–contrition
A few weeks ago I read Signature Sins by Michael Mangis (IVP 2008). He
talks about the seven deadly sins:, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, pride and defines sin as a “failure of our soul to be fully attuned to God’s soul.” 15 He says a signature sin is “my sin pattern . . . my sin profile.” 14 Signature sins are “places where sin has most taken root. . . Primary root of sin which lies at the core.” 61 He suggests the following:
“Be in prayerful reflection about your own signature sins. Take note of those sins that cause a twinge of recognition. Be especially mindful of where your heart may desire not to look.” 29
We need to name our signature sins. It is a knowing of our secret nemesis.
- Enter the process with reverence and prayer
- Accuracy and thoroughness should be our first priority
- Take great care
- Choosing a name requires a growing familiarity with the sin itself—shades of meaning are important
- Prayerfully submit to God’s naming of our sin.
Apparently some are making money off of these signature sins as you will see below since you can buy and demonstrate to all your own special sin!
Another significant word I heard this week came from a student during a lively discussion we had on the difference between missions, mission (of God) and missional. Henry had taken a recent class on missional spirituality and it had changed his life. He said that missional spirituality is “giving careful attentiveness to what God is doing in the world and to the person of God.” He said this concept has transformed the way he lives his life. There is something here for me, something which attracts me.
Yes, “careful attentiveness”—requires me to be alert, observing and listening. Might we even say, it requires me to have surrendered my agendas? To what God is doing—sounds a bit like Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Don’t put God into a box, don’t assume or presume the way in which he will work. Expect in a sense to be surprised at any time with His activity and yet, it is not a passive, for I will be actively paying attention to the activity of God. Of course, it requires knowledge of the character of God and the humble discernment as I ask, is God at work in this place, event, person etc? And “careful attentiveness to God Himself.” So, I am keep my gaze focused carefully on God even as I am looking around in the world to see where He is in action. I reflect and meditate and enjoy who He is and revel in my relationship with Him. There is joy and mystery and movement and wonder and delight and much more than I could ever imagine.
Just remembered the language that Eugene Peterson uses to describe spirituality, in his Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He says
Spirituality is “transcendence vaguely intermingled with intimacy”( 27) “Living, living fully and well, is at the heart of all serious spirituality.” 29 In order to be spiritual, we need to maintain vigilance and attentiveness. Vigilance is “discerning the de-spiritualization of spirituality” by a “continual and careful reading of Holy Scripture.” 30 Attentiveness is “noting the many and profligate ways in which God gives life, renews life, blesses life,” and is “nurtured in common worship and prayer.” 30
Whenever multiple strands of reading and thoughts come together, I try to pay attention. It started last night with a discussion with a doctor friend of ours about how to pray for those who are sick since we had all recently finished reading Yancey’s book, Prayer. Then, continued this morning in Psalm 31:34, “So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” Derek Kidner suggests another translation could be “he shall strengthen your heart” and then makes the following comment about verse 34, “it does not promise an end to trouble: rather the strength to meet it.”
Eugene Peterson talks about how fear is the most common response to the resurrection in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He says we’re afraid
- “when we’re suddenly taken off guard and don’t know what to do”
- “when our presuppositions and assumpitions no longer account for what we are up against and we don’t know what will happen to us”
- “when reality without warning is shown to be either more or other than we thought it was” 121
Then, Peterson talks about the command of fear not.
The fear not doesn’t result in the absence of fear, but rather its transformation into fear of the Lord. But we still don’t know what is going on. We still are not in control. We still are deep in mystery. 121
Kidner then refers the reader to Jesus’ prayer in in the Garden on the night before his death in Luke 22:40-44. He had commanded the disciples to pray “that you will not give in to temptation,” before going off to pray to the Father, “If you are willing, please take away this cup of suffering from me. Yet, I want your will to be done not mine. ” What happened next? “The angel came and strengthened him” in verse 43.
A challenge for me as I think about sickness, suffering and struggles and how to pray for those in the throes of either!
Back to our conversation last night. Our doctor friend had just listened to a mini-sermon by Paul Washer on “Useless Prayer Meetings.” Just listened to it and it may be worth a listen although he speaks more directly than some are used to hearing. He says in too many prayer meetings, “We are praying to keep saints out of heaven instead of praying to get sinners into heaven.”
May the Lord teach us how to pray and how to respond to the trials he brings into our lives and into the lives of others.
How great is the goodness you has stored up for those who fear you. Ps 31:19
Fits well with what I have been reading in Peterson’s Christ Plays. For Peterson, fear-of-the-Lord is one of the four terms that help us to live well. Fear of the Lord is a “term for the way we live the spiritual life—not just what we do and say but the way we act, the way we speak.” 39-40 He says it is a term that shows the human side of spirituality without making us the center of the subject. 40
He says that we cultivate the fear of the Lord in personal prayer and corporate worship.
“We deliberately interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to God, place ourselves intentionally in sacred space, in sacred time, in the holy presence—and wait. We become silent and still in order to listen and respond to what is Other than us.” 41
“Fear-of-the-Lord is not studying about God but living in reverence before God. We don’t so much lack knowledge, we lack reverence. Fear-of-the-Lord is not a technique for acquiring spiritual know-how but a willed not-knowing. It is not so much know-how we lack; we lack a simple being-there.” 44
More from Eugene Peterson on how to stay focused in the spiritual life. He focuses on Jesus in this selection of quotes
Jesus is the name that keeps us attentive to the God-defined, God-revealed life. 31
Jesus is the central and defining figure in the spiritual life. . . He brings out into the open what we could never have figured out for ourselves. 31
Jesus prevents us from thinking that life is a matter of ideas to ponder or concepts to discuss. Jesus saves us from wasting our lives in the pursuit of cheap thrills and trivializing diversions. Jesus enables us to take seriously who we are and where we are without being reduced by the intimidating lies and illusions that fill the air, so that we needn’t be someone else or somewhere else. Jesus keeps our feet on the ground, attentive to children, in conversation with ordinary people, sharing meals with friends and strangers, listening to the wind, observing the wildflowers, touching the sick and wounded, praying simply and unselfconsciously. Jesus insists that we deal with God right here and now, in the place we find ourselves and with the people we are with. Jesus is God here and now. 33-34
“People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water,” said Jesus in John 4:13
The thirst that Jesus is speaking of here is for the “more than,” the transcendent. Why do we (including myself here) look in every place other than in Jesus? What are some waters that we think will quench us? Here are a few for me:
Sex, entertainment, sports, books, tv, movies, winning, control, power, being alone, being with people, work accomplishments, people “needing” me, money, stuff, food, drugs or alcohol, sleep, honor, compliments, appreciation, success, relationships, status, vacations, luxury. Yet the water that Jesus offers, satisfies that thirst we all have. He is the one whom we need and are longing for.
I am (ego eimi) the one you are looking for says Jesus to the woman in 4:26. Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Creation writes about the ego eimi sayings of Jesus.
In saying these words that echo from Exodus 3:14, Jesus is claiming to be God himself. His listeners understood this since they prepared to stone him for blasphemy when he said this in Jn 8:58. According to Peterson, they knew he was saying, “I am God himself, here and now; I have always been, will always be.”
Peterson goes on to explain how the simple statement of Jesus, “I am” is an invitation into a conversation with himself, a conversation “marked by intimacy and leisure.” There is an invitation for those of us who are thirsting for a taste of the “more than” into his very life–Jesus is accessible to us! As Peterson says,
Jesus doesn’t try to impress us with big words or highfalutin concepts; he doesn’t flaunt his credentials; he doesn’t bully or intimidate with a show of authority. Jesus is in conversation with the same kinds of people we talk to most days and many of them we recognize in ourselves. 90
In a statement sure to shock some, Peterson says about John,
he is not nearly as interested in telling us anything new about Jesus (although he does plenty of that along the way) as he is in drawing us into an increasingly intimate relationship with Jesus. “Believe” and “love” are the characteristic verbs; neither can be accomplished in a hurry. 91 (italics original)
Later in the chapter, Peterson makes an amazing statement about belief.
The too often disregarded scriptural rule is that we cannot be made to believe. Belief by its very nature requires assent and participation, trust and commitment. When we believe we are at our most personal and intimate with one another, with the Other. Belief cannot be forced. If we are bullied or seduced or manipulated to believe, we do not end up believing, we end up intimidated or raped or used. And we are less, not more. 94
I know there are a lot of folks out there with a bad church experience (perhaps bullied, seduced and/or manipulated) and that may be keeping them away from Jesus. But, as we go back and read the stories of John, we discover/remember that there is no other place to find the soul quenching intimacy that Jesus offers!
Spirituality is one of those notorious words that is used a lot but no one is quite sure what it means. As part of the introduction to the first volume of his spiritual theology, Eugene Peterson suggests four terms (spirituality, Jesus, soul, fear-of-the-Lord) that provide “gospel foci for living accurately (countering cultural fuzziness).” Here is what he says about spirituality.
We should resist defining spirituality since it is indefinable but recognizable, “transcendence vaguely intermingled with intimacy” (27). “Living, living fully and well, is at the heart of all serious spirituality” (29)
Peterson suggests that we need to maintain vigilance and attentiveness in thinking about spirituality.
Vigilance “discerning the de-spiritualization of spirituality” by a “continual and careful reading of Holy Scripture” (30)
Attemtiveness: “noting the many and profligate ways in which God gives life, renews life, blesses life, nurtured in common worship and prayer” (30)
So, is Peterson saying that we know when spirituality is present or is absent but are best not to define it? Of course, there are a variety of spiritualities, Christian spirituality being only one of them.
Three Texts from Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
Genesis 1:1-3; Mark 1:9-11; Acts 2:1-4 are three texts that Peterson says “define a Scriptural foundation so that we live obediently (countering self-helpism).” He weaves these passages together to show commonalities at the beginnings of creation, salvation and the church–the Breath of God that is visible, and then audible. “Spirit and Word are organically connected.”
Started reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places this week and in his prologue, in this first book of his on spiritual theology; he provides two stories, three texts, four terms and one dance in order to to “clear the field for conversation, get rid of the clutter of misconceptions and misunderstandings.”
The two stories are the story of Nicodemus in John 3 and the woman at the well in John 4. In these two stories, he notes that we have
- A man and a woman
- City and country
- An insider and outside
- A professional and a layperson
- A respectable man and a disreputable woman
- An orthodox and a heretic
- One who takes initiative; one who lets it be taken.
- One named, the other anonymous
- Human reputation at risk; divine reputation at risk
Yet In both Spirit is the key word and Jesus is the primary figure!
What do we learn about spirituality or the God-breathed life? When it comes to a relationship with God, there is “accessibility”, available to all, “no preferred gender”, “geography has no bearing on perception or aptitude”, “racial background, religious identity and moral track record are neither here nor there in matters of spirituality”; “reputation and standing in the community don’t seem to count for anything”; “reputation is put at risk”, “conventions ignored”, and there is the risk of misunderstanding.
This is going to be a good read. Next: Three Texts
Reflecting on Psalm 133 this week and my NT passage for the day was Eph 4–both carrying themes of unity. Four comments about unity and fellow pilgrims in Psalm 133
- Unity is to be enjoyed–it is pleasant and wonderful. The “sensory properties of oil” (as a fragrance) “convey a sense of richness.” (Dictionary of Imagery) Images that come to mind–a team working together, a symphony playing, a finely tuned engine, a fine work of art.
- Unity is valuable–precious like anointing oil on Aaron’s beard. It is inconceivable that Aaron would be anointed priest without oil just as it is inconceivable that fellow pilgrims on the way would not be moving towards the same goal. Can we say that unity is an essential extravagance? Is it to be obtained at all costs? Well, as much as it is possible (cf Hebrews and peace)
- Unity is refreshing–dew on Mt Hermon affecting the mountains in Zion. Like a drink of cold water given to our brothers ala Mtt 25.
- Unity is a sign of the blessing of God. By this will all men know that you are my disciples. John 13, 17 This suggests that “brotherly unity is an epiphanic experience, combining calling, holiness, life and power.” Imagery 126
Of course this fits well in Eph 4:1-16. What struck me there is the essential core of unity. Not that we are all the same since there are diversities of gifts given. Yet, these gifts were given one to another so that “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Eph 4:16 New Living
And then, reading in A Guide to Prayer, an oft-mentioned quote from Bonhoeffer,
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. . . If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. . . But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. . . If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.”
I don’t know about you but I find these words challenging. For one, I see too much disunity and how painful it is to see fellow pilgrims on the way wounding one another. Second, I recognize my tendency to withdraw and yet, I know I cannot, I must not if I want to be whole. Somehow, mysteriously, our well-being is connected one to another. Maybe this is connected with Hebrews 11:40–never did quite understand that last part of the verse??
This is at least my third post on Dallas Willard’s article, “Warfare between the Flesh and the Human Spirit” in Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care 1:1. For Willard, the flesh “consists of our natural human abilities, considered in themselves and on their own, unaided by Divine assistance and direction.” And so, it is not surprising that the focus of the flesh is on desire, that is, for self-gratification. When I do what I feel like doing, I am following the desires of the flesh. The problem is that what I feel like doing is not always the best and it may even be in contradiction to the will of God. Willard sees the will or the human spirit as the “God-give ability by which we have an interest . . . in what is better or best.” So, we follow the desires of the spirit when we choose to do what is good or best rather than just doing what we crave.
Willard says that we have three kinds of wills. The first is what he calls a “vital or impulsive will.” As one might expect, this is the will that chooses to do what is attractive, choosing to do what you (or your flesh) desire. Reflective will, on the other hand, considers what is good for the self and others and ultimately what God and Christ desires and chooses to do good even if it means I do not get to do what I desire to do. Willard describes a third kind of will, the embodied will.
What Willard calls the “embodied will” is the actual life practices of either the impulsive will of desiring or the reflective will of choosing the good. Perhaps another way of saying this is that the embodied will reveals what is our daily disposition, commitment and practice about how life is lived. Our choices to follow the flesh or the spirit have actual consequences in the body. Spiritual transformation (or the lack thereof) will be demonstrated through life in our human body. As Willard says, “Spiritual formation is never merely inward, but it is always also explosively outward.” How then do we make the embodied will to be the reflective will and not the impulsive will?
Well, we all know the experience of Romans 7, that when the flesh and spirit battle each other, “sin wins.” But, when we experience God’s enabling, “Sin then loses as the desires of the flesh are ordered under the goodness and power of God in us.” Thus, this inability to win the spirit-flesh battle on our own is why, according to Willard, that we need Paul’s dual commands to crucify the flesh and to walk by the Spirit. About crucifying the flesh, Willard writes,
Restraining the flesh is an essentially divine work, though we also must act. . . We simply refuse natural desires the right to direct our life. We decide we shall not live for them to be satisfied. . . We make a general surrender of the right to get what we want in favor of the call to do what is good under God.”
Spiritual disciplines help us to retrain the body to embed “the will of Christ into our body.”
Walking by the Spirit involves trusting the Holy Spirit “to enable me to do the good and right things I am engaged with.” It means a setting of our minds on the things of the Spirit and not placing our hope on our natural abilities. “Spiritual formation conquers the flesh and makes it the servant of the spirit, human and divine.”
A few questions remain for me: Is this helpful? Does it work? Does it prove to be true in our experience? Is it biblical or at least compatible with the biblical text?
Oswald Chambers suggests that we are being spiritually selfish when we want to always be in a “mountain top” experience with God. Writing about Mark 9:2-29, he says
The test of the spiritual life is the power to descend; if we have power to rise only, there is something wrong. We all have had times on the mount when we have seen things from God’s standpoint and we wanted to stay there; but if we are disciples of Jesus Chrsit, He will never allow us to stay there. Spiritual selfishness makes us want to stay on the mount; we feel so good, as if we could do anything–talk like angels and live like angels, if only we could stay there. But there must be the power to descend; the mountain is not the place for us to live, we were built for the valleys. This is one of the hardest things to learn because spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount.” 51
I think this would not make a popular title in todays’ bookstores! Chambers says that our mountain top or exaltation experiences with God are “always exceptional. . . After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are, where things are neither beautiful nor poetic nor spiritual nor thrilling.” He goes on to say, “. . . it is in the valley that we live for God. . . It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our truth worth to God, and that is where our faithfulness has to be manifested.”
Chambers gives an answer to the question why, that I did not expect. “The reason we have to live in the valley is that the majority of the people live there, and if we are to be of use to God in the world we must be useful from God’s standpoint, not from our own standpoint or the standpoint of other people.” 55 Similar themes echoed from 2 Corinthians?