Lately, it seems I’ve really had to put up a spiritual fight for emotional purity-- a God glorifying center in my attitude. I say it's a fight, but it’s really just having to answer a nagging question over and over. Sometimes, though too seldom, the question seems just silly and I can laughably shrug it off. Sometimes it is annoying, like a fly that keeps buzzing around my head. I can’t catch it to shut it up and I can’t get away from it. Even though I come through with the right answer, having to face the question again and again changes my mood, my outlook for the worse. Still, more and more, when faced with the same stupid question, I am realizing that the number of right answers does not change my holiness grade. It isn’t a test to see how many times I get it right or wrong... whether I will pass or fail. It is more like a thermostat. It is a test to see if I am maintaining my dependence on God, a humble deference to His truth or if I am more willing to try and prove my own strength, make up my own answers using the logic that works for me.
I’ve been reading a lot from the New Living Translation. I didn’t like it at first. I have some kind of prejudice toward the original Living Bible. It doesn’t even pretend to be a translation. It’s a paraphrase of the American Standard Version that Kenneth Taylor wrote as he commuted back and forth to his job (by train). I guess I had always thought of it as the Bible for people who need things dumbed down. It was released the year I was born and, by the time I could read, had become very popular in the church because of its ease of understanding. Funny, the same criticism could be made regarding Eugene Peterson’s sermonization of scripture in The Message, yet I have the whole of Peterson’s work on CD in my truck as I type. How life changes. Still, the New Living is a true translation with the language feel and “everyman” priority of Kenneth Taylor’s original. So, I’ve tried to put my prejudice aside and am really enjoying this new version.
Anyway, I was reading the beatitudes from the sermon on the mount and, in the NLT, Matt. 5:3 reads… “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Striking. Because of where I am in my journey, this language leapt off the page at me. I dove into research mode to try and find out how accurate this interpretation might be. Everything I could find on the original Greek supported this language. Jesus was clearly saying that the spiritually desperate, those who recognize how destitute they are on their own have God’s government at their disposal. Charles Spurgeon wrote, "the way to rise in the kingdom is to sink in ourselves."
Reading his statement reminded me of one of my favorite John Donne poems.
HOLY SONNETS. XIV.Wow! I haven’t read that in some time. It means more to me now than ever. Though it scares me to death (which may be the point), Father, this is my prayer.
Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.