Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible
Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed
Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment
The Preface For Every Part of This Series:
Today, Emotional Ambivalence Rules the Day. “So What?”
The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.
Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact is usually accompanied by high relational risks.
Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”
“So what?” In reality, what are the key words, concept in the above claim? Yes… most of us tend to avoid emotional discomfort of most any kind.
That’s the cultural M.O. We hate entering into emotionally uncomfortable, disruptive situations SO much that we take the above measure of, “the disturbing situation is currently causing no problems” to the extreme: That unless the problem is threatening life as we know it… we’re NOT going to confront it. We just as soon let sleeping dogs lie.
In fact, “sleeping dogs” have displaced “elephants in the room” by the kennel-full. This is a very big problem. And, even then, when someone’s temporal and eternal life is threatened, in far too many instances, we STILL refuse to intervene. We’d rather tip-toe, pretend, deny, delay, and stay distracted… so the dead-asleep dog remains undisturbed, and we all do the same dance around him… not wanting to be on the hook for waking him up.
Too often “We let sleeping dogs lie.” until someone is dead or gone—and then we pile on the “would-a, could-a, should-a’s” until we ourselves are near-dead. And this is a crying-dying, completely unnecessary shame.
The pact goes like this, “Hey, let’s you and I admit it: since we have so little confidence in ourselves, so shallow a faith in God’s objective True Truth and Love, plus all of our self-worth is invested in man’s opinion of us, and we both HATE conflict of any kind… let’s just agree to NOT bring up anything that makes either of us emotionally UNcomfy… in the slightest way. Deal?”
This is the basis of this multi-course feast as we “poke at some sleeping dogs” beginning today, and for several feasts to come at The Training Table.
Part-Poke #1: “We’re All Children of God.”
I was confronted with this very familiar “sleeping dog” for the umpteenth time just last week. It came back at me when I made a distinction between a real and a false faith. “John”, the push-back went, “You’ve gotta chill… After all, we’re all children of God, right?”
It’s a form of universalism [that all souls will ultimately be reconciled and conformed to the image of the glorified resurrected Christ] that’s merely wishful thinking, unbiblical, and a gross denial of God’s holiness and our sinFULLness.
It may sound like we’re complimenting God by accruing to Him SO MUCH FATHERLY LOVE that He will give every sinner a free pass into heaven… as all of His kiddos; but this claim is in direct conflict with God’s other attributes—namely God’s justice. God cannot abide or turn a blind eye at sin or darkness of any kind in His presence. Either we stand covered by the blood-shed righteousness of Christ, or we stand alone before a holy God: Condemned, toast, destined for hell.
I’ve got some Good News for us all: Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. But the bad news, which accompanies the Good, is this: We all have to admit what we already know deep down inside—that due to the Sin we inherited (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18-32), and the habitual sinning we incessantly commit (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 John 2:4), we’re all so infinitely separated from God, Who is utterly holy and pure in every way, that we each require the substitutionary sacrifice for all our our debt: That Jesus Christ paid on the cross… and bridged the span between our sin and the Father’s holiness.
It’s by, through the Father’s love of the Son, and our repentant faith IN HIM, that our adoption into the family of God occurs. And in NO other way. Period.
“Because of the Father’s love for Christ, the Father has adopted us into the royal family, making us joint heirs with Christ. We are beloved of the Father because He is beloved of the Father, and we ought never to forget that. He [Jesus Christ] is the eternal object of the Father’s affection, and we [sinners saved by grace] are the Father’s gifts of love to His Son. We are adopted by the Father in Christ, and the Father loves us because we are in the Son.” (R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk Magazine, October 2017, parenthesis added)
The Bible is providential, planned, plain, unequivocal, and UNmysterious in every way that matters! Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And, given this promise and provision of The Trinity, it is only due to the pride of the unbeliever AND the remnants of the same in the Believer that we don’t fall on our faces in humility, gratitude, and witness each and every day.
So, please be honest: In regards to this particular “sleeping dog that we just as soon let lie”, which exactly would YOU and your loved ones prefer? A mildly irritated, awakened dog, or a prowling lion ready, willing, able, and sadly successful in destroying MANY who have placed their trust in the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil?
We are NOT all naturally children of God; we are ALL orphaned, fallen Image Bearers in need of rescue and redemption; and only by God’s plan in election (Eph. 1:4-5), regeneration (Tit. 3:5), repentance (Acts 2:38), faith (Eph. 2:8-9), justification (Gal. 2:16-17), and adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And if anyone is grumbling about such an exclusive and narrow gate, I’m afraid that’s a key indicator that we’re ignorant, hardened about BOTH sides of the Gospel: a) We know neither the darkness and depth of our sin OR b) the heights of God’s mercies and grace. And this would be what the Bible calls “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16)… please realize and repent before being spat out by God.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Since So Many People — Even In The Church — Hear So Little of The WHOLE Truth and Counsel of God in the Bible…
Yes it’s true: Especially in the Western, mostly comfy, unchallenged church, Pastor-Leaders in the church have as much of a problem with NOT wanting to hear or tell the full truth as the world does. Too many Pastor-Leaders in the church suffer from so much unresolved emotional ambivalence that they are too wounded, confused, tentative, co-dependent, and afraid to offer the WHOLE TRUTH and counsel of God… let alone “the sleeping dogs” of small and large problems that naturally arise in all organizations. This is a hard truth… One where the world most desires we let sleeping dogs lie… dead. [And this also explains why Emotional Intelligence has risen to the top of the list of attributes that define great, effective, enduring LEADERS. Note the HBR “article headline”: Difficult Conversations]
The Bible, God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, is clear: If any human being remains in disbelief, an orphan of this world, and not a child of God by ADOPTION, he or she is a child of darkness and perdition: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9-10; John 3: 17-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-4; Romans 8:7)
In so far as God is concerned, there are only two races of people in the world: a) The people who believe and b) the people who do not. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
For You and Me: Make A List. Check It Twice. What Sleeping Dogs Need A Loving Yet Truthful Poke “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?
In closing, as referenced above, let me “put it in a reverse way”: In the past month I have spoken to numerous broken-hearted people about an unnecessary and deadly plight: “The would-a, could-a, should-a’s.”
What’s the truth and love behind this most common and despairing regret? “If I had only NOT [NOT, NOT] let sleeping dogs lie! And now it’s too late…” What things left unsaid need to be released from the captivity of your doubts, fears, and false vulnerabilities—by the love of God in our adoption—today? Make a list and share it with a Saint who God has placed in your midst. Get after it in the True Truth and Love of God… in YOU.
Why, exactly, is the following passage one of the most challenging yet redemptive in the Bible? “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15)
The heart of the matter is matter of the heart. Too many sleeping dogs. “Awake, oh sleeper.. !” (Eph. 5:14)
I’ll see you marathoners for Christ next week for Part 2 when we’ll poke the sleeping dog, “God Loves All People Unconditionally.” Don’t miss it…