July 4th Musing: Comparing self-determined and God-determined living

Today, Monday July 4th, 2011 is Independence Day, a day of celebration of the birth of the United States of America. It was on this day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was sign. It is that document that sets forth the guiding principles of the United States.  The document set forth the principles of freedom that this country was built.  Yes, this country has freedom and self-determination. Today many folks talk about the cost of freedom, that it comes with a price. Certainly the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave their all in support of the concept of freedom proclaimed in that document. However, this article is not about extolling the virtues and cost of the founding principles of this country but rather examine the principles in comparison to God’s Kingdom principles.

The principles at the core of the Declaration was that  people have a choice and are free to set their course.  These principles are summed up with the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  In other words, people are free to determine there course including the government they are willing to submit. People are free to make there choice in all areas of life.  They are free to choose their path in life.

The Kingdom of God does not operate on principles of self-determining a path in life. Yes, we have choice but the key element of the Kingdom of God is this “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (ESV).  The Kingdom of God is about self-surrender which brings true life. There is much in this world that can be pursued but the only real life, is life in proper relationship with God. It is leaving the world of self-determined choices and surrendering to following God’s leading and God’s way. It is a move from self-determination to God-determination.

The Kingdom of God view of liberty is also different than that of the concept in the Declaration of Independence. The liberty referenced is that of freedom to do whatever one desires as long as it does not interfere with others.  It is freedom from not only oppression but restriction of own desires.  The Kingdom of God principle of liberty is quite different. The Kingdom of God liberty is about freedom from the bondage to sin and self.  It is freedom from the consequences of our selfishness.  Each of us makes choices each day. There are many choices that move away from God and give a momentary pay off that leave one bound and oppressed.  Yet, God offers freedom to all who will take it, but it means surrendering God’s authority. When you do so, freedom from all those choices of the moment is granted and relationship with the Creator is secured. 

The Declaration of Independence indicates that the ultimate goal of all is the “pursuit of happiness.” In  other words, we are to be free to take a path that makes us feel good. It is pursuit of overall well being. It is a pursuit of that which is pleasing.  In the Kingdom of God, the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 which offers a different take than that which makes us feel good or pleases us.  Rather, it stands in contrast with brokenness, mercy, righteousness, purity, and persecution as elements valued in God’s Kingdom which is moving being the satisfaction of self known as happiness.

The world today bemoans the pain and suffering.  There are cries for tolerance and letting everyone select their own path toward creating their own good.  Now, self-determination has often resulted in people pursuing goals that bring success and benefit many, but it simply provides means to limit the pain.  Any government can become oppressive and certainly will not please all. There is a better way to live than by the concepts found in the Declaration of Independence when you live in submission to the creator and surrender self to God.  The surrender of self is what is required to join God’s Kingdom. It is His rule and following His determination or it is a self-determined course.  The path of self is filled with illusion and temporary gains, the path of God is that of faith, endurance, and promises of lasting life and happiness as we are transformed and brought in alignment with the Creator’s design and intent.  

Now, we do  have a choice. Each of us. We can choose our path and direction and go by our will, avoiding harm to others.  We can select those who govern us and see if they help or hinder our own and societies well being.  We can seek to live in an ever changing world, altering the social contract as necessary.  The other choice is that of looking beyond this world and entering the Kingdom of God.  It starts with being reconciled with the creator and then results with changes within as we grow and mature as members of God’s kingdom. In God’s Kingdom though all who enter are more than simply subjects, because we are adopted into God’s family. We are selected to a very intimate and select relationship with one who looks for our good always. Yes, even when it does not appear to be so.  It involves entering the eternal contract and surrendering to God’s determination and way.  It is only by doing so can one truly find life, liberty, and happiness for any other way is temporary and illusion leading to bondage.  For it is as stated in John 8:36 (ESV) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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Musings on Seasons

Life consists of a varied series of seasons. We know the obvious seasons of spring, summer, winter, and fall that are part of the regular ebb and flow of life. Yet, the seasons of life are more than the orderly flow of time. Even the flow of the seasons is variable. The Bible even indicates that in life there are many seasons in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (ESV):


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Many things come, go and are part of life. Often the things we enjoy and get pleasure from last too short. The things that hurt and are painful last too long. The lengths of season are variable and impacted by our perceptions of the season. Sometimes a treasured relationship ends abruptly; conflicts last too long. In the end, our time in life is but an instance. As James 4:14 (KJV) states: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Yet, many focus on capitalizing and focusing on pursuit the seasons of pleasure. We all like pleasure, yet when we encounter it, we do not savor it but rather often seek to engorge on the pleasure. For many, life is just moving from one momentary pleasure to the next. Yet, those seasons of pleasure fade, times of pain and sorrow always come. For many, life is about minimizing the suffering and maximizing the pleasure. There is another way. A way that looks beyond the constant shifting of seasons, there is something solid that stands up to the shifts. While seasons come and go, the Kingdom of God always stands. The rock of the Gospel is everlasting and un-shifting. It is not a momentary pleasure that last but awhile. It is the source of wholeness and completeness. For only in establishing right relationship with the Creator, which only happens not by self-effort but by, the redemption offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It all really comes down to where the focus of your life is. The continual pursuit of self and the temporary seasons of pleasure, or surrender to the King of Kings and accepting the gift of redemption allowing reconciliation and citizenship in the Kingdom of God.