A Recovering @$$?&#€

“You’re an @$$?&#€,” my counselor calmly informed me.

“I am not an @$$?&#€,” I shot back.

“Yes. You are an @$$?&#€—and I’m an @$$?%#€, too.”

Believe it or not, it was one of the most formative moments in my life when I realized how messed up I really am.

And you are too.

There’s Actually An Upside To Being An @$$?%#€

Coming from a long line of believers can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because our Christian heritage means we have developed a culture that challenges and expects every person to follow Jesus. Living a remotely evil life is foreign to me.

It can also be a curse, because people like me can easily assume we’re automatically “in.” We also tend to insulate ourselves from the outside world around us. And, as much as I hate to admit it, we can easily become judgmental of people who struggle with sins that our Christian culture has deemed worse than others. To put it bluntly, we have a hard time admitting that we’re @$$?&#€s.

The apostle Paul addressed people like me in Romans chapter 2:

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Verse 3)

I can imagine these words ruffled the feathers of quite a few of Paul’s readers. A sinner?? Me?? God’s judgment?

Paul even accuses his Christian readers of committing the same sins as the Gentiles. In the previous chapter (1:29-31), Paul names the sins of those wicked @$$?&#€s:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

From a publishing standpoint, no editor would have let this appear in print because Paul has effectively alienated his readers.

Were Paul’s readers actually committing these acts? Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-30, the answer is yes. According to Jesus, when you’re angry at someone, you’re guilty of murder. Ever lusted after someone? Then you’re guilty of adultery.

Paul reinforces this by reminding his readers that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Being Good Isn’t Enough

But the gist of Paul’s point is this: Going to church isn’t enough. Reading the Neighborhood Café blog isn’t enough. Growing up in a Christian family isn’t enough. We simply can’t do enough to be saved from God’s wrath. We’re all @$$?&#€s. We may not commit heinous crimes, but we commit sins of the heart–sins like envy, murder, strife, gossip, arrogance…the list goes on and on.

How then can anyone be saved??

Paul answers the question later in Romans, but rather than point to the antidote, I encourage you to meditate on this reality. We can’t do enough to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. We cannot be good enough to save ourselves.

The psalmist in Psalm 10 offers us a window into resolving this dilemma:

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry (Psalm 10:17).

God responds to the cry of the afflicted. When we see ourselves as we really are—people created in the image of God who have become infected and afflicted by sin—then we can begin our recovery.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. His family fully knows that he’s an @$$?&#€.

14 Comments

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14 responses to “A Recovering @$$?&#€

  1. Georgie-ann

    blindness,… “none are so blind as those who won’t see”,… and it surely is about all of us,… blindness and denial,… blindness and denial and accusation,… blindness and denial and accusation and self-righteousness,… finger-pointing self-righteousness,… angry finger-pointing judgmental self-righteousness,… (and that does get really sickening!),… not to mention secrecy and “the seven deadly sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony,… and then consider this little tid-bit:

    James 2:10 “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

    Add in psychology and body language, and there is just simply no escaping it,… even in church,…

    Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

    Beginning to see our humanness somewhat for what it is,… beginning to accept some of our limitations,… we realize that we are damaged, off-center (way too self-focused), and need deep cleansing and healing,… essentially, we could drown in a seamy cess-pool of possibilities, and it even appears that some do,… but we cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”,… there is also something in us that does not want to go this way,… “save us from ourselves, collectively and individually, and from satan’s paralyzing and compelling grip,”… “deliver us from the poisons of hatred, ignorance, pride, useless vanity, and empty words,”… “break through the power of the negative spells we are under”,… set us free,… give us new life, and another chance,…

    Growing old, (I’m experiencing this!), is not a guaranteed cure for these conditions either, but as our flesh naturally weakens, we do have a chance at grasping more about personal humility and needing and appreciating kindness and help,… freely giving and freely receiving,… which are blessed Christian virtues if infused with the Holy Spirit’s influence,…

    “With malice toward none, with charity for all”,… great words by Abraham Lincoln … Ideals are good to acknowledge, value and strive for, but the age-old question, “Who am I?”, if considered deeply and half-way honestly, will reveal personal needs and existential fears, combative and self-protective pretenses, frustrating reliance on externals that disappoint and elude,… where is our peace?

    It is said that “we’re all searching for something”,… Blessed are those who have been able to put their focus and trust off of themselves and their constricting “earthly issues and gripes,” and onto the God Who knows and cares personally,… Who knows what we each need, and loves us enough to help us find the freedom from ourselves that we are really looking for,…

    Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”

  2. Georgie-ann

    It occurs to me how much we idolize “acting” in our culture these days,… To me, it seems that we have come to a point of actually wanting to “believe in” false pretenses,… the better someone can “pull off” their act, the more people want to cheer them on,… “yay! tell us what we want to hear!”,… doesn’t matter how true or good or righteous it is,… just convince us of any old thing,… captivate our attention,… “puff up” our egocentric “attitudes”,… that’ll do,… and then we’ll sleep well tonight,… who cares about the quality of the content, or even about tomorrow??!,…

    Not all that long ago, “acting” was recognized for the insubstantial and flimsy thing that it was,… actually it was “lying” while creating an illusion,… clear enough,… even as young children, my brother and I absolutely knew the difference,… no question about it,… (“Oh, they’re only acting!” we’d say during a particularly nasty scene,… or a love scene!),… the instincts for discerning/recognizing “reality” were much more sharply attuned before this current age of mesmerization by film, stage, plot, artifice and contrivance,… We’ve learned to accept/swallow and actually digest-as-if-real “a con”,… We “hunger and thirst” more for a tantalizing unreality to schmooze our senses, than we do for righteousness and honesty,…

    No wonder we’re in the obviously sorry spiritual shape we’re in as a modern culture,… A saying of my mother’s comes to mind: “For a smart person, you’re sure doing a lot of dumb things,”… mothers know,… at least the old-fashioned ones did!

  3. Georgie-ann

    I meant to note that “acting” — (and polished pretense) — is now usurping and encroaching on so many other “roles” that we are used to interacting with in life: news reporters, politicians, educators, even the glowing weather person during the tornado — (and should I also mention some preachers, televised & otherwise??) — all present us with a “practiced face and stance”, reassuring words and formulas,…

    It’s hard to “get to the bottom of things” when everyone’s so busy treading water, trying to keep a good face on it all,… (while our collective sanity starts slipping irresistibly through the cracks),… For me, that “practiced face” wears thin pretty quickly, and leaves me wondering about what’s really going on,… not that it’s any of my business in many cases,… just glad I have a “better friend” in God’s company, who never hides behind a mask with those He rescues and loves,… God is just as positive and real as real can be,… and you can be real with Him too,…

    What a relief!

    (and “real” — in our case — doesn’t have to mean “perfect”,… “honest” to the best of our ability, is a good beginning, and He’ll take it from there!)

    Words of Jesus:

    John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    Just thinking “out loud”,… and maybe “out of the box” sometimes,… (while waiting for some threatening thunderstorm activity to pass us on by),… Thoughts and speculations about “raw” human data — observed behaviors and tendencies — that we can’t help but to be aware of as we go through life,… in ourselves and in others,… and questions we might have about some rather perplexing things and obstacles,…

    The Bible gives us some basic concepts and descriptions of “fools” vs “wise”, and “flesh” vs “spiritual”, and “sinful” vs “righteous”, “satan” vs “Holy God” with man in the middle, “evil” vs “good”,… admonitions to choose,… and declarations of various fates — for better or worse — being dependent upon (resulting from) acceptable or unacceptable practices (in God’s eyes and according to His laws) of various individuals and groups down throughout history,… beginning with Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Old Testament personalities and tribes, and so on,… & even to the present,…

    Deuteronomy 5:9.10
    9 ” … For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

    Deuteronomy 7:9,10
    9 “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.”

    Over the years, I have encountered enough human/life “situations” to be convinced that, if what God is saying is true (which I believe it is), that there are and have been so many interwoven historical (personal choice and behavioral) factors contributing to the current worldly “state of affairs” and “human conditions”, that they have “lawfully” (according to God) left things in various discernible levels of spiritual blessing — or not — but rather in disobedience, disarray and massive spiritual confusion,… both in individuals and in societies,…

    This, at least, would help to account for some of the widespread worldwide differences, which some in the present time would call “unfair”,… (and for sure, satan has not and does not “play fair” — and his influence and control are widespread,… but we can’t say the same about the way God chooses to administer His blessings or His judgments — God is not only fair, but He makes the rules),…

    It really is a “fact of life” that humans are not all exactly “alike”, by any means, and do not face the same challenges inwardly and outwardly,… are not all “caught in the grip” of exactly identical and precisely identifiable problems, do not do things for the same reasons, do not think and feel alike about the same things, do not react in the same ways, do not possess the same talents, abilities or temperament inclinations, blessings, and/or whatever,… We acquire cultural differences, inherit physical, ethnic and racial differences,… we have male-female differences, mental and emotional differences, and a vast array of potentials, whether used or abused,…

    God tells us He blesses those who love and follow Him, AND their descendents,… but He resists those who “hate” Him (which I think means that they’ve been following and love-hating the devil) and does NOT bless their descendents, but on the contrary allows the effects of their iniquity to pass down the line,…

    We reap what we sow,… we may also be reaping what ancestors have sewn,… one way or the other,…

    Galatians 6:7,8
    7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

    So, the vast historical panorama, of all that has preceded our conditions of today, has had a very significant influence on the situations that currently challenge us,… whether or not a people and a culture have rightly tried to serve God will have had a noticeable effect,… we DO know that we are all born into a worldly condition that is tainted with satan’s demanding and penetrating influence, and that he will seek to control us and use us, as much as possible,… we all need the blessing of God’s saving and delivering hand through Christ’s love and sacrifice for us,… and He needs us to love and serve Him,…

    The field of challenge is huge indeed and defies complex analysis, but the solution is the same for all,… “Turn to God, oh man, and be saved,…”

    Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

    Acts 20:21 “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

    Many problems and needs,… only one true solution,…

    I’m actually going to go a little farther with this,… tackling a sub-plot,…

    bbl,… (-:

    • Georgie-ann

      edit: sown

    • Georgie-ann

      edit: Thoughts and “personal” speculations,…

      I’ve been trying to put down some ideas in here about things that I’ll find myself thinking (and praying) about over and over, that are like a continual “background noise” in our lives as we find them nowadays,… This relatively “modern experience” of living in such a pluralistic society, with access to news of worldwide conditions 24/7, presents us with a set of very different conditions to “process”, and interact with, from those of most of our ancestors! Why do these people do this?,… think this?,… Why do I look at this a different way? etc etc,… “Political correctness” may be trying to “help” us “keep the peace” in an enforced and denial-infested way, but “it doesn’t work” for the eyes and ears and mental capacities that God has given us, along with His Word, which is often completely ignored and certainly undervalued,…

      If I’m taking some basic Scriptures as a springboard into looking at and sorting out some things as they “make sense” to me at this time, I do not claim any particular accuracy or authority in such matters,… just thinking about them as best as I can,… I’m much more comfortable expressing ideas that I think have a strong particular Scriptural back-up,… but God has given us the Proverbs and much general wisdom and history throughout His Word which are certainly illuminating also in a broadly applicable way,…

      I hope others have thoughts on these matters, which I know I would find interesting, even if (or especially if!) they’re in another vein than my own,… thank you & God Bless you! I love you all,… g (-:

  5. Georgie-ann

    So, considering the premise of sowing and reaping, and being influenced by beneficial or detrimental things that have come before us, it is possible to sometimes “get a glimpse” of the types of spiritual resistance (strongholds) that appear to be strongly influencing an individual or groups, and how they may have come about,…

    I’m not interested in this subject to “satisfy curiosity” (curiosity about evil isn’t at all a fun or healthy pursuit!), but as a possible key to unraveling particular things that have had a stubborn and negative hold on people’s lives, and attitudes and behavior,… in other words, connected to prayers for deliverance or the deliverance ministry itself,… clues about the strongholds and claims satan may have on the family line and why,… and I also like to validate God’s Word when/if possible with examples,…

    I’m just going to give one example that I happened to stumble on myself, quite “by accident”, that opened my eyes to what God seems to be saying about this,…

    We had a set of old World Book Encyclopedias from the 1950s, before political correctness was invented, — (and I wish we still had them!),… One day, after long years of Bible study and prayers for many things, (some cases of which didn’t seem to respond to our prayers), I came across a reference to a particular American Indian group that told about their traditional victory dances after a successful hunt, in which they would mix the blood of the animal they had caught with alcohol (some sort of liquor), and drink it as part of the ceremony,… At that point in time, because of having read the Bible, I realized that drinking the blood of an animal was forbidden by God to the Jews in the Old Testament,…

    Leviticus 17:12-14
    12 “Therefore I have said to the Israelites, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who dwells temporarily among you eat blood.

    13 “And any of the Israelites or of the strangers who sojourn among them who takes in hunting any clean beast or bird shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust.

    14 “As for the life of all flesh, the blood of it represents the life of it; therefore I said to the Israelites, You shall partake of the blood of no kind of flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats of it shall be cut off.”

    The reason that this was eye-opening to me personally, was because we had prayed for a person of that same heritage who had an unusually negative and persistent problem with alcohol,… difficult behavior connected with it and addiction,… and we hadn’t experienced any real success,… Suddenly it was clear to me that this had more than likely been part of a much larger spiritual/psychological background problem established by pagan practices with lingering effects,…

    Sin (lawlessness and rebellion to God’s Word) will open the door, that satan will use to make claims over the people involved,… and it looks like “ignorance of the law” will not wash as an excuse with him,… he’s the original “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” guy,… not nice,… The darkness he attaches to his transgressing victims is harder to break and penetrate with God’s light,…

    My conclusions concerning this would be to be ready to repent on behalf of anything that might have gotten hold of a family line,… to submit everything to God, asking for pardon, forgiveness and deliverance, through the atoning blood of Christ,… renouncing everything to do with satan,… and thanking Him (God) for His great mercy, love and salvation,…

    I’ve learned to “notice” other fixated and problematic trends, characteristic of various other cultures, and sometimes am able to compare them with historical issues and practices that were not Godly but pagan influenced,… the parallels can be revealing,… it’s really no wonder that mankind has the strong and generalized satan-influenced resistance to God that is becoming so obvious,…

    Maybe it will eventually become so obvious that people will be able to see it for what it really is,…

    In any case, God is able to save and deliver any who sincerely turn to Him,…

    • Georgie-ann

      If sin is the door for satan to enter, bringing with him greater strongholds and bondage for mankind:

      Genesis 4:6,7
      6 “So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’”

      Christ is at the door of repentance, redemption, and escape — freedom from the dark bondage of sin:

      Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

      The laws of physics (dealing with “natural” invisible forces, which are measurable and predictable) are so amazing that scientists can aim and guide projectiles accurately far far out into deep space, and even continue to receive pre-planned images back from them years later.

      The spiritual forces of sin and righteousness also have strong “invisible” (to us) effects on our lives and well-being (or not),… and God “sees” and judges it all very clearly,…

      James 5:9 “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

      We would do well to earnestly seek to align ourselves ever more closely with the God-side of these issues,…

      Job 28:28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’”

      Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

      Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility.”

      Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

      What begins in a true and proper fear, respect and understanding of an awesome and Holy God, can grow into a blessed fellowship of Love through the relationship established for us through Jesus Christ, His Son and Our Lord,… humbling ourselves, if necessary, and “saying yes” to God is a good beginning to a better future,…

    • Georgie-ann

      edit: ” … And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’” … (he didn’t)

  6. Georgie-ann

    In all of this, our real contesting enemy is satan himself, who can use his captive minions in many harassing ways against the faith and the faithful. Confronting or living with problems of strongly implanted sin is not usually very easy. We can (try to) love and forgive the sinner, but not so satan,… it is important to be able to take a strong stand against him and his works,…

    I tend to think that having a “matured” Christian attitude about “others” who are under the sway of various sins, is a more complex subject than I used to realize, initially. We DO want to let God be “the judge,” and we DO also want to share the Gospel somehow, which requires some honesty and confidence. Compassion and understanding (“God is Love”) are good goals to have, from the human aspect, and I think Michael is warning us about having an over-abundance of off-putting pride, considering possibly that “there but for fortune, go I.” But the conditions that accompany these situations vary widely over a broad range, and I don’t think there are really many “one size fits all” generalizations to apply.

    For a long time, I was more likely to quietly pray for the “difficult” situations, and ask God to guide the prayers. I am not usually out-going in a flurry of “hit and miss” activity,… it’s just not my style. So, I’m more likely to hang back observing. But a conclusion that I’ve come to in more recent times, is more critical of the tendency to continuously humor and pander to some of these situations “in the name of” Christian kindness, tolerance and sympathy. The reason is that these situations also do involve our REAL enemy, the devil, who just LOVES to take advantage of all our generous kindness and hospitality, with absolutely no plans of giving up his spiritual “possessions” and domain. So, I’m thinking that I/(we) need to learn some balance in going about a ministry to those held captive in sin-heavy problems,…

    God IS Love, and we surely want to be able to reflect that as a witness and a testimony,… but there is also the aspect of the spiritual struggles to be faced with the enemy, involving harassments, lies, deviousness, and so on,… such forms of “spiritual warfare” can easily develop,… our spiritual growth process should encompass some maturing in these areas too,…

    Ephesians 6:12,13
    12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

    I really don’t think these are particularly easy things to do, by the way,… but probably necessary,…

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