No standing still in the Spirit

The Melody Lane Drive-In Restaurant, a vanished Chicagoland business once located at 87th and Bishop.

“In the life of the spirit there is no standing still; if a person does not do what is right the very second he knows it is the right thing to do . . . the ‘knowing’ becomes more and more obscured.”- Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”- 1 John 1:8 (KJV)

In the spring of 1969, Luther High School South in Chicago staged three performances of the musical Funny Girl.  After the final show on a Sunday afternoon, student members of the cast, crew, and pit band migrated east to the Melody Lane.  Months of intense rehearsals garnered a humungous reward: the famed Tornado Special.

On March 4, 1961, an F-2 tornado destroyed the Melody Lane.  As a result, the owners created a mammoth sundae, the Tornado Special.  A sundae so hefty it took a crew to carry it out, accompanied by noisemakers and sparklers.  According to one account, the massive Tornado Special fed up to 25 people!

Writing in Eternity is Now in Session (2018), John Ortberg points out our tendency to rationalize our behavior.  Or deny our intentions.  Hence, we forget that that there’s no standing still in the Spirit.  And how often, John wonders, do people caught in a sin proclaim in protest, “That’s not who I am”?

But, Pastor Ortberg underscores, it is who I am.  We just manage to convince ourselves otherwise.  In addition, Kierkegaard defined sin as more than breaking religious rules that we assume we’d be better off without.  Thus, sin is more than doing wrong things.  It’s becoming the wrong person.  Above all, John stresses, God hates sin because it promises so much, yet offers so little.

So, how do we stay the course on our faith journey and avoid the lure of Tornado Specials?  Pastor Ortberg discusses five components to implement no standing still in the Spirit.

 1.  Awareness of a higher standard.  Certainly, John notes, everyone must decide what standard they will aspire to.  Most significantly, in unmatched fashion Jesus described the divine standard for human fulfillment.  This standard may inspire, intimidate, anger, depress, or offend people.  However, hearing Jesus’ standard includes the awareness that we fail to measure up.

 2.  Confession.  We need to view God’s grace as much bigger than a mere release from consequences.  Because thinking of salvation primarily in legal terms of being proclaimed innocent leaves our inner person untouched and unchanged.  When we encounter Jesus, we realize the problem isn’t just with other people.  For we also possess the profound tendency to mess things up.  Confession = our response.

3.  Remorse.  Repentance isn’t pain for pain’s sake.  Rather, it involves healing that may temporarily hurt.  In that healing process, we allow blemishes to come to the surface in order for them to be healed by the Light.  Under Christ’s light, we recognize our blemishes for what they are: death.

4.  Make amends.  Pastor Ortberg describes making amends as a central practice for spiritual health.  Furthermore, making amends provides a wonderful gift.  As John wryly observes, it helps free us from the ridiculous idea that our characters are above reproach.  Because we need our character questioned!

5.  Forming a new intention.  In conclusion, we must do more than simply believe the right things about Jesus.  Dallas Willard once called the phrase “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” the great omission from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).  Jesus’ call to obedience requires judgment, discernment, creativity, and initiative.  Through obedience you become not an excellent rule follower (compliance), but an excellent person.  A person happy in Jesus!

About the author

Dave Henning

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