Thursday, November 03, 2022

Pray for the "No" of Christ to Be Formed in You


(Sunset on a Lake Michigan beach)

The making of a man is making your body
do what it doesn't want to do.

Robert Bly

Way back in the 1970s, when Linda and I were newly married, she received a phone call from a friend who led a Christian band. Our friend was a great speaker and evangelist. His band was popular, having made some albums. 

I was out of the house when he called. When I got home, Linda told me he had called. "He's inviting you to be the guitarist for the band." Their guitarist left the band, and they needed a new one. 

"What did you tell him?", I asked.

"I told him you don't want it."

After thinking for a moment, I said to Linda, "You're right."

God was calling me to be a student. And a pastor. And yet, when we turned on the TV a week later and saw the band playing before 50,000 people in a stadium, with Billy Graham the speaker, I has a fleeting doubt pass through my mind, waving as it went by.

Don't say yes to every opportunity. I want my yes to mean yes. This is about discernment, about what God wants me to do.

The mature person flourishes in life as they are able to wield the powerful word "No." The Jesus-idea is that, as we connect to him as a branch connects to a vine, we bear "fruit," part of which is awe-inspiring "self control." (Galatians 5:23) People drop their jaws and stare in wonder as people say "No" to mere self-gratification.

A Spirit-led, self controlled person is a free person. They have grown in their humanity and are empowered to say "No" to eating the wrong things, to spending money they don't have to buy things they don't need, to entering every open door, to affirming every idea, and to engaging in sexual behavior as the objectification of other persons.

"No" is the ultimate boundary word. The ability to wield this word will not come from hearing will-power slogans like "Just say 'No'." Authentic, boundary-setting 'No-ability" must become one's heart, one's inner being. This happens as Christ is formed in us.

Just because a door opens, it does not mean you are to walk through it.

Think of Jesus after he fed the 5,000. The people rushed after him to make him an earthly king. Jesus exercised self control and refused. His 'No' was not only for him, but for the sake of others; indeed, for the sake of the whole world.

This is a narrow road, said Jesus, and few take it. But it is the road to freedom. M. Scott Peck described The Road Less Traveled as "gratification delay." "No" is, perhaps, the ultimate other-centered word.

Pray for the "No" of Christ be formed in you, and go free.