Are you dissatisfied?
Are you uncomfortable in your present mental state?
Do you feel like you’re not where you ought to be?
Then, you might be lost between extremes.
Life is a dichotomy of extremes. Everyday we make decisions that border on extremity. We’re either here or there, playing it safe or risking it, letting it out or keeping it in…
And we can sometimes find ourselves caught between two strong choices, almost to the point of paralysis.
At the apex of life’s dichotomy, man is faced with the ultimate choice of either giving in to his carnal desires or giving himself up altogether so as not to give in to his carnal desires.
We know very well what our carnal desires are.
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.I John 2:16 (NKJV)
And if we dare be more explicit, let’s consider Galatians 5:19-21,
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…”Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV)
These carnal desires have an overbearing allure, so much so that our upbringing, our milieu and our efforts fail to keep us from them.
When we follow this path, our conscience gradually goes numb. The question of morality is then replaced by the need to satisfy our own desires. The consequence is that we become relaxed in our sinfulness, having no thought for repentance.
For fear of sounding esoteric, I’ll give a practical example. A porn addict, wanting to escape his guilt trip by all means, may commit himself to the carnal extreme. In this state, he no longer asks himself if it is right to watch porn, instead, he is led to explore more ways to satisfy his sexual urge.
Hence, the porn addict has taken the path leading onto destruction. He’s at ease in his mind, and even though he no longer asks the question of right or wrong, it is apparent that he’s made his choice.
Not wanting to be found, not wanting to be saved from himself, he doesn’t count himself lost. And, will he be found when he’s purposely given in to his carnal desires? Afterall, a sheep that is not lost will not be found.
But there’s a place for the lost, those who stand between the two extremes. They recognise, not only their own frailty in the face of sin, but also the immense appeal of giving in altogether. However, they keep fighting—even if they fight wrongly, throwing empty punches at the darkness. So, they keep on fighting, wanting to be saved from themselves.
As yet, they’re still not committed to any extreme. On the one hand, they can take the path of our hypothetical porn addict, and give in to their own carnal desires. On the other hand, they can give themselves up totally, along with all their desires.
But how strange it must be to give oneself up? Strange, it is, but that’s how we become found. It is by giving ourselves up that we’re found by the Spirit of God.
We find more insight about this in the book of Galatians 5.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)
Then we know what should manifest in our lives after we commit to this other extreme. How then do we commit? Let’s read a verse further, shall we?
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:24 (NKJV)
We need to realise that God recognises our helplessness, and has already made provision for our complete redemption. And this goes to the root of our troubles. It goes beyond the sin itself, and gets to the heart of the sinner. It means that, not only did Christ die for our sins, He also took us up on the cross with Him, so the sinful man is also dealt with (Galatians 2:20).
Upon this wonderful revelation, we’re then called upon to surrender our very soul (not our sinfulness, mind you, for we couldn’t on our own do so even if we tried).
The calling is that we should deny ourselves, with all our passions and affections, and first of all bear our cross behind Christ (Matthew 16:24).
Watchman Nee gives a poignant description of this process when he wrote:
“The Cross has borne me; now I must bear it… When the body becomes our life we live like beasts. When the soul becomes our life we live as rebels and fugitives from God — gifted, cultured, educated, no doubt, but alienated from the life of God. But when we come to live our life in the Spirit and by the Spirit, though we still use our soul faculties just as we do our physical faculties, they are now the servants of the Spirit; and when we have reached that point God can really use us.”Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
Therefore, we are called, as it is, to deny ourselves in certain matters even when they’re not particularly sinful. As Watchman further points out:
“many a time we have to confess that it is not any definite sin that is keeping us from following the Lord to the end. We are held up because of some secret love somewhere, some perfectly natural affection diverting our course. Yes, affection plays a great part in our lives, and the Cross has to come in there and do its work.”Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
It may follow that God wants you to do away with your smartphone (for some indefinite period of time) and forgo all the benefits of being connected, just so you can learn to walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the passions of your soul.
So, you see why it is an extreme; but it is a good extreme, and it is the source of life and peace. Also, it stands at the opposite end of another extreme, which leads only to destruction (Romans 8:6).
If God leaves the ninety-nine to find the one missing sheep, then you can be sure that you’ll be found too. You may be lost today, unable to wade through the extremes, just believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross, the revelation of which will help you to the point of total surrender.
Remember, neither your wisdom nor your intellect can help you lean towards the right extreme. The porn addict will find himself returning to the porn site, even after he’s made the effort to avoid it for a stretch of time.
After the back and forth, he’s tempted to give in, to subdue his guilt and deaden his conscience altogether. But this is obviously the wrong choice.
We ought to be ready to surrender our whole selves; beyond the sin, beyond the challenge, God wants you. It is an extreme, but it is the best decision you can ever make. For God will stop at nothing in making the best of you.
For all those who are lost between extremes, drowning in the river of indecisiveness, I want to encourage you to surrender your whole being onto the Lord. That is the right extreme.
Recommended Read: The Normal Christian Life, by Watchman Nee.