Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Binding The Strongman

Fr. Dale Matson

“No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will  first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:27)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.“ (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
At first glance, it would appear that the two verses are unrelated. In context it is often understood that the first verse is referring to Jesus binding demons that possess people and casting them out. In the second verse cited, however, Paul gloried in his weakness that the God’s power would manifest itself through Paul. In this case Paul was the strong man who was made weak (bound) by God that God’s power would come forth.
The contemporary evangelical preacher Paul Washer stated, “Dear God, If Your kingdom will advance and Your name will be glorified through me being ground to powder then so be it." St. Teresa of Calcutta once said that she wished to drink to the last drop, from the cup of Christ’s suffering.
What is it that these latter two individuals understand about their relationship to Christ? They are connected to Christ through suffering, through loss, through their death to themselves and new life in Him. They are His slaves yoked to Him in all things to advance His agenda and proclaim His Glory. As we say in our Morning Prayer Collect, “To know Him is eternal life, to serve Him is perfect freedom.
I still remember quite well when I walked down the aisle of the church to be baptized as an adult. Satan said to me quite distinctly, “You’re throwing your life away for this Jesus.” Satan is an ironic liar since this was both a lie and the truth. The life I had led was only worth throwing away. My weakness had brought me to baptism. I wanted to drown the old man.
Following that, one of my favorite verses was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But was I really putting on Christ and being transformed by the renewing of my mind or was I wrongly thinking of Christ as an enabler, a means of getting my goals accomplished and my reputation advanced. Who’s glory was I really seeking as I built a professional resume’? Was He just a performance-enhancing drug that one downs like a can of Red Bull?
I am an ordinary person, nothing more, and nothing less, merely adequate. While God helped me to stop killing myself on the installment plan I saw this approach as the road to sanctification. What was missing was the interior work. St. Paul would call this the “Rootedness.” For me it was all “Top Growth”. My interior life remained a mess with ruminations, lack of trust in others in general and God in particular. As I look back, I believe the best way to describe me was a hard ass, self-righteous SOB. My older son told me a few years ago that I had not really changed at all. It was difficult to hear and easy to deny.
And then came the heart issues for me. I recently discovered I had coronary artery disease (CAD). This was not a symptom of poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive weight or even heredity. I had hardening of the arteries because I had a hard heart. I was fearful, angry, impatient, prideful, controlling and condescending. My heart was not a victim of external stressors. My heart was merely reflecting its contents. Just as C.S. Lewis said that a grumbler becomes a grumble. We say in our collect for purity, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts.” Was I following St. Paul’s godly advice? “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” No, I was not. (Philippians 4:8)
God has bound the strongman and that strongman is me.

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