Wednesday, January 21, 2009


As Paul was said by Peter to have said some thinks "hard to understand" I think I have said some things of that category. [Not biblical truth, but practical and relational working out of biblical and certainly hard to understand.] Remember, I said at the outset that only one out of the ten who would read it would get it perhaps. That was prophetic. But that one has written and "got it. That's sufficient. Now the final segment.

Paul reminded the Roman christians that they had been set free from sin because they had "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. " We need to understand that there is absolutely no conflict in the New Testament between faith and obedience. There is a genuine conflict between living by faith and living by the Law as there is between Grace and Law, but none whatsoever between faith and obedience in the life of a believer.

In fact, were one to attempt to separate faith and obedience one would effectively destroy both. There is no real biblical faith without obedience and no real biblical obedience except it flow from the reservoir of genuine faith.

The biblical message of Christ and His Cross work is to be understood two ways. There are those things declared to be accomplished and you can bank on being true. [Generally referred to in the Indicative mood] Then there are those things commanded that are to be obeyed in light of His accomplishments. [Referred to in the Imperative mood.] The only thing we do with the accomplished things is believe them. [Rest in their genuineness] It is impossible to obey a fact declared accomplished. It isn't even addressed to our will but to our mind or understanding.

Likewise, a command is not to be believed but obeyed. It is not addressed to our mind or understanding but to our will. We can certainly trust it is a wise things commanded and best for our lives but it is to be obeyed.

The christian life is to be lived with this duality in mind always. As we believe who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf, we are to then obey what He commands in every realm of life whether it be marriage, family, work, ministry or whatever a day may bring. Christianity is not a thing of religious activities to be performed but a way of life. As we choose to obey what He commands trusting who He is and what He's done to be real we will find the power and authority for the living of that way of life. Troubles, trials, good times alike will come and go but life will be meaningful and abundant BECAUSE He is alive in and through us.

Study the New Testament to know the ways of God and obey the will of God as you see it trusting that the ways you've learned are true. This is obedience flowing from that reservoir of faith in His accomplishments which was mentioned earlier. Do this as a way of life and a "well done" will be heard for the new year of 2009.

Paul B.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


All I'm about to say is tied to the theme of the last three parts of the good. the bad, and the ugly post. The understanding of that theme is essential. If you haven't read the first three parts you will need to at some point to fully comprehend what follows.

There are, it seems to me, at least four ways a christian may choose to live life that reflect the flesh and that are tied to the good, the bad, the ugly. These four ways are often inadequately understood. There are many more I'm sure. But these I've seen, counseled, heard and experienced.

All I'm about to say now must never be seen to excuse behavior. But understanding what we often choose and why we choose it can help us ultimately I believe. I'll keep it in the first person for clarity

I CAN CHOOSE to hide behind the GOOD and pretend the BAD isn't there. But this often leads to my being a hypocrite at best [Pretending something that isn't true because the bad IS there. I'm just hiding it.] or a Pharisee at worst. [I really believe I'm only good and there is no bad in me.] I can appear quite religious, even baptist religious, and be admired by many for this kind of behavior. Doing religious activities and doing them well can feed this and give me a good measuring stick to determine how I'm doing with my good [religious] life. I readily condemn those who disagree with my list by which I measure a good life and use shame on others who fail my list as a tool to correct them. [Never to correct myself since I have it all together.]

Both of these [being a hypocrite or a Pharisee] will keep the Spirit from doing what only He can do in making Christ real in relationships. Which is what real Christianity is all about after all. But these also deny the true Grace of God which is our only true good and remember that true Grace [which is my good] will never deny the bad present in me. So when I choose to live according to this pattern of life I am producing only human good [or human evil] and am eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil continuing the same mistake as did the original Adam. No wonder Paul the apostle saw the flesh at war with the Spirit.


I CAN CHOOSE to hide behind the BAD and live as if the GOOD isn't there. But this can lead to my being a rebel [in my actions] at worst or an extreme introvert at best and live my life between the wallpaper and the wall hiding from most of life out of fear.

When I am the introvert my choices in life will perpetuate a victim mentality and even as a christian I will always NEED someone else to love and affirm me. I become the person most people hate to see coming because I'm always sucking FROM others. I leave the people who try to minister to me dry and empty . There is an atmosphere of death instead of life pervading all my relationships. I'm the one who gets to a worship service last and am the first to leave. But I'm then the first to complain about the unfriendliness of a congregation. No one ever treats me with the love and acceptance I demand from my personal perspective.

When I'm the rebel I flaunt my rule violations as freedom and try to recruit rule keepers into joining me and shame them if they don't. Of course real freedom in Christ is not the right to do what I want but the power to be what I've become by His Grace but remember we're talking about the flesh here. Some pretty weird belief systems can come about in that arena of life.


I CAN CHOOSE to deceive myself believing I can do GOOD sufficiently [even underscoring my efforts with promises] to be a good person worthy of love and acceptance so I set out to please people [or a person] by earning their love and acceptance with that good behavior. I can make appropriate decisions as a man, husband, pastor, whatever, and be admired by those who live at a distance from me personally. But what I wind up doing is making those people close to me [perhaps that person closest] an idol in my life because I'm performing to get their approval. That's regretable. That's sin. At some point I will obviously fail to perform [ I'll make a choice for the BAD] and love and acceptance won't come. [This is from my perspective remember.]

My problem really is I can't see the difference in them not accepting my behavior, which they shouldn't, yet still loving me as a person. So I may try to hide my bad behavior or develop strong arguments why I can't be wrong and if they just understood my motivation they would be not be upset with me. You can see the pressure I apply to get them to not think of me as bad at all. I'm then left alone with myself having failed by identifying myself with my good behavior and assuming others will/ought to as well.

They don't identify me by my behavior, good or bad. [Thank the Lord.] Those who REALLY love me, are just wise enough in their understanding of the real Grace life to separate how I act and who I am. I'm not that wise having identified myself with my performance instead of the performance of Christ. That's why I try so hard to do good. What a rat race that becomes. Trust me...I know.


I CAN CHOOSE to be the Lone Ranger and not even think about pleasing or not pleasing people because, after all, no one is better than I am and I don't think I'm worse than anyone else. So there. I can wear a white hat or a black mask if I want to. I'm my own person. I belong to no one else. [This is close to the original choice of the garden fiasco I think...independence.]

Some one may wonder which of these four has been my modus operandi. in life. I'll let those who know me the best and love me the most answer that. But all four choices will result in a life that is fearful, unfaithful and sinful even at it's best since only what is of faith is victory in the believer. [The bible doesn't say that faith BRINGS the victory but that faith IS the victory.] The tragedy is that so many christians are not able to identify these as patterns of the flesh and will not know the true power of the Spirit and life of faith until they do.

When the scriptures talk about not walking after the flesh I think it is safe to assume that what is being talked about is far more than a lustful thing only. What's being refered to is a way of life that we've developed from early on even before our conversion to Christ and, as I've tried to show, can be dangerous long after that conversion. We must awaken to it's reality.

In conclusion...religion can be a thing of the flesh. Self confidence can be a thing of the flesh. Shyness can be a thing of the flesh. Setting of goals and achieving them can be a thing of the flesh. Regret can be a thing of the flesh. But all of the just mentioned things can also be things of the Spirit. The difference in the things of the flesh/world and the things of the Spirit are not the things themselves but what drives them.

You can see WHY making new years resolutions can be a dangerous thing. You can see why regret over failures of the past year can be dangerous. What is needed is an understanding of walking by faith in the Grace of God which is our true identity. THAT'S to be the true driving force for the believer's life. That's what I'll speak to in the next and final installment.

Paul B.

Friday, January 09, 2009


The first two parts of this post will give a context that probably is important for understanding.

Remember the GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY are not only a reality for the past year and the year to come but are a reality about each of us that needs to be understood if we're to live a life of true faith. So let me begin by giving some definitions/descriptions about the good, the bad, and the ugly that apply to all of us as believers.

THE GOOD...All I am in Christ by His Grace. That is my true identity. I "AM" a new creation in Christ Jesus. I have a new nature. It's as if God has created me anew and said "It's good" all over again. It's a wonderful work of Sovereign Grace. That's who I am. I heard the gospel, believed it, [a gift of Grace in and of itself] and was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light and made new. The Cross really did it's work not only for me but in me. I "have been crucified with Christ." It is true that "nevertheless I live" but I now know that He is alive in me and the life I now live is totally identified with who He is and what He's done. It's an exchanged life. My sin and self He took to the Cross and His Righteousness is now accredited to my account. Now I have a new relationship with God the Father having been birthed anew. I am now a loved, accepted, forgiven and empowered person and am free to reflect all of that to others as I relate to them in the living of life all because of my Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus. Each believer must know this as a biblical fact for a life of faith to be lived out. That's the GOOD.

The preceeding is a simple statement, spoken relationally, that reflects the reality of many great doctrines of the scriptures about God's work on our behalf such as Regeneration, Imputation, Salvation and the like. Great studies all.

THE BAD...Those patterns of behavior I learned early on. [Mostly for self preservation/protection I think.] Those feelings, beliefs, behaviors, developed to an art inside me, that keep hanging around long after my salvation experience is begun, that I've created from childhood as ways to live life. [The flesh] They are familiar to me and even feel like they're really me sometimes. I believe them frequently when they whisper that to me in my dark moments. That IS a lie of course because I am new in nature, but sometimes I forget that. What's worse is I act on those whispers sometimes thinking that's who I am. That's sin. It's called living the "self" life. ["Flesh" in scripture is nothing more than what Stuart Briscoe said one time while in a bible conference in a church I pastored, "The flesh is nothing but flesh spelled backward dropping the h.... Self ."]

Remember that this behavior that is of the flesh is ANY and ALL the activity I do [even the good done] so that others will notice who I am and appreciate me as a person. This is even my religious behavior that is motivated to get God to like/notice me or people to like me or think well of me. It's still.. ME. That's the BAD.

THE UGLY...I am now responsible to choose how I'm going to live life but I mess this up sometimes. I can choose to believe and act upon either the GOOD [by faith] or BAD [according to the flesh] and, all too often, the bad is chosen. Thus the GOOD [see above] isn't lived out in reality. The BAD [see above] becomes my lifestyle again though it can never be my nature since I am new in Christ.

But the seemingly UGLY fact remains that I do choose and often I do choose to act in a way other than grace. This is not a pious platitude of humility. It is a personal confession of one who all too often has behavior found in me that doesn't smack of Grace. Another biblical and personal reality.

This is where the rubber of human performance [flesh] or Grace living [faith] really meets the road. This is the war raging between the flesh and the Spirit. It's the battleground of any healthy life or relationship. That's the UGLY. This why 2008 or 2009 will be something of the good the bad and the ugly. I'll be present. [If the Lord wills and tarries.] It is also why our relationships, be they with the Lord, a marriage partner, children, parents, or friends, will reflect a struggle. I'm in that relationship. How could it be otherwise?

There are also, it seems to me, at least four possible patterns that can be developed by individual believers as a way of life that reflect the flesh instead of Grace that I will look at next time. These are sinful patterns but are often not seen as such or understood by believers adequately and are sometimes even perceived as godly. There may be more than the four of which I will write but those will be the ones I've seen, heard and experienced. Some of the patterns of behavior I'll mention, as I said, look good, even christian, but are far from true Grace. Some are more obvious as sin but ALL are works of the flesh.

It is not enough that we glibly say "We're just sinners saved by grace" to explain our struggles in the christian life. The truth is we are Saints who often sin and struggle. I'm trying to identify the struggles and the sin and will continue to do so in the upcoming days.

The closing part will describe our life of faith as redeemed saints and the victory which is already ours in Christ which can be experienced even with each other in our relationships. All WILL be experienced in 2009 as in 2008. I'm attempting to help us see why.

Until the next segment I say again...Happy New Year...since this is a new year's post after all. :)

Paul B.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Note....It would be helpful if Part 1
were read as a context.

For years I struggled with who I, the person Paul Burleson, really am. This is terribly important because we tend to act on the basis of who we believe we are. If a person believes they are a victim, they act like one. If a person believes they were abandoned because they were given up for adoption, they act it out in behavior that reveals rejection. Most of what they do will reek of being rejected. If one believes they are superior, they will evidence it. Pharisaic behavior results from this belief. [I'm reminded of what I once heard Peter Lord say, "You believe what you do..everything else is religious talk."]

In the early years of my own identity struggle I settled in on what I'd received/perceived about myself from my environment and family of origin relationships. Not too good. The reasons have been stated in earlier posts and will remain there for now.

I believed then that I was a person who couldn't. Couldn't what? Couldn't whatever. Couldn't anything. At least couldn't and it be right enough or good enough for others to value me personally which no one did by my observation of those original relationships. [All of us want to be valued personally by the way. It's one of the God-given desires created in us. As the Psalmist said.."Lord remember NOT the sins of my youth, but remember ME."]

Do you know how one acts when they believe they're valueless as a person and can't do anything right? They, generally, become super aggressive [Bullies or a false show of being in control.] OR super passive. [People who live between the wallpaper and the wall.] Either crushes. The first crushes others. The second crushes the wallflower. But both will destroy. Mine was the first part b.

Then I became a christian as a young teenager. Now everything is wonderful. Right? Wrong. Oh, it is true that eternity was settled and what a great thing it is to know you're a forgiven person. But for years I found myself struggling with those same feelings and beliefs about myself. I still felt/believed I couldn't. Couldn't what? As I said..couldn't anything. So the pretense of and need to be in control continued unabated and people, as usual, paid the price for my actions.

Oh I'd try to do my best. Sometimes I did extrememly well and sometimes I stunk the place up with failure. My value as a real person had it's highs and lows as you can see and my demands on others continued their crushing effects. [If you think it foolish to even be concerned about this you have much to learn about real life AND yourself in my opinion.]

But finally the Truth intervened, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and I began to understand who I am in Christ in reality. It was no longer an objective truth about me as stated in black print on white paper. It was emotional, intellectual and spiritual reality as declared in the Scriptures. I found I really am, as is true of every believer, a loved, forgiven, accepted, valued, and empowered by His strength for any purposed task commanded to me...person. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God, I'm free at last. [With due respects to Martin Luther King Jr.] I know who I REALLY am according to HIM.

But I'll be if I didn't find myself sometimes struggling [failures] in some of the ways [how I acted as a person] that had haunted me all along. They continued to feel familiar and comfortable and easy in spite of my knowing I am a new person in Christ. [I now call this the 'flesh' as scripture does.] I didn't want to fail in those old areas of course. [Needing to be in control and crushing others by being so.] A longing for change was fervently there. But failure in my familiar areas came periodically anyway. Oh maybe not as often. But the depth of shame was even worse. Failure was an ever present companion. Not a pleasant thing at all.

That's when I began to understand something new and freeing for me. I was responsible for my personal choices good OR bad...and... I was not a victim. You could say, as I read one man say, the statutes of limitations had run out on my childhood traumas. It was about time. Generally I'd blamed everything and everyone under the sun for the wrong in me. It was being a 'Burleson.' It was being the first born son. It was being an ACA. An adult child of an alcoholic. I was a blame giver not a blame taker you see.
But that new understanding of responsibility brought about a whole new battlefield of it's own and no matter how much I might try to deny it, I was/am still a person that is somewhat GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY and I was/am now responsible for it all. That's freeing you might ask. How?

That will be the subject of the next part of this "happy New year " post for 2009. Til then..happy new year again.

Paul B.