When I was young, my grandma bought me a monkey to be raised as a pet. She loves animals, so basically, she wanted one. I was just an excuse to get grandpa to agree.
You know monkeys are very cute, they always make people smiles, most importantly they are very human-like compared to other animals. I thought we could be good friends. However, monkeys don’t make good pets, and we learned it the hard way.
The next day, everyone was out of the house–the adults went to work as usual, and I went to school. When we came home the entire house was a disaster. The monkey found a way to break his chain and ransacked the entire house.
The living room was found with broken vases with flowers on the floor, the kitchen was overturned with everything from the cupboard thrown out and opened, and even the bedroom was not spared from his merciless expedition.
My grandma was very upset. After a long day of work, she had to clean the entire house. After a few weeks of experiment, we have determined that having a monkey at home is like having a terrible two at their worse state all the time. He needs 24/7 attention. It’s the highest maintenance pet, the opposite of cats.
So, my grandma decided to give the monkey back to the seller without even asking for a refund.
The monkey seller told us that catching monkey was very easy. The hunter makes a hole on a tree trunk the size of a monkey’s hand and put an apple inside the hole. The monkey would come and put his hand through the hole to grab the apple, but with the apple in his hand, the monkey cannot retrieve his hand, unless he lets go of the apple. He would struggle around the tree to pull his hand out.
At this point, the man would come out of the hiding to tie him up and take him home.
It was fascinating to hear about how easy it was to catch a monkey. I thought they were smart enough to know that all they have to do is to abandon the apple when they see the hunter coming to grab them. They love their food more than their own life. Most other animals know enough to abandon their food for their life.
We might think the monkey is stupid, but we must not forget that human beings do that too. Most people cannot abandon the old habits for a better life.
Let’s briefly review last week’s topic on the blessing of Consciousness so that we don’t lose the connection between he first blessing and the second.
There are two levels of living—unconscious level, and conscious level. There are many different terms in the Bible to describe these two levels of living. Paul called it the unspiritual or spiritual people, and sometimes he called it living in the flesh or living in the Spirit. John called walking in the darkness or in the light. Jesus called it living in the worldly level or kingdom level.
Life is only meaningful when you live in the conscious level. Last week we talked about Consciousness as the first blessing that all wise people should desire. How can you get the blessing of consciousness? You must want it as if a drowning man wants to breathe. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:3).
The phrase “poor in spirit” in it’s original language Greek, literally means “shortage of breath.” The kingdom of heaven is the conscious living. If you want the kingdom of heaven like a drowning man gasping for breath, you will get it. God loves those who value the kingdom so much.
I used Jacob’s desire for the kingdom as an example. He was determined to do whatever it takes to inherit the kingdom promised to his grandfather Abraham. His can-do attitude won him the love of God. God says,
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:13b).
It sounds harsh for those who don’t understand. However, in this statement, a great wisdom is hidden. You might understand why God loves Jacob, but can you explain why God hate Esau. Literally, Esau was a victim of Jacob’s cunning practices. He was just a simple man.
Shouldn’t God be on the side of the underdog? I discussed this in my last week’s message that you can review it on our church website, FruitfulLife.org.
Once you receive your first blessing, it is time to seek the second blessing: Abandonment.
Consciousness is not enough. Consciousness is like the monkey being aware of the hunter coming towards him. The monkey must abandon the apple in his hand to avoid getting caught. Many people have consciousness, but they just cannot abandon what’s in their hand to receive what’s better.
Paul talked about the third kind of people. I have mentioned the first two kinds last week: unspiritual people, and spiritual people. Later he talked about the “carnal people,” those that are spiritual people but behaving like unspiritual people.
What it means is that you can have consciousness but still behave like unconscious people. Like the monkey, you know your life is in danger, but you cannot let go of the apple in your hand.
In psychology, there are psychopaths and sociopaths. A psychopath is someone who don’t know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. A sociopath, on the other hand, is someone who knows what is right and what is wrong but still choose to do the wrong thing.
So, in a sense, a psychopath is like an unconscious person, who don’t know the choice. A sociopath is like a carnal person who knows the choice but still choose the wrong path.
Why? You might ask. The reason is the wrong path is often the easy path.
If you have seen the movie, Scent of a Woman, Lt. Col. Frank Slade, played by Al Pacino, famously said this,
“Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard.” (Scent of a Woman).
It means it doesn’t take a sociopath to choose the wrong path. The reason people choose the wrong path is the right path is too damn hard to choose. The right path requires you to change your behavior. It is hard to change behavior. So, people choose the wrong path because it is a familiar path.
The imagination of eating a delicious apple is too familiar for the monkey to consider escaping from getting captured.
That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray,
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Mat 6:13).
Human beings are too weak to handle temptation. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you know what I mean. You know you can live a healthier life if you abandon sugar and carbs, how many people could do that? You know you can have a better relationship if you abandon certain addictions, but how many people could do that?
That’s why you need the second blessing—the wisdom of abandonment. If you want to live a kingdom life, you might have to abandon some destructive behaviors, destructive friends, destructive thinking, or destructive beliefs. In fact, Jesus talks about dying to the old life so as to have the new life. He said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24).
The new life is a fruitful life. We are born to be fruitful and life is never satisfied until God is glorified by our fruitful living. To be fruitful, we must die as a seed. It is a painful process. So, Jesus stated the second blessing like this,
“Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.” (Mat 5:4).
He is talking about morning your own death. You are like a seed being buried into the ground and going through an ugly and messy germination. Germination is a process of abandoning the selfish life of a seed to become a lifegiving fruitful tree. It involves a lot of pain—the pains of losing old friends, old behaviors, and old beliefs.
Moses was another great leader in history. He spent forty years in the desert leading the Israelites out of the slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. At the end, God took him to the Mount Nebo (meaning “to prophesy”), to the top of Pisgah (meaning “to contemplate”) and showed him Jericho (meaning “a fragrant odor”) and the Promised Land, and told him that he could not enter it. Then he died.
You might think, Moses was 120 years old and it was time for him to die, but if you read the story carefully in Deuteronomy 33 and 34, it says,
“Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.” (Deu 34:7).
Notice it says it was completely healthy. Moses did not die of the old age, sickness, or being worn out. He was perfectly fine. It means he just could not enter the new place in the same state. In fact, it was not just Moses, but the entire generation that came out of Egypt had to died in the desert and never got to cross over to the Promised Land.
Is sounds sad, doesn’t it? No, because it is to teach us an important lesson that we all must learn from an allegorical sense.
God is saying that the kingdom of heaven is for the new being, the old being cannot enter it. Moses foresaw it (which is what Mount Nebo means), he contemplated on it (that is what Pisgah is about), and he could even smell it (that what Jericho means). Then he was told that he must leave his old body to enter it.
This story basically teaches us that you cannot take your old state of mind to the new reality you desire. Consciousness means nothing without Abandonment of the old self. To live a spiritual life, you must abandon the unspiritual self—that is your old ego. If you life a double life, you become what Paul called “carnal people.”
What is the new reality you try to lead yourself or your people to? What is the new reality you are conscious of and want to live in it? You cannot get there unless you abandon the old state of being. You are where you are now because of your old state. If you want to be where you want to be, you have to abandon who you currently are, even if your current state is perfect, like that of Moses.
In Moses’ case, he and his generation carried the slavish mindset from Egypt. The Promised Land is for the masters. So, they must die to the slavish state to enter the Promised Land.
What is your Promised Land? What kind of a person you must become to deserve it? Peter reminded us that we are a new people,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Pet 2:9-11).
Did you hear that? You are a new people, so you must abandon the old behaviors. Verse 11 says, “You must abstain from the passion of the flesh,” which sounds like you must let go of the apple in your hand that is waging war against your freedom.
How do you obtain the blessing of Abandonment? There is only one thing you must do.
Learn the Art of Dying
Paul said that he died every day. He said,
“I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Cor 15:31).
Most people doubt or uncertain about the resurrection after death, but the way to know that you will be raised from the dead is by experiencing it right now. You can live the resurrected life now every day by dying to the flesh and rising to the Christ.
Everything you will experience in eternity, can be experience now through faith, even while you are still in the flesh. You don’t have to wait until you die to enjoy it. You can enjoy the eternal life now because eternity is from the infinite past to the infinite future. It includes the present moment. Paul teaches us how to do it. He said,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20).
So, even in the flesh, he lived in the Son of God by faith. It is like putting on clothes. He said,
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Rom 13:14).
Taking off your old clothes is like dying to your old self and putting on Jesus Christ as your new clothes is like rising to the new life of Christ who is victorious over the flesh. Since it is not you that is living, you don’t have the temptation coming to you. He leads you not into temptation and delivers you from evil.
Let us learn to die every day and die quickly.
William Blake, one of the greatest British thinkers of the 19th century said, “People take such a long time in dying.” He meant how can we enjoy the new reality if we hang on to the old state of mind. We must learn the art of dying quickly and frequently so that we will always be reborn and renewed. Jesus said,
“Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).
The word “comforted” is translated from the Greek word that primarily mean “encouraged.” When you mourn the dead of your own ego being crucified daily on the cross, you are given the courage to live in the new reality. As you do it every day, your courage grows every way.
Let us all do it together!
Next week, we will talk about the third blessing: Rebirth.
May God bless you with the courage to abandon the old reality and raise to the new reality. Amen!