Atrophy

A friend used this word “atrophy” in an email to me this week. It immediately got my attention as it’s such an unusual word. It reminded me of this post from early 2020 so I wanted to share it again today.

Atrophy means the partial or complete wasting away of part of a physical body.   

A sense of shrinking and weakness in body mass and muscle tone.   An entire limb can become atrophied and withered and incapable of movement.    

There are several things which can cause Atrophy in a body but these ones caught my attention:

  1. Disuse/Lack of Exercise -When muscles are not used or you are immobile for long periods of time then Atrophy can set in.    We are called into active service in Christ Jesus and to pick up our cross and follow Him.   We are called to give and serve others, to exercise the giftings which God gives us through the Holy Spirit.   To serve others and be a blessing to them.   To show God’s love in action.   There are plenty of opportunities to serve within the body of Christ and the communities we live in.   If we are not using and exercising the talents & gifts which God has given us then they will wither.   We are called to be a voice crying in the wilderness “Prepare the way of the Lord”.   We are called to be light in the darkness.  God is rallying his church and the trumpet is sounding – wake up and start to work for the Lord because the day is short.   The good news is that this sort of Atrophy can be cured by exercise unless it is too severe.   It is never too late to start working for the Lord – He will always make a way.  Trust in the Lord and do good.
  2. Poor Nourishment – if we do not feed our physical bodies properly then they will suffer.  Muscles will lose mass and our bodies will start to shut down if no nourishment is given.   Similarly, the body of Christ will suffer if it is not feeding on the Word of God and in fellowship with Christ – the bread of life.    The challenge is -What are we feeding on?  If we feed on worldly rubbish or false teachings and doctrines then we will suffer.    We need a diet of God’s word and His truths.
  3. Mutations -these are things that should not be part of the body and they cause damage – they attack it from within.  In a spiritual sense I believe that Atrophy in the body of Christ is caused by sinful, immoral & selfish behaviour – there is no fruit of the Spirit.   It is like a disease which spreads from within.  The bible teaches us how a root of bitterness is such a thing – it causes much damage to others.   Jealousy, gossip, unforgiveness and such things should not be within the body of Christ.   Wolves in sheep’s clothing do not belong in the body of Christ and will certainly cause damage.  The bible warns us against them and their works.  Jesus says we will know them by their fruits.
  4. Poor Circulation – If we do not have the living Christ, the life & power of the Holy Spirit and God’s love flowing through us then we will have poor circulation.  If we are not in unity with one another then there will be a blockage in God’s love and blessings being manifested throughout the body of Christ.   Those parts of the body which are not flowing in the Spirit of God will not prosper – their growth will be stunted.   We need to connect into God’s amazing power and for the life giving blood of Jesus to pump through us.

I pray that we, the body of Christ, will not suffer Atrophy but will be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  

That we will put off lethargy and sin which can so easily ensnare us and will rise in service of the King of Kings & Lord of Lords. 

That we will put our hands to the plough and not look back and we will run the race of faith with patience and endurance.   

Let us not be weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart – Galatians 6:9.  

Let us rise up like the Eagle and run and not faint.

Let us leap for Joy in service of our King.

Blessings in Jesus. Amen 🙏

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Truth will always out

Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. 

There is a very dramatic scene in Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” when Lady Macbeth is observed at night sleep walking and “washing” her hands over and over in an attempt to clean them from the “blood” which only she can see on her hands.      She keeps repeating over and over “out damned spot out” but no matter how often she cleans her hands it has no effect.    The “blood” is still there and she knows it. 

Those watching her think she has gone mad because they cannot see any blood on her hands.     As far as they know she hasn’t murdered anyone or spilled blood– her hands are to all intents and purposes clean.     

Her unconscious actions whilst asleep however betray the truth.  

Lady Macbeth was to all intents and purposes a murderer. She had persuaded her husband to murder the King and now she was suffering from guilt and revealing through her actions what had previously been hidden in her heart.      Her heart was certainly not pure as it was full of murderous thoughts, jealousy and scheming ambition.   Consequently, her apparently clean hands were not really clean at all. 

She was the ultimate hypocrite whose heart betrayed her.  

The story of Lady Macbeth is rather an extreme example but I hope it might makes us stop and think and consider our own hearts and what motivates us.   We can all put on a good show (myself included) but impurity in our thoughts and character will eventually come out no matter how much we might try to hide or pretend it’s not there.  

Jesus taught his disciples that it wasn’t enough to just observe the religious rituals of the day because it was the evil thoughts which came out of their hearts which actually defiled them and shaped their actions. 

Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy and wasn’t shy to challenge the religious people of the day.  

I believe Jesus issues the same challenges to us, His followers today.   

Jesus didn’t mince His words.   He called the Pharisees “whitewashed” tombs and accused them of being too concerned with appearing holy to others but actually inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.     

The religious leaders of the day were so meticulous in enforcing, and on the face of it obeying all the laws and traditions, but in practice they were not living out a pure life but were full of “extortion and self-indulgence”.   The outside of the cup may have been clean but not the inside.

Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. 

These words of Jesus show us that it must be possible to become pure in heart otherwise Jesus would be lying.  I believe that Jesus is truth so this statement would on that principle be true.    

The bible teaches us that we cannot be pure through our own efforts – it is impossible.  

The Old Testament points us to the need for a Saviour.    I believe that Jesus is that Saviour who makes this possible. Jesus is the only one who can make us clean from sin by His sacrifice on the Cross and His blood shed for us to cleanse us from sin. 

The apostle Paul teaches us that “Jesus loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the Word in order to present her as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish” i.e. pure.    

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ensures that we can daily come and take hold of His blood to cleanse and purify us.   However, we must not treat his sacrifice with contempt and pay lip service when we are convicted of sin.      True repentance means turning away from sin. Changing our behavior. Replacing the old wrong behaviors and thoughts with the right and Godly ones.

I believe in the biblical promise that one day when we die in faith we will then be with and see God.    To be absent from the body as Paul put it and present with the Lord.    However, I think that Jesus’ promise that we will see God can be evidenced in our behavior in our everyday lives.  

When we are hypocritical and our actions do not mirror what we say we believe or what God requires of us in his Word then we do not “see” God at work in our lives or in the lives of others around us.  

However, when we submit ourselves to God and allow Him to work in us and to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit, then I believe we “see” God at work in the changes we experience in our character and motives.     We become more Christ like in our attitudes and so we see God’s character reflected in us and our actions to others.   

I know for myself and I am sure that others can testify to the changes that have taken place in them since becoming Christians.   Some of the immediate changes in my behavior were more obvious and noticeable (my lifestyle changed dramatically when I came back to the Lord) and I think it can be the same for a lot of people.   The lifestyle changes are usually the first to be seen. 

However, some changes in character and behavior are a deeper work of the Holy Spirit especially if we are “blind” or don’t want to acknowledge those character flaws within us.    This is when the Word of God and applying the Word is so important as we can use the Word to hold ourselves to account.   1 Peter 2 says “Lay aside all hypocrisy –desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” and   Romans 12:  “Let love be without hypocrisy”.  

True Christian love in our hearts will show itself through our actions.   These are certainly the days for action.

We are because of Covid 19 in a new day of opportunity in how we live out our Christian faith daily- the old pattern & structure of church attendance is not the same any more. We are not pew fillers and were never just meant to be “Sunday believers”. I believe we are now less “building focused” and more “body of Christ” focused.

I am not perfect by any means and some days the thoughts and motives of my heart are anything but pure.  I would be lying if I said otherwise, but I love the fact that God’s grace is at work in my life.  I take confidence from the fact that “He who has begun a good work in me will complete it” Phil 1:6.

It is difficult to acknowledge that our hearts might not be right before God and to humble ourselves. 

There is an encouraging prayer in the Psalms – Psalm 51 –A prayer of repentance which can help us. 

David acknowledged that he needed to be cleansed from his sins and that God “desires truth in the inward parts”.  David certainly knew what he was talking about – the sinful desires of his heart had also led him to contrive a murder (rather like our fictional Lady Macbeth) which he then tried to cover up but God revealed the truth through his prophet, Nathan.   David was truly repentant and experienced God’s redeeming love.     

Can I encourage us all that our prayer to God this week is “Create in me a clean heart O’ God”.