Friday, July 23, 2010

Grace and Obedience Part 4

"His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3).

If there is not only desire, but delight for the glory and will of God in our innermost person and being, why do we often not feel or think accordingly?

The Apostle Paul answers the question for us by addressing the temptation to walk by our human senses and understanding rather than by faith in the Word of God.

"I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:22-23).

Paul affirms the Christ-originated and empowered love for obedience that dwelled in his spiritual selfhood. "With the mind, I myself serve the law of God" (Romans 7:25). However, he also confesses how much the law of sin occupies his perceptions. "I see another law in my members." The verb tense of "I see" in the passage above could be rendered "I am seeing." Paul therefore acknowledges that despite his strong confidence in delight for the will of God in his "inward man," he is also keenly aware of the conflicting desires in his flesh. He cannot ignore the reality, nor does he expect that it will be eradicated in this present lifetime. This is confirmed by Paul's question as Romans 7 closes, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). The verb tense of this question implies a future deliverance, as in, "Who at some point in the future will finally deliver me from the law of sin in my members?"

No less than the Apostle Paul confessed to the conflict that raged in his thoughts, sensibilities, and physical sensations. He did not expect the challenge to end at any point in his earthly lifetime. Paul rather understood and devoted himself to overcoming the law of sin in his earthly members and faculties through the Spirit of Christ. A primary weapon for this battle was the recognition that despite what Paul experienced in his human perceptions - "I am seeing another law" - the truth of his innermost being was that he delighted in the law of God - "I myself serve the law of God." Paul accounted as true that which he could not always see, feel, and perceive by his normal means of apprehension. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).

The delight for godliness that inhabits us will often be known only by the affirmation of the Word of God, and our faith in it. We will not feel it emotionally or physically, and the thoughts coursing through our brains may contradict the truth of our delight for the glory and will of God. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." The "new man" that we most deeply are is "created in righteousness and true holiness." And we are commanded to affirm ourselves as "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 6:11).

Will we believe the truth about ourselves? The New Testament continually calls us to faith not only in who the Lord Jesus is, but who we are as birthed, inhabited, empowered, and spiritually constituted by His living presence within our spirits.

"Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

Our Biblical understanding is incomplete if we ignore or disbelieve the truth that just as our Lord delights in the will of His Father, so do we in the innermost depths of our personhood. Again, Paul declared, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." We must declare it with him, not as an affirmation of our own honor, credit, or effort, but as grateful acknowledgement of the work of grace accomplished in us by the Lord Jesus. Our Savior has reconstituted our innermost being through death and resurrection, making obedience to God our delight no less than it is His own. We must believe with Paul that such Truth is in fact true, acknowledging the conflicting desires of our flesh, but still confidently affirming that "I myself serve the law of God." Yes, obedience is our delight no less than the countless other graces of our blessed Lord Jesus. He has given this to us as a free gift, and by faith we must avail ourselves of "so great salvation."

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

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