Monday, July 26, 2010

Grace and Obedience Part 5

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

Concerning the delight for God's glory and will that resides in the innermost depths of every born again believer, a practical illustration may be helpful.

Suppose a person has grievously hurt us at some point in our lives. They have apologized and even sought to make amends, but the wounds of their wrong seem to remain. The temptation to bitterness often presents itself in our thoughts and emotions, and physical sensations may even accompany the challenge. As Paul testified in Romans 7, we "see another law in our members, warring against the law of my mind," and the desire in us seems far more directed toward resentment than grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31).

The Bible commands that we reject and overcome such bitterness, but again, we feel strong inclination toward resentment. In such times, where is the delight for obedience that results from God working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure?" (Philippians 2:13). The answer is that it is where it always is, that is, in the heart of our being referred to by Paul as "yourselves," "I myself," "the new man created in righteousness and true holiness," and the "inward man." It resides in the spiritual essence of our personhood, where the Spirit of God is united with us in "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27). Nothing changes this God-wrought and empowered delight for obedience that is no less the gift of grace than forgiveness and eternal life.

Our calling, therefore, is to believe the truth God's delight for our obedience - and our own delight. Regardless of inclination toward bitterness (which we honestly acknowledge as present in our flesh), we affirm that the desire of our Christ-inhabited selfhood is to love, forgive, and bless. Even more, it is our literal delight to do so. We choose to walk after the Spirit by believing the truth about the Lord Jesus, and about ourselves as united to Him. Perhaps we might pray, "Heavenly Father, thank You for the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ, and for the "new creature" I am in Him. I strongly feel temptation in my flesh to continue in resentment, but I choose to believe that this is not the desire of who I most deeply am. Thank You that You are working in me both to will and to do of Your good pleasure, and I thereby choose to believe that regardless of contrary thought, emotion, or physical sensation, my delight is to love and bless the person who wronged me."

By this faith in the Lord Jesus and in the work He has wrought in us, we "through the Spirit mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body," in this case, the inclination toward resentment (Romans 8:13). Our belief in Truth aligns us with the power of Truth and of the Holy Spirit, and we find ourselves acting in a manner that cannot possibly originate in human ability. We rather "labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29). God's delight for obedience is recognized as our delight for obedience, again, as wrought in us by the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus and presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

There is no gimmickry or mere method in this walk of faith. We rather personally relate to God by trusting His Word that the Lord Jesus is who He is, and we are who we are. As a good friend often says, we believe the truth of Whose we are, and who we are. The New Testament epistles consistently and often affirm both realities, and we will not consistently overcome the lust of the flesh if we do not acknowledge the delight of both God and ourselves for obedience. Indeed, if we believe that carnal desires are the essence of who we are, excuses for sin and powerlessness to overcome sin will inevitably result. The Christ-ignited and enflamed candle of our spirits will be hid under a bushel, and we will dishonor rather than glorify our blessed Lord (Proverbs 20:27).

A significant portion of Paul's writings contain autobiographical expression of his understanding and walk with God. In this testimony, we see focus on the person and work of Christ as Paul sought to give his Lord the "preeminence in all things" (Colossians 1:18). We also see Paul frequently affirming the truth that he himself lived through the presence, wisdom, and power of Christ. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). The Apostle believed God's truth about the Lord Jesus - and about himself as united to the Lord Jesus. We must do the same. God has given to us the Spirit of His Son. His indwelling presence has changed the innermost depths of who we are. Therein is "delight in the law of God" whether we feel it or not, whether we think it or not, and whether or not our actions reveal it. Our autobiography must coincide with Paul's. We must believe and affirm the Truth. To the degree we do so, we will experience the fact of delight that resides in our redeemed spirits, and which will come forth more consistently in thought, attitude, word, and deed.

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
(Romans 8:2-4)

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