Saturday, December 17, 2011

"His Delight... Our Delight" Addendum

A dear friend commented on yesterday's essay, making the cogent point that it is very easy to live as who we were before Christ, as opposed to who we now are in Christ. The following is a portion of my response.

"As mentioned today, who is Christ? This is question No. 1, and 99.9% of the issue. The little bit that remains, however, is also important. Who are we in Christ? Are we nothing more than sinners saved by grace, as many bumper stickers claim? Or are we saints, spiritually changed and enabled by grace, but still possessing fleshly members subject to the temptations of the world and the devil? How we consistently answer that question has great impact on how we walk out the truth. Knowing that we "live in the Spirit" (regardless of appearance that may indicate otherwise) goes far in enabling us to more consistently "walk in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:25).

I always liken this to the ugly duckling who had become a swan. He didn't act accordingly until He saw his reflection in the mirrored surface of the lake and realized the change that had taken place in him. This precisely reflects Paul's teaching in II Corinthians 3:18:

"Beholding as in a glass (Greek: "mirror") the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The more we see and affirm who Christ is, as well as who we are as spiritually united to Him, the more we will live as swans rather than ducklings. This is why I raised the issue of our true delight in this week's series. Christians must believe that deep within our hearts, our truest yearning is to love God, do His will, and be a blessing to others. This does not disregard the lust of our flesh, of course, but it does direct our focus to who we most deeply are. Thereby we find a greater enabling to overcome the lusts of the flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. And thereby we live far more as who we are, rather than as who we were."

I frequently illustrate this truth from my personal experience with tailgaters. Throughout my lifetime, these folks have been a temptation to irritation at the very least, to road rage (!) at the very worst ("Hmm, I wonder how much it would cost to have a .50 caliber gun mounted on the trunk of my car?"). The Word of God and the Spirit of God, of course, counter such notions with the commands to "walk, even as He walked," to "love your enemies," to "bless them that curse you," and numerous other admonitions that call me to respond to tailgaters very differently than my natural inclinations so strongly suggest (I John 2:6; Matthew 5:44).

The problem in such times is that I don't usually "feel" the love of Christ for tailgaters, nor do my thoughts immediately flow in the direction of blessing rather than cursing. Often it seems that nothing exists within me but the aforementioned irritation, anger, and itchy trigger finger. But is this true? Am I nothing more than flesh? Is the Spirit of Christ in me dormant? Is the Holy Spirit not working in me "both to will and to do of His good pleasure?" (Philippians 2:13). These are not merely rhetorical questions. These are rather the crux of the matter as it relates to how I will relate to the person behind me following too closely. Will I believe the Word of God in the face of all contradictory evidence, including the emotional, mental and physical sensibility that seems to be all that exists within me?

Many years ago, I realized and applied the Biblical truth that the delight of my spirit, as united to the Spirit of Christ, is to love that tailgater whose face looms so close in my rearview mirror (Romans 7:22). Feelings, thoughts, and trigger finger notwithstanding, the person I am most deeply am in Christ is perpetually subject to the infusion of His delight in our Heavenly Father's will. Solely as a gift of the most magnanimous grace, He freely grants to me the blessing of being a "partaker of the Divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). The character and inclination of Christ resides in my redeemed "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). His delight is my delight, including the desire to bestow grace rather than wrath upon the tailgater.

Accordingly, in times of temptation, an opportunity for faith presents itself. The contrary feelings and thoughts of my flesh give opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus, that is, to believe that He is so present and active within me that I really do desire to love, forgive and pray for the tailgater rather than being swallowed up by anger and resentment. I reckon myself to "be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11). In essence, I believe the Word of God rather than the tempting influence of the world, the devil and the flesh.

This has led to the conviction that God allows tailgaters to come my way for the purpose of granting to me an altar of prayer for them (indeed, who else needs prayer more than tailgaters??!!). I cannot tell you the times of joy I have experienced when walking this path of faith in the knowledge of how present and dynamic is the Lord Jesus in our trusting spirits. I still quite often feel the feelings and sense the contrary thoughts and even physical sensations. But more and more, the conviction grows that even in traffic, our Savior is indeed a great and glorious Savior.

This is not a method or gimmick. It is rather Truth, truth that applies to every challenge in our lives. It is also opportunity to know the Lord Jesus in very personal and vibrant terms as we choose to believe that His grace impacts us far more dynamically than we often consider. Not only has He forgiven us. Not only has He promised us Heaven. Not only has He made God a Father to us, and birthed us into "the whole family in Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15). As blessed as these gifts are, we must press on further, much further. Indeed, our Lord has changed the very essence of who we most deeply are. He has made His delight our delight. In the current consideration, He has made me a lover of tailgaters, not because of any attainment or dedication on my part, but because salvation in Christ brought "newness of life" to my heart (Romans 6:4). My calling, our calling, is to believe in "so great salvation," and then to be amazed as we witness our Lord working in us and walking in us to produce the same quality of life He lived. Or as the Apostle Paul humbly, but confidently declared...

"By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

(I Corinthians 15:10)

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