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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
In Denial
Their idols are silver and gold,
   the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
   eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
  noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
   feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
   so do all who trust in them.

               - Psalm 115:4-8 [ESV]

Today, briefly, I would like to address the problem of spiritual inertia. You know, where you find yourself unwilling to pray, or read the bible, or unwilling to surrender yourself to God in some area of your life or in many areas as the case may be. In short, the problem of carnality in the Christian life.

Carnality, in the sense that I am using the word, describes living according to the dictates of your earthly body's desires; id est: conforming your conduct in both your heart and all that flows from it, to the dictates of the flesh. I am pretty sure that most of you reading will already understand that your flesh is not subject to God's rule, nor can it be made subject to God's rule - not by you, who are entirely incapable of changing your own spots, nor by God, who though able, has in His wisdom deigned not to redeem our flesh during this lifetime. We must therefore accept the reality that we are presently housed in broken cisterns that cannot hold water - fallen flesh that cannot be redeemed in this life.

That is not to be confused, of course, with the redemption of our soul, which can (and must) be redeemed in this life.

What it means, however, is that our flesh cannot be made to desire God's rule. It does not, and never will, desire to live in subjugation to the Spirit. The believer who sins, therefore, is in the same moment obeying the desires of the flesh, and disobeying the desires of God's Spirit whom he received the moment He was placed into Christ through faith.

When I speak of spiritual inertia then, I am speaking of falling into a prolonged habit of obeying the desires of the flesh over the desires of the Spirit. When I use the term "falling" here, I mean embracing a sort of spiritual slackness that allows you to indulge the desires of the flesh. You know it is wrong, and sinful, but you are more willing to give into the sinful desires of the flesh than you are to deal with them spiritually.

It is as common as it is wrong-headed to imagine that we are the victim of sin in such a situation. I have heard genuine believers lament their own bondage to sin as though they truly had no control whatsoever over their response to temptation. They learn to excuse their sin on the basis that they "have no choice" - the temptation comes and they have no power but to give into it.

The truth is that they have the same power available to them that raised Christ from the dead - but that their flesh is unwilling to be ruled by God in the matter, and they refuse to surrender to God, having made peace with the desires of the flesh. The agony they feel, is not the agony of somone struggling against a sin, it is the agony of someone who is choosing to be at peace with a sin that the Holy Spirit is still at war with.

The problem here then, is not the sin, it is the surrender. The Christian is not merely refusing to give up the sin, he is refusing God's rule, or more potently stated - he is rejecting God Himself.

I think few of us put that together in any lucid sense, when we indulge some sin, but the truth of it rings in our soul - we know that to embrace sin is to reject God, and what a mess that makes within us who claim to be Christian. We see this inner turmoil as a mark of hypocrisy, and imagine ourselves to be broken and in need of repair, but in such a way that we cannot find our way to the repairshop.

That's pretty common stuff amongst immature believers, and I make a distinction between mature and immature not based on how long one has been a Christian or what sort of ministry they are in, or are not in - rather I base that simply on whether or not they are at peace in their surrender. The mature believer is a veteran soldier who has learned to surrender the field of his life to Christ, the novice is still out there, flip-flopping, failing, and falling on his face more often than not.

Hence the quote from the psalms.

You see the flow of that text? The ending says that those who make or worship idols become like them - that is, they have hands that do not move, eyes that do not see, ears that will not hear, etc. etc. They become spiritually inert, and that because they have idols in their life.

I think most of us understand that idols are not necessarily little gold plated figurines that we worship, but rather the things that we make the focus of our lives in the place of making God the focus of our lives.

Why is it that you do not rise early to read the scriptures and pray? Because you prefer to sleep. Why do you need that sleep? Because you were up late. Why were you up late? Because you were entertaining yourself in some way. To be sure, you set aside time each day to be entertained. It is your "right" you say. It is "okay" you say. Just as food is necessary but gluttony a sin, so also entertainment is a gift, but glutting yourself on it an idol.

Why are you spiritually inert? In other words, why is it that your love for God seems waning? Why is it that you would rather spend your time entertaining yourself in some way? Let me tell you, it is because you are devoting yourself to your idols - and really, in doing so, you are indulging the flesh because it is the flesh that makes these things into idols.

How do you crawl out of this rut? Well, you can't do it in your flesh - that is, it isn't just a matter of personal resolve - it is a matter of reckoning on the truth, and the truth is that you have been set free from this rebellion that characterizes your conduct. The truth is that every genuine child of God has been set free from this very bondage, so that the believer who suddenly recognizes himself as hopelessly mired in sin, has at hand ready and available resources by which he can appropriate the freedom he already possesses in Christ. This deliverence is appropriate by faith - what Paul describes as "reckoning" on the fact that we are not in fact in bondage, even as the enemy deceives us into believing. We must act in accord with what is true, rather than in accord with what is false, and recognize especially that the only person telling us that this won't work is the flesh - because it does not want to live according to God's rule.

One in this situation must stop trying to solve the problem by seeking some way by which the flesh suddenly starts to desire obedience. No, the solution is to see the flesh for what it is, a living manifestation of death itself.

I want to be clear here. I am not suggesting that death manifests itself in life, as that would be both irrational and a contradiction. I am saying that death manifests itself as an absence of life in the same way that a shadow manifests itself in the absense of light.

When Paul speaks of the flesh as "this body of death" (Romans 7:24) he is speaking of the flesh as an inescapable source of that which displaces spiritual life. There is no difference between the flesh of the believer and the flesh of the unbeliever - the flesh in either case is a well whose corrupt water, when drawn forth, corrupts and destroys. The distinction therefore between the believer and the unbeliever is that the unbeliever has an alternate well to draw from - the indwelling Spirit of God.

Thus the scriptures teach us that we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is clearly a matter of trusting something to be true - that is the victory comes to us by and through an act of faith, rather than as a consequence of some pragmatic sin-busting scheme.

Yet, having said that, I don't doubt that there will be some reading who ask: How does that work? What must I do? How do I reckon myself to be dead to sin and alive to God?

Here is how:

First: Come to terms with the root problem: you don't want to obey God.

Where is that coming from? It is coming from your flesh. Your flesh will never desire to be ruled by God - that is the nature of its corruption.

What does obeying the flesh produce in you? It produces death; that is, insofar as we obey the flesh, we (in doing so) displace whatever spiritual life might have been manifested in our living. Every time we obey the flesh we displace in our experience, the reality of our spiritual life. It isn't that our spiritual life is diminished, rather it is that we have surrendered the space where life is supposed to be, and given it up to death - we willfully limit the scope and power of that life within us.

We need to see what we are doing if we are to truly understand what we are trying to do when we "reckon" ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God.

Thus we must settle it in our thinking that our disobedience is not merely a single act of sin, but the giving over of control in our life to the flesh - a surrendering to corruption, a determined choice to limit the Spirit's work in our life so as to allow the continued reign of the flesh. We must see this for what it is, and reject it from the core of our being.

Typically this isn't a five second talk we have with our self, but a soul searching plummet into the depths of our depravity - a deep wrestling with truths we seldom dare to acknowledge - and as such it isn't something fleeting and light, but life changing and deep.

Second: Having settled ourselves to make war with sin, we must acknowledge that we are not in a private war over our own soul, for our soul was won by Christ on Calvary. No, we are in God's war, and our life is merely the battlefield upon which His war is being waged - a war wherein we are guaranteed the victory.

I can't stress that enough. Fighting sin in order to gain heaven is not only pointless, it demonstrates the conniving nature of deceit. Unless we enter into the fray assured that we do not fight for our own souls, but for God's kingdom, we are already doomed to fail.

The reason we battle sin is not for our own peace, though that is a real consequence, it is not again so that we can be assured of our salvation, though that is sure to flow from it; the reason we battle is not for our own benefit, though we stand to benefit the most - the reason we battle is because we are in God's army, and moved by the certainty that God's glory demands our surrender. Only He knows how best to magnify His name - we trust His plan over our own, and are satisfied in His will.

If we are not satisfied that God's way is not only best, but the only path that is fit for us, we need to spend more time in step one. The only voice that will rise up against God's will is the voice of corruption. If that voice is still ringing with some influence in our ears, we are not ready for the battle.

Third, we reckon on the truth that the flesh is a conquered foe in Christ. That is, we deny it's rule over us on the grounds that we have been set free by Christ from that which was producing death in us. We have, in Christ, the power to deny the flesh, and we take up that power by faith.

If we fail to take up that power, it is because we were attempting to do so in the flesh, and while the flesh will gladly lend itself to every effort that doesn't end in its demise, it will never be your ally in actually mortifying itself. God and God alone does this work, and to be sure, the work is already done in that those who are genuinely saved already possess the Holy Spirit by and through Whom we have the power to obey God.

All that is left therefore, is to deny the flesh, and obey the Spirit.

Of course there are going to be some hang ups at the start. I mean, what does it mean to obey the Spirit, do we hear a voice telling us what to do? No, unless if by voice you mean only to personify the commands of scripture, or the conviction of sin and righteousness. Likewise, what if we find ourselves convinced of all these things, but still unable in the moment of decision, to deny the flesh?

Well, if we are unwilling to deny the flesh, it is probably because we are still holding onto something we ought to let go of - that is, the main stumbling block to our obedience is a deadness within that rises out of some idol in our life. We are spiritually numbed by its grip on us. We need to let it go. That all happens in step one - and coming to the place where we see and let go of all that would own us besides Christ our Lord, is the meat and potatoes of Christian growth.

The man who begins with a fallow field, plows it and makes it ready, but even then he must maintain it, lest it grow fallow again. So also this is not a one time work, but we must always weed our garden, as it were.

What I want you to take away from this post is the certainty that your war against sin will not be fruitless, if indeed you make war against sin. If however you neglect to make war, the fallow faith that follows will dry you up spiritually. The imagery of idols, or fallow fields, or what have you - all picture your life being filled with things other than God - things that by their presence, displace what God could (and ought to) be in your life. If you do not make war against these things, you will suffer loss for it, both in the quality of this life, and again, in the missed rewards in the next.
posted by Daniel @ 10:53 AM  
  • At 10:58 AM, June 23, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    "Today, briefly..."

    Well, Okay, semi-briefly.

  • At 12:36 PM, June 23, 2010, Blogger David said…

    One man's briefs are another man's long johns.


  • At 1:30 PM, June 23, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I couldn't think of anything clever to add to that.

  • At 3:56 PM, June 23, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    Wow, this post totally resonates in my spirit. I think you have captured the essense of the daily christian walk very well...truly there is no neutral spot, we are either gaining ground or giving it up.

    There is no way to maintain a self denying, flesh crucifying life apart from the Spirit; for our own efforts fail very quickly.

  • At 10:19 AM, June 24, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, I am reminded of that old GI-Joe catch phrase: "Knowing is half the battle".

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