Thursday, May 19, 2016

Standing on Our Own Feet in Christ, Part 1

There is great mystery to how God works in our lives to accomplish his good will for us. This work of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is so great a mystery that even the holy angels of God “long to look” into it (see 1 Peter 1:12)! I suggest that what makes it such a mystery is this: That we finite creatures who are willing to have faith are given the ability not only to believe but to live a truly holy life now. How is this possible?

Surely we know, unless we are still self-deceived into thinking that we can somehow reform ourselves to live rightly before God, that human nature is corrupt. Only the blood of the Lord Jesus is powerful enough to transform human nature into a thing of beauty before God. Any other means or hope of spiritual life and renewal will fail to do anything more than achieve some positive behavior modifications. The genuine life changes that many people have experienced in 12-Step groups is a testimony to this—even those whose “higher power” is left more or less vague and undefined! (I once heard a guy say that his “higher power” was coffee!)

The Scriptures exhort us to have faith and to be obedient to God. The Lord’s demands are never relaxed or minimized. We are the ones who minimize them and revise them downward to suit ourselves. But these demands are not merely those of right behavior or right thinking or just actions toward others. (All of these are articulated in God’s Torah.) The main command is to exercise faith. “You are to make it your diligent endeavor to perform the great work of believing on Christ.” (Walter Marshall, Sanctification or The Highway of Holiness, p.48)

Marshall continues to make an essential point which must be true inside our hearts in order for faith and holiness to be possible.
“Though we cannot possibly perform this great work [believing on Christ] in a right manner, until the Spirit of God work faith in our hearts by His mighty power, yet it is necessary that we should endeavor it, and that too before we can find the Spirit of God working faith effectually in us, or giving strength to believe. The way whereby the Spirit works faith in the elect is, by stirring them up to endeavor to believe. Neither can we possibly find that the Spirit of God doth effectually work faith or give strength to believe, until we act it; for all inward graces, as well as all other inward habits, are discerned by their acts, as seed in the ground by its springing. We cannot see any such thing as love to God or man in our heats before we act it.” (Marshall, p.49)
The will of the human person must turn (and be turned) to God and to doing what is good and right before him. In my own experience I have observed that the most basic blockage to faith in the Lord Jesus, whether before I first surrendered to him or after when I was confronted with my “favorite sins” I held fast to, was the willingness to trust the Lord—that is, to exercise faith in him and obey him. The most wretched state of my soul has been manifested when I pretended—even to God!—that I did believe in him when I actually profoundly distrusted his intentions and goodness. 

We cannot stand our own two feet as God intended for us because our nature is corrupted. We sabotage our relationships, hopes, dreams and potential in life when we refuse to trust the Father. And then we turn upon each other in jealously, envy, hatred and even murder one another with words and in our actions. This is the repeated tragic pattern of human life and behavior throughout all generations. The only hope for us is God delivering—this is the testimony of the whole of Scripture.

God will not deliver any of us, however, if we refuse to own the reality of our internal condition and the hopelessness which that fact leaves us in. On the other hand, not one of us will be able to find the way out our wretched internal condition unless each of us exercises faith in God through the Lord Jesus. To put this another way, we cannot do God’s part in delivering us through the blood of Christ and God will not do our part in this process of being delivered.  

The Lord will judge us all impartially according to what each of us has actually done during our lives on earth. And we will all then own what we are responsible for and acknowledge before our Creator that he spoke the truth to us and lovingly provided what we needed to know the truth and receive his love. To those who refused to believe the truth there will only remain in them the corruption of their nature and utter despair. To those who believe on the Lord Jesus there will be peace, joy and love that is beyond understanding and the power to stand on their own feet in Christ for eternity.

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