Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Which Way?

One of the things that has struck me in my reading through Genesis has been the common mistakes every human has made since Adam . God has always made it pretty clear to people what His expectations are-- yet, people commonly decide to do the other thing. These decisions sometimes seem easy-- to not eat of the fruit of the Tree,but to eat from some other permissible tree-- but sometimes they are hard, requiring sneakiness aforethought, like Jacob's deception of his father Isaac.

Steeped in sin myself, of course I am no different. All it takes is a second piece of cheesecake to turn godly enjoyment of God's good gifts into gluttony.

I've just started reading John Owens' The Mortification of Sin. The first chapter can be summarised as follows:

There's always reason to be about the work of mortification, or, the work of putting sin to death in ourselves.

1. Since there is always going to be sin in this world, God's people can expect to always be fighting it. This is work that will never be finished.

2. We can also expect that sin will always be getting the better of us, and that sin never "goes away" or "quiets down". In fact, when we seem freest of sin is usually just the time when it's crouching, ready to pounce on us. Therefore we need to be alert just at that time.

3. Unless sin is put to death in an ongoing way, it will lead to overt sin. And sin always hardens the heart as it advances, so that we become dulled to its existence and seriousness.

4. We need to put sin to death at all times because God has put some tools into our hands which we are never supposed to put away: we have a new nature, and we have the Spirit. I don't know about you, but I don't want to find myself saying to the Spirit, I'm good, take a break.

5. This work is so constant, there's never a status quo inside of us. Either we're about the work of putting sin to death, or, Owen says, we're decaying inside. This world is like a dark alley filled with thugs. If you're not fighting, it's because they are beating you silly. And if they are beating you silly, you're decaying, not being renewed.

6. So, we are in a situation. We're standing in this alley with thugs all around, and weapons in our hand....maybe we should negotiate with sin? No, dummy-- the command is to fight! You've been commanded to be holy, and you've been commanded to grow in grace (that is, the your ability to appropriate the strength of God and grow in His characteristics).

So getting back to those choices that the OT saints (and we) faced: What would it have looked like if Adam and Eve had simply said No? What if Jacob had waited until God had, in His own way, given Jacob the covenantal blessing? What if Abraham had said no to Sarah's suggestion to get Hagar with child "for her".

And what about my desires? What if I make it a point to stop figuring out ways to get what I want, and allow God to give me what He wants? What would my life look like if I stopped trying to impress my will on the world, and started trying harder to impress God's will on myself? What if I settle for less of what the world has in order to get more of what God wants to develop in me? What if I were to say no to sin and to seek the fruit of the Spirit instead: to be content with what I have because it comes from God and is nourishing me in an eternal way, rather than to lust after what the world can give me, and let the pleasures of that have their moment's enjoyment and then the guilt of stealing from God what was not mine?

Owens characterises the people who are in the habits of choosing sin:

Idleness (I'm bored!)
Envy (Hey...he got the bigger piece!)
Strife (I can't stand her! He drives me crazy! I'll clean his clock!)
Wrath (Just wait til I get ahold of her! Sweet revenge!)
Pride (That's not my job!)
Worldliness (He who has the most toys, wins)
Selfishness (I deserve this!)
Lack of conviction (What's the big deal?)
Setting a bad example (Do as I say, not as I do)

Lord, help me to fight....and help me to LIVE. Help me to remember that You command nothing that you have not also given me the tools with which to do the job, and though I will never finish this fight, in Christ, "IT IS FINISHED!"

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