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Wednesday, December 09, 2015


There is a large segment of our world, whether Christian or not, that believes the positive-thinking mantra. You know, that "you can do it" attitude intended to get us all through whatever we're going through. We appreciate that "pick yourself up by your bootstraps and accomplish anything" attitude. Even Christians are pretty sure that's what we're supposed to do as Christians. But the "fringe elements" of Christendom, those less immersed in a biblical worldview and more comfortable in the only remaining alternative -- the humanistic worldview -- are fairly confident it's true. You can do it. "Don't mess with people's confidence. Build them up. Encourage them to strive for all they can be." A good Army ad, I'm sure, but is it a biblical perspective?

Paul says,
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:19-23)
Lay that up against the "you can do it" cry of the best of unregenerate humanity. Look at that phrase, "the creation was subjected to futility." Now, in case you weren't paying attention, all of us fall in the category of "the creation". Therefore, all of us are "subjected to futility". That's why "we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." You think you can do it? You're dreaming. That constant background noise of frustration, that ever-present search for peace and satisfaction and "just a little more", that seemingly eternal drag on perfection that keeps us always wanting more is simply the fact of life for created beings like us.

You see, we were created dependent. Not independent. We were never intended to be "standalone" creations. We were built for a lifelong -- nay, eternity-long -- dependence on our Creator in perfect joy and peace and love. When the first man sinned, he messed that up for the rest of us in our lifetime. Now we "groan inwardly" for the completion of that for which we were made.

So, if "working hard" and "having self-confidence" and "positive self-esteem" don't do the trick, what are we to do? Paul tells us something else interesting.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:1-3)
If we are honest with ourselves, I suspect that everyone of us would tend to think, "Um ... yes ... that's what we thought. We have to work at perfecting ourselves." Paul calls that foolishness. What is this thing, this amazing secret of the Christian life? What is the answer to our groaning, the solution to our frustration in this life? Paul says that it's the same thing that got you saved.

How did you get here? It was not by works of law. It was not by your fine efforts. It was not even by the faith you mustered up. Paul says it was by hearing along with the repentance and faith granted you by God (2 Tim 2:25; Phil 1:29). It was "by the Spirit". And in the same way, we will be perfected. Not by the flesh -- not by our efforts, our work, our self-esteem, our "bootstrapping". (Do you know what the phrase "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" means? It refers to the straps on one's boots. Now, try pulling on them really hard and see if you can pick yourself up that way. It refers to an impossibility.) It is accomplished by "God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) It is by God shaping us into the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29).

We were created to be dependent on our Creator. Our problem has been that we tend to serve the creature instead of the Creator (Rom 1:25) as a matter of course. The solution is not "try harder". Despite the unending confidence of the warm-hearted crowd that is quite sure you can do it, the Bible portrays us as broken, futile, dependent. And God's Word says that God is the answer to that problem. Yes, we work (Phil 2:12), but not on our own power or will. Your everyday Christian walk is a "God thing". You can work at it (and should ... "with fear and trembling"), but it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit in you. In that sense, then, rest. God says, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psa 46:10) Dependent on Him is the best place to be.


David said...

Who better to be dependent on than the One that can do for us super-hyper-abundantly more than we can even imagine?

Stan said...

Wow, can't believe you remembered that. True, so true.

David said...

You're a better teacher than you think.