While it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and while it may seem that we have been wandering off the beaten path during some of our recent visits together, I feel certain that if we take a moment to do a brief recap of our journey together so far, we will find that we have been traveling along a remarkably straight road. In fact, we should be able to see an orderly, even progressive, pattern starting to develop—almost as if someone had planned it that way! I wish I could take credit for it but, in spite of the fact that I am a linear thinker (my self-imposed protection against confusion and getting lost), all organizational cudos must go to God. My part in all of this is just to show up and ask, “What now, Lord?” and then wait for His answer.
Now, in order to see where we need to go from here, let’s take a minute to review how far we have come. Thus far…
|We have learned that the meaning of life is simple–it is all
|→||Since life is all about Jesus, God’s plan for our lives is to
bring us to Jesus, then to make us like Jesus.
|Although life is simple, that doesn’t mean that it is going
to be easy.
|→||That’s because coming to and becoming like Jesus puts us at
odds with everyone and everything else around us.
|When we first come to Jesus, we must overcome the opposition
presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
|→||And, even after we come to Him, we must spend the rest of
our lives learning to overcome these same three enemies of
our spiritual well-being.
|Since overcoming these things is a spiritual battle, if we are
going to be victorious, we must allow God to defeat them by
the power of His Spirit working through us.
|→||For that to happen, we must learn to live life in a state of
worship,which really means living a life that is daily
surrendered to God.
This all sounds simple, logical, and straightforward enough, doesn’t it? And, isn’t it reasonable to believe that those of us who have come to Christ for salvation would all desire, at least on an intellectual level, to live out our Christian lives this simply and this victoriously? Then why is it that when we try to put this kind of lifestyle into practice, we are so often met with frustration and failure?
At first, we may be tempted to attribute our lack of success to our own weakness, immaturity, or lack of commitment; but then, when we consider the fact that someone of the spiritual caliber of the Apostle Paul also struggled with the very same issues, we need to acknowledge that there is more to this than we may have realized. Just listen to the frustration that Paul experienced, as he writes in his letter to the church at Rome:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:15, 18-25 ESV)
Oh woe, woe, woe–there here we have it! Although Paul, in his mind, wanted to serve the law of God—that is, to do the will of God—in his flesh, he continued to serve the law of sin, just like we do. What a dilemma—for both him and for us! So, how did this happen and what, if anything, can be done to alleviate this miserable situation? Well, for us to answer that, we will need to take a little detour and go back to the beginning, back to when God first created man, so we can see how we were originally designed, and learn how that design was altered as a result of sin—an alteration which we, like Paul, have been struggling to overcome ever since.
Back in Genesis 1-2, we find a beautiful but abbreviated description of God’s creation of a world that was designed to be the perfect dwelling place for man. Once He had that home prepared, God set about the business of creating man, the pinnacle of His creation, and the only being ever to have been made in His very own image and likeness. He began this process by first taking some of the dust of the earth–that is, some of the natural elements of this world—and fashioning it into a human form so ideal that later, in Psalm 8, man would be described as having been “made…a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned…with glory and honor.” Finally, God completed the process by breathing into this being His very own breath, an act which gave man his life and made him a spirit being capable of sharing in the very moral, spiritual, and eternal essence of God Himself.
Hmmm! If you have been paying attention all this time, you will know that this presents us with a serious question; for now we have spirit + flesh together, or, a supernatural, eternal being living in a natural, mortal body. But haven’t we already established the fact that, “…that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and that never the two shall meet? So then, how are these two supposed to coexist together?
Well, back again in Genesis 2:7 (KJV), where we are told that
“…the Lord God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath
of life,” we also learn that when the Spirit entered
his body, “…man became a living soul.” In
other words, a whole new entity was created; man
was not just a physical body with a detached spirit
floating around in it; he had become a physical being
with a newly formed personality that was designed
to function as the mediator or go-between of his body
and his spirit. In effect, this set up what I like to call
God’s “top-down” system of communication, something
which in graphical terms, might look like this:
First, God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit,
telling him what God wanted him to do;
man’s spirit would then pass this information on to the mind part of man’s soul which, in turn,
would communicate God’s instructions to the body for its execution.
In this way, God’s will would be carried out effectively and efficiently on the earth by His one and only legal representative, Man.
What a really great solution to the problem of communication between two such mutually exclusive entities, wouldn’t you say? And for a while, it was functioning according to plan–that is, until a seductive yet diabolical h-i-s-s-s-s was suddenly heard in the neighborhood!
Big Daddy Weave, wondering “What Would Life Be Like”