February 17, 2007

Winning our battle

I’m still thinking about the past, present and future aspects of salvation, and am blessed by this reading for today: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

God saved me from the penalty of sin through faith in Christ (and that faith is also His gift), and makes me stand firm in Christ. Every day He is at work to deliver me from the power of sin so that it no longer governs what I do. He is Lord, not sin.

He also put the Holy Spirit in my heart as a deposit, or down-payment that guarantees I will be delivered eventually from the presence of sin.

But what about those people who make a profession of faith and then sit there? They don’t seem to grow in Christ-likeness or have any longing for that second and third deliverance, but are more interested in the pleasures of this life and this world. Everyone knows people like that. I have some in my family.

This questions plagues me. I look for God’s response. Why are these people seemingly unchanged? If their faith is genuine and they have been delivered from sin’s penalty, why is God not at work in them?

I get several answers from the Lord. Sometimes He repeats His words to Peter when he questioned Him about the destiny of another disciple; “That’s not your business; you follow Me.”

God also points to the verses that say, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.” The Lord is the potter and can do whatever He wants with His clay. I’m not in charge here.

A third thing that He says to me is that I need to be patient and trust Him; He isn’t finished yet. While He says, “If anyone cleanses himself . . . he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work,” Paul also wrote that he was “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Clearly there is a human responsibility in this battle against the power of sin. However, I know that when I am unwilling to fight, God can work in my life to make me willing. Paul also wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

This partnership in battle is a concept difficult to learn. Some people try to conquer their sin and bad habits without realizing they cannot do it by themselves. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. When ‘nothing’ works out, instead of humbly going to their Commander in Chief for help, they conclude that being a Christian is not working, go AWOL and drop from the war.

Personally, I’ve a great burden for side-lined soldiers. I feel pain when they are judged as fakes or worse, and simply written off. Those of us on the battlefield against sin suffer when one or more of our army is hurting, lame, and out of action. Yet far too often we are so engaged in our own battle, or in other things, that we forget our responsibility to bind up the wounded and restore those who have gone astray.

That verse that says “it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ” pulls me into partnership with Him in that too. He tells me that part of my battle is not merely for me. Everyone in His army is like I am; helpless. None of us can be saved from the power of sin by ourselves. We need the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but we also need one another.

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