September 8, 2013

Do it yourself?

Does the popular acronym DIY apply to the Christian life? Most evangelicals say no because we cannot do anything in our own strength, and this is true. But does that mean that I sit back and figure God will do everything or make me do everything without my involvement in it? I don’t think so. I am in a battle, and no soldier will survive hiding in the trenches.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3–6)

Oswald Chambers, in his masterful classic, My Utmost for His Highest, says it well. He points out that deliverance from sin is not deliverance from human nature. That is, some of what is true about my flesh will remain, otherwise I would be no longer a living person.

Instead, he says the sinful things in me will be removed in several ways, but always through the power that God gives. One of these powers is neglect, just ignoring the temptations until they lose their appeal. He cites prejudices as his example. I think of ugly thoughts, eating junk food, and time wasting (which is also a sin because my time belongs to God, not to my indulgences).

The second way is by violence, that is, the divine power that the Holy Spirit gives in which we go to battle and yet finally must stand still and see the salvation of God. This is when I fight and fight and finally say, “God, You are the Savior. I cannot do this” and then He amazingly delivers me with the victory which I desired. After that, my choices to obey are much different, easier. He has done great things after I found out that I could not do them.

Yet I think about the process. After becoming aware of some fleshy stronghold, I must want to get free from it. Sin is appealing, but there is no victory unless it eventually becomes appalling. For this, God says I must do the work, but first, He will work in me so that I want to do it. He gives the desire and the power to overcome.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but 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 work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)

The fear and trembling comes with an altered disposition. Only God can do that, and when He does, we enter into “the experience of sanctification” as Chambers says. That is when the fight begins. It is not about fighting sin, for only Jesus Christ can deal with sin, and He does so in our redemption. The fight, according to Chambers, is to turn my natural life into a spiritual life, to be rid of self-effort.

This is not easy. Chambers says it involves a series of moral choices that turns the innocence obtained by His justification into a holy character. However, these choices are not always major moral issues. Some of them involve taking a stand against the entrenchments of my natural or habitual life, things that hoist themselves up against the knowledge of God. Basically, they involve a DIY attitude, that thinking that says “I can do it” or even “I can do it through Christ” without really relying on Him.

This means that some of these battles are not so much about blatant sin but about who is in charge of me. Will I give God heed or make my own decisions? Will I plan my day or let Him do it? Will I take charge of a situation or will I fall on my knees for His input before doing anything?

Chambers ends his thoughts on a somber note. He says I can either go back and make myself of no account in the Kingdom of God, or I can determinedly demolish these things and all of my do-it-myself tendencies, and let Jesus bring another daughter to glory.

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