April 10, 2016

Getting up the mountain

As I read about David’s battles and compare them to mine, and as I read Paul’s exhortations and compare them to my experiences, it is plain that I will spend the rest of my life in this war between flesh and spirit. That is, the old nature will continually try to rule over the new life of Christ in me.

In Romans 6, Paul wrote about being dead to sin and alive to God, and about presenting ourselves to God as a person made righteous . . .

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin . . . . Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:6;12–14)

Then in the very next chapter he describes his battle with sin and how he did what he didn’t want to do. He ended with this:

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. (Romans 7:24–25)

How then am I delivered from this body of death? Chambers says it is a moral decision, a moment in life when a person decides that just as Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world, so sin must die in us. We do not curb, suppress, or counteract, but crucify. He says no one can bring any one else to this decision; we must make it ourselves and make the moral decision that sin in ourselves must be put to death.

I’m shaking my head at Chambers’ use of verbs and pronouns. Some of what he writes for today sounds a bit too much toward me being my own Savior through my own choices, as if it is up to me whether or not I am saved from sin. Paul said ‘thanks be to God’ not ‘thanks be to me that I finally decided to quit.’

Becoming a Christian means Christ came into my life. He grabbed hold of me and is in the process of delivering me from the power of sin and the control of my fleshy desires. Surrender needs to happen, but all resistance can do is delay the process. My old nature can try to take back control, but He keeps His Word and His persistence is far more powerful than my resistance. He promised to save me and He will do it; He is doing it.

I recall taking my father on the gondola at the Banff ski hill. He was afraid of heights and clung white-knuckled to the railing for the entire trip. He could have trusted the gondola and enjoyed the ride, but no matter what he did, he made it safely to the top and back down again.

Who delivers me from sin? Is it Jesus or is it my decision to enjoy the ride rather than resist it?

Paul says, past tense, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) This statement is not “I will die to sin” because it had already happened.

Jesus teaches me to stop resisting His work of saving me. I’m to put off my old self. I’m to let go of whatever railing I cling to. My effort or lack of effort is not going to move me any safer, quicker, or more securely. It is my gondola, Jesus Christ, who is taking me up the mountain, not me. Thinking that way is equivalent to “considering myself dead to sin,” and to “putting on the new self,” and to enjoying the ride.

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