Where do I begin? Momentous themes have been rolling around in my mind this week—SIN, Glory!, Desire, Faith. The new nature. The ‘old man’. And the Holy Spirit’s role in all of these.
Let me start with sin, but don’t worry I won’t end here! I promise. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and what to do about it (likely due to the book I’m studying). The Bible clearly teaches that we have a practical role to play in sin’s demise in our lives. It’s power has been broken by Jesus’ once-for-all-time death on the Cross. And by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf we are freed from its damning penalty. We are made alive in our spirits, made to share the very life of Christ. But while we inhabit these earth-bound bodies we are subject to sin’s temptation. We no longer have to sin. We aren’t its slaves. We have a new Master. But we can still choose to sin. Here’s where ‘our part’ comes in.
Desires rage within us. Paul depicted it perfectly: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom.7:19) There’s clearly a draw to sin that didn’t move out when the New Man moved in. I’m reminded of the renovations that have been in the backdrop of my week. We’re mostly done now. Clearing, cleaning, painting, replacing, upgrading, and organizing anew is a little like the process of Sanctification. There’s a new owner. The rooms of my heart are being re-purposed to suit His desires. Everything’s being made fresh and new to serve His purposes. But there’s still a bunch of clutter that has to go, some scrubbing and sanding, some rearranging. It’s the ‘putting off of the old man with its practices, and the putting on of the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ Col.3:9,10
Seasons of renovation can be uncomfortable. They’re messy. We want the process to end. But the ‘sin which clings so closely’ (Heb. 12:1) is not always easily discerned or dislodged. After all, we’ve lived with it for a long time. It feels like a part of us. And all the decisions—this is the hardest part for me. Envisioning what would be best is where I get stuck. It’s hard for me to know what I want until I’ve seen it in place. My desires are conflicted. I’m not a designer. And I guess I don’t have a very good imagination. I get frustrated and tired of the project dragging on demanding more of me than I can give.
But here’s where the analogy inspires me! The best part about the renovations going on in my Heart is that I’m not in charge! I get to participate: ‘Haul that carpet out’. ‘Paint that wall with this’. ‘Throw out that box.’ ‘Stand back and have a look at this picture.’ But the One Masterminding the operation has an eye for design and He’s fitting me (us, His people) for a glory beyond our greatest imaginings. For we are His Inheritance. He’s bound and determined to perfect this make-over. This is wonderful to be the object of such care. Why then is the process so uncomfortable?
Sometimes I doubt that He knows best. After all, I do have desires; there are things I’d like to keep, colors I’d like to try on the walls, ways of doing things I have in mind. On the one hand I’m glad not to be in charge of this project. On the other, I want some control! This is the struggle of sin vs. faith, of flesh vs. Spirit. It will be with us till we die. But I have wearied this week of thinking about sin. As a friend said:
“Sin is overwhelming. Thinking about sin and the havoc it causes…makes me feel like falling on my face and giving up.”
I agree.(Paul apparently did too: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom.7:24) Sin is not something we were made to dwell on, but to acknowledge, to agree with God about and to turn from. We don’t overcome sin by focusing on it but by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb.12:2). His designs for us go infinitely beyond the most dazzling designs of sin.
I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ essay “The Weight of Glory” this week. In it he talks about our desires and the glory God has prepared us for. He suggests that our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We haven’t got a clue what we really want.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are creatures of earth invited to share the very glory of God which necessitates our being holy (Heb.12:14). But we get side-tracked with such paltry desires. Among Jesus’ last expressed desires are: “I want them to be with me so they can see my glory”. Jn.17:24 Meanwhile, we want Him to be with us to enhance our own glory in the here and now.
Paul quotes from the prophets: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him…” (I Cor.2:10)
And irrespective of the context, our imaginations roam to wedding feasts, mansions, streets of gold and all things material.
We are such earthlings were it not for the Spirit of God who lives in us to renew our hearts and minds to imagine the glory we are designed for. [ Have a look at the whole passage some time. Paul has updated the Old Testament quote to include the revelation of God’s heart that we have in the Gospel, namely that His Spirit has come to live in us and reveal to us the very mind of God! This is beyond anything we could imagine]
The Spirit makes all the difference. He it is who conducts the renovations we must undergo—and gives joy in the process! He empowers us to say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to God’s designs for us. All His virtues parade through the verses of Romans eight dragging me away from my fixation on Sin and What to Do About It, and making me see this Power that works in me to enable me to ‘put to death the misdeeds of the body’ (Rom.8:13), to lead me to cry ‘Daddy! to my heavenly Father, to reveal to me the inheritance that is mine as an heir of God! and to enable me to endure suffering by the power of hope in what is just beyond it. Romans eight is replete with the glorious reality of what the Spirit is up to in us. We are truly more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave His Spirit as the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire full possession of it!
And so I’ve gone from thinking about sin to thinking about the glory that will be revealed in us through the energies of God’s Spirit at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure. Whew.
I’ll close with these thoughts on what glory will be, from C.S.Lewis’
The Weight of Glory:
In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised…
It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be
inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God...to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
[Better yet, read the whole thing here!]
And as I wrap this up, the words of It is Well with my Soul echo in my mind:
“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
and the preceding verse as well,
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
And that seems a good note to end on!
Thanks for joining me here.
“…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Rom.8:6
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… Eph.1:17-20
(And if you’ve been just a little curious, here are some before and after pics from our entryway renovations…)
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”(Col.3:4)