Yesterday, we parted with the image of a baby and the idea that we all expect babies to grow into adults, drawing the spiritual growth analogy that when we are reborn into God's family, it is anticipated that we'll mature in the faith.
I've got one word to name that process: DEATH.
Doesn't make much sense or sound real comforting, does it? What could death possibly have to do with spiritual growth and maturity - the things of LIFE?
Another word for you: EVERYTHING!
To make any progress in trusting the Lord, loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves (the things that we're called to as Christians), little by little parts of us need to die. For you see, while Christ has rescued us and the price for our sin has been paid, we still live this side of heaven. Paul explains our dilemma of living in the "now but not yet" epoch quite well:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against he law of my mind and making me prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. Romans 7: 21-23
Our minds may know very well what we should do. Yet we often find ourselves in that battle - in modern imagery, the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other - don't we?
The Apostle Paul did.
I do. (Much more frequently than I'd like to admit.)
But believe it or not, this is how we grow. We find ourselves in these situations where we'd much rather choose the self-honoring option than the God-honoring one, and God the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us because we've placed our faith in Christ, enables us to put a knife through the heart of the selfish desire and turn in trust to put our foot on God's path.
A part of us is now dead or dying.
But another part, a greater part, is now full of life!
The C.S. Lewis quote that motivated this series reads:
When [God] talks of [Christians] losing theirselves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back their personality and boasts (I'm afraid, sincerely)that when they are wholly His, they will be more themselves than ever.
"Abandoning the clamour of self will" is Lewis' way of talking of dying to self. Jesus said it like this:
If anyone would follow me, he must deny himself and take u his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? Luke 9:23-25
A word of encouragement: THIS IS A PROCESS. (Theologians call this sanctification, the process of becoming holy.) All of the days of our pre-heaven life will be days we can die a little more and grow a little more. Jesus knows exactly where we are and where He wants to take us. We'll grow through our pursuit of Him and the experiences and trials that He allows life to throw our way. Applying ourselves to getting to know God through His Word & prayer and with His people teaches us the Way and aids our understanding of it. Living out the Christian life day by day allows us the privilege and challenge of practicing clinging to the Truth and dying to self.
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My hope over the coming weeks is to write about sins in us that need to be put to death and the fruit of the Spirit that can grow in those spaces, using stories from my own life as illustrations. Would you pray for my writing this month? I want to keep up and finish well. I want to honor God and spur you on in His direction. In such endeavors to be faithful, often the battle intensifies.
Paul concludes Romans 7, just after the verses quoted above:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
Soli Deo gloria