Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Consider the Possibilities

Through the first 4 chapters of Romans, Paul asks us to contemplate the real nature and extent of sin, both in humanity as a whole, and in each individual.

Then, in chapter 5, he asks us to contemplate, over against this stark soulscape of sin, the nature and extent of God's grace to those who believe.

This is a teaching I drank deeply of in my Lutheran days, but the question that always concerned me was, what then? Or, in Schaeffer's famous words,"How should we then live?"

In chapter 6 of Romans, Paul's answer begins with a rather grand assertion. In sum: we died with Christ, and now, through union with him in his resurrection we can live his kind of life.

I always hesitate to use pretentious theological terms, but what we are talking about now is union with Christ and sanctification. The church's teaching on this has been all over the block in the past century or two. Nevertheless, here is where the Christian's existential thirst becomes most apparent. We desire righteousness, and we see it lovely in Christ, but in ourselves marred almost beyond recognition.

This issue, this problem, this thirst, is where the conscience of the sinning Christian--that means all of us--tosses and turns. Shall we avoid the frustration by lowering our expectations? Such is not Paul's way. He says, "Consider yourself dead to sin." If this is true, then it must be a matter for me of believing something that I do not see. A matter, that is, of faith.

On this question of holiness Paul's aim is always very high. He seems to assume holiness to be always possible!!! [If that statement does not deserve multiple exclamation points, nothing does.] This is why Paul can say,
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.
Now I want to turn your attention to an old book called Thoughts on Christian Sanctity, by H. C. G. Moule. I'll just say this: read his first chapter, called Aims, Limits, Possibilities (on Google books). It is a wonderful exposition of some stunning Bible truths.

On the matter of the Christian Aims, he writes:
The Christian's aim is bound, absolutely bound, to be nothing less than this--"Let the words of my lips, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
And on the subject of Limits, Moule has this to say:
Here I hold, with absolute conviction, alike from the experience of the Church and from the infallible Word, that in the mystery of things there will be very real limits to [the attainment of Christian holiness], and very humbling limits, very real fallings short. To the last it will be a Sinner that walks with God. To the last will "abide in the regenerate" that strange tendency, that "mind of the flesh," which eternal grace can wonderfully deal with, but which is a tendency still.
Finally, under the heading, Possibilities, Moule writes:
It is possible, I dare say, for those who will indeed draw on the Lord's power for deliverance and victory, to live a life--how shall I describe it--a life in which His promises are taken as they stand and found to be true. It is possible to cast every care on Him daily and to be at peace amidst the pressure. It is possible to have affections and imaginations purified through faith, in a profound and practical sense. It is possible to see the will of God in everything, and to find it, as one has said, no longer a sigh, but a song. It is possible, in the world of inner act and motion, to put away, to get put away, all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and evil speaking, daily and hourly.... These things are possible. And, because they are His work, the genuine experience of them will lay us, must lay us, only lower at His feet, and leave us only more a thirst for more.


Anonymous said...

you hit the ball out of the park...
all runners come around the bases and touch home plate.

Anonymous said...

it may
not be april
it may
be may

you can still
do a birdie poem

any old day