POST #6: (becoming) fully submitted, Part 5

I hope my previous challenge to you is going well!  And I pray that you’re learning more and more about God as you learn to love Him more and more.  My next challenge to you is related to the previous one.  While it’s awesome to get our daily time with God established, we have to be careful not to compartmentalize God.  Not to essentially say to Him: “okay, You had Your time.  Now I’m going to get on with my day.” 

This next challenge took me longer, and I’ve found it to be far more difficult.  Primarily because, to be honest, it brings more change and refocusing to my day.  My daily time with God helps get me focused, helps me connect with Him, and teaches me valuable truths, but staying in communication with God all day actually keeps me focused on Him (and others), connects me more deeply with His heart, and allows me to put those truths into action.  And, frankly, that’s not always what I feel like doing.  But, as we’ve discussed, loving God isn’t about a feeling.  It’s about an action, a choice, to put Him above yourself.

So, I started making a specific effort to involve God in every part of my day.  Every decision, every interaction, every word.  Daily I fail at this.  Daily I say something and immediately realize I shouldn’t have — and that, had I checked with God first, He would have helped me avoid those careless words. 

I also fail in another way, which I think is actually the more problematic.  See, I think God rewards, and is happy with, our sincere efforts.  As He has been training me to look to Him all day, I think He accepts that I will sometimes fall into the old habit of going about my day without Him.  We cut this kind of slack to people in our lives and even to the animals in our lives.

If I’m training a puppy to go to the bathroom outside, and he’s trying, but then has an accident, I may gently chastise him, but I also recognize that he’s still learning.  (Yes, I am the puppy having an accident on the floor in this metaphor.)

However, if the dog is grown and trained and knows he should go outside, but chooses not to because he doesn’t feel like it or it was more convenient not to or because he’s just being defiant, I have a much bigger problem with that.

I think it’s similar with God.  During our training stages, he knows we’re going to make mistakes.  However, once we’ve been trained to look to Him all day and we CHOOSE not to, then I think we have a real problem.

For instance, sometimes I get an email that I want to respond to right away.  Sometimes it’s an email asking for volunteers for something that sounds fun to me, and I want to make sure I’m one of the first to reply.  So many times God has to sort of clear His throat and remind me of His presence — and remind me that I should probably check with Him first.  This makes me anxious.  The opportunity in the email seems like a good one, I want to do it, but time is limited.  (You’d think I’d remember that God isn’t much bothered by our ideas of time as I talked about in last Monday’s post, but often I don’t — at least not at first.)

Over and over, God has shown me why I need to listen to Him.  Opportunities that sounded good ended up going really wrong for those involved.  Something that sounded fun ended up being more work that I would have been able to do.  Whatever the event was ended up conflicting with another, more pressing obligation that I couldn’t have known about at the time.  And sometimes, He just asks me to wait, to seek His will, then He gives me the okay.

But here’s the puppy and the carpet mistake I make: Sometimes, I let my anxiety get the better of me, and I respond quickly because I think that this opportunity working out for me is somehow in my control.  I think that if I seek God’s will on this, I will somehow be at a disadvantage.  That He won’t move on this fast enough.  Etc.  Pretty presumptuous stuff, really.  In these moments, I know I should wait, but I don’t.  I’m essentially looking at God and making a giant pile on the floor because it’s what I want to do.  I think God is far more angry about that sort of willful disobedience than our more honest mistakes at the beginning.  Sometimes in my haste to respond to an email, something goes wrong.  I later regret it.  It causes me trouble later.  Sometimes it goes just fine, except for the guilt of not trusting God.

This is just one of countless examples where I often let my own fear or anxiety or pride or confidence override my love for God.  What area(s) do you least trust God with?  What is the source of that distrust?  Why, honestly, do you think you can handle it better than God?

So the challenge today is to let God’s presence into every part of your life.  Make a concerted effort to go to Him in prayer before you speak, reply to an email, make a choice.  You will mess this up; we all do.  But try in the next few days to start concentrating on allowing God to infuse more of your life with His light and His love.  (And, as always, I’d love to hear about successes, roadblocks, and helpful strategies!)

Want to read more?

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Are you a worrier?  Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

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3 responses

  1. Wow…. This is a lot of law, law, law. Do this and God will…. Do it this way so God can……. What is implied is…. don’t do it this way and God will not or can not be expected to…. This can only lead one to feel separated and apart from God because we will, more often than not, fail to pray over some things even if they seem to us to be only the smallest details of ones life. What if that small thing was really a BIG thing to God and we did not realize it and pray over it? The logic then becomes… “if I did not pray over it, I may not have done God’s will.” At that point your soul is in crisis, you feel guilt and your faith is in question because if you were truly faithful you would have of course asked God about it. But you didn’t and tomorrow you wont and you enter into a vicious cycle of doubt and despair wondering if you are truly faithful.

    We can not keep God’s own law…. the 10 Commandments, much less more laws on how and when to pray about how to do things like answer e-mails or should I answer the phone or not when it rings.

    The fact is….. Ready…. it is God who is faithful! He comes to us in the hearing of His Word… the Bible, and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. His word forgives all of our sin in our baptism and He makes us His own!. He then feeds us with His Word and with His own body and blood in and under the bread and wine of communion. In both of these it is God who works in us, not us for Him.

    So how does this apply to the our daily deeds and decisions, our works? It is God Himself that makes what we do good and proper. Our good works come in the mundane activities of daily life that are richly blessed by God because we are his children. Changing a diaper, cooking a meal, going to work, smiling at your neighbor, cutting your lawn, picking up after your dog… all of these lowly things become good because of Christ. Goodness is imputed, not worked for our earned. Praise God because we could never do enough good to earn a thing from HIM!

    Our life is like a mud pie.

    Your child plays in the back yard and makes a mud pie decorated with rocks, sticks and sand. She (covered from head to toe in brown looking more like escaped swine from a local farm) brings it to you smiling, proud and full of joy. You tell her “Why…. This is the most delicious looking mud pie I have ever seen… simply wonderful!” You impute goodness to the mud pie, not because it is good, but because of your love for your child, knowing full well there is no good in the mud pie at all! Your love makes it good…. not her love or the contents of the pie.

    We are all mud pies. But God looks at us because we belong to Christ, His son. We are brought by Christ to the Father and the Father imputes righteousness upon us. Not because of anything we do, any good in us or even how we pray, but because we are robed in the righteousness of Christ given to us in our Baptism and nourished with Word, Body and Blood.

    Romans 7

    The Law and Sin

    7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
    13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
    14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
    21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

    Praise be to Christ!

  2. Praise be to Christ indeed. That said, I have to disagree strongly with the way this comment opened: “Wow…. This is a lot of law, law, law.” It’s a serious (albeit common, in contemporary American caricatures of Christianity) misunderstanding of Scripture to think that all effort is legalism.

    Faith takes effort. Love takes effort. (BIBLICAL faith and love, at least.) And God absolutely demands these from His children. The Christian life is not an effortless one. (Christ commands us to count the cost, to take up our crosses and deny ourselves, to lay down our lives, and so on.) The difference is the focus of these efforts.

    The natural man is thoroughly selfish; the focus of his efforts is to serve and please and glorify himself. The religious-but-unredeemed man (which Paul once was) seeks by his efforts to justify himself before God — but do you see how his focus is still himself? A focus on rules — what can I do? what can’t I do? what do I have to do? what don’t I have to do? — is still a selfish, worldly focus.

    The Christian way, the way of Love, is infinitely bigger and better than either of these. Consider Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” And now look at their context. In the passages directly preceding these verses, Paul condemns all sorts of shallow, legalistic religiosity; and in the passages directly following them, he condemns continued indulgence of our selfish natures. In fact, much of the New Testament is devoted to condemning both theses heresies: (a) that we have been called to religious self-justification and (b) that we have been called to nothing, that we may remain as we were when we were called. Neither religion-as-usual nor life-as-usual is pleasing to God; both represent a rejection of the Cross.

    The Christian life is not about justifying ourselves, but nor is it about pleasing ourselves. The Christian life is focused on loving and serving GOD first, and others ahead of ourselves. The truly redeemed child of God is no longer seeking self-justification; but she also isn’t still living the same old, poisonous, shallow, self-centered life she lived before. She has stepped up out of that life and into the Eternal Life of Love for God and restored relationships with Him and His people.

    Yes, Scripture teaches that the true disciple of Christ has been set free from the Law and its judgments. But it also teaches that the true follower of Christ has also been set free from sin: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:1-6).

    I’m not saying that we are yet perfect. As long as we live in this “this body of death” (Romans 7:24), the conflict between our selfish flesh and the Spirit of Love Who dwells in God’s children will continue to rage: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). But certainly we have been called to engage in this conflict with God-given and God-sustained effort: As Paul put it, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (Philippians 3:12-15a).

    And certainly the call and example of Christ and His followers is to get on the right side of this fight between our flesh and God’s Holy Spirit: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:12-16).

    In fact, it is essentially this — getting on the right side of this eternal conflict — that the Bible calls “repentance,” and repeatedly commands in response to the Gospel (Acts 2:37-39 & 26:19-20, for example). And these commands come with strong warnings: Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). The writer of Hebrews is even more descriptive: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

    You write as though all of our sins are inevitable and inescapable — and that’s true, apart from Christ: as He said, “‘apart from me you can do nothing’” (John 15:5). But He also said, “‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself’” and “‘By myself I can do nothing’” (John 5:19 & 30) — and HE never sinned. (And His example for us in this regard, as He states repeatedly in John’s Gospel, is that He did and said only what God showed and gave Him to say and do; see, for example, John 7:16-18; 8:28-29; 12:48-50; 14:10, 24, & 31a.) And He also said, “‘Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20), “‘with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26), “‘all things are possible with God’” (Mark 10:27), and “‘What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27) — and Paul made this famous application of this Truth: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Yes, we are weaker than our flesh (and the world, and the devil, etc.); but God is not. And both of these truths are basic and vital to understanding the life to which Christ has called us. (More on this in a moment.)

    You seem also to suggest, first, that (a) it is impossible for us to please God; and then that (b) EVERYTHING we do is pleasing to God, because of His love and grace. But the Scriptural teaching is better and more specific than this: “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, yes, (a) it is impossible for us to please God — “without faith” — BUT (b) what we do BY FAITH is pleasing to Him, because of His love and grace. So yeah, the mud pies we make by faith are pleasing to Him, because of His love and grace. But that certainly doesn’t mean that ALL the messes we make — when we do or should know better, and in defiance of Him and His perfect will — are pleasing to Him. Scripture says both of these things over and over and over again: (1) God loves us, and (2) God is displeased with much of what we do (because it’s so selfish and faithless, so self-centered and so heedless of Him).

    So pleasing God — which the truly redeemed child of God does (2 Corinthians 5:9, for one example), as Christ did (John 5:30 & 6:38, for example), out of LOVE for God and not in some effort to justify herself — requires walking by faith. As Paul said, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b).

    You speak about the faithfulness of God — and praise God for that. But (a) clearly He calls us to be faithful in return, in His love and power; and (b) you seem to sell His faithfulness short, where this life is concerned. Scripturally, His faithfulness is not limited to the afterlife, but enables us to love and serve Him now: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13b). And consider also 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5: “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

    (And see also Hebrews 10:23-24: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Is this not exactly what the post you’re responding to was trying to do?)

    Also, we must be very careful not to distort the truth of God’s faithfulness to mean that He will do things He has never promised to do. God will fulfill His every promise; but His promises are not all pleasant (consider again the warnings above), and even the pleasant ones are more specific than we like to think. You want to throw out the law’s authority, consider Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” This verse does NOT say that no one is under law — but that those who “are led by the Spirit… are not under law.” The teaching is very specific.

    The passage goes on (after another warning, in verses 19-21, to those who continue to live instead in service to their flesh) to talk famously about the “fruit of the Spirit,” saying finally, “Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Again, the exemption from the law is very limited and very specific. Those described in verses 19-21 are nowhere exempted from the judgments of God’s law, or from the death sentence they bring. And Paul continues: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). This is what it means to follow Christ today: It is no longer a matter of merely following laws (this is, of course, a shallow (mis)understanding of the Old Covenant as well, as the Old Testament prophets repeatedly taught); but it IS a matter of following Christ’s Spirit, present with all of His children.

    So what does this mean? What does it look like to “keep in step with the Spirit”? How do we follow Someone we can’t see? Don’t we have to learn His Voice, through His Word and through prayer? (Jesus said that His sheep know and listen to His voice; see John 10:4, 14-16, & 27.) Doesn’t it mean devoting ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2), praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), acknowledging Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Doesn’t it mean, in other words, exactly what the post you’re denouncing was trying to describe? (That and more, of course — but not less.)

    “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10). This is the Christian life — walking with Christ, in restored communion, reconciled to Him by His blood (2 Corinthians 5:15-6:1). We cannot have Christ as our Savior and not as our Lord. The same servant of Christ who wrote, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) also wrote, “‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’” (2 Timothy 2:19). Christ Himself said a great many similar things: “‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?’” (Luke 6:42), for example, and “‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

    You’ve quoted a large section of Romans 7 — certainly a wonderful passage of Scripture. But like all Scripture, it must be understood in context — so let’s not stop there. Romans 8 continues this way:

    “1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, …”

    [Again, this wonderful promise is highly specific. (Compare Romans 6:1-11, John 15:1-10 & 8:29, for more on being “in Christ.”)]

    “… 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

    [Again, the promise is very specific, limited to those who live “according to the Spirit.” So what does that mean? See again Galatians 5:25 — and read on, because Paul explains it further here as well:]

    “5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

    [Again, our focus is vitally important; it is those who willfully, purposely set their minds on pleasing the Spirit — those who truly love God, in other words — who are covered by the Blood and freed from the condemnation we all deserve.]

    “6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

    [And again, loving God as we are called to do is impossible apart from the control of the Spirit — from remaining and abiding in Him and His power and His love.]

    “9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

    [There are a couple of important ifs here – and here Paul introduces an idea he will soon flesh out: where the follower of Christ is to find her assurance.]

    “ 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
    “12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—…”

    [Again, the Christian life is not a life free of obligations; the faith/works distinction is not a distinction between no effort and effort, but between trusting God’s work (in our lives today, as well as at the Cross) instead of our own.]

    “but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

    [Again Paul makes this point: THESE are the true children of God, the children of the Promises — those who are led by, who follow, His Spirit. And I understand your concern here, I think, because I had the same concern myself at one point: Following Christ is an ongoing thing. It’s not something you do one day and are done with, and it’s not something any of us do perfectly. And so we resist this Biblical truth — that God’s children are those who follow Him — because we worry that this means our salvation is never finished (in a sense, of course, it’s not, in this life; see, for example, Romans 13:11, Philippians 2:12-13, Hebrews 9:27-28, 1 Peter 1:3-9 & 2:1-3, and Revelation 12:10-11), that our souls are only as secure as our next step of obedience; as you put it, “your soul is in crisis, you feel guilt and your faith is in question …. and you enter into a vicious cycle of doubt and despair wondering if you are truly faithful.” And so we really want to be able to point to one thing we did — a certain prayer we prayed or a certain religious ritual we took part in or whatever — and say, “Because of THAT thing, I am saved; when I doubt, I can recall that thing,” and so close the issue in our minds. But there are several problems with this, Biblically (and also really just one; in truth, they’re all facets of the same problem). First, our salvation is by grace, though faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8 & 9 — but notice also v. 10). We can do a work and be done, but not so with faith. Faith is an ongoing thing, a habit of being. A moment of faithfulness does not make us faithful any more than a moment of generosity makes us generous or a moment of courage makes us courageous, if we are generally stingy and cowardly people. Second, our faith must be in Christ and what He’s done — what He did at the Cross, what He’s done in our lives, and what He continues to do to this day (John 5:17) — not in anything we’ve done. And again, momentary faith in a person isn’t really faith in that person. Third, the true follower of Christ isn’t focused on earning salvation from Christ by means of her faithfulness; in fact, she isn’t focused on her salvation at all, except in the Person of her Savior. Again, as Paul describes, she has her mind set on PLEASING CHRIST, trusting Him to take care of her today and forever. And it is here, IN HIM, and in this restored and renewed, mutually-loving relationship with her God and Creator and Savior, that she finds her assurance:]

    “15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

    [It is in our daily, constant walks with God that we find our true assurance of our standing as His children — because it is through our walking with Him that He gives us this wonderful assurance. And just as all other peace is counterfeit, and all other joy is counterfeit, and all other love is counterfeit, so all other assurance is counterfeit except what we find in Him. (See also 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 & 13:5.) Don’t look elsewhere for your assurance. Our fears must be met with Truth, not falsehood.]

    “17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

  3. Hi, Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2!

    I really appreciate that people are thinking about these issues. And thank you, Anonymous 2 for such an awesome response. My own response can now be much shorter since there’s much I don’t have to cover. 🙂

    There are still a couple of things I would like to cover, however.

    Logically, there are a few problems in the Anonymous 1 comment:

    1. You indicate that if I don’t pray over something and, instead, act according to how I want to act, that I might not have done God’s Will. This is, of course, correct. If I haven’t SOUGHT God’s Will, it logically follows that I may have MISSED His Will for that situation. However, it does NOT logically follow that my soul is then in a state of crisis. I may feel guilt, as I should if I’ve acted outside the Will of God. However, my response to that guilt isn’t to question my faith. It is to go to God, repent, ask forgiveness, and ask if there’s something I should do to correct my mistake. (Sometimes there is; sometimes there isn’t.) And, beautifully, God does forgive confessed, repented-of sin. I do not feel like my faith is in a constant state of turmoil. In fact, I feel far LESS confused or unsure about my faith than I ever have.

    2. Praying over how to answer an email is NOT a law that I’m proposing to add to God’s Law. It’s already covered by His Law: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. My interactions with others (in person, through email, on the phone, etc.) are moments where I can either love God and love them OR love myself. In my own power, I am incapable of keeping God’s Law of Love. In God’s power, though, I am capable. (That’s not to say I always do it perfectly, of course.) Just because there weren’t phones or emails mentioned in the 10 Commandments doesn’t mean those areas are outside God’s arena of Lordship. (And please note that for this argument I am not relying on OT law. I’m relying on Jesus’s own words in the NT.)

    3. While I’m happy to talk about them one-on-one, I’m not going to comment on the potentially divisive doctrinal aspects of the comment. One of my prayers for this blog is that it doesn’t become mired in “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1). (See rest of Romans 14 for further clarification.)

    4. The mud pie analogy: Yes, if my child brings me a disgusting mud pie, I will love it not for its intrinsic worth, but because I love her. However, if my adult child, having been told to stop making mud pies, traipses through the living room showing off the mud pie I told her not to make, I will not love it. So, while the mud-pie analogy is useful for understanding certain aspects of grace, it doesn’t address the fact that Christians are to grow and mature in their faith: 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:13-14

    With regard to this Scriptural expectation to mature, this mud-pie analogy, as written, ignores the important distinction between mistakes and willful disobedience. These are two VERY different things – and God tells us He will deal with them very differently. So again, let’s take the analogy further: As I said above, if I allow my child to play in the mud and she brings me a mud pie, I will love it because I love her, not because it has any intrinsic value of its own. However, if I have told my child NOT to play in the mud and she brings me a mud pie, I will not love it. I will not condone it. In fact, I will punish it. If my child apologizes, I will, of course, forgive her. I will understand that she is young and sometimes it’s really hard to not do something that looks fun (even if you’ve been told not to do it) when you’re young. If she tells me she loves me and understands she has to obey me and will try her best from then on, I will believe her (knowing full well that her youth will get the best of her again at some point).

    BUT if the child in the analogy above becomes an adult and still makes mud pies (over and over) after I have repeatedly asked her not to, there will be even more severe consequences. If my (adult) child apologizes, I will not trust the sincerity of her apology. If she tells me she loves me and understands that she has to obey me and will try her best from then on, I will not believe her. Her actions, over and over, prove that she is not sorry, she does not love me, she does not intend to obey me, and she will not try her best from then on.

    Looking at this situation, we would think that there was something very wrong with this adult child. Why in the world would this person continue to willfully disobey the authority in her life? Clearly, this person doesn’t see the parent as the authority. This person is not submitted to the parent. This person does not love the parent.

    What does this say about our position as children of God? As the Bible teaches, we are not children of natural descent. Our position as children of God is determined thusly:

    [11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent,[a] nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. –John 1:11-13]

    If we have received Him and believed in His name, we are children of God. If, however, we do not receive Him and believe in His Name, we are NOT children of God.

    What does the Bible teach us about the character and actions of the children of God?

    [9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. –1 John 3:9-11]

    This is some pretty heavy (but clear AND Biblical) stuff. Children of God are those who do right. If, as you say, our flesh is weak and we will continue (on our own) to sin, then it follows that there must be something (or Someone) else who helps with this. And, in fact, verse 9 tells us that that Someone is God. Because of God in us, we don’t have to go on sinning. He always gives us a way out. Will we always take it? Nope. But if we are God’s children, we (through God’s power) will work at eliminating sin in our lives. The above verses in 1 John don’t really leave room for debate on that point.

    1 John also tells us how children of God respond to their role as children of God:

    [1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. –1 John 3:1-3]

    In verse 3 we’re told that everyone who has this hope (of being children of God) purifies himself, just as God Himself is pure. Purity, as we know, cannot come from our sinful nature. It comes from God’s power. Tapping into this power, by staying connected to God throughout our day, is necessary if we are to purify ourselves – and 1 John makes it very clear that children of God WILL purify themselves. Not that they SHOULD, but that they WILL.

    And the Bible also tells us what we are to DO as “dearly loved children”:

    [1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
    3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. –Ephesians 5:1-3]

    We are to live a life of love the way Christ did. This is not an action-less, God-will-redeem-my-messes type of love (though God, in His mercy, often does redeem our messes). We know that the type of love Christ demonstrated requires action and constant communication with God because Jesus actively loved people and told us that He did and said nothing except what the Father told Him to.

    [28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” –John 8:28-29]

    [48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” –John 12:48-50]

    [31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. –John 14:31a]

    So, if we are to follow Christ’s example, as we’re commanded to, we must not speak on our own, but only as the Father commands. We must not act on our own, but do exactly what the Father has commanded us to do. Will we fail? Sure. But we cannot continue to accept this failure. We must, though God’s power, work to improve our failure as we purify ourselves. This is how we know we’re children of God.

    I’ll end where the Anonymous 2 comment began, with what I think is an important distinction: “It’s a serious (albeit common, in contemporary American caricatures of Christianity) misunderstanding of Scripture to think that all effort is legalism.”

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