(If you have a question you'd like to ask Ralph, email him at the address found in the column on the right. It may end up posted here.)
Ralph, I found your blog and ministry site by way of Justin Taylor's site. I'm interested to know your take on Powlison's article. From what I see on your site it seems like you don't hold to a view of indwelling sin in the life of a believer. I could be totally wrong. I know a few people who hold a similar views and I would love to hear how you see that working out in light of Powlison's article. Thanks for your time! I do believe that we are far more loved by God in Christ than we will ever realize (seems like what you are saying) and at the same time we are more capable of evil and sin than we realize. I'd love to hear any thoughts! Blessings in Christ brother.
While I think Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, has merit, I believe it focuses the Christian upon fleshly requirements and skills, rather than upon God. Way too much these days instructs us on how to behave, rather than on how to let God behave through us. If, indeed, God Himself lives in us, wouldn’t it be great to let Him do something, even whatever He wants? That, I believe, is the Christian life.
My highest goal is to know Jesus and the leading of the Spirit at every moment, especially when with people. They don’t need what I can work up by the flesh, they need Jesus. So, I look and listen and feel for Him who lives in me, and that’s when the burden is lifted from me and put on Him—and He’s perfect.
While relational skills are important, focusing upon them usually tangents us away from the love and life and counsel the Spirit would provide in any and every moment. Successful relational navigation in Chapman’s book means we attempt to produce the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can. And that’s a nasty attempt.
In my view, Powlison does a good, if slightly over-done job of showing just how selfish, fleshly, and even dangerous it is when we give ourselves to serving each other’s demands for love and affection. (Click here for the link.)
He writes, “Desires for good things easily become imperial demands that would enslave the very people who might try to speak my language—or yours. The lust that perverts such languages sets up an unholy law by which to command and to judge the performance of others in the eyes of an unholy king.”
Nicely said. I would add that while our desires can lead us astray, they should not be denied or rubbed-out. I believe they are in us to be met by Jesus Himself…and straightened up where needed. For sure, we are not satisfied until we are satisfied by Him—but He does mean to satisfy us!
As to your other question, I do believe the Christian has indwelling sin, as Paul described in Romans 7. However, I do not believe the Christian is the indwelling sinner. I believe we have been born all over again, born spirit, actual sons of God, with new natures to boot. We are actually holy, blameless and righteous sons, no longer sin-doers by nature, but righteous-doers. Do we sin? Sure. But, as Paul said following new birth, “I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Rom 7:20 NASB)
Further, I do not believe that we are the flesh, but struggle with it. We are spirit. In the same way that your skin isn’t you, but a part of you, so your flesh isn’t you, but a part. Since you’ve been born again and become a spirit, you are no longer your skin, your hair, your bones or your blood. You’re inside, a spirit son of God. The former things will remain with the earth at your passing, while the latter will rise and be revealed.
Hope this helps—Ralph