(I encourage people to ask questions, even the tough ones, because I know that digging together for the truth that brings freedom and righteousness is, well, a blast. What follows is a dialog between a friend with a terrific question and me.)
Ok, I was thinking. I know, scary, right!? I’m going to try to explain this the best I can over e-mail.
You know how you said to do everything through God and to ask His opinion on what you’re doing and what not? Well, what if you do something and you know He doesn’t like it, and you even ask Him and He tells you He doesn’t like it—but you do it anyway because you like to do it?
I know this is the flesh and not Him acting through me, but how do you not do it when you like it so much? Or, how do you make the flesh part of you not like it any more?
Does that make any sense?
Conundrum in Colorado
Well, I think you've got to take long, daily drinks of God's love and mercy and freedom from condemnation—I know that I do. When my goal is Him—to know Him and discover Him and wrestle with Him and even argue with Him(!)—then He does something in me that I alone cannot do. He sort of brings the "good me" out, the one born of the Spirit, and then my appetites or lusts or desires are those that are like His. Does that make sense?
If I just try to not do stuff I know He doesn't like, sooner or later I fail. The reason is that I've tried to get through life without the power of God to do it. It's like if you were a car and you had no gas in your tank. But rather than ask for some fuel, you tried to do everything you could to prove and act like you were a car anyway. You honked your horn, flicked your headlights on and off, on and off, flipped on your windshield wipers and squirted them a bit, and played your stereo loudly. How long before you, Miss Car, got tired of not doing what you were made to do?
What do you need? Gas. Or, in reality, grace. How do you get grace? Lots of ways.
Grace is all that you got when you received Jesus (a new you, heaven, forgiveness, Jesus, blessings, the Holy Spirit, etc.), and it is the power or life of God to work you. It's both. It's a position you now enjoy with God—perfect, blameless, holy, righteous—and it's God Himself in you to do something—it's practical. So, grace is positional and practical. What you want is practical. Am I saying this clearly?
So, since you know who you are (His girl) and where He is (in His girl), you want to live in such a way that He gets to do stuff in you. And that's a perfect fit. The apostle Paul called this the new way of life (Rom 6). It's very different than the old way.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
So, what is it that teaches us to say “no”? Is it instruction about what to do and not do? Is it eating healthy? Getting plenty of sleep? Voting Republican? No. It's looking into how well off God has made you and His people. It's wondering about it, testing it, wrestling with it, being stunned by it, dazzled by it, and more. It's looking at how great and perfect His forgiveness is. It's sowing to the Spirit to see if He's actually-fer-sure there. . .and finding out that He is. It's asking God questions in prayer—"What do you think about Billy Bob or Mary May?" and hearing or feeling something about them. It's praying about something or singing to God, or taking a walk with God and then realizing that you feel way better than you should. And that's because He's been doing something in you!
Whenever you do something toward Him, something just to know Him, something curious, something inquisitive, He takes the trash out! If you spend a little time offering yourself to Him or thinking of Him or singing to Him or praying with Him, He becomes more evident in you—His desires and loves and dislikes—and the flesh is put in its place. Sometimes you won't even feel it anymore. But in any case, God will be satisfying you MORE than that other thing.
Fire back if this doesn't do it for you, or for any old reason at all.
(Her response follows.)
Ok that made so much sense—you have no idea!!! Usually they have to explain it at least twice. I have a thick skull if you couldn’t tell! Thanks so much.... and I guess I can put up with you for a little longer...!