Lesson 4 -- third quarter 2008
June 22, 2008
© Copyright 2008
The Scriptures present the Christian life as a race that must be run...and won. To accomplish that dual goal, we must shed all sin as well as all weight that would hinder us. That requires sacrifice and self-discipline. We must also stick to the race with patient endurance. We need self-discipline for that as well.
If we live after the Spirit and not after the flesh, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). We should constantly be putting forth every effort to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). Make no allowance, make no excuse -- avoid those things and situations that feed your flesh. Discipline yourself. Exercise temperance and self-control.
My worst days are my careless days. I know my flesh seems especially inclined toward irritability, lust, bitterness, and unrestrained pleasure. If my spirit is not constantly and faithfully on its guard, I "suddenly" find myself heeding my flesh. Carelessness has again led to making "provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," which is precisely what I ought to avoid at all costs (Romans 13:14).
But I won't give up, and neither should you! "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). When you discover you've picked up that weight again, drop it again, and keep on running with patience!
Some folks protest at the notion of self-discipline, insisting that Christian living is simply and only a matter of Christ living in us and through us. They say that the Christian life can be lived only in the power of the Spirit and not in the power of self.
That is true enough...as far as it goes. Paul firmly asserts (at God's direction), "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). So, yes, God provides the will and the power to run this race. Even so, it is still up to us to exercise that will and that power!
Paul also testified that he kept his body under control and brought it into subjection ("I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" -- 1 Corinthians 9:27). Furthermore, he calls on us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh" (2 Corinthians 7:1), to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24), and to "mortify the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). We have to act. We can't just sit around and wait for God to do all the work!
So, get out there and run, run, run. Keep at it; don't quit. Remember that running and winning takes time and patience because it is a process, not a single event. Day in and day out, my flesh must be crucified, denied, brought into subjection. God works in conjunction with my spirit to make it exercise increasing control over my flesh. God began something good and He will continue working on it (Philippians 1:6). So don't give up in discouragement!
Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament Law; He fulfilled it. The Law still stands as an accurate revelation of God's will. However, our relationship with God is not based on the Law but on the One who fulfilled it, His Son Christ Jesus. Since He is the author and finisher of our faith, we look to Him (Hebrews 12:2). We look to Him because the sacrifices of the Law are no longer required -- Jesus came and fulfilled their purpose once and for all. We look to Him because the Law's moral imperatives ("Be ye holy" and "Thou shalt not covet" as two examples) can now be met -- Jesus came and lived them fully...and then lives that life in us. So you see, our relationship is with Jesus, not the Law. Thus we can see and do God's will better. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12).
In a physical sense, using whatever strength we have helps build further strength. Likewise spiritually -- exercise whatever faith you do have. That includes living in obedience to what you already know to be the will of God.
Turn to Jesus, acknowledging your weak faith and asking Him to help you -- "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). All faith comes from Him and all faith is made complete in Him; He gives faith its finishing touches -- "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
Tune your ears and heart to God's Word. Discipline yourself to read and meditate on the Scriptures. Ask God to give you an appetite for His truth. You see, exposure and attentiveness to the Word of God causes faith to develop and mature. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
I want to have greater faith in Jesus. I want to be a more mature believer. I want to increase in faithfulness to Him.
How do I get there?
First of all, I must keep Jesus as the focus and purpose of my life:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
Then there's this in James 2:
"Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (22).
That is so neat!
How I live and what I do affects the development and maturity of my faith.
(Let me remember the downside to that -- fleshly living affects my faith just as much as godly living.)
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