Sunday, November 4, 2012

Knowledge and Action

You can know a lot of things without it ever making a difference to how you live. You can have salvation explained to you constantly for years on end, and never see its beauty. "even the demons believe--and shudder!" They get that they will be forever punished, they don't, and never will, get the beauty of the thing, the beauty of God. Christians struggle with sin, even while knowing reason after reason why the thing is sin, why it is dishonoring to God. We go, weeping, and repent, confess our sins to our intercessor in heaven, whose righteousness we depend on. We know that it is sin, yet still do it. In a sense we don't quite get it. But we do: give us a test on it, make us explain it; we can do that. Yet make us live it and we so often fail. How are we to escape this? This living in death, which we have been saved from. We are supposed to be in Christ, he is supposed to be living in us, why does it feel like the flesh is still ruling in so many areas of life? This is Paul's cry:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:21-24)
What, then, is his answer?
 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Romans 7:25)
Is he resigning himself to sinning with his flesh? No! He has already emphasized that we ought not sin. So what is he saying? "Who will deliver me from this body of sin and death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" So Christ is our deliverer, and we will do what it is we can do, though it is very little, leaving the rest to God through Jesus Christ whom Paul implies is the one who will deliver him from this body of death. So in those places where I am able to serve the law of God, I do, and where I cannot, I don't.

In chapter 8 this is explained: In Christ we are not condemned because in him the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. God did what the law could not--he condemned sin in the flesh. Thus the requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk according to the spirit. Then he returns to the mind:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
So if we walk in the Spirit, then we set our minds on the things of the spirit. And Paul says that he serves the law of God with his mind. Thus he walks by the Spirit. That is to say that, though he sins, his life his characterized by the thoughts that proceed from the Spirit. Perhaps these thoughts change him over time, but the point is not the change, but the glory of God that may be shown forth in that change. That is why it is the power of the Spirit that we rely on for sanctification, just as we were saved by the uniting of ourselves to Christ by the Spirit.

The Spirit has power which no person has to change people. We can think thoughts without changing, but we cannot have thoughts impelled into our very natures by the Spirit without changing. People argue, but all they can change are peoples' thoughts. The Spirit changes how people think and what they think about, changing our natures from death to spiritual life.

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