Friday, October 23, 2015

Giving up

This week we got rid of our old couch. It was too big for this house, sagging horribly, and really, really heavy. We had to disassemble it before we could get it outside: we removed the fold-out bed from the couch and carried the couch and the bed outside separately.

Once outside,  I tried to put it back together. After maybe 15 minutes of struggling to get the metal frame back into the sagging wooden frame of the couch, I realized I was wasting my time. My wife had already called and arranged a garbage pick-up for the couch;  it would be gone in 12 hours. So here I was, trying to repair a couch that we had already decided to throw away.  More than that, we knew it would be picked up and left in the dump in less than 24 hours.

I remembered reading something by C. A. Coates about a man who keeps digging through the trash,  revealing he doesn't really believe it's trash (Spiritual Blessings, pp. 34 - 35). And here I was, doing the same thing.

Really that's a good metaphor for our dealings with the flesh, isn't it?  God's already given up on it,  but we spend so much time and effort trying to make it better.

I've come to the conclusion that the hardest part of abiding in Christ is being content to abide in Christ. I have such a tendency to try and please God myself,  rather than accepting my place "in Christ" with no righteousness of my own (Philippians 3:9).


Anonymous said...

Could you explain a little more how our efforts in sanctification are linked to or differentiated from giving up on the flesh?

Susan said...

Good question because giving up on the flesh is not the same as giving up on self (our new self in Christ).

clumsy ox said...

I wrote a long reply and it got eaten. Not cool.

I'll try to answer this again when I get a chance.

clumsy ox said...

Right. We don't need to die (we have already died), but we death does work in us. And we do need to mortify (not our flesh, but) the deeds of our bodies (Romans 8:13).

clumsy ox said...

Scripture presents the death of Christ as the death of the believer. When Christ died, He died for me (Romans 5:6), but He also died as my representative. So Scripture says that I have died with Christ (Romans 6:2–6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 2:20–23; Colossians 3:1–4), and it commands me to "reckon" that to be true (Romans 6:11). Reckoning simply means considering: it means I am to think of myself as one who has died.

Even though I have died with Christ, I still live in a fallen body (Romans 8:10). So there is this thing Scripture refers to as "the flesh", and I'm waiting for Christ to come and make my body like His (Philippians 3:21).

It is true that the flesh is the source of a great many vile and wicked things (Galatians 5:19–21; Colossians 3:5–7). But flesh isn't always morally reprehensible: sometimes it's a very religious thing. Galatians 3:3 warns against trying to be made perfect "in the flesh" after starting out "in the Spirit". Colossians 2 warns of fleshly religion: a religion based on rules, which doesn't really profit us, but satisfies the flesh (Colossians 2:23). Romans 7:13–24 describes a man who is genuinely born again, but when he sets out to be good, he finds that he just can't; he finds that "flesh" is just incapable of being good. Romans 8:8 concludes "they that are in the flesh cannot please God". Philippians 3:3 says we are not to trust in the flesh.

The characteristic expression of the New Testament epistles is "in Christ". If God's view of me was only the Cross, that wouldn't be good. God doesn't say I've died with Christ and that's it: He says I've died with Christ, and have been raised with Him (Colossians 3:1–4). We understand that's not really complete yet: there is still the redemption of the body (Philippians 3:21). But the fact remains that God's view of me is "in Christ", and "in Christ" I have nothing to offer God. Nothing except Christ Himself, of course.

I would say we've given up on the flesh when we stop trying to offer God anything except Christ. Christ is my righteousness, my holiness, and my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:31). There is nothing that God wants from me, He has gotten all that He wants in Christ.

Of course this is nothing more than the Gospel, but it's the Gospel applied to the walk that follows: we are to walk in Christ as we have received Him (Colossians 2:6).

That's not to say I just sit here and do nothing. Not at all! It means that I am to set my affection on things above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1–4), because after all, He's my life. It means I practice self judgment (Romans 8:13). It means I am to gaze on the glory of the Lord Jesus with unveiled face (2 Corinthians 3:18), because that's how I will become like Him.

I'm not sure this really answers your question, but it's a big question...

Susan said...

Big question- HUGE!!!
'Mysteries surround us into which all our research will enable us to penetrate but a very little way. Our knowledge is very partial; our ignorance is great. And nowhere among created things do we find more mystery than when we attempt to penetrate the secrets of our own being'. F W Grant

Anonymous said...

It's me again - Anonymous. I'm grateful for everything written above responding to my question.

I think I get the 'reckoning' thing - your blog encouraged me to read Watchman Nee and some CA Coates but I struggled to get to grips with their ideas - your precis above is much clearer.

But I'm not sure how to read the statement: "There is nothing that God wants from me, He has gotten all that He wants in Christ." For I can't escape the obvious fact that there are things that we are told to do.

Could you perhaps recommend 2 or 3 books which you have found most helpful in explaining this? I'd be glad to follow up on suggestions.

clumsy ox said...

I'll jot down some book titles when I get a chance.

There are certainly things we are told to do! I am not at all intending to suggest we just ignore what scripture commands.

What I am suggesting is that we can't actually accomplish anything until we learn to abide in Christ (John 15:1-5, esp. vv. 4 & 5). I would suggest what the John 15 calls abiding in Christ is exactly what Romans 8 calls walking in the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Mark. I really appreciate your blog and hope you might even post more often!

clumsy ox said...

Hey, Anonymous! I posted a list: