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I have heard for years that when you become a Christian things come naturally. Naturally, huh? Really? Ive heard that obedience comes without effort from this faith; at minimum it is implied. But it doesnt happen this way. We are not powerfully impacting the world around us because of this natural perspective. I believe this may account for some of the deficit of repentance to obedience and our subsequent lack of fruit.
This is an especially strange point of view. Against nature they pose a model of the so called natural. Did you ever make dinner without purpose or go to work on accident? Did anyone ever get in shape by thinking about it or by simply reading an Arnold Schwarzenegger book? They think a person makes a profession and then progressively and selectively does the will of God, almost oblivious to what they are doing; by an enchantment. These actions would be as if God were running us on a remote control until we became fully obedient, of course if that were true wouldnt you consider Him doing a better job; forgive my digression. It is a mess of confusion for some in the Church on this issue. But it is so simple.
Obedience is grabbing the call of God and performing it. Perfection follows through a developing understanding of the perfect will of God and the practice there of, under the pressure of difficulty. A simple example is a new baseball player compliant to the coach and rules but not very good; Yet!
I was reading a favorite Christian theologian trying to get support for this blog. I now call him the Zen Master of Christian Theology. Sometimes a contradiction from one respected will be seen as profound however it is simply ambiguous non-sense. In a movie the Mystery Men a character led the team of superheroes through a string of formulaic platitudes meant to inspire. But to those not under his spell, that of his charismatic persona, he appeared as he truly was; witless." You know Master your pride or your pride will master you." kind of thing. Or on the level of "One hand clapping" defying the borders of definition. People are reading these guys and after their pontification are more confused.
Simply put: A natural desire drives me to self-pleasure and protection. This can manifest is in gross and destructive ways or build computer chips. This natural can materialize as a middle class man, middle class family, a mid-sized car and a happy Labrador, 401K and summer vacations at the lake or Moa Tse Tung.
It is unnatural to be selfless; not easy. We feel pain, yes even us sanctified, justified and indwelt Christians. In pain we are tempted. We want peace and repose; very natural. But it is supernatural to overcome and continue. This supernatural impetus is trusting Jesus to reward us, to console us, help us, and love us through it all. We trust Him and are thus empowered by this knowledge of who Jesus is and what He wants and what Hell do.
My favorite martyr, Richard Wurmbrand, suffered horribly. He never claimed some magical power to overcome other than the power of trusting in the knowledge of Jesus. He sweat, he cried, he bled! Richard persevered, obeyed and he did this because he knew Jesus. He trusted Jesus for eternal life. This is the power that is possessed in the Gospel.
There is now magic. You are sanctified by continuing in the faith under duress. This continuing through disappointment and suffering proves your salvation and justification, are from trusting Jesus; otherwise you would quit. Continuing or quitting defines us and the truthfulness of our profession.
When this magical, mystical transformation is believed some may eventually conclude we are really not a Christian. If you believe it as something he does by the waving of His powerful hand and find yourself struggling against sin you can quit thinking," Maybe I am not chosen after all." "You see," you deduce "it isnt happening naturally so either Jesus isnt true because it isnt happening as they said or your destined for damnation because you believe them as they explained, that it comes naturally."
Ive found it not natural. Ive found the struggle with sin is real and formidable. We have all discovered ambiguities in our life after Christ. We have to know this all required us to "cut off our hand, love our enemies, and forgive." We know we must. None feels justified by these, we just tap-out realizing that it is now, we know who we are and the way of the Kingdom. Knowing more and more; through all of these trials, we acquiesce "By the Grace of God we enter in."
It is a destructive and misleading idea of it being natural. Natural implies it all happens without effort, contemplation, or without putting aside the natural. The supernatural is the putting off of the natural to operate in an unnatural way, a Kingdom way.
Without this faith, without Him in this way, without complete confidence, we cannot and will not continue. We at best will walk like the world avoiding the cross. By the way this "take up your cross and follow me." is one of the biggest conundrums for our modern American faith. We may claim Im the expressed will of God, good or bad, like a Muslim under the law of fatalism "It is the will of Allah." Concluding that if God wanted me to do such-in-such I would have done it but since I didnt He must not have wanted me to. With this fatalism I operate knowing, If I didnt feel it in my bosom then it wasnt the will of Allah. If Im walking in a particular sin Ill conclude He isnt ready to set me free yet. Blasphemy! It is simple, not easy, but simple to do what Jesus says and prove you really trust Him. Anything else is blasphemy: Religious, natural, self-preserving mysticism.
It is all Him: but not how the magicians of the faith would try to mystify the subject to our corporate destruction.
"There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow." Martin Luther