Wednesday, April 16, 2014
God's Work in Us the Key to Victory
Yesterday, (See article here.) in discussing the last section of Romans 6, I said, “If God has given you the gift of eternal life by regenerating your spirit, he has also given you a new heart, a new spirit, his Holy Spirit and the motivation to live for him (Ezekiel 36:26-27).”
Here's what that passage says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
There's a parallel passage in Jeremiah 31:33-34 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The New Covenant promised to Israel included the grace and internal motivation needed to follow God. His law would be in their minds and hearts. God would cause them to walk in his ways. The motivation to do right would flow naturally from a changed inside. This New Covenant was initiated by Jesus when he offered himself as the sacrifice of the New Covenant (See Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, 12:24). Some day it will be fulfilled in its entirety with all Israel but for now it is revealed in the new birth as that takes place in Jews and Gentiles alike around the world from every tribe and nation.
The point that I'm trying to make today as a follow-up of yesterday's discussion is that the warnings at the end of Romans 6 are real. Yielding to sin leads to further disobedience and ultimately death. Whereas yielding to obedience leads to further righteousness and that leads to eternal life. This should not be thought of as though I can just legalistically obey a certain set of regulations and end up in heaven. We are not saved by works but by faith in Christ. But believing in Christ and trusting him for salvation changes us. We become new creatures, old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The grace that God gives us teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly lives (Titus 2:12). If we don't know or don't care to live righteous and godly lives, we don't have the grace of God at work in us. We are told that God disciplines every son he receives. The purpose of that discipline is holiness (Hebrews 12:10), not the holiness of Christ that we receive positionally, but practical outworking of holiness in our living. The writer of Hebrews tells us that without such holiness we won't see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). But it is a holiness that is generated by God at work in us as we live in faithful obedience. It is God who works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure as we work out our salvation in our lives (Phil 2:13).
So it's important that we understand this. Two extremes need to be avoided. The one extreme is that we receive the gift of righteousness from God. He forgives our sins and now we can live however we want and it doesn't matter. We're secure. We'll get in and so all is well. The other extreme is to say, God will be examining our works and they better measure up or we won't get in. We begin to assume that we can earn our justification by our efforts. That is denied countless times in Scripture. If we would put ourselves under the illusion that we can work our way in by our deeds, we put ourselves under a curse because we must do everything perfectly to get in (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10).
We need to live our lives based on the truth that God graciously forgives us of our sins and at the same time, gently works in us to conform us to the image of his Son. God disciplines us as a father. His goal is to draw us back into his arms in loving obedience. His promises of reward and warnings against sin are both meant to draw us to fellowship with himself. A human father does this imperfectly. Our heavenly father knows exactly what it takes and he will be successful (Hebrews 12:10-11).