Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Believing God - Chapter 6: The Desires of Your Heart: Psalm 37:4

First, the book review bit. I realize that so far much of what I have written about this book has not been a review so much as a commentary. What can I say? This is my first review. I enjoy doing it both for the reading, the edification, and the opportunity to review/comment for my readers. I also trust that my review/comments are of value to the publisher and author. But I honestly have not heard feedback from them yet. Onward.

This chapter reads like one of my own. It suffers from what many editors call "first draft". There are a lot of great ideas in this chapter but they do not link well together. So following the author's lead is quite difficult. Along the way he leaves so many ripe tidbits that deserve further exploration. I wish the chapters were either longer, or more short chapters that split the many subtopics into readable chunks, overall, making the book much longer but quite worth the effort to read. As it is, too much is left out.

Try this on for size.

Once again the author calls Christians "sinners" in this chapter. And like last time, he seems to refute that position elsewhere in the chapter. He introduces a new type of person this time called the "wicked". And once again he is on the fence. He writes, "When we step back from looking at the world from the perspective of second by second, we can begin to see the judgment against the wicked. As we live above time, we witness the reality that it is not the children of God but the wicked who are like the grass; they come and they go."

First of all, the verse says nothing about the "children of God". It simply calls out the fate of evildoers and wrongdoers. Question: can Christians do evil and wrong in this context? Can Christians be categorized as "wicked"?

That's a tough one to face. But it must be considered. Why? Because the Bible offers no other options. Clearly God calls no Christian a sinner in the New Testament. This cannot be found by inference either. So what do you call a Christian who sins?

To answer that, we must examine a bit of our composition. Man, in God's image, was created a triune being of body, soul, and spirit. (Hebrews 4:12, I Thessalonians 5:23) We know the body as our physical being (not to be confused with the "flesh" term often used by Paul - we'll get to that later). The soul is our mind, will, and emotions. The spirit is spirit.

Upon conception, the state of our self is this: Our body is physically alive. Our soul is likewise fully active. But in relation to God, our spirit is dead. (Psalm 51:5, John 3:18) We have a sin nature.

Upon salvation, the state of our self is transformed to this: Our body is still physically alive. Our minds begin a process of renewal (Romans 12:1-2). Our spirit is now quickened alive and One with God. (John 17:11, Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 2:5) Our sin nature however, is still with us.

This sin nature is what Paul calls the "flesh". He spends a lot of time giving us understanding of this "old man" in Romans 7 where he also calls it in verse 24, "the body of this death."

You see, we now have a duality within us. It is the spirit and the flesh. (Galatians 5:17) The good news is that by the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His indwelling Spirit, we now have the power not to sin. There is no other reasonable basis for Jesus to tell us to "sin no more". (John 5:14, John 8:11) It is the context of the first two chapters of I John.

What happens to the state of self when a Christian sins? The body is still physically alive though in grave danger of God's judgment. The soul is still active though in grave danger of a seared conscience. (I Timothy 4:2) The spirit is still quickened and alive. But this old man, this flesh, this sin is now between us and God. That which He finds offensive He will not have in His sight. Positionally we do not lose our salvation. But experientially we endure the wrath of God. Why? Because we have no excuse any longer. He holds us responsible for maintaining a right relationship with Him.

This is not about to become a discussion on the doctrine of grace versus works. It is all of grace. Paul finishes his dissertation on the flesh in Romans 7 with the answer in verse 25- 8:1, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

He expounds on this completely inthe book of Galatians. The flesh has no role whatsoever in the keeping of the Christian life. (Galatians 3:3) You see, even though God is angry at us for our sin, He has not left us. In fact, His Spirit will constantly bombard you with promptings to repent and get right, to get back into the joy of the Lord. That's what He does according to John 16:7-11. That is Jesus' promise. God wants to keep you right with Him all the time but He will not do it for you. Positionally and eternally yes He will. But experientially, right now, no He won't. That is up to you. The Holy Spirit will prompt you. You must obey that prompting according to I John 1:9.

Now with all that said, back to our question. What do you call a Christian who sins? Wicked. Evil. There are no other terms found or inferred in God's Word. Although we are God's children, we do evil wicked things sometimes. That is the sin nature in us. When we allow that old man to wake up, that flesh to arise, immediately the life of Christ seems to vanish. It is not gone, but behind a veil of darkness of sin. It is not a process of increasing or decreasing. It is absolute. We are either right with God (holy, perfect) or we are not. We are either in sin or we are not. We are either wicked or we are righteous. There is no in-between, no gray area, no holding pen while judgment is decided.

Why did I spend so much time with this topic? Because the topic of the chapter is "The Desires of Your Heart: Psalm 37:4. To get to this joyful, blessed state, you have to be right with God. You have to know His heart. (Psalm 25:14) God won't give you your desires nor reveal His when you are in sin. The flesh has absolutely no desire to delight itself in the Lord.

I hope what I have shared with you today had no "weasel words" in it as Dr. Sproul humorously and seriously shared in this chapter. He states, "In short, we think our joy is circumstantial. And indeed it is." Why? Because of all we have discussed above. It all depends upon our experiential standing in the sight of God.

Please do not try to overshadow this by saying that your eternal positional standing before God is sufficient and brings the joy in spite of circumstance. When you have sinned do you rejoice? Is there joy in your heart? When you know there is something between you and God, do you go on your merry way singing about Jesus' blood paid it all? God indeed sees the blood. He sees it trampled underfoot. (Hebrews 10:29) We have to treat the sin in our lives the same way now as we did when we were saved. Prior to salvation we could do nothing about sin. Now we can. We reckon ourselves dead to it. (Romans 6:11) We confess it and forsake it. (Proverbs 28:13).

Now go to the throne and enjoy your time with the Father! Worship Him! Be One with Him and His glory. (John 17:22)

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