Sunday, January 31, 2010
SELF-RULE AND RELIANCE
Recently in a Bible Study on the subject of sin that is described as SELF-RULE and RELIANCE, a British Christian commented on her perception of these traits as applied to Americans in general. She had observed that citizens of this country have a personal self-image of INDEPENDENCE and an almost inborn quality of SELF-DETERMINATION. This, she said, was coupled with ultimate recognition of a higher power. As I responded that she had truly captured the point being made, I went on to postulate that perhaps the very nature of this nation’s beginning struggle gave rise to such a trait down through the years. In further discussion, I recalled for the group the oft’ quoted line about successful men who had “lifted themselves up by their own boot straps” and the accompanying life lessons taught to children about becoming “more independent” as they grow, in order to “stand on their own two feet.”
Indeed, we have been correctly taught the biblical doctrine of freedom of will that God has built into our creative makeup. We are, in that sense, SELF-DETERMINING and free to choose, INDEPENDENT of any other individual’s will or purpose. Herein lies the tension. My British sister qualified her evaluation with the word about recognizing a higher power, and this is the matter which brings critical balance into the equation.
I often wonder when we teach our children such lessons about INDEPENDENCE and being able to stand on their own, if we fail to communicate properly for their real-life application that even such standing must BE DEPENDENT upon God as the true foundation upon which all must rest. Indeed, even lifting oneself “by his own boot straps” must be subject to the laws of the universe God has ordained. Gravity on this planet may allow for an instant’s “jump” while hanging on to the proverbial boots, but one will come down quickly. SELF-RELIANCE is only a “breath” long, and without a greater power in force, it does very little but exhaust the “jumper” in the process. When applied to life, it speaks of the one who’s life is in a constant state of grounded and weary depression spaced between momentary, and only empty “highs.”
Man as God’s fallen and sinful creation ever tries to reach the heights, usually attempting it without benefit or aid of the One Who made them. He is like a city-born individual who atrikes out through the jungle without a guide or the right provisions. Failure and disappointment is assured. The Book of Judges in the Old Testament is full of those of the nation of Israel who rejected the Lord’s reign over them. It is recorded, “the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel.” (2:7) But following the death of Joshua and that generation something else took over. “and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor ye the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord…and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods…and bowed themselves unto them.” (vss 10-12) Such is the kind of rule that every man is tempted to emulate individually.
The THRONE of a man’s life must be reserved for one Who can be consistently depended upon in every period and avenue of life. Man, by his very nature and imperfection, cannot be depended upon to RULE in the midst of forces that are constantly moving against his tiny kingdom. Though he can be INDEPENDENT to exercise personal SELF-CONTROL and choice, he is wise who takes the prayer of King Solomon to heart. “And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (I Kings 3:7-9) The result, God gave him wisdom and a kingdom that has had no comparison before or since. Now, that’s a successful reign. And Who was on the throne? Not the child, but his God!
We have a twofold nature. That which is called “flesh” is that which denotes human actions and thoughts when we operate apart from the direct control of Christ. That which is the “spirit” refers to the inner man and has the direct line of command under the Holy Spirit of God. When we are made a part of God’s people through our repentance and confession of sin, and His forgiveness through the shed blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, on the cross, we gain access to the THRONE room of God and His direct control of our lives.
When we as His people “act out of our fleshy nature” and apart from His will, we reap the failure and consequences of sin. Paul says, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Gal. 5:16-17) Those who say they can work of the flesh in control and still serve God are only fooling themselves, for even Christ said one cannot serve God and the flesh, for one or the other must have the mastery. (Matt. 6:24) One will be loved and the other hated. Jesus’ words of invitation extend to those who would ENTHRONE Him in their hearts. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matt. 16:24-25)
In the same way that we are to be ever DEPENDENT upon the rule our Lord and King, we must also realize that our RELIANCE cannot depend upon our weak resources to sustain us. Success in life is victory in the spiritual, and Paul’s insight in his letter to the Corinthians states his personal recipe for strength to live under the right RULE. “And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (12:9-10)
So, how are we to live? SELF-RULE and SELF-RELIANCE are not options that will bring us into joy-filled lives. Yet they are temptations that will face us each and every day. The flesh is a constant enemy that would have us yield ourselves to its control. Its appetites are ever a snare put us into captivity which only results in an unending misery. Like an addiction that drives one to consume to ease the driving appetite for that which one knows is destructive, we are engaged in an inner war that Paul also experienced and wrote about in Romans 7:22-24. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Well, Paul found the deliverance and wrote about it in Galatians 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Our answer to RULE and RELIANCE then? Submission to the only true King who was both able to conquer the fleshly, without sin, and be worthy to sit upon the THONE of every man’s heart and life. His is the only total wisdom of RULE for my life, and as the Creator of all that is, the only One Whose provisions are completely sufficient for all my needs.
OH, FRIENDS, WON’T YOU TAKE THIS ENCOURAGEMENT AND SET HIM ON THE THRONE OF YOUR HEART.