Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Act of Obedience Experience the Spirit's Power

Wildflowers in my back yard
Sin-addictions can be defined as "misdeeds of the body." (Rom. 8:13) In its beastly addictive attachments the body misfires and shoots self and others. How can one get free from these ungodly habits?

Paul's claim is that, by the Spirit, the "misdeeds of the body" can be put to death. He writes in Romans 8:13 - if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

I love the way Eugene Peterson interprets this in The Message. We read: 14So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

Sin-addictions can be crucified "by the Spirit." I have seen this happen, many times, in both myself and in others. When someone comes to me who is struggling with some sin-addiction I share three things with them, which I've posted here ("Treating the Beast of Addiction"). I'll always begin with the first, which is: Pray for God to graciously free them (because, again, I have seen this happen).

My counsel here includes leading them into the presence of God where spiritual formation takes place. This is about a lifestyle. I understand that lifestyle to look like this:

1. Abide in Christ.
2. Saturate in Scripture.
3. Listen.
4. Obey.
It is in the act of obedience, as prompted and led by the Holy Spirit, that we experience the Spirit’s power. The Spirit will never call you to do something, and abandon you like you’re some orphan left on your own. We see this throughout Scripture.

For example: When God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt he spoke to Moses:“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." (Exodus 14:15) Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. (Exodus 14:21)

God spoke.

Moses listened.

Moses obeyed.

Upon Moses' act of obedience, God empowered.

James Houston writes of the 4th-century Desert Fathers, whose aim was to surrender one's self-will (the "old do-it-yourself life") to the Spirit of God. They experienced this through a life of prayer and fasting. Houston writes: "Solitude is an important part of all this, as it allows space for us to listen to God. Through listening, we are able to identify the addictive, compulsive habits that tyrannize us, and from which we must be freed to practice the presence of God." (The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 64) 

Make it your lifestyle, your modus operandi, to dwell deeply in God's presence. As a Jesus-follower the Spirit of God resides in you! That same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is able to not only resurrect you on that coming Day, but is well capable of crucifying your sinful misfirings and producing new life.