God is in the business of growing His children, maturing us both individually and corporately into spiritual adulthood. This means that when God speaks to us, He is often calling us to change.
But how will you hear a word from God that calls you to change? That depends on your heart.
God does not prohibit things because He is the enemy of all fun. God does not say “Don’t play.” God says “Don’t play in traffic.” He steers us away from things that will hurt us. Every good and perfect gift comes from God; if God is steering you away from something, then it’s not a good gift (at least, not for you, now.)
Likewise, when God commands something, it is not so He can watch you jump through hoops for His own private amusement. No. When God says “Do xyz,” God is saying “I have a blessing I want to give you. Hold out your hand.” Again, every good and perfect gift comes from God.
If your heart is right toward God, then you hear an invitation to life in the command, and deliverance from death in the prohibition. Alas, this is not always the case….
The temptation, of course, is to think that God is being mean to you, or at least cheap with you — that He’s steering you away from something good, or toward something bad. Instead, of course, you ought to simply trust God. If He commands a thing, you should set out to do it, expecting the blessings of obedience. This is true even when you can’t see what that blessing might be, as is often the case. Remember, the command is God saying “Hold out your hand; I want to give you something good.” When you can’t see what the good thing might be, God is saying “Close your eyes and hold out your hand; I want to give you something good.”
When you rebel against the command of God, you are folding your arms firmly, tucking your hands in your armpits and scrunching your shoulders up to your ears, and saying “No! Show me what it is first. Then maybe I’ll obey.”
Doesn’t usually work like that, in my experience. I find that the experience of obedience forms me, causes me to develop eyes to see and ears to hear. Apart from that experience, I could not have become the sort of person that can enjoy what God is seeking to give me.
And besides, how can we expect God to bless us with anything, even understanding, when we are knowingly rebelling against His expressed will?
Of course, there’s a problem. We can’t keep the commands. We may delight in them, we may see the life that keeping them would bring–but we simply don’t have the wherewithal to get the job done. Sin rises up in us, and we rebel. We may hate the sin that we’re doing, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from doing it.
What can we do to solve the problem?
Nada. Zip. Nechevo.
There is no action, no arrangement of mental furniture, nothing you can do to defeat sin. Until the resurrection, you’re stuck with sin dwelling in you, and it’s stronger than you are. You can’t think your way to victory. Until the last day, when you’re delivered from death, you are doomed.
But the last day has come. In Christ, the last day broke into history, and the resurrection has already begun. Jesus, son of Adam, is ascended to heaven and sits on the mercy seat at the Father’s right hand, crowned Lord of heaven and earth. In His absence, He sent us the Spirit, and dwelling in us, the Spirit gives us a glimpse — the firstfruits, as it were — of the resurrection. This body is dead because of sin, but through the Spirit, God gives life to our dead bodies. It’s absurd, contradictory. It doesn’t make any sense. A bit like a man walking on water…
Which is to say, it’s a miracle.
We still wait eagerly for the resurrection, but right here, right now, we live resurrected lives by the daily miracle of the Spirit operating in our lives. In one way, this is not something we do so much as something we get out of the way of. And then again, by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, and thereby, we live. Synergism is a curse word in some theological circles, but that’s exactly what this is. The Spirit takes your hand and says, “There’s a part of you that needs to die. Come with Me; we’ll kill it together.” The power is God’s, as is the glory, but He would like to incarnate them in us.
This is an invitation to life. Can your ears hear it?
Ho! Everyone thirsty,
Come to the waters;
And if you have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you —
The sure mercies of David.