Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Get Out Of The Way
Near the beginning of his sermon on the 'Marks of the New Birth' John Wesley makes unequivocally clear that conversion is a work of God. Quoting John 1.12-13, he says "we must "become the sons of God, ...believe on his name; [becoming sons] which were born," when they believed, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh," not by natural generation, "nor of the will of man," like those children adopted by men, in whom no inward change is thereby wrought, "but of God." Wesley thus stresses that the inward change that happens to a person that makes them a believer happens through the work of God not through human will. God is the agent of initial spiritual formation which we call conversion or the new birth, we are not. God in the person of the Holy Spirit is also the primary ongoing agent of spiritual formation, we are not. It's a matter of our co-operating with what God is already doing in the body of Christ, and in us as individuals as well. In fact, as much as anything, it has to do with our getting out of the way of the Holy Spirit, ceasing to quench or grieve the Spirit in our lives, but rather opening ourselves up to the Spirit's renovating, gifting, character forming powers.Grace over all, that's good - but most people's response is a passive, "Good I'm covered, God will take care of it - NEXT!" But stop and think about this for a minute - "cooperating with the Spirit" is not about waiting - it's about seeking and following - and most importantly it is about not being satisfied until the change has occurred.
MMI recently quoted Tim Keller - a normally very smart man:
I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent.That sent up some red flags - our prayer life is not based on our emotions - it is not meditation. Our prayer life is a conversation with God seeking to find His desires and gain the resources necessary to bring them to pass. Indeed, those resources may be patience, but the point is prayer is not about us, but it is active.
But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions.
Brief illustration - let's say you are following someone on the road from point A to point B. That is a very different thing from being towed. You have to watch them, you have to watch traffic. You have to keep yourself positioned to see them at all time. They may have bought the car and even paid for the gas, but you still have a lot to do to follow well.
So it is as we follow Jesus - we have a lot to do - it just is not our agenda.