The elders council of our church just finished a book study of Pilgrim’s Progress. Authored by John Bunyan and published in 1678 this Christian allegory is chock-full of needed biblical reminders. Here’s one that impacted me profoundly: “If I looked very closely into the best of what I now do, I still see sin, new sin, mixing itself with the best of what I do” (chapter 32). Wow! Even our best attempts at serving one another, preaching God’s Word, lifting Jesus’ name high in worship, giving, and encouraging others is laced with elements of sin.
We are all posers
God declares through the inspired testimony of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:21-24:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Because we are not yet fully sanctified everything from a desire to feel better about ourselves, receive attention, please people, be rewarded, and present ourselves as righteous corrupts our righteous deeds. We are all posers, pretending to be people we have not fully yet become.
So what do we do? Do we throw up our hands and quit doing good? Do we walk through the streets like spiritual lepers warning everyone before us Unclean!, unclean! (Lev. 13:45)? Do we sit down, slump over and spend the rest of our lives whispering under our breathe, Wretched man that I am!, Wretched man that I am!, Wretched man that I am!…?
Having acknowledged that he too was a poser, Paul went on to state:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom 7:25)
Then, having laid down the burden of pretending to be righteous, Paul thanked God for the Lord Jesus Christ (7:25), grabbed hold of the truth that he was no longer condemned (8:1) but freed from the condemning law (8:2), and encouraged us all to live by the Spirit (8:4). What this means is that only a life led by the Spirit can produce works of true righteousness! By ourselves this is impossible since our yet-to-be-sanctified flesh will always corrupt our best attempts at righteousness. But since the Spirit and the ways of the Spirit are 100% righteous, only His power alive in us can move us from pretending to purity!
Let the Spirit make you righteous!
Have you prayerfully surrendered to the Spirit? Are you listening to his guiding voice and allowing him to bear spiritual fruit through you (Gal, 5:22-23)? If you live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25), you will see that the flesh, along with its passions and desires, have been crucified in Christ (Gal 5:24), and that you are therefore no longer in bondage to them. If we live by the flesh we fail to produce true righteousness, but if we live by the Spirit, the righteousness he produces in us brings eternal glory to God!
So live by the Spirit!