I Can See Clearly Then

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:23-25

While we have the Spirit in Christ we only have his first fruits so to speak. We see in the mirror dimly right now, as Paul says. (1 Corinthians 13:12) We know we’re adopted and redeemed, but in our bodies because we are not yet glorified, it doesn’t feel that way. If Paul calls himself wretched (Romans 7:14) then we can expect to be frustrated as well, having to drag this dirty old carcass around for now.

Our present condition produces a continuing reliance upon our eternal hope to live each day. It’s better to be fueled by hope than a sense that this is all there is. Buy a new car and you’ll know what I mean. You have what you hoped for and now what? Soon the new car smell fades.

This yearning for it all causes us to groan as we struggle to persevere. But in all cases, we can persevere in our frustrating humanity in and by the spirit. As we do our hope in what lies ahead grows.

I remember my grandmother. Such a hard life. She lost her gifted firstborn son to pneumonia when he was 17. Her husband, a lawyer, coped with the loss with alcohol and never was the same. They lost everything and lived in the projects. She never had a home of her own that I know of. But through it all, no one could shake her hope in the Lord. Living for a time with each of her surviving sons, she touched her grandchildren in such a way that they could not help but yearn for what she had. I remember her sitting out in the family room in the dead of night groaning deeply and crying out to God. But she never gave up hope. Now in glory she sees clearly why it was all worth it.

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Pre-game Speech–Proverbs 25

Good coaches tell you what you should and should not do. They give instructions on how you can better your game and help the team. They want to be clear so they illustrate what they say with words you can understand. They’ll describe the consequences of your actions so you’ll know what you’ll experience ahead of time.

Solomon was reportedly the wisest man who ever lived. The men of Hezekiah wanted to make sure we all benefited from that wisdom by recording his pregame speech in Proverbs 25. (v. 1)

Studying Proverbs can be tricky, since its statements, while apparently simple and straightforward, are simple and straightforward. It’s best just to organize them and take them as they are.

In Chapter 25, using the New American Standard Bible, these are my organizational keywords that signal the coach’s main instructions. “Take away,” “do not,” “it is better,” “like,” and “it is not good.”

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. (v. 19)

One important note, the word “like” indicates a “similitude.” Whatever Solomon has said, unless very archaic, cannot be improved with your own version.

For example, when he says a “faithless man” is like a bad tooth or unsteady foot, what he means is that a faithless man is like a bad tooth or unsteady foot. We all know what this means, especially a bad tooth. Universally and for all time, to get relief the tooth must come out. Therefore, toss the faithless man!

For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen. (v. 7)

If you want to improve your life, try doing what is “better.” For example, when tempted to self-promote, downplay your importance. Self-deprecation is better than self-aggrandizement.

It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (v. 24)

When selecting your wife, consider how contentious she might be while you’re dating. Solomon gives you fair warning.

…do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away. (v.9, 10)

The “do nots” are clear as day as you’d expect. I’ve already mentioned the pitfalls of self-aggrandizement, and there are also warnings not to rush to file suit and tell secrets.

Now you will have to do a little study on topics like “heaping burning coals on someone’s head,” (v. 22) but the subject is kindness, so you’re not too far off. I’ll try my own similitude here, like a gallon of gas to a stranded motorist is

One other bit of teaching that’s not too deep is as “the north wind brings forth rain,” the sly or slanderous tongue brings on anger. (v. 23) If you want sunshine in your life, hold your tongue, and Jesus might also make it more rigorous and add your thoughts!

After you’ve read this chapter you might want to write down what’s really important. I’d say, and the good coach would say, all of it!

Better to—ha, ha—read it over and over and over. Practice makes perfect!

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Call the Exterminator

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2

Being no longer condemnable in Christ Jesus means his Spirit takes the reins of our lives. I sometimes get the sense that it’s quite easy to nudge the Spirit aside and retake control. Reading Chapter 8:1-25, though, perhaps it’s more like wrestling or wrenching control from him than a head fake.

The extent of our transformation is head to toe. Sure we continue to battle with sin, but these occasional skirmishes can be easily snuffed out by the power that resides within us. So effective is our emancipation we now set our minds on following the one who set us free (v. 2) and gives us life and peace (v. 6). We no longer have a taste for sin. In fact, it’s nauseating! That’s why Paul would wonder if the Spirit of God is in someone who appears to be still feasting off a life of sin (v. 9).

Now from metaphors to an analogy. If your house is infested with termites and you find a pesticide to eradicate them, you’re crazy not to use it. We in the Spirit have the right stuff to constantly keep our house sin free. And every time we apply the Spirit we are reminded that we only have this on our shelf because He’s inside us!

Then we can only hope to be absolutely free of the nuisance of sin, and we groan (v. 23) when the pests reappear! And they will.

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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch…

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  Romans 7:18-19

Meanwhile back at the ranch… I’m going to confirm what Paul laments about here. I am capable of incredible goodness, yet there’s a tripwire out there somewhere that I can’t see that can put me almost immediately into sin.

The propensity to screw up is never factored in but pops up all the time. It’s maddening because you were on a roll up to that point. I find my mouth is the usual suspect. Then there’s that normally sedated anger of mine that was conquered long ago. You think, where did that come from? And from here to eternity, there’s those pesky lusts of the flesh!

As one matures you’re hoping to be perfect in Christ, but that’s not the case. While the majors may not be happening anymore, the minor sins seem way more acute. I’m better than that, I say, and I probably am. But I’ll never get there this side of eternity.

That’s exactly why Paul of all people appears tormented. He wants to do right, but try as he might he can’t! So it is with all of us.

Seeing this wretched state in which we reside, so valuable are God’s mercy and grace, and the boldness we have to enter his throne room to make things right! (Ephesians 3:12) If this process is like breathing it won’t take much to get back on the right plane. You may have to apologize to the dog, but you’ll have yet again righted the ship.

Paul’s reality check is a helpful yet painful reminder of the war that rages within. Yet “greater is he who’s within me than he who is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)

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Off Scot-Free–Psalm 17

Sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it. You read about people caught red-handed and let go Scot-free. Where’s the justice in this world? It gets personal when you’re victimized and nothing gets done. Why do the guilty skate and I in my integrity get the short end?

That’s the design of a fallen world. The enemy can take us down six ways to Sunday (v. 9) and we’re left reeling in a corner. It makes you want to throw in the towel and cash in yourself the best you can, while you can, like “men of the world, whose portion is in this life.” (v. 14)

But the godly must seek out a higher purpose in life, forgoing it’s fleeting and fading pleasures. It’s also a lifelong commitment to fending off a relentless infatigable foe.

Once you choose the high road you can only beg to be kept the apple of the Lord’s eye, staying within the shadow of his protective wings (v. 8), taking refuge within the radius of his wielded sword (v. 13). Only there are you safe. Only there you can visualize how good it’ll be.

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On Bearing Fruit

Take an inventory. What in your life is proof positive that you’re joined at the hip with Christ? What fruit for God do you bear?

We talked about being “raised to walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, 7:6) So what’s new? We also talked about “a form of teaching” (Romans 6:17) that we now adhere to as believers. On that note, here are three kinds of fruit taught by the apostle Paul with which we can account for our spiritual growth, the fruit of the spirit, the fruit of the Light, and the fruit of righteousness.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Then there’s Ephesians 5:8-9, that instructs us to “walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).” And in Ephesians 5:8-9 we read this: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

The presence of Christ in us should produce what we can only conclude is Christ-like behavior or good fruit. And these qualities, like Peter says, should increase with time!

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8

My question is this. How hard do we Christians have to work to squelch or quench any semblance of godly behavior in our walks? The answer is, it’s hard and probably impossible to pull this off. For God will allow waywardness only temporarily (1 Corinthians 11:30), and besides, we will be miserable souls throughout!

Better to do the right thing, and to do so is not burdensome! (1 John 5:3)

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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You Were Born for This!

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:16-18

The power that saves us doesn’t just stop there. It draws us to “that form of teaching” (John 16:13) causing “obedience resulting in righteousness.” What was a life of slavery to sin is now one where the heart defaults to do what is right, not what is wrong. After all, what use is salvation if from there on we’re just as inclined to sin as before?

Under the law there was a framework in which righteousness could, in theory, be pulled off with no small effort. Obedience under grace though is carried out successfully like a gifted athlete in his or her sport.

For example, anyone can swing a golf club, but the God-gifted has the natural coordination and strength to do it better from the start. Someone truly saved by grace can pull off righteousness easier than he can sin!

Miraculously, once a duffer, now playing in the Masters!

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