Hindrances to Discipleship: Freedom from the Flesh - Part II - page 4


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From the Spring 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

PART TWO OF TWO

Hindrances to Discipleship: Freedom from the Flesh

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

 
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Practical Next Steps

  What practical steps can we take to live this way? Assuming that we have grasped what has been said thus far, the next step is to follow Paul’s instructions. Make some time to get alone with God and your Bible and “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). This means a literal giving of ourselves to God wholeheartedly, without reserve. We give everything we know about ourselves at this time to everything we know about God. Everything must go on the table; nothing can be held back.
  So vital is this point that Paul reiterates it in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is a critical step, without which we will make little progress in the spiritual life. To make this surrender concrete, early in his life Dr. Richard Halverson filled out a blank Bill of Sale, with himself as the seller and God as purchaser, and irrevocably conveyed himself and all he had or would ever have to God and His service.  Many of us are stuck right here. Either we have not been taught this truth, or we do not understand what it means, or we refuse to surrender ownership of ourselves to God, or we have surrendered ourselves but later taken back control of our lives. In every case, however, the remedy is the same: to present (or re-present) our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
  Doing this clears the way for the next step: to be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Living for Christ requires the supernatural power of the Spirit. Yet many believers are either confused about or afraid of the Holy Spirit; herein lies another common reason for our weak, anemic lives. We need to take the wise counsel of John Calvin, who somewhere said that we should “believe all that the Scriptures teach us about the Holy Spirit and expect all that the Scriptures promise us from the Holy Spirit.” Some of us are stuck between Calvary and Pentecost. We know that our redemption was accomplished by Christ on the cross, but we don’t realize that it is applied in daily life only by the Spirit, whose fullness we desperately need. We receive the power to live this life as we obey the command to be filled continuously with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). There is no other way. Just as a jetliner cannot become airborne without power to overcome gravity, so we cannot be victorious without the Spirit’s power to overcome sin. This means allowing the Spirit to have full control of us and empower our lives. John Stott describes being filled with the Spirit as “a penitent turning from what grieves the Holy Spirit and such a believing openness to Him that nothing hinders Him from filling us.” This explains why it is so critical to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God; for if we are running our life in our own strength and self-chosen way, we are disobeying God, grieving the Holy Spirit, blocking His fullness and power in our lives making ourselves vulnerable to the Devil, and ensuring our own defeat.
  It is sometimes thought that once we have been filled with the Spirit, we are permanently empowered and good to go indefinitely. But this is mistaken, “For the fullness of the Spirit is not a once-for-all experience which we can never lose, but a privilege to be renewed continuously by continuous believing and obedient appropriation.” Just as an aircraft requires a continuous supply of fuel to remain aloft, so we need the continuous empowerment of the Spirit to overcome sin. Clearly, continuous faith and obedience are essential for continuous fullness of the Spirit.
  This brings us to yet another step, daily walking in the Spirit, which is closely related to being filled with the Spirit. Paul tells us that as we walk in the fullness of the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh, which are opposed to the desires of the Spirit and are always seeking to reassert themselves (Gal. 5:16–17).

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