Sunday April 10, 2011 | Greg Boyd
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
We all have habitual sins that seem to plague us around every turn. Whether it’s gossip, lust, greed, or envy, we all falter in one place or another. Instead of wishing for deliverance, God asks us to work at our sins in order to become the people he created us to be.
Like many of us, Texra is a person who has a sin that they don’t want to have. She gossips, and she doesn’t want to. She knows that it’s a grievous sin and she’s not supposed to do it, but she can’t help herself. Whenever a juicy tidbit comes along, she has to tell others about it. She’s prayed for deliverance, but it hasn’t come. And it makes it much more difficult to deal with when she hears about other people being delivered from their sins.
Last week, we learned that there are so many variables behind why something happens that it is extremely difficult to narrow it down to one or two. We also learned that arbitrariness is about creation, not God. God is faithful in working good out of every situation. So while some may be delivered, the rest of us really have to work at it.
The reason we struggle has to do with how we were created. In the garden, humanity was created and empowered to rule under God’s Lordship. We would co-rule with God over the things of this Earth. However, we gave away this power to Satan, and now things are largely out of our control. Where we were supposed to have control of our mind, body, and creation, we lost control. And what little we do have control over, we seem to abuse. Because of the Fall, we lost most of our authority over ourselves, the Earth, and animals. But Jesus came to reverse that.
Jesus didn’t come just to save us from our sins. He also came to show us how to take back control and gave us the power to do so. He came back to give us authority to carry out God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. This is part of the reason why all of us aren’t immediately delivered from sin—because God wants us to embrace and learn how to exercise the authority that was originally given to us in the garden.
We don’t work our way to heaven, but the way to heaven involves a lot of work. This is not a works-based theology of grace, but rather an implication that God’s grace puts us in a place where we’ve got some work to do. In this fallen world, we’re conditioned to think we can’t do anything about our thoughts or actions. In reality, God has equipped us to change the way we live and conform our lives to that of the gospel.
The first step out of bondage is to realize the lies from the truth. We are not slaves to our bodies. We are rulers that are not in bondage. We are free, not victims. We’re viceroys and not mastered by our urges. We are children of God. These are the truths which Jesus wants us to understand as the first step in fighting back against sin. We do have the authority to change our lives.
The second step is to take authority. However, taking authority isn’t magical, but rather a training process. If we’re serious about fighting sin, then fighting sin has to look more like training for an athletic event than wishing upon a star. When someone wants to run a mile in record time, they don’t walk up to the starting line without training. They don’t just decide to run that mile in record time, or pray for that miracle. Instead, the runner trains long and hard in order to make their body ready for the mile run. Again, this isn’t competing to get into heaven, but rather training our bodies and minds in order to live out the authority given to us by Jesus.
Like it or not, the truth is we can’t grow into Christ-likeness by sitting on the couch eating potato chips. We can’t experience the transforming power of God’s grace unless we train our bodies and minds to conform to God’s power and authority. God gives us the tools to take authority like we were supposed to, but it is up to us to use the tools.
This world is full of people who engage in incredible discipline. Whether it’s an athlete, artist, scholar, or soldier, success takes hard work and discipline. However, our living out of the authority given to us is of much more importance than any of these disciplines. Ask God how you might start your training and what to sacrifice in order to practice kingdom principles. Ask others to help you in your journey. Start praying to find out how you might best start the discipline of training in authority.