13 March 2023
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corin. 13:12).
“Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come..We live by faith, not by sight…So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Corin. 5:5,7,9)
In our study of the book of Galatians, we realise that we are no longer under bondage to the law – in the sense that we are not saved by keeping the law, and we do not need to please God by our performance because we are already adopted as children of God in His family, if we are believers. Yet we know that as children of God, we seek always to please our heavenly Father (Abba) and we keep God’s commandments and seek to be transformed into the image of our dear Lord Jesus. In that sense, we keep God’s law as an expression of our love for Him and for others, and we do it willingly, obediently, not under compulsion, but in line with God’s desires and purpose for His people. We are therefore free to choose to be servants and ‘slaves’ to God and others for the sake of the gospel and the kingdom of God.
Yet, we find that we still have to battle against the devil, the world, and our indwelling sin. There is a constant struggle as we travel in this world as pilgrims towards the ‘promised land’ (the new heaven and new earth). We are already ‘saved, we are being saved, and we would be fully saved, in the culmination of God’s eternal purpose.
In that light, there is the continual tension between ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. We need to understand this well; otherwise we will find ourselves ‘disillusioned’, discouraged, wondering what is actually happening in our ‘sufferings’, persecutions and relationship problems. Not understanding this well results in major errors in outworking of the church and in the life of believers.
Thinking that we already arrived, we live our christian life as if there is no more ‘sin’, no more ‘mysteries’ in theology, no more sickness, no more suffering. Image and experiences replace the Word of God; vision and sight take over faith; entertainment replaces exposition. Realise that it is God who gave us the Bible and it is He who sent us the Holy Spirit. If we have already ‘arrived’, then we do not really need the Bible and the Spirit to guide and enable us to live our life on earth.
Insistent that the outworking of Christian living is about experience rather than truth, it is no wonder that such believers are impatient with biblical study, and they are content with a tiny handful of biblical teachings for life from the Scriptures. Endless possibilities of deception and satanic manipulations open up the moment we lay aside the Word to follow supposedly direct instruction from the Spirit in vision, dream, prophecy or inward impression. This is always the danger when the formation of the mind by the Word is in any way neglected.
What is needed is across the board is constant instruction in biblical truth with constant prayer that the Spirit will make it take fire in human hearts, regenerating, redirecting and transforming into Christ’s likeness, at character level. Consider this – this is what evangelism and discipleship is all about – remember the Lord Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded His followers. We cannot achieve this without the Spirit and the Word. Just as the Word is insufficient without the Spirit, so the Spirit is insufficient without the Word.
On the other extreme, many so-called believers embrace the idea that biblical orthodoxy is all that matters and biblical teaching alone produces a healthy church. Idolising orthodoxy is not the same as worshipping God and that complacent “orthodoxism” by inflating pride actually quenches the Spirit.
We must not forget the rebuke the Lord Jesus gave to the Pharisees when He likened them to white-washed tombstones, beautiful on the outside but containing dead bones and ‘death’ on the inside. Legalism which often springs forth from the wrongful desire to maintain orthodoxy is another form of ‘bondage’ – legalists are very careful to keep all the external rules and insist that others do likewise – they have actually become slaves to ‘keeping the law (and rules)’ to ‘score points’ and to project spirituality, when in fact there is no real freedom in the Spirit to do what God truly desires.
So the christian life is a journey and a race like a marathon; it is not a sprint. The world will prescribe the broad way (Matt. 7:13) – living without regard for God, a temptation we tend to lapse into.
The flesh, the inner dynamics of our human hearts as twisted by still present indwelling sin and not yet fully reordered by grace, is weak, as seen from what took place in the disciples in Gethsemane. We will need to ask the Lord to reenergize us through the Holy Spirit to keep us from collapse.
Then there is the devil, our adversary – who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Active faith that calls on the Father, the Son, and the Spirit for strength to stand firm against all distortions of revealed truth, all discouragements from faithfulness to it (believe me, there would be plenty), and all temptations to despair (which may not be infrequent) will make us invulnerable to Satan’s frontal attacks. Nothing changes that.
It is ‘already’ – Jesus uttered “It is finished”; yet it in “not yet”. God allows His people to live in the tension between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus. God uses ‘difficulties’, ‘sufferings’, ‘warfare’ to train His people to be ready for their final abode; the “Refiner’s fire” would purify our lives like gold is refined, and we shall come forth as pure unblemished ‘bride’ of Christ.