I used to think it was very simple. You pray for cleansing; God takes out the problems = life is solved. You can now live a victorious Christian life. The little stuff is over. What I didn’t understand for many years is that implied in the adjective “victorious” is a battle, something over which to be victorious.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I believe that God’s grace gives us power over sin. As Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:57 ” . . .thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I’m making reference here not to the sinful self, but to the human self. You see, I’ve discovered some stuff about me after living with myself for a few decades. I have some bends in my DNA that won’t be “cleansed” out of me. They’re part of the tiny puzzle of DNA that threads itself through every cell. That’s what being human is all about–having this treasure (of godliness) in “earthen vessels.” (or as Patsy Clarimont said it, “cracked pots.” (2 Corinthians 4: 7)
I’m a firstborn. So what? There is definitely something to the theory of birth order ( I recommend the books of Dr. Kevin Leman, if you want to understand more). I’m a melancholy (yes, I think there is something to temperament types too) I’m a driven, play-by-the-rules-on-the-box, sequential, sentimental, loyal, artistic, introspective, sometimes too sensitive, people-pleasing kind of person. Hmmm.
Before you get to liking my confession too much, consider that you have some innate quirks in your psyche as well. We all have. The work of the Holy Spirit is to “temper” our temperament; to gentle us and guide us to being more Christ-life. But guess what? It doesn’t happen overnight.
I can surrender in an instant. I can be cleansed of impurity in an instant. But I cannot be mature or complete in an instant. So, I’m very glad for Phillipians 1:6 where I am assured of “this very thing” that He who began the work will perform or “finish” it.
You see, all through life I get to practice minute by minute surrender to the will of Christ. In that way, I know that “this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)
That means, there will be certain struggles I face because of my unique temperament that you will not. And likewise with you. Does that mean that we are not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit? No, it means He gives us the power to triumph. But it is not automatic. It is still a life of choice–the choice to maintain surrender.
Realizing that some parts of our natural emotions and preferences are not sinful can help us live more authentically. Because when you realize that some things will not be “removed,” you will come to rely so much more heavily on the daily power of the Holy Spirit. And instead of constantly praying “Oh, God take this from me” you begin to search His Word and seek His face for power to live minute by minute. And you will begin to gain the insight to see “OK, this inclination isn’t sin; it’s how my temperament predisposes me to feel or act. Now what is the Christ-like response?” (Dr. Allen Brown has a great study on power in our personal lives that I recommend.)
I am thankful that God is faithful, merciful and compassionate. I’m not at the head of His class, but I feel blessed to be among those who are learning to trust Him and to dig deeper into His awesome Truth. It is powerful and life-giving.