“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJ)
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
As Resurrection Sunday rapidly approaches, we focus on the final area of our Lenten season “Journey of the Cross” with understanding our “Freedom in Christ.” Probably the most difficult part of this teaching will be our willingness to “let go.” Letting go requires releasing those things that cause us to be independent of God and operate outside the will of God. Letting go necessitates that we pray often, wait expectantly, and trust unequivocally. When we “let go and let God”, the results are always more than we can accomplish in our own power (1 Cor. 2:9). Much of the difficulty in “letting go,” often times, lie in our inability to “let go of our ego.”
Ego, in this case, is not an exaggerated sense of self-importance but the use of “fleshly” knowledge and “human” effort to accomplish God’s purpose. This is often the case with believers who endeavor to live righteous and holy lives in their own power. Some people attempt to do this by “works”—they visit the sick, feed the hungry, and do all the things they think will please the Lord. Others become “masters of the spiritual disciplines”—they read their Bible every day, fast and pray, and tithe their ten percent. Regardless of their approach, they often “miss the mark” as they use their fleshly methods to create spiritual outcomes. This was true of Paul, as he attempted to live holy by operating out of his flesh.
I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. Romans 7:15-21
Interestingly the pronoun “I”, in the passage above, in Greek is translated “ego.” Paul’s failure was not due to lack of works or poor self-discipline; nor was it the result of a poor attitude or “stinking thinking.” There were two culprits responsible for his struggle. The first was his ego—Paul attempted to handle sin in his own strength. His best efforts only resulted in frustration. The second perpetrator was “indwelling sin”—the unwanted tenacity of sin left in Paul’s unregenerate flesh (Gal.5:17). What was the best solution for Paul’s dilemma? “Let go the ego!” Paul’s struggle ended when he let go and turned to the power within, God the Spirit (Rom. 7:24-25).
As believers, we will be frequently faced with the struggle of sin. While Christ has delivered us from the penalty of sin (justification) and the power of sin (sanctification), we are yet awaiting to be fully delivered from the presence of sin (glorification). Sin’s presence will be experienced as long as we live in this fallen world and reside in unregenerate flesh. How then are we to live victoriously? Let go the ego and let God!
This week’s response activity will focus on your experience with Christian contemplation. Christian contemplation are those activities that “create emotional and spiritual space” for intimacy with God. The intent of contemplation is “fixing our eye on God”–His Word, His way, or His works. It has been my prayer that in practicing these disciplines of contemplation, you have begun to deepen your experience with God.
During our “Journey of the Cross” we have practiced several types of contemplation–reflective Bible reading, reflective prayer, journaling, solitude, and reflections. This week your assignment is to journal about the one (1) contemplative discipline you felt most comfortable in practicing. As you journal, answer these four (4) reflective questions:
- Did you experience God in this discipline? If not, then why not.
- What did you learn about God? The Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Ghost specifically.
- What did you learn about yourself? Your fears, your faith, your purpose.
- How will your life change as a result of experiencing God?
Take time responding to these questions-reflection and meditation is part of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:8). There are no right or wrong answers. Next week, we will provide an opportunity for you to share your experiences on your “Journey of the Cross.”