Let me try to recap this in one sentence: Instrospection and merely thinking about doing right don’t bring about the purpose for which God created us.
“Lifeless Field” and “baser part”
Prisoners on death row are sometimes spoken of as “dead men walking.” They’re still alive, but they’re headed for death. Because of our belief in Resurrection of the body and of “progressive sanctification,” we Christians could refer to ourselves as “resurrected men walking.” Jesus isn’t through removing deadwood, cultivating the otherwise sterile soil of our hearts just yet. For now, we’re still partly dead, but we’re headed for thorough life, especially when we experience the Resurrection that Jesus experienced after His crucifixion.
These days, I’m working with a counselor to help me understand why I have been an irritable man most of my adult life. The work I’m doing now could be compared to using a spade to turn over the dead parts of my life: my disordered affections and stupid coping mechanisms. The aim is to replace irritability with joy and equanimity.
But if I were of the opinion that merely THINKING about what needs to change, or “getting my head on straight” would effect the desired change (“the fruit”), I’d be mistaken. Only God can breathe life into dust and bring it to life.
My counselor has twice suggested something that would really turn away a person who doesn’t believe in God’s active work in our lives. He has said that God seems to have arranged human relationships in such a way that all our attempts at peace and reconciliation lead us to the realization that OUR ATTEMPTS won’t work. We need God. We need the Holy Spirit. We need His intervention and His life-giving work in our lives. At least that’s how I’m understanding the counselor at this point. In one sense, I’m paying the counselor to help me understand that counseling alone is worthless.
“Fig tree leaf so very large”
I’m an elder in my church. It’s a position of esteem and responsibility. It suggests that I am spiritually mature. If I were compared to a tree, one might say that I SEEM to be healthy. But appearance isn’t everything. Who am I really blessing? Who do I comfort? Who do I inspire? Who do I correct? What do people learn about Jesus by looking at my behavior? Just yesterday, I asked one of our deacons to pray for me: “Pray that I’ll actually spend time with people.” No amount of merely thinking right and diligence in administrative work will achieve what God intends for me to achieve: the fruit of being/looking more like Jesus and helping others to do the same.
And then, of course, there’s my family… my wife and boys. Am I blessing them? Or do the dead parts of me — my baser parts — just bring misery to them? Thankfully, they’re walking together with me in this journey.