“The giving way to the law of sin in the least is the giving strength unto it. To let it alone is to let it grow; not to conquer it is to be conquered by it.” John Owen
In our blog article of a few weeks ago, “The Neglected Call to Be Clean and Pure on the Inside” we sought to make clear the call to be cleaned up on the inside and some of the challenges to heeding that call. In this article we want to share some thoughts on the process of walking out that call..
The Holy Spirit has helped me better appreciate over time what Paul said to Timothy about this process, “…great is the mystery of godliness” (I Timothy 3:16). The God ordained process to make a believer godly or holy is in many ways a mystery. God’s ways and timeline with each of His children is different. But there are some principles that can apply to all of us as we seek to please Him in our own growth in the inner man.
Here’s the first principle:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the call to be clean and pure and what your responsibility is in fulfilling this call to you in scripture. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit are wonderful teachers and instructors! If you want to go deep on this you might begin to trace from Genesis to Revelation every occurrence of words like “clean”, “cleansed”, “cleansing”, “wash”, “washed”, “pure”, “purify”, etc. Unless we see it for what it is, (and see Him for who He is), we will not be motivated to do much about it. Whenever and wherever you read the scriptures, if you make this a matter of prayer, I am confident He will open your eyes to this most important subject.
2. Make a major part of your daily time with the Lord that of praying for yourself. If you use a prayer list, put yourself at the top. If you pray the scriptures, pray for yourself first in light of what the Holy Spirit is saying through that passage. If this seems selfish, you might note: 1. How often the Psalmist in Psalm 119 prayed for himself. 2. How Jesus’s well known command to “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you…” (Matt. 7:7) is in the context of overcoming the sin of judging others by dwelling/focusing on the log in your own eye instead of the splinter in the eye of another “….Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:13-5). It is impossible to effectively remove the log in our own eye apart from making it a matter of daily persistent prayer. Without God’s help, we can’t even see it much less remove it. 3. How Jesus prayed for Himself in John 17:1-8 before He began to pray for His present and future disciples in the rest of the chapter “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” (vs. 1,2).
3. If you are a husband, and you realize you have not made your wife the priority she should have been you might want to consider using a prayer tool I put together for my own marriage. You can find it here: https://www.kingdomstreams.net/post/a-husband-s-job-description-prayer-tool.
The Holy Spirit loves and blesses specificity in prayer and confession and hates ambiguity such as “God please bless my marriage. Amen!” If we are ever to truly and effectively lay “….aside the old self with its evil practices, and …put on the new self…” (Colossians 3:9, 10), we must identify as clearly as we can by the Holy Spirit’s help what the old self looks like and operates like especially within our families and what the new self is that must replace the old self.
4. Because spiritual blindness regarding our inner man’s true condition is such a challenge for most of us, and because God is so willing and eager to deliver us from this, we want to highly encourage you to pray daily for those nearest in relationship to you. Never take their spiritual growth and health for granted (especially your spouse and children if that applies). If you want to use a list of the recorded prayers in the New Testament that I use every morning when praying for my wife and children and spouses and grandchildren, you can find it here: https://www.kingdomstreams.net/post/prayers-of-jesus-and-paul
5. If this call to pursue inner purity and being clean in His eyes in the inner man is as important as we are saying it is, you are going to need a lot of encouragement to make it the priority it needs to be in your life. Choose with discernment who you allow to speak into your life regarding this, as some even well known Bible teachers just do not yet see it. Anne and I have found great encouragement from and we commend to you books such as: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis; “The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions” edited by Arthur Bennet; and books by John Owen such as “The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers”. Basically in your reading you want to find authors who take sin seriously and the call to be cleansed and freed from sin seriously, and we’ve found many of those have died and are with the Lord, but their writings live on. We’ve also found some encouragement from the monthly newspaper, “Herald of His Coming” in this regard.
6. Take seriously Jesus’s call to not manage or bandaid sin, but to kill it. In the context of men overcoming lusting after women, Jesus counsels, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:29,30 Obviously Jesus does not want us to mutilate ourselves. But He does expect us to be serious about ongoing sin in our lives.
It is by the Holy Spirit that we put to death any matter of sin in us. Paul affirms, “..if you are living according to the flesh, you must die. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12, 13 While the translators of the NASV chose to translate Colossians 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality….etc.” their note in the margin makes it clear that literally it should be translated, “Therefore put to death the members which are upon the earth” and then the sample list of sins. These three passages and others should help us see that sin is not to be taken lightly. It is from passages like these that Thomas a Kempis re: the pursuit of holiness declared, “Unless you do violence to yourself, you will not overcome your faults.”
No one ever overcame sin patterns and practices by taking them in stride or minimizing them. Some years ago the Holy Spirit began to deal with my life long relationship with the Dallas Cowboys. The men in my clan were all Cowboy fans and while we might have given thanks at a meal at our Thanksgiving clan gatherings, the real event was the Cowboys game. This allegiance/worship continued throughout my college years, and grew more than ever in my six years living in Dallas for grad school/seminary. Then the Lord began to speak to me in quiet but sobering ways. First He whispered one day something to the effect of, “Randy you tell people that your greatest priorities are intimacy with Me and intimacy with your wife. So tell me how watching the Cowboy games contributes to either of those”? Then one day He pointed out to me that I had three gifts in my home all given to me from one of our elders’ wives, all having something to do with the Cowboys. So think about this - when this woman thought about what would make Randy – the man of God - happy for his Birthday or Christmas – this is what came to her mind? Dallas Cowboys memorabilia? The Cowboys and even our T.V. soon after had to go.
Now I hesitate in sharing specifics like this because you may have freedom in Christ to watch NFL football or other kinds of sporting events. But because of the long held soul tie I had with them and because of my stated aspirations and priorities, watching them and reading articles about them was no longer an option. The eye had to be gouged out not dabbed with make up.
Friends, someone has said, “God will either show you the greatness of your sin or He will show others the greatness of your sin.” It is much better for Him to show you/me directly or perhaps with or through a trusted friend or spouse or therapist, than for us to ignore it or massage it and then something awful happen and everyone has to deal with the fallout. If you read this article, then I’m pretty confident you are in the journey and He will take you the rest of the way. He is a wonderful Savior and Deliverer and Healer. May He have His way with all of us for His glory!