The question at the heart of the folly of hypocrisy and the need for control is, “Am I enough?”
We know that the Law is a schoolmaster, and we know that it’s a fool who goes his own way and starts adding 2+2=5 simply because he’s not under authority. But what else did the Law serve to teach us?
Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
The Law teaches us that we are sinners.
And the Law is written on all hearts… because even the unsaved know that they are sinners, and seek to be evaluated as truly good. Simply because the unsaved don’t accede to the Torah does not mean that they don’t set up rules for themselves. Humans like rules. Ever more complicated rules, ever higher standards for purity and holiness – regardless of what we consider the mark, we make it hard to achieve.
Colossians 2: 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? [Note – “commandments and teachings of MEN” – humans. We do this. It’s us.]
We continue to seek after this enoughness, even though we know that we are *not* righteous in and of ourselves. We still want to *be* righteous in ourselves.
Romans 3:10 as it is written,“There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;12 all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.
It’s confusing, because after salvation, we neither become temporally perfect (I know that we’re positionally pure before God, washed clean in the Blood – but that doesn’t mean I never exceed the speed limit) nor are we returned to our unsaved condition. We know that we don’t *have* to work, yet we’re supposed to surrender ourselves. I mean, if you’re not after cheap grace, you care about this. You care that you’re glorifying God and doing right by Him.
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
It’s not as if Paul didn’t get this.
Romans 7: 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Romans 8: 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Well enough – the mind set on flesh (the Law – any law) is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life. But now we’re going back to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”? How do I do that?
Romans 12: 1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
The very next verses discuss the gifts of the Spirit. I have two main gifts and have used others as it has suited the Lord. (Exhortation, counsel – and I guess mercy, though I’ve never really thought of it as a ‘gift’, more as a ‘fruit’. Sometimes I have a Word for someone, usually that’s in groups).
Romans 12:6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
The gift of exhortation… I don’t like it when people praise me for it (especially since it isn’t ME – it’s God, and so that’s just totally weird), but at the same time, I do look at lives to see if there is change. Same with counsel. “Have I done enough? Have I said enough? Was I enough? Should I go back and do more? Say more? How can I affect change?” If you have the gift of evangelism, you *know* when your gift was “enough”. If you serve, well, a clean room is a clean room. My gifts are nebulous. They aren’t quantifiable. “Did I talk to the right people today? Did I talk to enough people? Who else needs a little encouragement? Did I let X down? ….” Believe me, this goes on and on and ON.
And that brings me to where I started… the way God works with seeds and harvests. (Honestly, exhortation is more like watering, which only adds to the confusion!)
I Corinthians 3: 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Consistently, throughout Scripture, God says that it is HIS job to increase/decrease the harvest. My gifts don’t even really lend themselves to harvests, if you want the truth. I’m wandering off somewhere else with a watering can and a ball of twine to tie up loose vines. Continually trying to evaluate myself in the flesh is pointless and painful. So, how do I fix this empty “enough” box?
- Continue to study and apply Scripture to my life, daily. I can’t possibly allow myself to go rogue – staying in Scripture is mandatory. As is seeking good, solid Bible teaching. More Bible = More Better.
- Pray and seek God’s will. Lots of prayer, lots of being real with God, not allowing hypocrisy to sneak into my relationship with the Almighty.
- Remain in the Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit, every day, to enable me to do what needs doing, say what needs saying, and direct me to where I need to go and to whom I need to speak.
- And the hard one… Let Go. I know too much to think that “let go and let God” means that I sit on my tail and laze about, that last is HARD. And I *want* to be able to evaluate myself in the flesh. But I can’t. Mind firmly set on the Spirit and on the now – these are not my strengths, people!
So, where does that lead me? It leads me to the Spirit, to leaning on God, to not leaning on my own understanding. It leads me to a very uncomfortable place, where I start learning what faith and patience *really* mean. But that’s for another day…