THE ABIDING LIFE
By Gwen Sellers
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I've just been proofreading commentary on John 5 for our new site BibleRef.com, and it has me thinking. Each verse has its own page of commentary, so the writer ends up having to repeat himself over and over to provide context each time. What hit me about the end of John 5 was the emphasis on how the religious leaders refused to believe in Jesus. Their hearts were hard. It wasn't that they had legitimate reason to doubt Jesus and His claims, but that they simply would not believe Him. Luke 16:19-31 and Romans 1:18-22 make similar points. If you keep reading in Romans 1, it gets pretty scary. Not only do people refuse to believe in God, "...God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done" (Romans 1:28b). When people stubbornly refuse to acknowledge God's truth, God allows them to live in their delusions, reveling in sin. God does not do this because He is mean or unjust, but because their hearts are simply that hard.
It never hurts to remind ourselves that there is no fear for believers in Jesus regarding salvation. We are not in the category of those with debased minds or hearts hardened beyond repair (Romans 7-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 1:6). God will not give us over to delusion. We will not be lost. We belong to Jesus and He is faithful to hold us and to complete us.
Yet, if I'm honest with myself, this warning still resonates. I do sometimes simply refuse to believe God. All evidence points to God's absolute love, goodness, and faithfulness. Yet I still worry about things in my life. I still find myself balking at God's commands and trying to do things my own way. I still try to hold on to my pet idols, anticipating they can provide me with something that God won't. Though I trust in Jesus for salvation, I'm still working on practical complete surrender in the daily things of life. Can anyone relate?
From a logical standpoint, this is just silliness. But my heart doesn't always listen to logic. My heart also still contends with sin. While we've been set free from sin in Jesus, we still wage war against it. We live in a fallen world and are prone to cling to our sins. The truths is, though, that enticing as it is, sin is deceitful; it can never deliver what it promises.
I recently wrote an article about Achan, the Israelite from Joshua 7 who stole plunder from Jericho, which ultimately resulted in the initial defeat of Israel at Ai, loss of thirty-six soldiers, and death and destruction of Achan, his family, and all he had. He took a robe, some silver, and some gold. This after direct instructions from God not to and after witnessing the miraculous overcoming of Jericho; the city's walls caved in after the Israelites simply marched around it for seven days. Achan's sin was totally not worth it! But what our editor added to the article got me thinking. Even without the punishment for the sin, what Achan had stolen did him no good. It was buried in his tent, completely useless. How often do I "bury" my sins? I don't trust God to be enough, so I take some measly plunder and hoard it away. All it does is breed death. Often times that death not only affects me, but those around me. There really is no such thing as a private sin that doesn't affect anyone but ourselves.
The sneaky thing about sin is that it isn't really about dos and don'ts. Living a life free from sin has much more to do with a heart posture than it does with behavioral conformity. My battle isn't against an action or a lack of action as much as it is with a heart that needs to learn to trust God fully. What we do demonstrates what we believe. When I come to something other than God for my worth or joy or peace, I demonstrate that I don't really believe Him when He tells me He is the Creator and lover of my soul, that He is a good Father, that He is enough. He's given me all the evidence I need, and yet my heart refuses to fully believe.
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