Practical Application of the Word of God
I’m a to-do list person. I often make a master to-do list at the beginning of the week for each day of what I want or need to accomplish. Then, early each morning, I look at the the list of items to be done that day and then flesh them out, as well as add or subtract items so the list is accurate and current.
My to-do lists are my intent, or what I have purposed to do for the week and for each day of the week. However, more often than not, by the end of each day and the end of the week, there are things I intended to do that either got moved to a later date or simply didn’t get done at all.
Sometimes there are valid reasons why things on my to-do list got changed or didn’t get done, but there are also times when there are no valid reasons: I just didn’t do something that I should have done.
As I see the gap in my physical day-to-day life between what I purpose to do and actually end up doing, I also see a similar, but wider, gap in my spiritual life.
David saw the same gap in his spiritual life when he asked God to unite his heart to fear (revere, obey, worship, etc.) God. So did Paul as he explained in his letter to the Romans (Romans 7:14-25):
I certainly don’t have all the answers to this question, but I do have three that I’ve been thinking about lately:
Lack of thinking is a problem we all deal with in the gap between our spiritual intent and what we actually end up doing. It, frankly, is part of the weakness of our flesh and our carnal minds.
Our intentions are often set before we encounter reality. And sometimes reality hits us so hard and so fast that we just react before we even have time to think.
The aftermath generally shows a wide gap between what we intend to do and what actually happens.
Lack of remembering is also something that plagues us all, especially as our lives get swept up in over-busyness, some of which we, unfortunately, actually build in consciously and some of which simply occurs outside of our control.
In either case, we get derailed and we forget what we intended to do and end up with action that often looks vastly different than what fulfilling our intentions would have looked like.
Lack of ability is the third thing that creates the wide gap between what we intend and what we actually end up doing.
I think this aspect is one that we all get tripped up by a lot of the time. We overestimate our own power, resources, and ability to the point that we simply believe if we just decide to do something – spiritually, to change, to overcome, and repent – and we try hard enough and long enough, it will happen.
And, under our own steam alone, it never does.
So are we stuck forever with this wide gap between our intent and our actions, ending in failure each time?
We should take heart that the answer to that question from God and Jesus Christ is “No.”
The bridge to the gap between what we intend to do and what we actually do is God, Jesus Christ, God’s word and God’s spirit. These are what unite our heart (intent plus action) to obey, revere, and worship God.
The spiritual reality that we too often forget as humans is that with us everything is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
But exactly how is God going to do the impossible if we aren’t actively participating in the process of building an intimate relationship with Him through prayer, Bible study (reading blogs, articles and magazines is not the same as reading the actual word of God – it’s the spiritual equivalent of reading Cliff Notes, which are not written by the author, but by someone who is interpreting the author, so what you get is always just one person’s interpretation and not the real thing, instead of reading the actual book in that you miss so much and you lose so much), and meditation?
What parent is inclined to help an adult child who rarely makes the effort to stay in touch or to regularly visit and spend time with them? Do we think our heavenly Father is any different?
The same goes for our Older Brother. He clearly says we can do nothing – and that means absolutely everything – without Him. He also speaks of a time when people who proclaim to know Him will hear the words I never want to hear: that He doesn’t know them.
After God establishes a relationship between Himself (drawing us), Jesus Christ (to Whom we’re given), and us, we still need more from Him to bridge the gap between our intent and what we actually end up doing.
God’s gift of His word gives us God’s instructions for us in our relationship with Him, Jesus Christ, and each other.
However, God’s gift of His spirit – His very mind and power – gives us everything we need to understand His word, to have His wisdom and discernment, and to counteract the three components we’ve identified (there are more, to be sure) that contribute to the wide gap between our intent and what we actually end up doing.
God’s spirit gives us the spiritual help from God Himself – that we can get from nowhere else – we need to think about what God says and our intent to obey that, to remember God’s instructions and our commitment to obey them, and to be able to repent, change, overcome, and obey God.
Pentecost commemorates the establishment of the ekklesia by God’s gift of His spirit on the group of people – until then, God had given His spirit only to individual people who believed Him, followed Him, and obeyed Him – who believed Him and believed Jesus Christ (120 at the outset, followed by 3000 more that same day).
I often hear people say that we should pray for more of God’s spirit. And I often wonder if that’s really what we should pray for because it seems to me that if we’re not using what we already have been given by God, adding more of His spirit isn’t going to help us repent, change, overcome, and obey God.
Are we not using God’s spirit because we don’t know how? That question is one that I present to God regularly and I ask Him to show me how to use the gift that He has given me to become like Him and Jesus Christ.
I think it’s pretty presumptuous to just assume we know how to use the power of God as soon as He gives it to us. For me, that thinking is similar to assuming that handing an AK-47 to someone who’s never touched a gun is going to make that person an expert marksman automatically.
We have to learn how to use God’s spirit and that’s a process that will continue perhaps throughout eternity (even as spirit, we’re still not going to know what God and Jesus Christ know, so there’s going to be a learning curve there too).
So perhaps that should be the focus of our petitions to God with regard to the gift of His spirit in us. God will give more when we need more, but it’s my opinion that sometimes we aren’t really using what we already have and some of this is simply that we don’t know how.
In other cases, we may be quenching God’s spirit. Ever had something that just keeps nagging in the back of your mind about something you should do or change and you keep trying to brush it away and it keeps coming back?
If the change or the action is something that is not in sync with God’s word, God’s law, and God’s way, then we would all be wise to pay attention and not keep trying to put it out of our mind, because we could be quenching God’s spirit (I’m not going to say definitely that we are, but I take this seriously and that’s how I understand doing that for myself).
Do we rekindle the fire of God’s spirit continually? Do we know how? Frankly, I don’t exactly, so I take that admonition from Paul to Timothy to God on a daily basis and ask Him to, as David did, to renew a steadfast spirit in me, and to renew my mind, because God’s spirit works with the mind (the heart that David wanted united with God).
And I always remember to ask God not to take the gift of His spirit from me. I know I’m not perfect before Him and I know that this sinful nature leads me astray from Him, even though I don’t want it to and I want to be just like Him and Jesus Christ.
I know, however, being like God and Jesus Christ is never going to be possible without the gift of God’s spirit and of all the things that I could lose in this life, that loss would be the greatest and absolutely unbearable. I would be destroyed and inconsolable.
The gap between my intent and what I actually end up doing both in my physical life and my spiritual life still exists.
However, my hope – and my thankfulness – lies in that gap getting smaller because of God’s gracious and merciful gift of His spirit, which Pentecost commemorates, to me to help me everywhere I don’t think, I don’t remember and I don’t have the ability.
It’s something we should all spend some time thinking about and thanking God for every day.