Monday, March 21, 2005

To Will and to Act

Many of you know my approach to the Bible by now. I believe all Scripture is true, and it's all there for a purpose, even if I don't fully understand every aspect of that purpose (which is true for all of us--now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will know even as we are known).

Paul wrote to Timothy,

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17).

He was writing, of course, about the Old Testament, but we know his words also apply to the New Testament. How awesome that the words Paul wrote to Timothy about the OT were also true of his own letters! What a mighty God!

Since the Bible is completely trustworthy and true, I don't argue with it. I generally dislike labels (like Calvinist, Arminian, charismatic, etc.) because almost inevitably that label has some baggage I don't want to communicate to others about my beliefs. I understand they can be useful shorthand at times, but they chafe me. I can tell you this: what I do want is to seek to understand ALL Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Whether or not I completely understand what God is saying, whether or not I happen to like what He's saying (in my flesh), whether or not my pastor/best friend told me something different.

I passionately love God's Word. I don't want any doctrine of man to stand in the way of my understanding of it. It's easy (and tempting) to start identifying with a label and allow a certain system of understanding Scripture to color the way you see the entire Bible. I believe, though, that those systems usually wind up limiting our understanding of God and His Word. I'm talking about Arminianism and Calvinism, but not just those. When I review the doctrines, am I on a certain side of the fence? Yes. Am I going to allow either of those sets of doctrines to define how I am permitted to view Scripture? No.

I was thinking about all of these things as I drove to work today and meditated on one of my favorite Scriptures. It reminds me of the great mystery, greatness, and sovereignty of God:

Phil 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

In these verses I see an admonition to continue working out my salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. I also see--and this was really the scripture I was meditating on today--that God Himself works in me to want to do, and to DO, what He wants me to do (the Kristen paraphrase). I have always found that astounding, and immensely comforting.

This scripture means that I can ask the Lord to soften my heart. I can ask Him to help me WANT and DO His will. It's not on my shoulders! I can take His yoke on without feeling a heavy burden. He is the one who is able to bear the load I would otherwise carry--or rather, that I am not even capable of carrying. I identify with the father who wanted his son healed and cried to the Lord, "Help my unbelief!" I absolutely do believe in a measure of free will given to us by God, but that does not preclude His working IN us. He can work in us to accomplish His purposes. He gives faith as a gift. I see this interplay of our will, God's will, God's purposes, and the work of the Holy Spirit as a great and beautiful mystery that unfolds in our lives as we walk with Jesus and obey Him.

My page has a disclaimer that I am not reformed, which I put up because I'm not a Calvinist, and most of the Christian blogosphere is (or so it seems). I am taking it down, not because any of my beliefs have changed, but because I want what I write to speak for itself. I am not here to teach doctrine, but I hope to be understood as someone who loves the Word of God and lets it and the Holy Spirit alone be her instructors.

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