Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Work Your Way Upstream

Douglas Wilson is, in his own words, “evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order”.

One out of five ain’t bad, I suppose.

But hey, I’m an equal opportunity reader. Despite my lack of common ground with many of Mr. Wilson’s expressed convictions, I find much of what he writes profitable.

This, for instance, is something I’ve never thought too hard about before, but I wonder if there isn’t a principle here worth considering:
“Recognize that sexual sin is not just a sin for which there will be consequences later (although that is also true). Sexual sin is itself a judgment for antecedent sin. Find out what that sin is, and deal with it. Stop floating down toward the falls. Work your way upstream. ‘The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein’ (Prov. 22:14). Analogously, homosexual sin is not just a sin with consequences, it is itself a consequence of another sin (Rom. 1:18,24).”
Mr. Wilson’s post is all about dealing with lust, but I suspect the principle he lays out here applies more broadly.

Antecedent Sin and Consequential Sin

Perhaps we can state it this way: When God gives men up to think futilely and do wicked things, it is because they have rejected revealed truth. Or put another way with the Christian in mind, perhaps the inability to completely conquer certain persistent sins is a consequence of our refusal to act on things we already know.

This is what Paul declares in Romans, isn’t it. It starts with revealed truth — even if it is only that tiny fraction of God’s truth that comes to us through the evidence around us in the natural world. Rejection of that truth leads to impurity, dishonourable passions and eventually a debased intellect that expresses itself in a whole variety of sins, and ultimately to public endorsement of sin.

Now of course Paul is talking in Romans about the state of fallen mankind generally, not about rejection of specific truths God has revealed by his indwelling Spirit to believers through his written word. But those of us who are not in the growing camp of Christian determinists recognize that even believers are free to reject truth we don’t find palatable for one reason or another. What we find when we do so is certainly not that Heaven overrules us and pushes us back into lockstep with the will of God. Rather, we find the Spirit of God appealing to our minds and hearts to do the things we know we ought to do. Thus we read things like:
“Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard.”
These are not reprobates or unbelievers, but Christians with a blind spot or a defective walk in a particular area of their lives or their corporate service.

Incomplete Works

Of the seven churches we read in almost every case both commendations and criticisms. They seem (generally) to have been surrendered to the will of God in some areas and resistant to it in others. Their maturity in Christ was incomplete.

In the case of the church in Sardis, the truth had been “received and heard”, but the logical, spiritual response to that truth was not fully realized and worked out in their experience. As a result, something was “about to die”. One likes to hope the result of the Lord’s various appeals to the seven churches was across-the-board repentance and obedience, but anyone familiar with church life knows such a hope is unreasonably optimistic. Some of us listen, some don’t.

Is it impossible to imagine that at some point the Lord stops repeating himself and “gives us up” to the pursuit of our own desires?

Handed Over ... That They May Learn

Paul may be suggesting something like this when he speaks of having handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan “that they may learn not to blaspheme”. What had Hymenaeus and Alexander done? They had rejected revealed truth and “made shipwreck of their faith”. This was very much a conscious thing: they had rejected “faith and a good conscience”. They knew what they were doing was wrong and kept on doing it. As a result, in some sense they had been “given up” to experience the consequences of their choices.

Wilson’s advice here is good, I think: “Stop floating down toward the falls. Work your way upstream”. In short, figure out what the antecedent sin is and take action.

Such awareness may be next to impossible for those outside of Christ, but Paul seems to believe those genuinely indwelt by the Spirit of God are capable of correction. Of Hymenaeus and Alexander he says, “they may learn”. Whatever “giving up” God may do in the life of a believer is very much temporary and corrective. “I am sure of this,” Paul says, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.

But sometimes we need to work our way upstream first.

1 comment :

  1. Here is an example of working your way upstream in a more general way that influences your daily wellbeing and your psychological and physical constitution. It is well worth watching and presented by one of the foremost research psychologists in the field of evolutionary psychology.

    Live Q&A Webinar with Dr. Doug Lisle, Webinar 05/12/16 - YouTube


    Bio for Dr. Doug Lisle