Friday, May 2, 2014

May 2nd

I keep thinking about what Jesus said- that it was the will that was wanting to be like God- to be god. And I keep thinking, is the will itself bad?

I don’t know how to answer this question, but some things occurred to me.

Self-control is both self-generated and a fruit of the Spirit. It’s the last one listed and comes after gentleness, but it is certainly there. Self-control is not bad, but I’ll bet that self-generated control and the control that grows from the Spirit look different and have different results.

Which makes me think of Paul. Paul, as Saul, was perhaps the epitome of the self-controlled religious person. He had to exert a great deal of self-control in order to achieve that level of religious perfection. One of the results of this was that he ended up persecuting God.

Paul obviously still had a great deal of self-control in his ministry, or he could not have stayed such a difficult course, but this self-control- and every other miracle and action- came through the power and energy of Christ working through him, and most perfectly through his weakness.

Perhaps the legalistic mind set is somewhere at heart about a love of self and therefore the self is groomed, educated, and disciplined in order to come as close to God as possible- to be like God.

Which makes me think of what the serpent said to Eve:

"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4)

This lie is powerful, I can’t help thinking, because it is such a subtle mix of the truth and lie.

Eve was already like God, because she was created in the likeness of God. So, for her to desire the thing which she was already by design was not evil, it was natural. She was naturally going to be attracted to the expression of her own design. But the way Eve was like God was not in absolute knowledge.

I remember the first time I read that story and realized that God was actually withholding the knowledge of good and evil from mankind. If one doesn’t know good and evil, wouldn’t one be depraved? How could one know how to be good if one doesn’t know what good or evil is?

When I thought about it that way, I thought it was a terrible and weird thing that God should have given that commandment. It didn’t make any sense.

I asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t they have knowledge of good and evil?”

They had Me, Jesus replied.

They didn’t have knowledge, they had relationship. Jesus naturally modeled what good was. They didn’t know good in the abstract, they knew it in Person. In close, present relationship with Him, they would grow into being like Him, because they walked with Him and talked with Him and loved Him and received His love. They saw Him.

We weren’t created in the image of God’s absolute knowledge- which He does have; I think we were created in the image of how God relates.

And therein lies the will- are we going to will to be like God through moral knowledge leading to moral perfection through our efforts, or are we going to surrender ourselves to Him in loving relationship and let His life be expressed through us in the unique and beloved ways that we are created?

Because I think that the expression of God is love. This love is defined by the giving up of God’s self to God. Abba is expressed and made manifest through His Son. He willed not to be expressed only from Himself, but through His Son. The Son lives only through Abba and does only His will. The Spirit comes from Abba and reveals the Son. They give completely to each other and receive each other completely, continuously, in love, surrendering who They are to each other.

This is beyond head knowledge, it's relating. It’s seeing.

It’s not that good isn’t good or that bad isn’t bad, it’s that we can either try to make ourselves like God through knowledge and the application of our will to the task of moral perfection and control, or we can be like God as we surrender ourselves to God in complete love, receiving His self-sacrificing love and allowing that love and life to be expressed through us.

This does require self-control- or the application of the will- but this self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, one that arises up through us by the life of God within us, as we are abiding in the Vine.

Perhaps there is always this choice and I wonder if this is in some way connected to idolatry. I wonder if the legalistic pursuit of private perfection is not one of the most potent disguises for idolatry, as it enables one to worship oneself in the name of God- that is, to give oneself constant attention and regard, to feel satisfied in oneself when one achieves something and to punish oneself when one fails and through these things, to feel in control- to save oneself.

The fruits of these two kinds of self-control are almost completely opposite. If we use self-will within ourselves to be like God and achieve any kind of success at all, eventually I fear we will run the risk of crucifying God Himself in the protection of our godly interests and position.

On the other hand, if we choose to surrender our will to God in love and allow His life to be expressed through us in intimate relationship- in the giving up of ourselves for the other- it is very likely that we ourselves will be crucified.


Being a child of grace does not merely mean being one who experiences the forbearance of God and who is forgiven by Him. All the works of God in man’s heart are works of grace. Grace means that it is done by God and not by man. A person who receives more grace is one who allows God to work on him more, while a person who receives less grace is the one who allows God to work on him less. God has the grace, but man will not necessarily allow God to do all the works in him. Everything that is done of the self belongs to the law, and everything that is of God belongs to grace. The church is full of children of grace, yet only a very small number of people will allow grace to work on them to the point of perfection. Being the only child of grace does not mean that the child is the only one... (The meaning of the only child is that there is an absolute union with the Lord, and that everything is the Lord’s. She has reached a complete union with the Lord.)

-The Song of Songs, by Watchman Nee, A Life Within the Veil (6:4-13)