Abide in Christ, Bible Study, Christ in Me, Christ Life, Goodness of God, Holy Spirit Fellowship, Indwelling Christ, Indwelling Spirit, Letting Go, Life in Christ, Moving Forward, New Life, Repentance, Strength for the Journey, Walking in the Way
Over the last week, I had the opportunity to find and read a book I had never read before; a book by one of my favorite authors. The book was exceptionally written and yet, when I closed the covers for the last time, I was left wondering if I’d enjoyed it. There was a tone of misery throughout the entire work and I felt a bit down after I’d finished it. This got me thinking of a previous post where I mentioned trying a book by my favorite author even though the title and description gave me qualms and where I wondered if what I was about to read meant I would have to stop reading this author.
“Have to stop reading” sounds a bit legalistic now that I think about it and legalism was not at all what I meant to imply. Life changes as I move forward in the Spirit. Books I used to read are no longer enjoyable. Television shows I used to watch are no longer entertaining. Jokes I used to laugh at are no longer funny. These things are so not because I’m worried about GOD getting mad at me and judging me. No, these things are so because I AM a new creation in Christ. I have been born again by His Spirit. The same mind that was in Christ Jesus is in me. I have been and am still being transformed by the renewing of my mind. This transformation has meant leaving behind many things.
I closed last week with the comment: “If our denominations, doctrines, creeds, and knowledge have become a substitute for this living in vital union with Jesus through his Spirit, let us turn from them.” I want to take this week to expound on that and, while doing so, write more on the goodness of God. My main scripture passage for this week is Romans 2 verse 4: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
What do you think of when you think of repentance? Whatever the word originally meant, it has come to mean the doing of penance over and over. If that is the definition we hold in our minds, then this verse also takes on a meaning far different than that intended by the Apostle Paul. If the end result we Christians are looking for is doing penance over and over, then we need look no further than the religious institutions that define themselves by lists of rules and regulations. We cannot help but fail if our focus is on not breaking rules and being sure we pray enough and read our bibles enough and attend enough meetings and memorize enough and serve enough. The guilt that goes along with that sense of failure always ensures there are people flooding the altars on Sunday mornings, repenting, re-dedicating, seeking renewal and hoping enough anointing of the Lord had been received to last through another week. At least, it always ensured I was doing and hoping so.
What freedom there is in the Spirit! Some of the truest words ever written are 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Liberty. Freedom. He does not call us to a life of doing penance over and over. His goodness leads us to metanoia (G3341) which means “change of mind”1. Malcolm Smith calls it a radical change of mind and indeed it is. It is not a changing of our minds about Jesus, it is exchanging our minds for His. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 5). “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). As my mind is transformed, so is my entire inward life, and the outward life cannot help but change as well.
The goodness of God that leads us to this radical change of mind is not the agathosune (G19) I wrote about last week. The Greek word isn’t chrestotes (G5544) either but a related word chrestos (G5543). This word means “employed, useful, better, easy, good(-ness), gracious, kind”. There is no harsh edge or admonishment associated with this word. It is the word translated “easy” in Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He does not demand. Rather, He lives in me and wroughts changes I’m not even aware of until the day comes when I realize I’ve lost the enjoyment I used to have in a thing and He bids me come away from it. I don’t want to give the impression it’s always easy. Sometimes it is. Sometimes there is the realization that I don’t enjoy whatever the thing is anymore and it’s done. Then there are the times when, even though my enjoyment has fled, I do want to keep reading, watching, or doing it. These are times when there needs to be a subduing of my flesh but He gives the strength for that as well. I promise this much is true: there is not one thing I have turned away from that I ultimately miss. There is nothing I leave behind but He does not give me the greater portion of Himself.
I don’t have to work on myself and clean up my behavior before He’ll come live in me. No, the good news of the gospel is that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no great work I must do but I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus, I believe in my heart God has raised Him from the dead, and I am saved (See Romans 10:9-10). Truly, He has put His spirit in me. He causes me to walk in His statutes. He enables me to keep His judgments and do them. (See Ezekiel 36:27) I “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and His goodness leads me to metanoia.
Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982
- Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Fifth Printing-March 2001, Page 790
Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990