The Path to Spiritual Growth

“Superficiality is the curse of our age.  The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.  The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”—Richard Foster

The Slavery of Ingrained Habits 

We are accustomed to thinking of sin as individual acts of disobedience to God.  This is true enough as far as it goes, but Scriptures goes much further (Sin is such a complex matter that the Hebrew language has eight different words for it, and all eight are found in the Bible)  In Romans the apostle Paul frequently refers to sin as a condition that plagues the human race (Rom. 3:9-18).  Sin as a condition works its way out through the “bodily members”, that is, the ingrained habits of the body (Rom 7:5).  And there is no slavery that can compare to the slavery of ingrained habits of sin. Isaiah 57:20 says, “The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.”  The sea does not need to do anything special to produce mire and dirt, that is the result of natural motions.  This is also true of us when we are under the condition of sin.  The natural motions of our lives produce mire and dirt.  Sin is part of the internal structure of our lives.  No special effort is needed to produce it.  No wonder we feel trapped.  We want to make it clear that we cannot free and purify our own heart by exerting our own ‘will.’” In Colossians Paul lists some of the outward forms that people use to control sin:  “touch not, taste not, handle not.”  He then adds that these things, “have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship  “Will worship”—what  a telling phrase, and how descriptive of so much of our lives!  The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over sin by the strength of the will alone is the moment we are worshipping the will.    “Will worship” may produce an outward show of success for a time, but in the cracks and crevices of our lives our deep inner condition will eventually be revealed.  Jesus describes this condition when he speaks of the external righteousness of the Pharisees.  “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter” (Matt. 12:34-36), You see we can make a good show for a while, but the unguarded moment will come when the “careless word” will slip out to reveal the true condition of the heart.  If we are full of compassion, it will be revealed; if we are full of bitterness, that also will be revealed.             

It is not that we plan to be this way.  We have no intention of exploding with anger or of being arrogant but when we are around people, what we are comes out.  Though we may try with all our might to hide these things, we are betrayed by our eyes, our tongue, our chin, our hands, our whole body language.  Willpower has no defense against the careless word, the unguarded moment.  The will has the same deficiency as the law—it can deal only with externals.  It is incapable of bringing about the necessary transformation of the inner spirit–Richard Foster


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