Continuing in my series on Things I Know Nothing AboutTM....
No, seriously; I was praising God this morning for an area of small growthwhich, yes, is the only sorts of areas of which I'm ever awareand it brought on this reflection.
My mind went to a jarring image. I thought of a stillborn child. You see the child, lifeless. You could will it alive, you could plead with it to live, you could order it to live. Your efforts would be fruitless. Nothing in your power will make that child live.
How do you know it is not alive, without the benefit of a medical degree? It doesn't cry. I'm sure parents over the globe will agree with me that your child's first cry is one of the most wonderful sounds you've ever heard in your lives. It isn't that you love the sound of crying; it is that this is how you know your child is alive, and doing what living babies do: they cry. They wiggle. They struggle. They demand food. They're alive.
There is a parallel in the Christian life. If none of those activities has its answering spiritual image, life is unlikely. Newborn babies do not need to be reasoned with to have an appetite. They don't need to be told to express their needs in the best way they know. They don't need to see a Powerpoint presentation on moving and wiggling.
Now, I imagine one portion of my readership, at this point, is thinking that I am going to say that Christian spiritual life is like that. At the same time I imagine another portion, perhaps of equal size, who thinks I'll say it isn't. Anddrumrollyou're both right!
It is like the newborn in that we don't give ourselves life. God makes us alive by sovereign grace alone (Ephesians 2:1ff.). In our re-creation, our regeneration, we become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). We're declared perfectly righteous through faith, as a gift (Romans 3:24; 5:1). We're blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3ff.). We're baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), gifted (1 Corinthians 12:11), filled full in Christ (Colossians 2:10). We die to sin, and are alive to God (Romans 6).
In sum, we're given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). No crises are necessary, forehead-slaps, second-blessings, upgrades, nor reboots are necessary to the essential equipment we need for Christian living: it's all there, original factory equipment.
Now comes the all-important But.
But first, a word from our false teachers. Various forms of false teaching come in here and preach that the rest is pretty much on auto-pilot, or should be. The Lord saved me from a New Age-type cult; early in my Christian life, I came on higher-life type books that seemed eerily similar to what I'd just been saved from. They held forth a vision of abiding in Christ so that I would be the glove, and He the hand. He would live His life through mein my stead. I've heard various other forms since; they're still popular.
One man ended up fleeing my church, because he didn't like all the "law" he kept hearing. (He hadn't heard that all us dispensationalists are supposed be antinomianor maybe he thought I wasn't a very good one.)
In one conversation he, influenced by a popular writer, told me that Christ lives his life through him, and commandments are not necessary.
Trying to be pointed, as always, I asked, "So, if you found yourself tempted to cheat on your wife, you wouldn't just remember the commands 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' or 'Flee fornication,' and get the heck out of there?"
"No," he said, "the flow of the life of Christ just wouldn't lead me in that direction."
So here's the problem with that line of thinking. It's a ruinous lie.
As I pointed out to him (to no avail), the New Testament is chock-full of commands, and not one of them is addressed to the Holy Spirit.
Here's the disconnect with my baby analogy. You don't have to reason with a healthy, living child to do those things. But you do with Christians.
You don't have to tell a newborn to have an appetite, or to grow. But evidently God thinks He does have to tell us, "like newborn babies," to "long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). He thinks He has to command us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Romans 13:14). He thinks we need to be told to "Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
God doesn't trust us to intuit from the "flow" of the blah-blah-blah that we must, we have to, we need to "abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
And I broken-record you again: not one of these commands is addressed either ot the Lord Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit. You won't find one syllable such as "Holy Spirit, hold off from fleshly lusts for this passive little sock-puppet," or "Jesus, love God with all of each believer's heart, soul, mind and strength instead of him." God addresses us. He gives what He commands, and then commands what He willbut He does command. And He commands us.
Perhaps you have a different plan for growth. If you do, it's wrong.
Is spiritual growth inevitable? For a Christian, yes. Where there's life, there's growth. Where there's literally no growth, life is at best undetected.