I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As I looked out over the garden, I was sad to see that the front lawn looked patchy and scratchy in the hot Western Cape summer – a mixture of cheerless green and amber – despite it having been watered. The inadequacy of the irrigation system irked me; then, more amused, I thought of the ongoing game between the flawed Pinocchio and the unfulfilled Geppetto.
To Geppetto it was clear that Pinocchio was just a ‘wooden boy’ who needed some clothes, and a few lessons in honesty, but that still wouldn’t transform him into a real boy. As I approached, I heard the diminutive Geppetto say to life-sized Pinocchio: “Don’t lie! Your nose is growing! God doesn’t like lies – I’ll make you some clothes!” And off she sped.
Aren’t these incongruous things like the jarring we sometimes feel deep down when things are not ‘quite right’ because we’re not in step with the Spirit? Instead of leading an integrated, serene life, and being able to fully enjoy the benefit of the fruit that being united with Jesus brings, the sins and flaws of our dry patches are prickly – and unappealing – and spoil true cohesion.
But the Sirit is our strength in conquering sin where it starts, empowering us to, “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)
We need to welcome the Holy Spirit, constantly at work in us, and co-operate as he addresses our sin, weeds out our hidden faults, and brings us support with his transforming power. He is God, who makes Jesus clearer to us as he guides, inspires and empowers us to grow more like him; and he equips us to serve him, helping us to understand the Bible, and learn how to pray; He also gives us gifts that will build up the Body of Believers.
Our verse today shows Paul’s complete surrender to Jesus, transformed through the working of the Spirit: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Paul was no longer a ‘wooden boy’ needing clothing and correction. The Spirit led, inspired and strengthened him in fully accomplishing his God-given mission – after all the years of him relying on his own intelligence and zeal – with only murder and turmoil to show for it.
Paul knew what he was speaking about when, in his letter to the Galatians, he wrote: “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature … which, “are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17)
Are we “living by the Spirit”, or are we still choosing to “gratify the desires of the sinful nature”? Isn’t it time to get real? The world needs the good news of the gospel.
Prayer: Gracious Father, your word is truth. Help me, to live by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. May I always take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Amen