2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When I became a new person in Christ, I was given new potentialities. Whereas before I could do right but couldn’t consistently choose the right, the new me can choose wrong but need not. Besides, the Holy Spirit took up residence and in that new relationship I’m empowered to win out in the battle against temptation. Oh, I’ll not be sinless till I meet him in person, but in the meantime I have power to say “yes” to God and “no” to sin whenever I have the conscious choice. But then there are those involuntary sins and my uninterrupted falling short of God’s glorious character. In those areas the Spirit promises to change me, to grow me up more and more into the likeness of Christ, if I only let him. I believe this because Scripture teaches it, but also I believe it because I’ve seen it in my life.
Take patience, for example. As a teen I’d shoot from the lip and occasionally settle things with my fists. But gradually I came to abhor this and by the age of 18 I began to ask God daily to deliver me and give me patience. I saw a remarkable spurt of growth and thought I’d been delivered. Until, following marriage, my wife and I disagreed on how our first child should be disciplined. I didn’t say anything in anger, but I seethed inside for days. Three days, to be exact. When I could stand it no longer, I confessed my heart attitude to God and asked him to deliver me. This happened three times during the first decade of our marriage until finally I had a showdown. “Oh Lord,” I said, “how can I give these Japanese people the hope of salvation when you haven’t saved me from my own temper? If you don’t deliver me, I’m out of here.” God knew I meant it. He heard and delivered- never again did that evil spirit intrude into my relationship with Muriel. But God wasn’t though with me. Our children became teens and I found that patience was not yet the natural fruit of my spirit. After that it was a board, then certain faculty. And now I’m in a graduate program in patience with a beloved wife who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. God didn’t give me the instant deliverance I longed for and begged for. But he did do what he promised and transformed me “from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit of the Lord” (Cor 3:18). I believe in victory. I’ll never settle for lockdown into some intractable dysfunction of spirit.
I’ve shared a sampler from my life in an effort to demonstrate how theology works to help hurting people see themselves and their world more nearly from God’s perspective. That viewpoint protects from wrong feelings and attitudes and heals when I fail. I call it “therapeutic theology.” Are you empowered to win out against temptation? Indeed! Where is the victory? How do you see growth “from one degree of glory to another” in your life?