Friday, March 20, 2009

Sidetracked by a Smelly T-Shirt - Romans 7

"For we know that the Law is spiritual: but I am of flesh,
sold in bondage to sin.
For that which I am doing, I do not understand;
for I am not practicing what I would like to do,
but I am doing the very thing I hate....
For I know that nothing good dwells in me,
that is in my flesh,
for the wishing is present in me,
but the doing of the good is not.
For the good that I wish, I do not do;
but I practice the very evil that I do not wish....
Wretched man that I am!
Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
(Rom 7:14-25 selected verses)

In yesterday's blog I wrote the following:

The sooner I get it in my head that this life is not about me but that it is about Him, the happier I will be. Selfish living produces fear, fatigue and failure. I will never be happy while living for myself - been there, done that, tried it for years, threw the t-shirt away! True joy, true purpose, true meaning, true peace come from living for Him. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Mt 6:33). "Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it" (Ps 37:3-5).

I received an encouraging note from a friend regarding that section. In it she mentioned that she wasn't sure she'd yet "thrown away the t-shirt." It's funny that she wrote that because I've been really thinking about that very thing all morning.

I absolutely KNOW the truth of the words that I wrote. I believe them with my whole heart. I really do hate my sin, and yet sinner that I am I regularly find myself running back to it and embracing it. "O wretched [woman] that I am, who will set me free from the body of this death?

I so clearly remember the days when my lusts were my God and when my own glory was my chief end. God, in Christ, has radically changed Lori Sealy - some of you have seen that first hand. I owned an entire wardrobe of self-gratify, self-glorifying "t-shirts" and I wore them proudly in all the affairs of my life. In August of 1988 God began to re-invent my "closet."

Several years later, as I became exposed to reformed teaching, I began to see much more clearly who God is according to the Scriptures. My view had been a bit abstract and warped - like a Picasso painting. God had a BIG nose of love and a GIANT mouth of mercy yet only a tiny little ear of holiness, and an even smaller eye of justice. Sovereignty didn't even rank in the nose hair section of the canvas.

The more I studied the entire Word of God, the more I sat under sound expositional preaching, then the more I began to see that the picture God paints of Himself is much more like a Rembrandt - full and beautiful and with resounding and purposeful clarity. "What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth" (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q 4).

The Confession of Faith puts it this way:

"There is but one only, living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them.

He alone is the fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever He pleases. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain.

He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them."

Wow! Now - there's a Rembrandt for you! If you didn't read those words, please go back and do so. (By the way, if you need biblical references for any statement in there I'll be glad to send them your way.)

So, what does all of that have to do with yesterday's post, my friend's comments, and the price of tea in China? Everything!

This full-orbed God is the God who made us and if we are in Christ, He is the God who has saved us. He is not a genie in a bottle who is there to do our bidding - we are here to do His. We were created by and for Him (Is 43:7). "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." It is in glorifying God that we will truly learn to enjoy God. Apart from living for the glory of God we will NEVER find full enjoyment in ANYTHING else - not in any thing, not in any person. All is vanity, chaff, fading flowers, and withering grass apart from Him. It is in and through Him that everything in this life, including the difficult things, have real and lasting meaning!

I KNOW that to be true, I've experienced the reality of it time and time again. I spent so many years searching for something of lasting value and unfading beauty. The creations of this world don't cut it - but the Creator of this world does!

I have, by grace, tossed the t-shirt that says life is about me and about my desires and delights. Yet, I am just like Paul in Romans 7. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish."

Lori is fully aware of the nasty nature of that old "t-shirt." I threw it in the garbage. I watched the trash man take it to the dump. Yet, I seem to have a dumpster diving fetish and at times find myself going out of my way to dig that wretched, ruined, disguting, filth-ridden "t-shirt" out of the refuse heap and put it on again. I am at times so foolish!

Well, now you know. So, if you happen to be hanging out with me and notice a stinkiness oozing from my presence, would you be so kind as to check my "t-shirt" and help me send it back to the dump and would you graciously point me back to the Savior in who's righteousness alone I need to be clothed.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

(Rom 7:24-25)

Ever in need of a good laundering,

Ever thankful for the cleansing mercies of Christ,


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