So consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ – Romans 6:4
Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. -- Colossians 3:5
I’ve talked about this before, but I still haven’t gotten it right myself, so I’m back. I am aware of the fact that I cannot “put to death” all of this stuff on my own. I, like most Christians, have prayed for the grace of God to operate in my life. I have prayed often that the Spirit would enable me to die to self. However, when there is an opportunity to “put to death whatever ... is worldly”, I fight it. Usually, my problem is that I do not like the form this death takes. I want to say a few magic words – oops, I mean I want to pray and be delivered – or maybe pray, take a nap, and wake up holy, talking like Billy Graham or speaking Latin like the Pope.
What I absolutely don’t want to do is get into a conflict with another person – some control freak or someone I don’t like, and have to give in, to let them think they have “won”. Whatever the Lord wants to do is fine with me, but I’m not surrendering to other people.
Back in First Chronicles 21, we read that David sinned by taking a census of his people. I think this was wrong because it would lead to David trusting his poll numbers instead of the Lord. Anyway, when God’s word came to David by the prophet, the Lord offered the king three choice – three years of famine, three months of losing battles to his enemies, or three days of plague (what is with three?). David threw himself on God’s mercy. “Please let me fall into the LORD’s hands because His mercies are very great, but don’t let me fall into human hands” (v.13).
While that is what I prefer, a friend of mine used to say that if you need money, God will provide, but, He has to use other people. God, my friend explained, is not a counterfeiter, and He is not going to rain twenty-dollar bills from heaven. I suggested He could rain gold coins instead, though I’ll admit that could get dangerous: As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. We might as well get used to it and understand that, normally, God does not work so directly. He is in complete control, especially if we give Him permission to be in control of our lives; nevertheless, He deals with us through other people, by their words and their actions -- both good and bad. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). We are being shaped by -- and at the same time shaping -- those around us. The intent is not to make us comfortable or happy (joyous, not necessarily happy) but to form us into the image of the Son.
For example, I kept noticing that I ran into and had trouble with a certain type of person. These were usually overbearing, manipulative women. I thought, Dayum, there sure are a lot of female control freaks out there in the world. Now, I’m pretty good at solving technical problems, but I never claimed to catch on quickly otherwise. I ran, but I couldn’t hide. As Jesus says, our enemies will be those of our own household. When I didn’t learn to deal with these characters in church, I found them at work. When I didn’t learn to deal with them at work, I found myself living next door to them. When I moved to get away from them, I found one living in the same house -- like in the mother-in-law suite.
In my case, there’s a certain amount of arrogance I need to get rid of, but I also have a lack of confidence and healthy self-worth. I need humility and gentleness with strength – also known as meekness. Your need may not be meekness, but if you find yourself running into the same types over and over, or if you get caught in a repetitive pattern of any sort, the issue may not be all those jerks out there, it may be that God is answering your prayers for sanctification. It is amazing that God is able to do such beautiful work with such dull implements, but it is the Master’s hand that guides all that scary chipping and scraping and grinding. He is carefully cutting away until He sees you.