Monday, March 9, 2009

Is it me or God?

We had an interesting discussion in our small group this evening. In talking about the Fruits of the Spirit, the question arose as to what portion of developing these attributes was the Spirit's work and what amount was a conscious effort on our part. Certainly, arguments can be made for both sides - the Bible clearly teaches that the Spirit is at work in our lives; yet on the other hand, our efforts can certainly either help or hinder the growth of that fruit.

So what is the answer to that question? Where does the line fall between the Holy Spirit's work and my own efforts?

To me, this represents another angle of the age-old question that arose between Calvin and Arminius concerning salvation and free will. I'm not going to take sides here, because to me the point is moot.

Why should I be concerned with whether my responsibility is 1%, 50% or 90%? The fact of the matter is that I have some God-given responsibility - so my primary concern should be in carrying out that responsibility to the best of my abilities. God, in His infinite wisdom, has seen fit to allow me a role in the work of His Kingdom - my job is simply to be a willing participant in that work. The more attuned I am to the Holy Spirit, the more I'm able to recognize opportunities to advance the Kingdom as they come my way. Likewise, if I'm out of tune I not only fail to recognize those opportunities presented to me but I may in fact do damage by insisting on handling things MY way - not God's way. But even then all is not lost, for God is still able to take even my mistakes and use them for good.

I can't say how much a relief it is to know that my personal spiritual development does not depend solely on my own efforts. At the same time, it gives me great encouragement to know that God has invested me with a key role to play in events of eternal significance.

8 comments:

Dana Michael Krull said...

Dave,
Well said, my friend. Well said.
Your brother in Christ,
Dana

Skippy-san said...

Off topic-but I'll add a link tonight.

DoctorEric said...

I've heard the "me or God" thing described this way: Imagine God giving you a sealed envelope at the beginning of a day, and you opening it at the end of the day to find a log of all your thoughts and activities that was typed up before you did them, with a commentary about how each one fit into His bigger plan.
Although we see every action and thought as self-determined, and we will be responsible for each one of them on the Day of Judgement, that does not mean that God, transcending time and space, did not know and ordain them before Creation. To suggest otherwise would be to deny His sovereignty.

Bou said...

I've not commented before, but I've been lurking from Lex's off and on since your accident.

Your post reminds me of the argument concerning Judas. Was Judas of his own free will in betraying Christ and therefore evil, or was he doing the will of God, and therefore not evil?

I think I am probably along the lines of what you have stated... that my life does not depend solely upon my efforts, but that God (hopefully) has a vested interest.

And to close out my original thought, I guess I am of the mind that Judas had the free will, but God had a vested interest, and since Christ died for us... it worked out as it should have.

It all kind of has the same theme...

Dave Harvey said...

Bou-
Thanks for stopping by - and for your comments. In regards to Judas (or with anyone one of us sinners), I would have to say that God never relies on sin to accomplish His ends; but that's not the same as saying that He can't USE our sin and weave it into something that's ultimately good.

For instance, say that a woman is raped & becomes pregnant. She decides to keep the child, who later grows up, joins the Army, and earns the Medal of Honor by saving the life of his platoon. Even though his birth was precipitated by a horrible, ugly, sinful act - good was able to emerge. Does it justify the rape? Of course not. But God redeems our actions to produce good where before there was only evil.

DoctorEric said...

Dave-
Boy, this conversation could go on all day, and perhaps you and I can continue it some time while sipping Zaya...
I think it's important to remember that God's good plan doesn't always manifest in ways we can understand in our terms. Suppose the child born out of rape grew up in the home of a neglectful or abusive single mom who had been emotionally destroyed by the violence she'd endured. After having her anger directed toward him for so many years, he goes on to be, not a war hero, but abusive and violent toward all women he's involved with because of the hatred toward his mother. We see only a continuing cycle of pain, but our view is not evidence that God is not both good and sovereign.
The big picture is that God is using the actions of men, both righteous and wicked, to accomplish his ultimate purposes of cleansing the universe of evil and redeeming his people. Just because He is able to use sinful acts for His purpose, it does not stand to reason that He either causes or excuses the sin. On the Day of Judgement, no one will be able to blame God or gain excuse for their own evil deeds, no matter what good God was able to work out of them.

Dave Harvey said...

Eric-
You're right of course; my analogy was probably a little too simplistic. My point was essentially the same - that actions events which may seem or be evil are ultimately able to be turned to good by the efforts of our sovereign Lord. This doesn't justify or condone those actions, but I see it as God's way of redeeming them - much as He has taken me with all of my sin and filth and redeemed me for His purpose.

Wilko said...

"Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him."
— C.S. Lewis (Perelandra)