The Most Important Partnership We Can Have
by Colleen Donahue
I was sitting in my car on "hold" waiting to hear the verdict. I had been meticulous throughout my life about paying my credit card bill on time so as to avoid late fees and interest. For two weeks life had been so hectic with traveling that I had completely forgotten to pay the bill. It was a full two weeks before I found my statement in my "to do" folder -- undone. Now a new statement was in my mail stack along with a steep late fee and a steep interest charge. I felt sick. I didn't work this hard just to throw it to the banks.
Feeling a bit "sheepish", I decided to call the huge PNC Bank to plead for mercy. I was hoping my good financial performance would satisfy the customer service rep. I told her about my hectic weeks of travel and pleaded mercy. "You can guarantee I won't be late again. Just check my record -- this is my first time."
She agreed to rescind the late fee. Feeling emboldened I decided to push further and ask them to take off the steep finance charge. I knew in calling the giant PNC Bank that I was guilty. I was over two weeks late in payments. I deserved the late fee and I deserved the interest charge. The huge institution did not care about how good I might have been in the past. I was guilty now. Had I not decided to plead for mercy, I would have had to pay all the extra fees.
As it turned out, when the customer service rep came back, after talking with her supervisor, they had decided to give me grace TWICE and take off both fees. And while I was waiting to hear whether grace would be extended to me I had a revelation.
Before a holy God, all of us have fallen short of keeping God's moral law -- the Ten Commandments. We may think we are a good person but if we have ever lied, stolen something, or been angry with another (which Jesus says is like committing murder), then in our heart we are guilty.
On judgment day each of us will go before a holy God and he will have a statement on our life. We may have been 90% "good" but that 10% will be enough to condemn us. We'll be just like the man or woman that says they've been 99% faithful to their spouse. It's that 1% that will raise some eye-brows.
HOW GOOD IS GOOD?
We dare not compare ourselves with other men and women and declare ourselves "good". Since we have failed to keep God's moral law we will be guilty. But, you protest, "Surely God won't keep me out of Heaven for lying?" Yes, scripture tells us that "all liars will have their place in the lake of fire...." Revelation 21:8. All who are guilty will be destined for Hell --not Heaven-- and that should concern us!
But even before Hell concerned us, it concerned God. He foresaw Adam and Eve's disastrous decision to live by their own knowledge of good and evil. He foresaw their decision to live separate from him, their Creator. God looked down the centuries and saw that every man and woman born would inherit Adam and Eve's sin nature.
God knows that with an inherited sin nature we can't do anything but sin. It's natural for EVERYONE to sin. Just look at any baby and watch from day one the tendencies to "be naughty"! And so, "even while we were dead in our trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) before we could get on the phone and plead for mercy, God put a plan in place FOR us.
That plan to save us from sin's penalty was put in place when God sent his Son Jesus to earth. Christ's whole reason for coming was to reconcile and reunite us with God. He did this by taking our place in suffering God's wrath for our sins. We deserved the punishment and death but Jesus took it instead of us.
But the good news doesn't end there. In a cosmic miracle God took the sin nature we were each born with (the one that keeps us sinning) and he crucified that nature inside of Jesus. Therefore the Bible tells us that when Jesus died, we died, and our old sin nature was rendered inoperative. (Romans 6:6)
GOD'S PLAN DEALS WITH OUR PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
God's plan of salvation has dealt with our past because Jesus took the wrath of God for every sin we have ever committed in thought, word, and deed.
God's plan deals with our present situation because in Christ he crucified the sin nature that keeps us perpetually sinning. And while we can still sin we no longer have to sin.
These two actions initiated by God on our behalf gives us a reprieve. Jesus offers us the gift of his own Holy Spirit to dwell within our spirit and this is how God deals with our future. When we accept God's grace, offered through His Son, and then receive Christ's Spirit to dwell within us, it's like God has hit the reset button for our life.
Man was originally created to be a God-man race of people. Man's spirit (the part of us that communes with God) was to be inhabited by God's Holy Spirit and together we were to walk through this life. As we listened to His Spirit within us then we would be kept from sin and enabled to live in a right relationship with God.
Now, finally, we can fulfill the purpose God has for our life. Christ continues to live his life on earth through us as we walk together in it.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
Christ's shed blood on the cross was for YOU and YOUR sins. Jesus tells all of us to repent or change our thinking concerning sin (our independence of God). We are to turn from living life without God to walking in partnership with God.
After the forgiveness of your sins (which deals with your past), you must accept the fact that in a cosmic miracle Jesus destroyed your inherited sin nature on the cross. This is the sinful nature that keeps you constantly sinning. Jesus rendered this old nature inoperative so that you could replace it with a new one.
God offers you HIS own nature -- His own Holy Spirit to dwell within your spirit. (The spirit is the part of us that communicates with God). Our part is to open our hearts to receive this gift from God and thank him for it. This is most important because God's own nature then replaces our old sin nature. If you only receive the forgiveness of your sins and don't go on to receive Christ's Spirit, then you will quickly fall back into living by your old sin nature. Its dying embers will again fan into flame.
That's the reason so many Christians today don't appear to be any different from non-Christians. While they have had their past sins forgiven they don't realize their old sinful nature was crucified with Christ and they haven't gone on to receive Christ's Holy Spirit into their own spirit. God tells us that he gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. So that's the key. When he whispers something to you in your heart or conscience and you obey that small voice, then his indwelling presence just continues to grow inside of you.
None of us can walk God's way in this world without His Holy Spirit directing us, guiding us, warning, and convicting us. This is the most important partnership any of us can ever have in our lives. It's that partnership that has the power to change the world you live in.