October 27, 2019

Let Go and Let God – Really?

Pastor:
Passage: Ephesians 6:10
Service Type:

Well, I ended last week's message by using the illustration of God leading the children of Israel to the shores of the Red Sea pursued by Pharaoh and his soldiers. And I made the point that the children of Israel in that situation could only do one thing. What was that one thing? Wait, wait. They had to wait throughout the night as the wind that God had commissioned blew and created the path through the seas and allowed God's people to cross over on dry ground.

They had to wait on God. They had no other options. God intentionally led them to a place where they would experience His power first hand. And in their waiting they experienced a demonstration of God's power and they experienced it throughout the night. It wasn't a hit and miss. It wasn't something that came so quickly and went so quickly that they had an opportunity to miss it. No, it went on throughout the night.

And in their waiting, they experienced that sustained demonstration of God's power. And they experienced that on two fronts. First, in front of them. The wind blowing throughout the night was a sustained demonstration of the provision of God's power. In other words, God was providing a means of deliverance for them so they experienced his power of deliverance. Second, the angel of the Lord and the pillar of the cloud went behind them, which demonstrated God's power of protection. So they experienced God's strength, God's power in His provision in delivering them, in his protection in guarding them. So this experience of Israel is a two fold reminder that first of all waiting on God is an expression of trust in God.

Waiting on God is an expression of trust in God. And secondly, God's power can be experienced in our waiting. Sometimes we think if we wait we equate that with either we're not trusting or God's not working. We see our passivity as a bad thing. But it's not. Waiting is a valid expression of your trust in God. And there are numerous references throughout the Scriptures of God's people waiting on him. Which leads us to the conclusion that waiting on God is at times an appropriate course of action. Waiting can be an expression of our faith in God's strength. Doesn't it take strength to wait? We want to rush ahead, we want to do something, we want to make something happen. But it takes strength to wait on God. And the Bible teaches that waiting can be a time during which God renews our strength. Isaiah 40:31 "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength."

Let me tell you what waiting is not. Waiting is not, waiting on the Lord is not relinquishing our responsibility. In other words, just because we have to wait on God, just because we have to wait in the midst of whatever situation we find ourselves in. That does not relieve us of our responsibility to trust God. We still are required to trust God in our waiting. Waiting on God is not letting go and letting God-- I'm going to deal with that extensively here in a moment. Biblical waiting is trusting in God's wisdom and in God's timing. And Biblical waiting is trusting that whatever God does is right. But we really need to be careful here. Because there are those who take waiting to God to an extreme where they advocate a passivity that contradicts Scripture. Some advocate that God will fight all the Christian's battles for them. If you grew up in fundamentalism, or something akin to fundamentalism, you're probably more acquainted with this than you think.

Some teach that the believers only responsibility is to let God be God, as it were. There's a belief as Christians, and you may have heard this, that you should let go and let God. Now I've talked about this before, I think, in the filling of the Spirit in Ephesians 5. This theology this line of teaching is identified as Keswick theology or better known probably as higher life theology. The teaching was made popular really by men that many of us probably know. Andrew Murray, I have books of his in my library. FB Meyer, I have books of his. One of the men put on a pedestal in fundamentalism, DL Moody, RA Tory. They were influenced by this theology. More recently men such as Lewis Schaefer, and Charles Riley of Dallas Theological Seminary were proponents of higher life theology. And you have to you have to factor in the tremendous amount of men who have come out of Dallas Theological Seminary over the years.

And as I previously said, without exception, the men that I've mentioned and more, they were godly men and they were used by God. But I do believe, along with many others, that they adopted a belief that comes into direct conflict with other portions of Scripture. And instead of creating victorious Christians, which was what their goal was, and it was a noble goal, this teaching unintentionally creates Christians who continually find themselves defeated by the very beliefs that promised them victory. Say how so? Because if you follow this teaching to its logical conclusion, who is the one that has to keep themselves abiding in God? Who is the one and has to make this decision, continually make this decision, to let go God? Well you do. In the Bible it's clear that we are incapable of doing anything consistently apart from what? Apart from God's strength. Some teach that God's, excuse me, that God's words and Paul's words in verse 10 mean that all we have to do is to stop struggling against sin, to stop fighting against sin, to stop striving against sin, and really to stop striving in our efforts for sanctification because God's going to do it all for us.

So those who hold a higher life theology, they encourage Christians to, again, let go and let God. Let go and let God handle it all for you. In the words of that great theologian Carrie Underwood "Jesus take the wheel". We laugh but that's what many Christians are being taught. Hands off. The question is: is that Biblical? After all, the battle belongs to the Lord, you said so yourself. Well, those who hold to and teach higher life teology believe that you need to have some kind of crisis experience in your life. You need to have some kind of crushing defeat in your life at which point you realize that you are totally hopeless. Now, at this point, I could agree with this teaching if it referred to a person's salvation because when it comes to our salvation, we are what? We are totally hopeless. Our sinful nature's have rendered us totally hopeless. We have no hope of salvation apart from divine intervention from God Almighty. But they're not talking about a person's to salvation. They're talking about a person's sanctification. That you have to see yourself as totally hopeless in this thing of becoming like Christ and then you'll become like Christ. If you just let go and let God.

And then realizing your hopelessness, you come to a place of total surrender. The Christian who's thoroughly defeated is told to give it all up, to offer up this complete surrender. They're told to give up the struggle, to give up to fight, to give all thoughts and all efforts towards their own sanctification and striving against the flesh and against the temptations of this world. They are told this: all that you have to do is to abide in God. That's the extent of what you have to do. Leave it all up to God and God will do all the fighting for them. And on the surface, this is music to every struggling believers ears, right? But you know what it is in reality? It's another attempt at a spiritual shortcut or spiritual quick fix. I don't have to do anything. I just have to let go and let God do it all. Man, that's my kind of Christianity.

But one of the fatal flaws of this teaching is it didn't come about until the late 1800s, early 1900s, which means all the church fathers, all the great men in church history missed it for 1900 years. Does that seem reasonable? So they say the days of struggle, the days of fighting the days of striving are once and for all over with. Or are they? So we have to ask ourselves, is that really what the Bible teaches? And I've tried to be as fair and balanced in explaining higher life theology to you so so that I can ask you this question. Does that not seem to create a conflict with what Paul teaches here in this passage? For instance, look at verse 11. Verse 10: "finally be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might." Verse 11: "put on the whole armor of God." Now notice this next thing, "that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." Now you is implied there. You put on the whole armor of God.

Now wait a minute, if I'm supposed to let go and let God why do I have to put on any armor? If being strong in the Lord and the strength of his might means that all I have to do is let go and let God, then why would Paul immediately, the very next verse, instruct every believer to put on the whole armor of God? Why should I be concerned about standing against the schemes of the devil if God's going to do the standing for me? I'll just hit the recliner. Right. So the question is, can we reconcile Paul's instruction to put on the whole armor of God with the teaching that we should turn it all over to God? I would say the Bible would say no, they can't be reconciled. You remember back to the very first week that I started on verse 6, I said that you cannot separate verse 10, excuse me, verse 10, from the rest of the passage. You can't put on the whole armor of God and you can't use the armor of God effectively apart from what? The strength of the Lord.

So let's keep thinking this through. If God does it all for us, and all that we have to do is abide in Him then it would be pointless for Paul to tell us to put on God's armor. And if God does it all for us, then why are there numerous commands in the New Testament that instruct us as believers to do something? Have you thought about that? For instance, why did Peter instruct the believer to "be sober minded, be watchful". He goes on to say, "your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." Then he says, "resist him firm in your faith." Well, Peter, why would you say I need to be sober minded? Why would you say that I need to be watchful? Peter, why would you say that? Why would you tell me about an adversary who would like nothing more than to destroy me if all I gotta do is let God and God will take care of it? Peter goes on to say, "resist him." And that seems nonsensical to me if all I'm supposed to do is to let go and that God. That doesn't seem to fit at all if all I'm supposed to do is to abide in Christ and he'll do the resisting for me. I mean, in other words, why do I have to resist the devil if he's going to do it all for me?

Well, how about Paul's instructions in Romans 8? He says "for if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live." Now according to Paul there, who has to put to death the deeds of your body? Say it loud. You do. Yeah, you do. You have to do it in the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit. You have to make the effort. You have to be actively fighting against indwelling sin but you do so with the power of the Holy Spirit. Well, how about Philippians 2:12 "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Who has to work out your salvation? Well, according to Paul you do. Now I don't mean that you're saving yourself but you're working out the salvation that has been given to you through your faith in Christ. But what's Paul say in the very next verse? Well, it's God who's at work in us. So what's the point? We work, we are able to work, because God is working in us. If God is not working in us then we cannot work out our own salvation. It's not all us and it's not God doing it all for us.

So what Paul teaches is the same as what Peter teaches. We are responsible for resisting the devil and we are responsible to put to death the deeds of the body. We are responsible to work out our own salvation. There's more. Paul wrote to Timothy and gave him a spiritual to do list. For instance, in 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul instructs Timothy to "fan into flame" the gift of God that he has. And then he reminds Timothy that God has given us, His children, has given us a spirit not of fear but of power. So I asked you if we don't have to do anything why do we need a spirit of power? Again it's nonsensical. Then 2:21, Paul tells Timothy "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work." So Paul makes it clear here to Timothy that it is his responsibility to keep himself pure. Timothy was the one, Timothy was the one responsible for repentance and confession of his sin. Then in verse 22, Paul tells Timothy to "flee youthful lust."

So I ask you, just based upon the few verses I've read you so far, there are many more that we could go to, does Paul, is he using any higher life theology language here? I don't believe he is. For instance, he never instructs Timothy to seek out a crisis, to have a crisis, out of which comes total surrender. And Timoney, Jesus will take it all from there and Jesus will do all the fighting for you. No, Paul says to him "flee youthful lust". Meaning Timothy, when lust comes your way, here's what I want you to do. I want you to turn on your heels and I want you to flee as fast as you can. Well, why would he tell Timothy to do that if Jesus was going to do it all for him? Why didn't he just say Timothy, just hang on there, just abide in Christ, just surrender, and it'll be taken care of for you. No. Again, Paul's first letter to him, he told him in chapter 6 "But as for you, a man of God, flee these things" and then he goes on to say "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness," and then he says, "fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called." Again, Timothy, you flee. Timothy, you have to pursue. Timothy, you must expend the effort. Timothy, this is your responsibility. Timothy, you have to fight the good fight of faith.

We just go down to Ephesians 6:12 Paul says "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood." The implication is what? We're wrestling against something that's just not flesh and blood. Well, what are we wrestling against? "Against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." So you're in the ring. I'm not a fan of big time wrestling by any stretch the imagination. Some people may be and I'll pray for if you are. But that's kind of the image here. You're in the ring. You're up against, this is really showing my age I know he's dead and long gone, you're up against Andre the Giant. Hulk Hogan. or you're smelling what the Rock's cooking or whatever the guy says. I don't know. I mean, in a very real sense, it would be like me getting in the ring with Andre the Giant. I wouldn't have a chance. Paul says if you get into the ring and you don't make any attempt to protect yourself if you never go on the offense against your spiritual enemies, you're going to lose every time. You can't sit back. You can't go to your corner and cry uncle and think that Andre the Giants going to give up.

I'll give you one more example from the life of Paul. 1 Corinthians 9 he says, "So I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air, but I discipline my body and keep it under control." So again, are those the words of a man who believes that all he has to do is to let go and let God? I don't think so. Are those the words of a man who believes that all he has to do is surrender? I don't know, but what I read of of the Apostle Paul I don't find him to be a man of giving up. Giving in. Of surrendering. I don't see any hint at all of surrender in Paul's words. I'll tell you what I do see. I see effort. I see determination. I see discipline. I see a man who's willing to go on the attack. What is he attacking in this instance? He's attacking his own body. He's doing battle with his own flesh. He says, if necessary, I will beat my body black and blue if that's what it takes in order to bring it into submission. Why? Because Paul knows that he is in a struggle. He knows that he has an enemy who will stop it absolutely nothing to disqualify him. And I asked you, is that your understanding of the Christian life? Is that your understanding of the amount of effort that's required in order for you to live out your Christianity in this world? I'm afraid that church has done many, many Christians a disservice by never informing them of the reality of the Christian faith. They are left completely unprepared, unaware that they have an enemy apart from their flesh that's constantly doing whatever they can in order to destroy them.

So what's the source of Paul's strength? What's the source of Timothy's strength? What's the source source of your strength? Where would Timothy find the power to flee those youthful lust and to pursue righteousness? Where do you and I get the ability to wrestle against the principalities and the powers successfully? Listen, folks, I don't think Paul has in mind here just hold your own. Okay. I don't think he's informing us of the strength of God, of the power of God, just so we can fight the enemy to a tie. God is not glorified in ties. God is glorified in victories. Okay. So our strength is in the Lord. He provides the strength, He provides the power, He gives us the ability, and we supply the effort. We supply the effort. You say, but still, I want to know, I know what we're all thinking. There's got to be some triggering event that I can do that all of a sudden I'm super Christian. Right? That that's what we're wanting. That's what we're looking for. There is none.

So why did you spend so much time trying to help us have faith in God's strength? Because you're going to have to continually, day by day, moment by moment, draw on his strength. By the way, you don't have to ask for his strength. Why? You've already got it. In the heat of the battle, you don't have time to be asking for what you've already got. The Bible instructs us to exert ourselves for all that we are worth, but power is given to us so that we can exert ourselves for all that we are worth. Again, our challenge is to daily learn that we must lean upon and rely upon the strength of the Lord and the strength of his might.

Now, let me give you some Scriptural examples of how this works out. Romans 8:26 "Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness." The Spirit helps us in our weakness, the spirit comes alongside of us as it were, and provides the help, we need. Paul says "he helps us in our weakness." Now, this is probably so obvious I shouldn't have to say it, but I will anyway, we can only be helped in our weakness if the other party has the strength to give us. We can only be helped in our weakness if the other party has the strength to give to us. Now notice what Paul makes clear here, the Holy Spirit doesn't do the work for us. He helps us he supplies what we lack. Paul doesn't say well, all you gotta do is just hand it all over and the Holy Spirit will pray for you. No, we pray and if we're not praying correctly, what does he do? He helps us. The Holy Spirit comes to our aid.

And what really what the word picture here is or the picture here is is a strong person who's struggling to carry some kind of heavy load. You know, there's some things we can pick up and put in the back of the truck with no problem. We can do that by ourselves. But there's other things we just can't get in the bed of the truck by ourselves. We're simply not strong enough to lift it. So what do you need? You need somebody to come along and help you in your weakness, right? So you have a friend come along and he says, hey, you pick up that end, I'll pick up this end and together, we'll get this job done. We'll get this thing loaded up. That's what Paul is trying to get us to see here. That's what the Holy Spirit does. He comes to our aid. He comes and he picks up his share of the load and together with his strength, with his power, the job gets done. You say, well, who did it, the Holy Spirit? Yes. Did I do something? Yes. You both were involved. The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Or how about Galations 2:20. Paul says "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Paul says, "I've been crucified with Christ." The old man, he's been put to death. Therefore the old man he no longer lives but Jesus lives in me. Now if Paul subscribed to higher life theology he would have stopped the verse right then and there. He wouldn't have had to have gone any further would he? But he didn't stop there, did he? He goes on to say "and the life I now live in the flesh." Wait a minute. Paul's not being passive at all here is he? He's living his life, but he now lives by his faith in Christ. And see however you may try, however hard you may try you simply cannot remove the necessity of our actions as we work out our salvation. But it is not all our effort and it's not doing nothing. It is Christ living in me, it is Christ empowering me to live as a Christian. I live, but Christ at the same time lives in me. So to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might means that you as a Christian continually draw on the strength the Lord provides to us as he lives in us.

It's been several years ago, I don't even remember but I went to the doctor, wasn't feeling well. And he had a real concerned look on his face, it's one reason I don't like to go to the doctors from the looks you get. And he said, I think you're having a heart attack. I was probably in my 40s at the time. I thought what medical school did you go to? He said, no, I really think you need to go the hospital. Let us call, get you an ambulance and get you to the hospital. I said no, I'll drive there, you know. And so I did. Probably wasn't the best decision, but I did. And they checked me out and if I was a car and they were a mechanic, they basically told me you're a couple quarts down in oil. I was low on blood. Well you know what they did? They stuck this needle in my arm and hung up this bag of blood and I had to sit there while they gave me this transfusion. And, you know, the more blood that they got in me, the better I felt. The stronger I felt. Like a miracle. That's kind of the image that Paul wants us to see here. Just as that blood going into my veins strengthened me, Christ living in me strengthens me. I didn't put the needle in my arm. I didn't go down to the, say blood bank Bree but it's probably not. But yeah, I didn't go down to the blood bank and make a withdrawal. Yeah, I need two pints of the good stuff. No, no, they just brought it and I trusted them that they were going to give me exactly what I needed. And they did.

So you have to trust Jesus that he's going to give you exactly what you need when you need it and he will. You say but there's gotta be a technique, there's got to be something I can do, there's got to be something I can say. No, no. He gives us strength to fight our spiritual battles, strength to endure and overcome temptation, strength to put to death the deeds of the flesh, strength to respond in Christ like manner, strength to control our tempers, strength to control our tongues, strength to control our emotions, strength to control our attitudes. See, there is not an area of your life that God's strength is not available to you. Not one. There is absolutely nothing that confronts you that you are not equipped to handle if you will be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Now let me show you some ways that you've already and that you continue to experience the power of God. Realize you're already experiencing the power of God in your salvation. What's Romans 1:16? Paul says, hey, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. Why? For it is the power. Yeah. The power of God. Are you a Christian? Then you've experienced the power of God. You are continuing to experience the power of God. Remember that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Remember that your daily existence is an ongoing demonstration of God's power in your life. Listen. The only reason that you were able to come here this morning, the only reason that you are still alive is because God's power willed it to be so. That's the only reason. Try as we might, we cannot prolong our lives by a second. When God says you're done, you're done. Remind yourself that every victory that you've already had over sin, every temptation that you have successfully dealt with is a demonstration of what? God's power working in you. Here's what you need to do. Saturate your mind with Scripture. Your strength lies in Christ, meditate on who you are in Christ. Meditate on what Christ has done for you, what he's doing for you, and what he has promised to do for you. Again, I cannot explain all of this, but we know there is power in God's word.

Now we see this on a human level. I am a fan of history. And a couple years ago now Matt bought me this massive biography of Winston Churchill, called The Last Lion. In fact it's two volumes. Churchill was a unique man to say the least. Strange in many, many ways. You know, he never fought in a battle in World War II, though he was in the first war. But you'd be hard pressed to find anybody in England who lived during that time who wouldn't give credit to Winston Churchill for helping lead Britain to victory. He never fired a shot. He never put on a uniform. You know what he did? He was a mighty orator. He would constantly go in front of the people and reassure them and encourage them, challenge them, motivate them. But how did he do it? Through his words. And through the words of a mortal man, they won. Go read what Britain was up against in World War II. But you know what? We have a more sure word of prophecy. We have a greater word, we have a more powerful word. And it is the Lord Jesus Christ. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

See you need to believe that you are a new creation. You need to believe that you've been crucified with Christ and believe that Christ lives and you believe that the Holy Spirit indwells you and has come to help you. And you need to meditate on these truths until you are convinced that they are for you and not for somebody else, but they are for you. And finally, by faith, push forward with the confidence that God's strength is already at work on your behalf. Think back to the story of Elijah and his servant. Elijah wasn't flustered, even though surrounded by the Syrians. Didn't seem to be a problem for the old boy. He prays to God says, Hey, open your servants eyes. What does the servant see? Chariots of fire surrounding them. God's power was already at work defending them. God's power is already at work defending you. And you don't have to ask for it. You just have to use it.