The Work of Faith and Recovery
Romans 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
When in active addiction, it was constant work for me to find the next pill. From the time I woke up, I started planning on how I could get that which I wanted most. Family, career and faith, all took a backseat to my appetite. I would stop for a while, but I always knew that I would return, so I planned and schemed, spending my energies on that which I craved.
An inmate once told me that as hard as I used to work for my addiction, that is how hard I must work at the new life. As I used to wake up every morning to pursue the desires of my flesh life, I now must get up every morning and work equally as hard at pursuing my spirit life.
Paul said the same in today’s passage. As we all have a flesh life and a spirit life, it is imperative that we make a daily choice to live in the spirit life, putting on Christ. Just as we put on clothes every morning, we must also put on Jesus Christ, or we will, by default, dress for self. Daily, I must make the conscious choice to layer myself in Christ by reading, praying and meditating. If I find myself alone and distant from God, it is no fault but my own. It is because I have not made the effort to draw near to him.
But we are saved by faith and not by works! We are under grace and not under the law! You are describing a works-based faith! It is true that we are saved only by faith. It is through faith alone that we inherit a new, perfect spirit life in which God sees us as righteous. In a thousand years, the spirit life will be our only reality. This perfect spirit life in Christ is not something we can gain or lose by our efforts and is absolutely our greatest reality. As always though, while we are in this flesh, we carry that perfect gift in an imperfect vessel. For now, we know two realities, the flesh life and the spirit life.
Christ never leaves us, nor forsakes us, but when we sow the seeds of the flesh, we choose distance from God and we choose destruction. Though Christ has once-for-all done the work of restoring us to God and has given us new life in him, we may, while in this flesh, pursue our own desires to find pain, misery and death. This does not mean our spirit life is gone, it just means we will be never live the lives for which we were created.
This is why this two-step process was so often repeated in the New Testament. Here, Paul used the imagery of clothing. Take off the old and put on Christ. In other passages, he commanded us to crucify the flesh to walk in the spirit. Christ said we are to deny self and follow him. Walk in the light, abandon the darkness. Always, it is this two-step process of abandoning self and pursuing God. It is our daily choice and responsibility to align this temporary existence with the spirit life. Though we are saved by faith, we must daily choose (work) to live in our spirit life.
It is a disastrous error of many Christians to think that because we are saved by faith, we need to do nothing. As I am saved, I can do whatever I want. If God wants to change my desires, He can. I may continue to pursue porn, money, power, status, toys, affirmation, drugs and anything I want. I do not have to change anything because that would be work and I am only saved by faith. No work for me!
Daily though, I am commanded to put on Christ and cast off the old. If I want God and if I want recovery, this is my now my primary occupation.