Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is the Key to Growth in Godlliness? (Part Two)

God's Motivator
In our first post on this subject I said that no one is undisciplined. In fact, a lack of discipline, or will power, is seldom the problem.  Instead, a lazy man, or an inconsistent man or woman, suffers from a lack of motivation.

The Holy Spirit, who cooperated in the design of our physical and emotional frame, knows this. That is why his work is fundamentally motivational. What motivates Christians is a spiritual sight of the moral beauty of the  Glory of God in the face of Christ. Paul described conversion in these terms (2 Cor. 4:6). He also described sanctification in these terms (2 Cor. 2:18).

Seeing Christ this way is a byproduct of illumination. Illumination is more than knowledge. Knowledge is never sufficient by itself. Illumination is something added to knowledge. It occurs to the degree that the heart beholds the Glory of God hidden in the face of Christ. To the degree that this happens the believer is ruined for this world. Why? He or she increasingly sees that Christ is his or her happiness. We are hard wired to pursue our happiness. So, when this happens we quit looking for happiness in entertainment, new "things," promotions, or relationships. Instead, we pursue Christ.

However, this does not mean that knowledge is unimportant.  Illumination is like a spiritual parasite. It lives on knowledge. It feeds on knowledge. In fact, it will starve to death without knowledge. Therefore, Bible study, listening to sermons, and spiritual reading are very important.

But, here is the rub. In and of themselves, none of these are ever enough. I am reading a book on the Reformation by an Oxford Scholar. He is an excellent historian, and I am amazed at his accurate grasp of the subtleties of Christian doctrine. The reason I am so amazed is that he is a self professed agnostic homosexual. He is not a Christian. He has knowledge, but he lacks illumination. Therefore, he has no capacity to believe or love the doctrines that he understands so well. Many attending our churches are the same way. They know doctrine. They may even believe it at an intellectual level. But without illumination nothing changes. There is no "conviction," "assurance," or confidence in God's goodness.

Motivation comes and people change to the degree that the Holy Spirit puts his spotlight on what we know. When he does we see that knowledge with the eyes and ears of our hearts.  We "experience" knowledge at the heart level. This is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8).

We are utterly dependent upon God for this. We cannot produce it or manufacture it. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of it when he said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”(Luke 10:21–22)

The signs of illumination are at least threefold. First, a growing conviction about the truth of the subject illuminated, second, a growing assurance about the truth of the subject illuminated, and third a growing certainty that God is good that he can be really trusted. Reference to these fruits can be found in Heb. 11:1-6. Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians five always ultimately follow.

In summary, "Illumination" is the key to Christian motivation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It feeds on knowledge. Its fruits are conviction, assurance and growing confidence that God is good.

Our third blog post will talk about why this subject is so crucial.

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