Have you have ever read the tiny print on the label of an over-the-counter medication or prescription? Normally, among all the talc, chalks and fillers there is an “active ingredient”. This is the real medication – what makes the difference in the prescribed treatment. Similarly, there is a lot of filler and an active ingredient in our spiritual lives and it is sometimes difficult to discern the difference between the two.
For those who know and serve the Lord as Christians, admonitions to go to church, read the Bible, pray and share one’s faith (we call it spiritual disciplines), are often confused with the active ingredient. The results is that when we do all the right things and still feel some distance or emptiness, the burden or drudgery of our spiritual walk make us feel as if we have failed in some way or seem to be displeasing to the Lord. But spiritual disciplines are actually the chalk or talc which are only the conveyors of the active ingredient.
See if you can identify the “active ingredient” in the following verses:
“Oh that may ways were directed to keep Your statutes!” Ps. 119:5 (NIV)
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who (all the while) works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12b, 13 (NIV, clause from Amp.)
“May the God of peace… make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ…” Heb. 13:20, 21 (NIV)
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11
“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.” Rom. 8:13
OK, I made it easy for you. God has not left the burden on our shoulders to make this Christian life happen; that would still be life under the Law. No, He has moved in, by His Spirit, as the active ingredient in our spirit to “direct” our ways, work in us, to complete what He has begun – even to help us “put to death” (mortify) the works of the flesh by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the “easy yoke” Jesus speaks of when He calls us to “take my yoke of upon you and learn of Me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
The active ingredient, the power that is working in your spiritual life is not your will power. The purpose of the Law was to show us that personal will power is not enough to produce our salvation – else people with strong will wouldn’t need Jesus. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. This means that what we need most for a healthy spiritual life is not more rigid disciplines, but more intimacy and inter-dependence with Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill you again today and keep a running conversation going with Him. You will find He is “all the while” at work in you, creating the will and the desire to do His good pleasure.
Looking Ahead: If the spiritual disciplines aren’t the active ingredient to our spiritual life, what purpose do they serve? A magnificent one! Watch for my next blog.
Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2015