Having the born again experience changes one’s heart. It changes the condition of one’s soul, and it changes the mind’s thoughts and outlook because love will do that. However, God is a God of process and we have a weak human nature known as “the flesh,” or the “sinful nature.”
Spiritual growth takes a lot of time and it works hand-in-hand with the stages of human development. We start out needing a heavy dose of law – do’s and dont’s that get us through the immature stages until we get to the point of having enough maturity to follow the spirit of the law without the training wheels we once needed. This necessitates a dramatic change in dynamics – a 180-degree turn that one might liken to repentance. Not that we are repenting from transgression, because that isn’t necessarily the case, but we are changing the orientation of the soul and condition of the heart and mind. In short, it looks like this:
We can start with law and fit grace in where we can, or we can start with grace and fit law in where we must.
This 180 doesn’t take us away from the straight and narrow. Rather, we are losing the training wheels of the letter of the law in exchange for following Jesus on our own two feet. The thing is, the law is still needed and we will, at times, need to buckle down and simply do what the rules say because we still have a weak flesh. It is the sinful nature the law governs and will continue to have jurisdiction over, even while we get our inner life oriented around grace and walk in maturity. It’s a right balance, not only between grace and law, but also between our inner self and our outer self.
It is this balance, with an emphasis on grace exhibiting itself in good works, that the Book of James is about. In the first chapter, the apostle tells us if we need wisdom, to ask our generous God and He will give it to us. He proceeds to talk about the inner workings of the heart when making the request, and I think we can apply his teaching to anything we desire from the Lord.
James says God is generous and will not rebuke us for asking, but we are admonished to make sure our faith is in God alone. We have a weak flesh that is scared and geared around our survival. So, it is easy for us to put trust in money or its source – the job, or it’s source – the company. Maybe we place trust in the free market or the democratic social order that embraces it. We put trust in homes and cars; we set material goals to get these things, thinking they will make us happy or give us the tools to be happy as we seek the omission of stress. We think if we get all of that in order, our relationships will be less stressed and programmed for success so we can find happiness in our relationships.
As Christians, we don’t set out to be “worldly” with this stuff – we simply live in the world and have to survive. We need provisions and seek God for them. That sounds perfectly fine, doesn’t it? God loves us and knows we have these needs. God is our provider and we are walking in faith by trusting Him for them, right?
Here’s the thing: our hearts have dark spots, or blind spots, that we don’t see. The flesh is weak and it gets attached to the things of man. James says “…be sure your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty…is divided between God and the world….” James refers to this person as “unstable.” That’s a strong word. God sees us as unstable – He can’t count on us and He shouldn’t be expected to give us what we ask for, even when it is vital to our survival, if granting the request will negatively-reinforce our idolatry. God may provide, but He tarries in doing so, because He is being given a divided heart.
This is why it’s vital for those who are born again to be as surrendered to God as we can be. God does know we need these things and God does care about them. However, God wants our whole heart.
Also, God does permit the enemy to attack and to steal, but that is not God’s heart. God has a purpose for allowing the enemy to go on the rampage, but God is not throwing us under the bus – God is using the enemy like he did Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” to help us in our efforts to keep our weak flesh under control, that it and its concerns be brought under subjection to the authority of Christ. Also, God is setting the enemy up for a fall.
No matter what you may be going through, the most empowered thing you can do is surrender. The wisest thing you can do is surrender. Remember, you are not your own. You were bought at a price and you are simply owned. You may as well square your shoulders to it, because as long as you have divided loyalties, God will not let your flesh get what it wants, for He is a jealous God who loves you with an unending love that will not return to Him void. He will get what He wants, so just give it to Him. Give Him you!