Why is it that when you set out with every intention of obeying God you end up sinning horrifically? Maybe you have quit pornography or maybe you’re still buried in it. Maybe you have quit gossiping or maybe you’re still drunk by it. But everyone one of us puts down our bible ready to apply it and comes back to it the next day without having loved God with all our heart and his people as ourselves. (Or we don’t come back to our bible at all precisely because of our failures.)
Even the great Apostle Paul mourned this tendency in himself:
"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law… making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15-25).
What does this have to do with emptiness? Well, the reason we continue to sin even when we set out to do right is because in our pride we believe that something other than God will make us whole. Life is a rat’s maze quest for wholeness. And we all chase some false scent of wholeness until we reach a hope-crushing dead end.
What drives our ping pong life of sin and obedience? Emptiness and the longing to fill it.
What if we could finally be whole? What if it were actually possible to finally and fully be satisfied? What if we could actually make it to the end of the maze?
Be Filled with…
In Ephesians, Paul gives us a profound and revealing command:
"Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).
This is not just another "Thou shalt not." It is a clue. The kind of clue that is just one notch from spelling it out for us. Paul knows that it is not a question of whether or not people are filling themselves. Everyone fills themself with something. The question is what are you filling yourself with? What are you trying to find wholeness in?
You could insert any number of things in the place of wine: sexual pleasure, success, fame, human approval, wealth, legacy, comfort food. Do not get drunk with anything. Do not seek fulfillment in anything other than in God.
The command is actually the answer to life’s great question, "How can I be whole?" Answer: by actively being passively filled by the Spirit!
The wonderful, mysterious, beautiful, Holy Spirit of God is the only thing that can make you whole.
Notice that you are both active and passive in carrying out this command. You actively pursue being filled by the Spirit by saturating your mind and your heart with the Word of God (i.e. Jesus as he is found throughout all Scripture). But you are passive in that it is only the Spirit that can do the filling. All the reading in the world could not fill you with the Spirit unless He Himself fills you.
But that doesn’t answer Romans 7
With only this command we still find ourselves setting out to be filled by the Spirit only to fnd ourselves being filled by something else. We’re right back to the struggle of Romans 7. We know that we can only be made whole in the Spirit but we continue to seek wholeness in worldly things.
That’s why Paul wrote Romans 8. The way out of Romans 7 is not through another command. It is through embracing our new legal status.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:1, 3).
As Christians our sin that we still commit cannot condemn us. We cannot be condemned by the fact that we fail to be filled by the Spirit.
Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ in God not even your own failure of a life. Not even your failures after you have been forgiven.
You do not become unforgiven the moment you sin and reforgiven the moment you truly repent. Legally you are always free from the condemnation from God as Judge. Relationally, you need to confess to experience that forgiveness from God as Father.
But wait… What about being whole?
Now, finally, we come to our passage in 1 Corinthians 15:44:
"It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."
At first glance this passage seems like this comparison between our current bodies and our resurrected bodies is a difference of what they are made out of. In that case, our natural body would refer to the fact that we are made from dust and dust we shall return. But then what would it mean to be made of spiritual stuff? Would we still have physical bodies?
But Paul is actually not addressing the make up of the two bodies at all. The word natural is actually the same greek root word as soul. So he is comparing a soulish body with a Spritiual body. He is talking about what empowers them, what animates them, what fills them.
You see, there is coming a day when we will be finally and fully filled by the Spirit. We will be filled in a way that is impossible for our current soulish bodies. I believe Adam and Eve felt this in the garden. I believe they felt that there was a wholeness that they were missing. I think it’s what drew them to eat the forbidden fruit. They thought it might give them that something more that they felt they were made for.
In any case, that wholeness you have been looking for? It is promised to you, Christian. You are growing toward it now. And someday when Christ returns you will be raised in perfect wholeness.
As we have seen in the previous posts, your Spiritual body will be permanently and holistically at peace; it will be glorious, full of honor and respect; and it will be strong enough to bear the eternal weight of Christ’s love. You will be whole.
This is the first of the six aspects of the gospel that Paul uses to motivate and empower the sex-crazed Corinthians to flee sexual immorality. Remember, sexual idolaters have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.
In other words, sexual idolaters will forever be empty. Whereas, you, if you persist in the faith, will grow into a wholeness that is made complete on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"The soulish body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the soulish body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up with Spiritual bodies by his power" (1 Cor. 6:14; paraphrased).
You will be able to say goodbye to emptiness. Forever.
"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25)
Receive the next series post by e-mail (no spam and you can unsubscribe at any time):