How quickly a dog returns to its vomit!

I find a tendency in my own heart to return to my sinful habits. Just the other day, I admitted my own addiction to myself. See that post here. The danger with any moment of confession is becoming satisfied with the effort and lowering my guard down again. I suppose the explanation is found in the difference between a sense of duty and a sense of delight, or worship.

Am I trying to manipulate revival in my life so that I will feel better about myself?

 OR

Am I sincerely worshipping God through my dependence on Him for mercy and grace, and thus receiving from Him revival?

There is a major difference. I confess my sin, then I find a sense of personal satisfaction in the confession. A burden is lifted from my conscience. But is my conscience tuned to the Spirit? What I mean is that my conscience may be appeased but my motivation was not one of worship, initiated by the work of the Spirit, but a selfish motivation of placating my own sense of guilt for sin. When my motivation is in error, I quickly return to my own vomit. My heart is not drawn closer to God, but is hardened.

Oh, that I may be free from this cycle!

My dear friend, Mark, reminded me tonight that we need hearts of worship, not a cold sense of duty in our Christian life. I will leave it up to him to explain more of what he meant, because he has been thinking about this deeply and you would benefit more to hear it from him.

Do I worship God? or is my Christian life lived out of a sense of duty? I mean, I could give with an attitude of cheerfulness on Sunday morning but not be worshipping God. I should be responding out of gratitude for God’s provision through Christ and through my job, etc. But I respond in a way that gratifies my flesh. I feel good about my work of giving. Works of giving are great, and God uses them. But my works as a Christian is to display God’s craftsmanship in my life. They are to bring glory to the Father! But even though I don’t parade my giving and though I give with a cheerful disposition, inwardly, I am worshipping myself, my own goodness in obeying.

Free me dear Jesus from ME!!!

In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Jonathan Edwards stated:

For indeed spiritual and eternal things are so great, and of such infinite concern, that there is a great absurdity in men’s being but moderately moved and affected by them.

He continued:

Those who are in such extremity commonly express a great sense of their exceeding wickedness, the multitude and aggravations of their actual sins…Very often some text of Scripture expressing God’s sovereignty has been set home upon their minds, whereby they have been calmed.

Edwards was defending the revival in his day against those who said that true religion is not expressed through emotional responses, but is done orderly without excess. In response, Edwards showed that the abiding fruit among those revived included extreme responses to their own sinfulness in light of God’s grace. In response to their wickedness, people would scream and cry out, overwhelmed by the wrath they deserve. Then, as with the quote above, they would be calmed by the sovereign truth of the gospel. Others would be so overwhelmed by the love of Christ, they could not move–they would faint and lose strength. Edwards was saying that such emotion did not prove that those were not experiencing true revival. He gave five marks that those expressions accompanied true revival–higher esteem for the Virgin-born, crucified and raised Jesus, testimony of the Spirit working against worldliness and the interests of Satan’s kingdom, greater regard for the scriptures, greater regard for and conviction of the truth, and a present spirit of love for God and fellow men. Why is this relevant to my experience?

In my dealing with sin, I am too lightly moved by my own sinfulness as well as by God’s grace. I need my affections stirred, greatly. My conscience is too easily pleased by the good feeling that accompanies confession. I need the overwhelming conviction that precedes repentance which leads to a greater love of Jesus my savior! I need an attitude of worship, not cold duty. May His Spirit be poured out on me.

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  1. Wes,

    Thanks for sharing! I too struggle with this as well. For me, when I’m in those moments, I remind myself how spiritually inept I am. I can’t love God more (if at all) on my own. I have to depend on His Spirit within me. Sometimes, though my emotions do not stir greatly I must confess, it is me simply calling out to God that he might help me to love him more.

    I believe God answeres prayers and I rely on it.

    Dougald

  2. One more things…

    Stay tuned to my blog. Once I finish the Central Asian thing, I’ll be posting about John Owen’s Communion with God where he deals with some of this.

  3. Bro,
    I look forward to it. I don’t have time to read Owen right now for myself, so reading your posts will be helpful. I look forward to the encouragement.

    Wes

  4. Wow.. I appreciate your honest confession. As I said this morning, it is actually a sign of maturity that we enjoy obedience to God.

    But, I think I understand what you mean. I am reminded of my tendency to pray for God’s help, but celebrate myself for the success achieved by his answer.

    I don’t really want to do any ‘counseling’ (if it can be so generously considered such) on a blog, but How can I withhold responses that encourage me?

    You know that revival is not a short-cut to a greater measure of (or complete) sanctification. It remains, for those who experience it, part of the process.

    Remember, too, that your frustration with yourself reflects growth because, at one time, you were satisfied to fulfill your duty.

    And don’t imagine that behavior with the appearance of a cycle dooms you to eternally repeat it. If the cycle cannot end, then it could not have begun. Perhaps it is rather a spiral, if it must be defined in such a way at all.

    I agree with Dougald. We not only can, but must depend on God for our own obedience, faith and love because we only have any of those by God’s grace in the first place.

    There is grace in Christ for all behavior too hard for man to overcome. Otherwise, you would have no quandry.

    “Through many dangers, toils and snares
    I have already come;
    ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
    and Grace will lead me home.” ~John Newton

    See:
    Romans 7:24-25
    Colossians 3:1-4
    Philippians 3:13-14
    Philippians 4:4-9

    I think these teach that we should not focus on sin, but on Jesus; and not only as he is the remedy for sin, but also the righteous and infinitely more rewarding alternative to it. Such meditation inspires me to trust and to worship.

    And I agree in prayer: May his Spirit be poured out on you.

    I must add that I have been inspired by your months-long study and discussion of revival to pray daily for our church to be blessed with revival as well as the confession and repentence and purpose of God that seem necessary to preceed it.

  5. Mark (your comment went into moderation because it had more than two links),

    Thanks for the encouragement! That is my struggle, from being discouraged by sin, desiring to be free from it, to looking to Jesus.

    It’s hard sometimes to keep my eyes on Jesus when I am burdened by my sin.

    Thanks for your encouragment to keep my eyes on him!

    Wes

  6. A dog returns to its vomit and the sow to its wallowing in the mud. No surprise there for neither the dog nor the sow can be expected to do otherwise. And, really, there is no problem in the dog and the sow behaving the way they do. A dog/sow is as a dog/sow does. And as an old saying goes, there is NO straightening a dog’s tail. Try as you might, it will be futile.

    But when a Lion, NEVER knowing it is a Lion, but rather convinced that it is a dog or a sow, and yet for some reason fancies to walk like a Lion, the outcome will be a not very happy but predictable one. This “dog/sow” will eventually return to its vomit/mud.

    The core of most Christian’s problem is that of faith-identity. They don’t believe the gospel in its entirety! They don’t go all the way. And so they do not know, who they REALLY are.

    In addressing the sin-grace debate Paul surmises thus:

    (Rom 6:1-2 KJV) – 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
    2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

    The only reason we discontinue sin is because it is silly. Not because it is such a betrayal of God’s grace. And it is silly to sin, because we are dead to sin! There is no reason or compulsion for a man dead to sin, to sin!

    But how many Christians know this? or believe this? That sin has no dominion over them? That they truly are new creations born of God in righteousness? That they possess divine nature by the Spirit of God who indwells us? That we are free from the dominion of sin?

    Unless you are a Lion, don’t bother trying to roar like one. We discontinue sin not because it seems the right thing to do, because we have no need to return to sin. Sin is not of us. Unless all this is just christian wishful, once we really know that we are Lions, staying away from the vomit will not be a problem. Who wants to eat vomit anyway? Once faith is firmly planted, freedom will display itself openly. Truth, Faith, then freedom.

    (2Pe 1:4 KJV) – 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

    Sorry that was long. But who’s going to read this. So no harm done. 🙂

  7. I’ve been reading Romans over and over countless time over the years and recently this jumped at me:

    (Rom 7:1-3 KJV) – 1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. 3 So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

    I’m sorry, if you are already awakened to these things, please bear with me.

    I’ve always understood this passage as designed to give context to the “wretched man” in Rom 7:14-24 as someone *under the law*, i.e., not under Christ. Justified in the OT sense, but NOT born again. Forgiven but not regenerated. I think Augustine and along with him unnumbered Christians through the ages saw themselves mirrored in that man, but I strenuously beg to differ. They see what they WANT to see and think that is the gospel truth. Inevitably, what they believe becomes them. Great is their fault and terrible their losses in Christ. But this is not what I am pressed to share here.

    Where there is no law, there is no transgression. For sin is the transgression of the law. But Rom 7:1-3 clarifies, in no uncertain terms, that the long arm of law is limited to the living. The dead are escaped its iron bars. Since, by the hand of God, we are circumcised in the circumcision of Christ and therein are DIED together with him, though now remain alive in this body; we have escaped the powers of the law! If you like, in Christ we have obtained a kind of DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY. Incredible, but true! Moreover we are fortified with the grace, the Spirit of God! But that is another matter.

    The wonderful thing to behold here is that we who are born-again in Christ, and one has to die to be born-again, are NO LONGER under law and NOT prosecutable by the law! This is precisely the meaning of Paul’s words:
    (Rom 8:1 KJV) – 1 [There is] therefore now *no condemnation* to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

    We have escape condemnation, simply, because we have died (with Christ).

    I used to think that the *no condemnation* clause in Rom 8.1 is CONDITIONAL upon Christians walking in the Spirit and avoiding the works of the flesh, but must now admit it is not entirely true. We walk in the spirit, because we can and that is what Christians do. We don’t engage in the works of the flesh, because we have no reason to do so; Sin has no power over us; the devil cannot force us, like he can the children of the world.

    We have escaped condemnation, because we have been circumcised. Now we know why circumcision was such a sticking point before God in the OT.

    Some people do not take their death in Christ literally. In which case, neither are they literally born again, and so their salvation is become a figment of imagination. Not to mention their freedom from sin, a laughable fairy tale. Which explains why so many any struggle in their walk with Christ.

    But the death of Christ is no fiction. It was real. He was really crucified, and really hung there from the 3rd to ninth hour, really shed his blood, and really expired. Else God would not be satisfied and there would be no atonement.

    So he really died and we with him.

    BUT now that we are no longer answerable to the law, WHY NOT SIN?

    God forbid, because SANE men don’t eat their vomit, there is NO pleasure in sin, because we are FREE from sin’s power, because that which is born of God does not and cannot sin.

    God CANNOT be tempted by sin, NOT because he has excellent will power, but because he finds no pleasure in it. And likewise those born of God does not sin and cannot sin because we find no savour in it.

    Finally, those in Christ do not sin, NOT because we fear condemnation, but because we are INDEBTED to Christ to walk like him. Because this is our heritage and privilege! If you can fly, why crawl?

    We are “lawless”, but are not without law. We have the law of Christ in our hearts.

    Thank you for reading.

    • James,

      Good stuff. My good friend Mark, who I mention in the comments from so many years ago says something I like “We get off scott free!”. Your “diplomatic immunity” reminded me of that statement.

      The original post was a reflection on the way in which I had been pursuing confession of sin. My tendency is to beat myself when I sin so that I feel better about it, since I have been punished. But you are right, as Romans 6-8, and host of other biblical passages state, that is the opposite of the gospel.

      So, when I sin, I am acting contrary to nature. I am not living like someone who was buried and raised with Christ. Because the truth is, I don’t have to sin. I am free from it.

      The original post is almost five years old and God has shown me great things in his Word and I trust that he will continue to do so.

      Thank you for commenting. Maybe someone else who comes across this post will see your comments and be encouraged.

      In Christ (truly in Christ),

      -Wes

  8. Psalm 139 comes to mind where the writer is beseeching God to search his heart for any wicked ways. To restore the joy of his salvation. We do need to check ourselves, to question our motives. Blessings to you. God will honor the intent of your heart and spirit to be more like him.

    • The only way forward in Christian life is faith. And that requires us to leave the past behind and charge forward in the light of the gospel of Christ. Constant self-examination for flaws is the way of the wretched man in Romans 7. It is NOT of faith, therefore of sin; neither profitable nor worthy of one who is born again of God, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”. Eph 4:24

      David was born in sin, and all of the OT saints from Adam to Abraham to JTB likewise. They were all nonetheless justified by faith in God, yet NOT born again like you and me. At least not during their past time on earth. For Christ is the Firstborn. And we after Christ. Which is the reason why even the *least* in the kingdom of God is greater than JTB, whom Christ hailed to be the greatest among those born of woman. Mt 11.11. et al.

      That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. None of the OT saints before the advent of Christ were born of the Spirit. Which is the reason Christ told Nicodemus that he must be born again. If Nick must be born again, so must Abraham and all his children under the old covenant, including David.

      We of the NEW covenant are however created of the incorruptible seed of God. We are born of God. If this be true, as the seed of God and like God, we are by nature averse to sin. By that I mean, we not just afraid to sin but like our God we find NO pleasure in sin and sin can have NO dominion over us. Contrary to many Christian’s fear, it can’t sneak up on us, unless for some weird reason we wilfully dive into it. Thus, in no wise can the idiom of the dog returning to its vomit be applied to those born of God. That would be denying the resurrection of Christ. For if He is risen, so are we risen with him as new creations and indwelled by him. To this end did Paul say that we are NOT in the flesh, if the Spirit of God did indeed dwell in us. Otherwise we are none of Christ.

      I call this the liberty of Christ. And it is the pivotal principle of Christian salvation and the VERY means to godliness.

      As Christ was, so are we. Sin had no part in him, so it cannot have any part in us.

      Most think that Christ came only to die for the sinners, but I say that he ALSO came to rise and live for the saint’s. He came to demonstrate that it CAN be done and HOW it is done. To manifest the possibilities of a life that is founded in the freedom of God, for those born of God. He was our test case in godliness and a practical example of living in that freedom. For godliness is of freedom. For our God is above all FREE!

      (1Jo 3:20-21 KJV) – 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this message.. if we would all look at our own situations, things might change for us… I am expecting change in my life…

    • “Born in lust, turn to dust. Born in sin common on in,” are the infamous lines from Stephen King’s reverting “Storm of the century” novel-movie.

      Now read the scripture:
      (1Jo 3:9 KJV) – 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

      Note: Born of God, not only, does not sin, i.e., chooses NOT to sin, it also CANNOT SIN. Why? Because it is born of God! How incredible!

      But this is scripture, so it must be true.

      Only question is, are we, am I, are you, born of God? If yes, then we are inherently averse to sin. This is *very different from people, who in spite of not wanting to sin, cannot help and sin anyway, which is every conscienable man under the law. But to be under the law, which is the whole unsaved world, is to be excluded from Christ and God’s grace.

      But if *are in Christ, and *are born of God, then we cannot be as the people of the world. They are born in sin and are in bondage. We are born of God and are free.

      Some people mistake grace as power to overcoming sin. Not good enough. True grace, is being born free and indwelled by the very source of grace and eternal life. This is the gospel of Christ. Anything less is counterfeit.

      Unless we see this truth and walk in its light and therefore walk by faith, which is which an essentially walking in the spirit, we will never enjoy this freedom in Christ. We will NEVER know who we are inwardly, what we are made of in God.

      Looking and searching for sin, like a dog habitually looking for ticks in his fur, is NOT of faith and will open the door for more sin. The alternative to sin is freedom in faith, not introspection.

      (Phl 3:13-14 KJV) – 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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