Suppression Isn’t Transformation: Where Can We Find Real Change?

“Suppression is not the same thing as transformation, and it is always the latter that the Spirit seeks to effect (2 Cor 3:18).”

– Sinclair B. Ferguson, In Christ Alone

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to force ourselves to be people that we, at the core, are not. But solid Christian character is not a simple act of will or resolution. It is not, for example, forcing ourselves to suppress pride for a moment or doing an act of love It is to have a God-wrought transformation so that we are humble and loving.

Connection to Secret Sin

I see a connection here between secret sin and suppression. If we feel like we are hiding secret sin – that we put on the outward show of a hypocrite – it is because we are trying to suppress our sin before men instead of seeking inward transformation before God.

Source of Real Change

We find real change when we confess that we can’t effect it in ourselves and instead turn to Christ.

That is part of the message of the Gospel: In Christ, by the Spirit, transformation is promised.

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A Heart at Leisure from Itself

Father, I Know That All My Life

Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see;
But I ask Thee for a present mind intent on pleasing Thee.

I ask Thee for a thoughtful love, through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles, and to wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize.

I would not have the restless will that hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.

Wherever in the world I am, in whatso’er estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts to keep and cultivate;
And a work of lowly love to do for the Lord on whom I wait.

So I ask Thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,
And a mind to blend with outward life while keeping at Thy side;
Content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified.

And if some things I do not ask in my cup of blessing be,
I would have my spirit filled the more with grateful love to Thee,
More careful, not to serve Thee much, but to please Thee perfectly.

There are briers besetting every path that call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot, and an earnest need for prayer;

But a lowly heart that leans on Thee is happy anywhere.

In a service which Thy will appoints there are no bonds for me;
For my inmost heart is taught “the truth” that makes Thy children “free”
And a life of self-renouncing love is a life of liberty.

– Charles Steggall (1826-1905)

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How to Win a Game of Checkers on the Titanic

Some verses just sound too spiritual.

Proverbs 9:10 fit the bill in my mind:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

If the verse had said, “it is wise to fear God,” it would have been acceptable. It is one thing to claim that fearing God is a wise move. It is quite another to say that all wisdom starts with fearing God. Sounds like a spiritual exaggeration.

What about the gray-haired fisherman I met at the canal, who cared nothing about God but had figured a lot of life out just by living long enough earn his wrinkles? Was he not wise?

Let’s rephrase that last question and make it even more clear: Picture a man who puts double-sided tape on the back of the checkers pieces so he can play on the now inclined deck of the Titanic. He’s found a solution to the uneven playing surface. But he’s still playing a silly game on a sinking ship. The uneven decks presented an obstacle to playing his game, and instead of seeing that as a warning, he ignores reality in favor of a short-term fix. Was he wise?

Wisdom is Having a Handle on Reality, and Applying It

To be wise is to have a handle on reality, and apply it.

We cannot understand reality without fearing God. The argument goes like this:  God ultimately defines reality, the way things really are. Therefore, to understand reality is to understand everything in relation to God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

You cannot properly understand reality, meaning, purpose, or salvation apart from God because all of those things are defined in relation to God. Provers 9:10 is no spiritual exaggeration.

Dave Harvey, in his excellent book titled When Sinners Say “I Do,” writes:

“Wisdom in the Bible isn’t some mystical knowledge of simple street savvy. It’s the life and decisions of someone right related to God. It’s applying what we know is true. Theologian Graham Goldsworthy says,

…[Wisdom] is not primarily a function of how clever we are, nor of how much information we have managed to cram into our minds. Rather, it is a moral choice…to be subject to [God] in our thinking as well as our doing.”

JC Ryle describes the alternative to wisdom:

“Amazing, that with such a prospect of coming judgment, any man can be careless and unconcerned! Surely none are so crazy as those who are content to live unprepared to die.”

And that is exactly what it means to live without the fear of the Lord: to live unprepared to die, the height of foolishness.

What is It All Worth?

What is it worth to claim any knowledge of fact, mastery of skill, or standing among men if it not on context of a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

It is worth less than a crazed man bellowing across the Titanic deck, “I know how to win a game of checkers.”

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