Thursday, April 19, 2007

Outward Signs of Inward Godliness - Part II

My conclusion in the previous post was that simply performing an activity such as prayer, fasting, or Bible study is not enough to result in godliness. In other words, the activity alone is insufficient to produce the desired results. There is an intimate relationship between an action and the motive under which the action is performed. In order for prayer, fasting, Bible study, and related activities to have any chance of producing godliness, they must be performed with a properly oriented heart, and the heart must be in place before the activity is performed.

Part II . . .

The most obvious questions are: a) How can I ensure that my heart is properly oriented, and b) How can I make sure it is properly oriented before I perform the activity? Before addressing these questions I would like to quickly address the objection that performing the activities can result in a properly oriented heart, an idea that I touched on in the previous post. In order for this to be true, the following statement would also have to be true:

In order to align the heart in such a way as is necessary for the activities to result in godliness, one need only perform the activities.

There is an uncomfortable circularity in this claim. Is it possible that the activities can produce the very heart that lends power to the activities? When the cycle begins, we have to assume that we do not have a properly oriented heart. That is in fact our goal. So we begin performing the activities without the properly oriented heart, hoping that it will emerge. But I have already argued above that there are many people who perform these activities on a daily basis and that godliness does not result. I argued that it does not result because they are not performing them with the right heart. The claim, therefore, that performing the activity can bring about a proper heart must be incorrect. Otherwise, these people would develop properly oriented hearts and then godliness. The activities must not have the power to produce the heart which is necessary to properly perform the activities. This brings me to the second maxim:
Maxim 2: An activity, through the simple act of being performed, cannot produce the attitude necessary to assure its efficaciousness.

In other words, the heart must be properly oriented before the activity is performed, and it cannot be the result of performing the activity. So we still have a problem. We want to be godly. We want to believe that we can be godly if we perform the activities above with a properly oriented heart; but if that is the case, then we need to get the heart oriented before performing the activities.

Before regeneration man has only one nature, the sinful nature. After salvation, however, he has two natures: 1) the old (sinful) nature, 2) the new (godly) nature. With only the sinful nature to work with, the man can never have a properly oriented heart, because a right heart cannot be produced from a wrong nature. A sinful nature results in a sinful heart. If a right heart is to be had, it can only arise from a right nature, a new nature. What is the new nature within you? It is the Holy Spirit of God. The difference between the man who has the ability to perform the activities listed above with a right heart and the man who does not is that the second man does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is why an unregenerate man can consistently perform those activities and never achieve a properly oriented heart. This leads me to a third maxim:
Maxim 3: A properly oriented heart comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Only God can reorient your heart
. Apart from the power of God working within you, your heart will forever be disoriented. Unfortunately, the regenerate man can also perform these activities with an improperly oriented heart because he still has the old nature, and he can still surrender to it. Having the indwelling Holy Spirit does not mean that the heart is automatically properly aligned. Whereas before his regeneration he had no choice but to submit to his sinful nature (because it was the only one he had), he is now free to make a choice. Will he submit to the old sinful nature or to the new godly nature? Because of this, Maxim 3 must be modified:
Maxim 3 (modified): A properly oriented heart comes from yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, rather than the old sinful nature.

It seems that in order to have a properly oriented heart before performing the activities, we must choose to submit to the power of the Spirit that is our new nature. Now that we have the third maxim in place, we can modify our original claim again. I have included a recapitulation of the argument for the sake of clarity:

(1) Godliness will be the end result of performing any or all of the activities listed above.

Maxim 1: No activity entails any inherent capacity for producing godliness.

(2) Godliness will be the result of performing the activities listed above if and only if they are performed with the proper motives, that is, a properly oriented heart.

Restated as . . .

(3) If the activities listed above are performed with a properly oriented heart, then the end result will be godliness.

Maxim 2: An activity cannot, through the simple act of being performed, produce the attitude necessary to assure its efficaciousness.

Maxim 3: A properly oriented heart comes from yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Given maxims 2 and 3, the final form of the proposition should look like the following:
(4) If I perform certain activities such as prayer, Bible study, fasting and so forth with a properly oriented heart, that is, having yielded to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God prior to performing the activities, then the end result will be godliness.

Proposition (4) seems to say exactly what we need it to say. It accounts for all three maxims. It tells us that the activities need something other than themselves in order to be efficacious (i.e. the right heart). It also tells us that a right heart cannot come from the activities themselves, but must come from God, and that it must be in place from the beginning. There is no doubt that many Christians have come to believe proposition (4), and have attempted to put it into practice.

One unsettling question that comes to my mind, however, is this: Am I not a godly man at the moment that my heart has been properly aligned by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit?

1 comment:

XtremeWorshiper said...

and the answer to your final thought is a resounding YES. You are a New Creation. Not halfway, not partially...but the whole. The End.