For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt 5:18).
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Rom 6:15-16)
I suddenly struck me the other day that Jesus’ statement in Matthew correlates with Romans 6:15-16. Not an iota, not a dot means that even the minutest or subtlest attempts at self-effort is circumventing what Jesus accomplished at the cross. How often haven’t I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t feel like this or that, or respond in a certain manner? When I respond to these subtle hints to change or improve myself I am immediately caught out like Paul so vividly describes in Romans 7 when he tried to battle his covetousness. I find, like Paul, that it is impossible to alter myself by self-effort. Those emotions or responses do not abate an iota when I try to handle them.
So what does it mean then to yield ourselves unto God and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God?
First, since everything is accomplished by Him there is nothing more for me to do as if I am a separated person having my life outside God. Jesus own words ring in my ears: “Of myself I can do nothing.” That nothing is absolute. There are no loopholes, something we all have to personally taste when we fall on our faces because of our failures. Yielding thus means to give up.
Second, this giving up means that I finally realize that all my members are instruments of righteousness unto God. He is the one who directs all my steps. That’s the higher truth that is perpetually contested by appearances, that is, how a thing looks on the outside and perceived by us when we only behold a thing with our natural senses, but as the prophet said: “Look again!” There is much more than meets the eye in His dealings with us and as us.
John Collings and I had a fascinating exchange about stories written utilizing a first person narrator. We are not the authors of our lives, but the script is written on our hearts. The story of our lives is told by us as a first person narrator. However, we know when reading a book that we can be fooled by how the author uses this technic by hiding information from us and only telling the story from one perspective. Little did we know that the narrator was the culprit until the very end. Likewise, our lives have a greater purpose than what we see from our narrow peephole. But, God is not like any other author. He perpetually nudges us upwards to see the plot from His viewpoint and it is then that appearances lose their hypnotic power.
I have been thinking about being immersed in God who is all in all, and the illustration of a fish not able to see the water that surrounds it. When we are in something we can’t see it. To see ourselves we must somehow come out of ourselves by looking into a mirror, or trust someone who is outside of us, or greater than us to give a picture of ourselves (John Collings).
To ourselves it seems like we are our own narrators when seeing only with an impaired vision. But, the amazing thing is that we are not the authors of our lives. The author knows all the details and sees the whole picture. We certainly don’t. So He has given us faith which enables us to stretch beyond the limited horizon of our self-hood. Our problems arise when we imagine that our first-person narrator outlook is all there is. But, “Look again!”
Sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under law but grace. Grace is truly that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death “(Rom 8:2). That same Spirit who entered Jesus’ dead body and made it alive is now dwelling in you and me and spontaneously fulfills every iota of the law in us as us in our daily lives. Like the universe is upheld by physical laws it is also upheld by spiritual laws (the law is spiritual and good) and the Spirit makes sure that we at all times are operating in accordance with these and how this is fulfilled in us cannot be judged by appearances. Before we came to Christ we didn’t conform to these laws and thus were under the dominion of sin.
Everything we are, including emotions and self-reactions, is a part of the greater script which unfolds as we continue to read our lives. If our experiences do not match those of others our words aren’t much worth, John C wrote to me. He continued by pointing out how our weaknesses make us real to people. All of us have problems that shake us to the core, and John concluded by this: “It doesn’t take too much perspective to see how God uses our weakness in a way that we may glory in our humanity. And when we know it has purpose the burden isn’t heavy and is even a pleasure to carry for you.”