Living Beyond Ourselves

The Christian life can  be  marked by such a sense of God’s presence and power that one is enabled to live and work in a way that is not easily attributable, if attributable at all, to merely natural or human ability. The effect of this kind of life is totally incongruent to natural ability. It is clearly marked by something beyond oneself! From a biblical perspective, this is not something that merely can be but something that should be.

D. L. Moody lived such a life.  He was a source of constant wonder because the results of his ministry were so totally incommensurable with his obvious personal qualities.  He had a very ordinary appearance, was not ordained by any religious body and was uncultured and uneducated – even crude and uncouth to many.  This was a constant bewilderment to many of Moody’s contemporaries including Dr. R.W. Dale, a leading clergyman in Great Britain.  Dale attended Moody’s meeting in Birmingham, England to see if he could discover the “secret” to Moody’s power in preaching and evangelism.  After hearing Moody speak, he concluded that the work had to be of God as he could see “no relation between Moody personally and what he was accomplishing for God’s Kingdom.”  Moody’s ministry was marked by something beyond himself!

The Biblical explanation for a large part of this is called living “in the power of the Spirit.”   Paul illustrates this principle in Galatians 4:22-28 using an Old Testament character, Abraham, to give us an example of the contrast between life enabled by the Spirit and life simply lived in the energy of the flesh.  Abraham fathered Isaac, the son of promise, with Sarah, contrary to the natural order of things.  Isaac’s conception was altogether beyond their natural human ability.  It was Divine intervention that enabled them to bear a son.  However, at an earlier point Abraham fathered Ishmael with Hagar – an act that was clearly the result of the natural human energies of their bodies.  The spiritual lesson of this story is that any life that has results beyond natural human ability is a life that is being lived through the enabling power of God’s Spirit.  With this in mind, we should see spiritual significance in the Bible’s many stories that revolve around barren women.  Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah, Manoah, Elizabeth – all barren until God “opened their womb.”  God is teaching us that if we are to have any spiritual fruit, do any spiritual work, then it will be because of what He does through us and not what we do within our own human energy.

The alternative to Spirit enabled living is living “in the flesh.” When the NT speaks of those who live in the flesh, it speaks of those whose lives are oriented around themselves and who know only their own resources.  Paul describes this in Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. . .”  To live in the flesh is to think and work in the context of one’s natural abilities.  It if life on your own!  Those who live in the flesh may be educated, refined and cultured but they still will produce nothing beyond what the flesh can produce.  Their life can always be explained in terms of human ability and accomplishment.

The question which we must ask ourselves is this:  Is there something about me that cannot be explained in natural terms?  Is there something found in my life that is never to be found in a non-Christian?  Do I evidence a life that is lived beyond my own resources?

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