“WONDERFUL THING” IN THIS PASSAGE – Most of us realize we are not doing as well as we ought. God created this sense of “oughtness” as motivation to better behavior and as a check to keep the human race from destroying itself. We’re grateful for it, but we realize the motivation of “ought” hasn’t worked very well, either in our lives or in our history. We behave only a little better, and our race has only barely not destroyed itself (so far). That’s because God has something beyond ought.
In the first verse of today’s chapter, Paul puts some pretty big oughts on us: “…let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” That’s a pretty tall order. We’d better get started: Identify every impurity, inward and outward, and clean them all out, one by one; Identify every item of holiness we lack and add them in until our holiness is complete. Sound hopeless? It is.
Fortunately, we started in the middle of the verse. God knew the limitations of “oughtness,” and He provided a much better way, the only way, for us to live lives that please and honor Him. Here’s the whole verse:
“So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1)
Knowing “these promises” is crucial. Here are the ones Paul lists immediately before this verse:
“We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people …And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18)
“WONDERFUL THING” IN MY LIFE – Christianity was never meant to be the drudgery of having to obey God, but the delight of getting to obey Him. We can move beyond the oughtness of obedience into the privilege of it. We do that by radical faith in Him and His promises:
You can have absolute confidence that everything your Heavenly Father tells you to do is the perfect thing to do – it will be best for you and for everyone who depends on you. You can live in ultimate security knowing that you are not just one of His creatures – He has adopted you as his dearly beloved son or daughter. He looks at you not with the critical eye of a taskmaster but with the loving eyes of a father, hoping and urging and helping you to do better and better.
You don’t have to search for Him – He dwells in you, intimately and immediately. You are not adrift in a sea of rebels – you are part of His church, “the temple of the Living God,” and He walks among you. And while others may wander through speculation about this god or that god, He has made Himself your God, and He has made you His people.
Paul explained the joy his missionary team found in obedience and service despite all their hardships and deprivations: “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Revel in Christ’s love for you, and you will find obedience less a matter of ought than of delight.