I'm My Own Worst Enemy
Thursday May 5, 2016 was Ascension Day. This is the date celebrated in the Christian calendar of the west as the 40th day in Easter. It is commemorating the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven as recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. He writes,
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." - Acts 1:6-11
The Ascension of Jesus Christ is a historical fact that declares that he is the exalted King of lesser kings to whom everyone in heaven and earth will bow and give glory (Philippians 2:11). Yet for the one who trusts in him now as the ascended Savior and Lord there is great profit in this life. The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism write,
Q. 51. What profit is this glory of Christ (‘he ascended into heaven’), our head, unto us?
A. First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
The “heavenly graces” that are given to his church are “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3) and grace for ‘faith, hope and love’ (1Corinthians 13:13) for this present life. The ‘defense and preservation’ he works for us is against Satan, the world and our own flesh. I never knew what a great blessing it would be that Jesus would reign in glory to defend me from myself.
Day to day I'm my own worst enemy, and day after day Jesus is reigning to defend and preserve me from myself. When I speak of myself, I'm referring to who I am in my flesh, the person that is the home to indwelling sin. I am a person born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and when I believed in Christ I died to the dominion and power of sin and was made alive to God (Romans 6:1-4). Yet sin still dwells in me to make me obey sins passions and desires. This is my flesh that remains and when obeyed, I am set in my mind and heart against God (Romans 8:7). This sinful flesh that remains in me is at war with the Spirit who is in me that unites me in the new man to Christ (Galatians 5:17). I will have this enemy within until I pass into glory with God to dwell eternally free from sin. But while I remain in the earth I am my own worst enemy.
There are other enemies, the world and the devil, but I can say with the apostle Paul that I am my own worst enemy. He wrote of his struggle and his need for the ascended Lord Jesus in these words,
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15-24).
I hate having other gods, but I serve created things to satisfy my soul instead of trusting God. I hate false worship, but I worship God with my lips and my heart is far from him. I hate the misuse of God's names, but I do not lift up his name in praise. I hate not trusting God for rest and work, but I overwork and under rest. I hate the dishonoring of parents and those in authority, but forget my parents and disrespect my elders. I hate the shedding of blood, but I call my brother a fool and do not do good to preserve others lives. I hate adultery, but I look upon someone else's wife as my own property. I hate stealing, but I rob from God everyday. I hate a lying tongue, but I will deceive myself and others to get what I want. I hate the want for what is not our own, but I desire for myself everyday what God has given others. ‘I am the chief of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).
I need someone who will defend and preserve me from myself…”Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25a). He is the ascended Lord to rule over me giving me his Spirit until the day I shall see him face to face and be made like him. I will then be a completed self reflecting his image in glory. But until then I am my own worst enemy submitting myself to my Lord for his defending and preserving work as he shares himself and his graces with me, not to completion or perfection, but until I reach maturity reflecting the glory of my ascended Lord. His defending and preserving work will guard me from self destruction, but also allow me to see him winning the battle against myself. While I do the things I hate, I also find myself alive in him, loving him and doing what he loves (John 13:34). It is not because I'm becoming a better me. I can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). It is because he is ascended and reigning to preserve and defend me from my stinking flesh. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”