This morning I received two emails from friends, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Florida. They both had just finished their daily devotions and wanted to share what the Lord put on their hearts.
One wrote: “I read, ‘Keep your servant from willful sins; may they not rule over me.’ Even the will and strength to turn from our stubborn ways have to come from the Lord. As with all things, our job is turning, needing, relying.”
This friend was struck by the fact that God must give us the power not to sin or we will fail.
The other friend wrote: “I saw in at least one of the Proverbs the phrase ‘apply your heart.’ Wow, what a concept. You mean, I’m not a victim of whether my heart feels or wants? I can direct it? And I must?”
This friend was struck by the fact that we must strive hard against sin.
Two friends, two emphases, same Bible—nothing hard to reconcile here. The synthesis is that we can only apply our hearts if God gives us the grace. But He does give us the grace. Therefore we can go for it! The necessity of the grace of God is not an obstacle but a guarantee that we can do the good we are seeking to do. Our hearts are not passive as they wait for grace, but active, knowing it is ours by Christ’s securing, and ready to be released on request.
My friend who emphasized the need for God’s enablement in order not to let sin rule over us ended her letter meditating on Psalm 19 and the joy of obeying his commandments: “God’s ways are better. The law that we never want to obey, well, it’s worth it, if we’d only give it a chance.”
“[T]he precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. … Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:8–11, ESV).