Cooperating with the Spirit
By Fred Pruitt
A brother recently replied to the public comments section of my blog with this:
Thank you, Fred. This is indeed a liberating truth. I am starting to understand what it means to be in Christ. However, I am still struggling with one thing. The new testament does talk about effort, not to make us more acceptable to God nor even to please Him or lead Him to reward us. I’m talking about our daily battle, the ongoing process of sanctification, in which we learn to ‘become what we already are’, as _________ puts it.
We are in Christ and Christ is in us, but as we learn who we are in Him, don’t we strive to live accordingly, cooperating with the Holy Spirit? Not to be more accepted or to ‘feel’ closer to God, but because we know our new identity in Christ and we want to let His life flow from us. This process wouldn’t be completely passive, would it?
As another wrote:
The very same Apostle who says in one place, “The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,” says in another place, “I fight – I run – I keep under my body;” and in other places, “Let us cleanse ourselves – let us labour, let us lay aside every weight.” (Gal. ii. 20;1 Cor. ix. 26; 2 Cor. vii. 1; Heb. iv. 11; xii. 1)
I know there is thin line between cooperating with the Holy Spirit (letting Christ be us) and becoming a legalistic Christian who relies on his own efforts to attain a holy life. As you said, there is indeed no righteousness of our own, but does that mean when we “fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6: 12)?
Well, I would really appreciate your comments on this.
I appreciate you writing me with your questions. I first heard and began to know these truths in late 1980. As even back then the Spirit moved me out to share what God has given us, that drive is still with me now. So after all these years of meeting folks and people writing me, asking questions, sharing insights, still it all remains fresh and new. That is because the Subject we are dealing with is ALIVE, not dead letters on paper or stone, but Living Epistles in each of us, lovingly and meticulously created by the Spirit of the Living God, Who causes each of us to be a unique and perfect expression of God, even through the veil of the weakness of our human flesh.
Everyone who comes to this fullness in the Spirit asks those questions. They are good questions, or the topic of “my” responsibilities is always a good topic. It is good for at least two reasons. It is good because it leads to the knowledge of the Truth, not in an academic way, but in a “consciousness-way,” where what you “know,” is also “WHO you are.”
The second way it is good is that it (the topic) defines for us where we are in our understanding or consciousness. To ask questions such as you ask, enlightens us to our current state – that of possibly knowing these truths conceptually or academically, but with us having yet to move into union and oneness with Christ within ourselves. That is to say, it hasn’t become “real” to us yet.
Well, praise God! We always see the negative before the positive, and here it is. It is actually a good thing to see what we do not yet see, because this is the point when we find the Spirit moving us into a new level of understanding and action.
I belabor this point, some probably think, and maybe I do, but it is for a purpose. How many times have we heard this scripture quoted or referred to in Christian circles: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov 29:18)? Whenever it is brought up it is almost always (I’ve never heard anyone say anything different) regarding something “outer,” such as a new Word or Exhortation from a prophet or priest, that stirs the people and gives them a new sense of direction. That is certainly a truth I’ve seen happen in one way or another over and over.
However, when I consider that passage from the standpoint of inner consciousness, it takes on a whole new meaning to me. We may get excited about a project of rebuilding the Temple of Solomon or of repairing Jerusalem’s walls, where we as a family or group function in an outer organized way (and some things must have that) to accomplish our goals. That is a wonderful thing!
But this inner sight thing is something completely different from that. This is where the Spirit from day one schools us inwardly about Who He is and Who we are. He raises us from infancy in the Spirit where we do nothing but “receive,” to new-found strength in our adolescence in the Spirit, and finally to the inner rest and provision for others that fatherhood produces.
Each of these is an elevation or change of consciousness, rather than a place to which we arrive by our careful application of kingdom principles and ability to intellectually know and explain the “truth.” If we live by “kingdom principles” or anything like that, we might as well call it “law” and recognize it for what it is. Just as the “law” does, it keeps us always at arm’s length, one-step removed from personal oneness with God.
But God doesn’t speak through the cold chiseled letters of the law, but in our hearts – our inner spirit centers. He speaks in us only grace, faith and love. We know Him in our hearts more than we know Him in the Book, because we cannot be one with, and were not made to be one with, a Book written in stone. We were created to be one with the Living God, Who is the Son of God, and one with the Father the same way THE SON is one with the Father.
We’ve spoken about it in reference to Prov 4:23 – “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
It is the real issue in Prov 23:7 – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Its fullness of meaning is expressed in Matt 6:22 – “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
All those passages and many more are speaking of inner consciousness. Who we are inwardly is who we are outwardly. Hear this, because most people, including me a long time ago, believe it is the opposite, that the real truth is “who we are outwardly demonstrates who we are inwardly.” In some cases that is the absolute truth.
As Paul wrote to Timothy: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” (1 Tim 5:24,25).
Without discounting the above paragraph, the real truth is always certain to be what is true inwardly. Who we are in our own consciousness inwardly is the life we live. It may not be the truth about us, the ultimate truth, I mean. But it will be the “truth to us” in the current moment, and until something comes along and changes that truth into something else, it will remain that way.
Now, please take no condemnation over this, because we have all come this way. And in Christian “truth,” and especially in what we can refer to as “union truth,” we catch the “concept” in the beginning. Maybe we don’t know specifically what we’ve heard, but something stirs us inwardly in the Spirit, producing a new desire, moving us out of where we have been into a new unexplored country. With many of us there has been a period of “euphoria,” like getting “born again, again!” But that doesn’t stay forever, and after that euphoria leaves, who are we then?
Then comes the period, short or long doesn’t matter – all God’s business – where we learn “how to work it.” That’s where your questions are coming in.
Now, just a quick (and by no means infallible) take on how your “sight” is going at the moment, based on your note to me. This little adjustment in sight, done by the Spirit and not by you, is all that is needed. When you truly see this, the tumblers will all begin to turn and one by one all the locks start opening, because this one key is the key to everything. Everything.
First, I hear you talking about your responses and possible efforts and what level of “responsibility” do you have and fulfilling some sort of “our part” that keeps the ball rolling or keeps it from going into the ditch. My observation is that “you” and the “Spirit in you,” are in your consciousness still two separate and distinct entities, living somehow within the confines of your body and mind. This may not describe you, but I used to see the Spirit within me living in some sort of little separate compartment inside me, and I saw “my job” as to always do the right stuff, or think the right stuff, which would keep Him pleased and keep “blessings” flowing our way. As far as a “move” of the Spirit, I always saw that contingent on me somehow figuring out the right formula of stuff to do and pray for, which would, once again, “please” God and cause Him to “move” in some sort of palpable way within and without me. I never really did get the hang of it.
Ok, let’s go back a bit. I went and looked again at what you wrote and I have wandered away without answering some of your questions. So let’s review that for a moment.
Here’s one you wrote – “I’m talking about our daily battle, the ongoing process of sanctification, in which we learn to ‘become what we already are’” adding onto that, “We are in Christ and Christ is in us, but as we learn who we are in Him, don’t we strive to live accordingly, cooperating with the Holy Spirit?”
You quoted an author who I’ve heard of but haven’t read, so I’ve left his name out. I am only responding to the words you wrote and not who said them originally. So first, I don’t look at it that way at all. I did up until I saw who I was in union with Christ. I accept that He is my total sanctification and I have no other and never will get any other, and that full sanctification is ‘mine’ now, nothing to strive to live up to anything. I live from rest because He and I are one and the Father that dwells in me does the works. We don’t need to steady this ark when it looks like it might topple over, because we have let go of the control of it. We’re dead, so it’s tough to hold onto control. (Conversely, if we are hanging on with our fingernails for “control,” how is it we say we “died in Him?”)
As far as striving to live after the Spirit, that is absolutely 180 degrees out of sync with the truth. He says, “If you believe on Me then out of your innermost being will flow living rivers of water.” Where is the striving in that? He does the flowing! We walk in rest.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).
You see, yes, all those, “strive” and “grow” passages are there, but everything doesn’t apply to everybody all at the same time, or meanings of passages change as we pass from one level of understanding to another.
Until we see it is the Spirit Who operates our lives and is the answer to every question such as you asked in yours to me, we will continue to strive along in self-effort. That is an up-one-day and down-the-next lifestyle, and many faithful Christians firmly believe, having been taught it by others or by personal experience, that they can never get past the continual back and forth striving between flesh and spirit, and that no matter how hard they try, they can never live up to God’s standards so that they confess they “sin every day” whether they can think of one or not.
Now by this understanding (consciousness) they are thus “stuck” in what really is a transitional point between Rom 7 and Rom 8, as if it is a lifelong sentence. I don’t see Jesus worrying about His own sanctification (depending on the Father to supply that!) though He was tempted is all points just like us. Neither do we see Paul worried about his own personal sanctification or holiness, after this bout he relates in his Romans letter, Romans 7, where he found himself doing things he was willing himself not to do, and never able to measure up.
Romans 8 is the permanent answer to Romans 7, and we need to firmly bury the idea that we are hopelessly stuck between the back and forth bondage of Romans 7 and the Spirit freedom of Romans 8. Any honest reading of Paul will find no other mention of this regarding himself in his other writings. No other mention of walking in the flesh and failure, as he related about himself in an historical way in Romans 7. Romans 7 is what Paul left behind, when he moved permanently into 8, our personal freedom and heritage in the Spirit, and finally onto the rest of Romans where Paul moves into intercession – his life and our lives expended for the benefit of others in the world. A love life.
The ”Cross” life Jesus refers to when He says, “Pick up your cross daily” as well as Paul’s famous, “I die daily,” quote, are in reference to intercession, living the Cross-Resurrection Life, where we are daily expended for others in various ways, as Paul says a couple of different ways in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” [We bear the negatives in some way of the world or individuals]
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. [This is what Paul and Jesus both mean when they say “pick up your cross” and “I die daily.”]
“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” That’s where we live, and that’s where Life comes from in the world. All this “get sanctified” “strive to be pleasing” etc., stuff, is mostly distraction. Maybe we need a little bit of that in our beginnings as our minds are being renewed so that we know we are no longer for ourselves, but for others. However, we can stand up and be our full selves in Christ any moment we believe the Word that keeps coming up from within us!
You ARE HE in your form! Believe that He has been formed in you! It isn’t you, but it is the REAL YOU. You mind can never fully grasp it so it cannot be analyzed. Only lived.
If you have yet to strive enough to see the total futility of it (and truth be told, the ultimate blasphemy* that it really, really is, but God looks the other way because He knows we’re ignorant of it), that’s okay. The Lord is glad to oblige. He will get you there!
*(When I say that to strive to cooperate with the Spirit is blasphemy that God for a time overlooks because of our ignorance, I actually mean it. The reason it is blasphemy is because the “striver” takes upon him/herself the idea that one could emulate God and His works by our human striving. That’s Cain 101 as well as Isaiah 14:12-14! The most wonderful thing about it is that it does not stand, but is always shown up for what it is, an ignorant sham at best, a deceitful trap at worst. Either way, it is no more an obstacle for the Sons.)
One thing I can share that has been a common happening in many of my friends over the years. Especially in the beginning, when there were many of us coming into a union discovery at the same time. We kept running into books about spiritual living in Christ that told many of the wonderful things of union and oneness that we had also discovered. Many seemed to be saying close to the same truths we had been learning. We would get all excited, thinking we had found another who saw it, until toward the end, and so many of them did this. After all this wonderful truth on our identity in Christ and our death and resurrection through the Cross, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27, etc., and we’re reading and shouting hallelujah – and then – the author does a complete about-face, and in a couple of paragraphs pulls the rug out of everything he had taken a whole book’s worth of time to make. After telling the readers who they were and Christ was their inner lives, suddenly author after author after author brought self-effort back in the end. All this wonderful Truth, only available in the Godhead and from the Godhead, and we’re back to the utter impossibility of self-striving to get there! Just like Paul’s problem with the Galatians –
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:1-3).
There is really only one way through.
“I am crucified with Christ.” That means I died. “What” died? Don’t worry about it – the Spirit will fill that in. For now, it is enough to know you died. “I am dead.”
“Nevertheless I live.” Confusing as it may seem, here “I” still am. But something is different.
“Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Again, the Spirit sorts this out. The rational brain breaks down trying to figure it out. It is enough to know your “I” that is still here, is not exactly the same “I” that it was. No longer that “Old I,” but now only Christ!
So therefore now, the life I now live every day in the real world, in the flesh (meaning bodily, not spiritually), I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20).
This is not something to strive and strain over. It is something to know and understand, and then to forget about and live.