The opening article, What is a Principle, is the first stone set in the foundation of redemptive living.1 I encourage you to read it before engaging part two because the study of the seven redemptive gifts draws us on, precept upon precept. Or, in the language of the redemptive gifts, principle by principle.
Foundation. That is a good word, and Scripture tells us it is the place to begin for anything that will last. The problem with a foundation is that over time it can become worn and broken down. Fissures may appear where solidness used to be. Or, the foundation may not have been placed well and securely from the outset and is now crumbling. Myriad elements beat against one’s foundation, that we know full well.
Regardless of the cause, wherever misalignment, distortion, and warping are evident, God’s principles are among His tools of repair made available for us. They do not solve everything by themselves but are essential building blocks for a firm foundation – whether you are building new or working to restore.
God’s Word is a two-edged sword 2, which calls to mind a picture of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah. As they worked to repair the breaches and rebuild the broken-down walls that gave easy access to the enemy, they held a weapon in one hand and a trowel in the other. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit on one hand; with Wisdom’s sound, timeless principles for building on the other.
A believer is soldier and laborer. Instructed to be watchful, we fight against our spiritual enemies until our work is done. God’s Word is a living Word, strong and unshakeable for both the war and the work.
What is a Principle, part two
A principle is not the same as moral law, familiar to us as the vehicle for dealing with behaviors that incur judicial consequences.
Consider a person convicted of a crime. A penalty is levied, time must be served. Once they have served their sentence, the judgment handed down has been satisfied and they are free to walk out of prison. However, for many, that is when the harder work begins as they set about trying to rebuild their life.
What was broken and out of alignment before is not mysteriously rectified while they are incarcerated. Even if they deal with their sin and brokenness while imprisoned, release day finds the newly set free in need of learning a different set of principles to live by so they may sow wiser and reap better.
The beauty for the believer who has received God’s gift of salvation through Christ, is the legality of the added gift of justification. Christ’s death on the cross removes all condemnation and penalty of death from the believer. They are set free and newly reborn in spirit to God, no longer separated from Him.
Like the above example of the convicted one, though, Christ’s payment of the sentence on mankind’s behalf does not automatically rebuild the life of the believer. Sanctification requires engagement with Holy Spirit.
There are believers who can testify to an instant change in some area of their life at the time of salvation. God in His wisdom, foreknowledge, and grace purposefully sets Romans 8:28 3 in motion. There are ones who have had the desire for alcohol or tobacco disappear, never to plague them again. Praise God for any area you were granted immediate manifestation of freedom when you first believed!
Conversely and more common are the many who have experienced salvation, yet find their lives are still in all manner of brokenness – be it in their relationships, health, finances, or identity.
Their problems were not effortlessly solved; they did not necessarily receive instant wealth or health or emotional healing of life’s scars at salvation. What they did receive is the ability to be transformed through their new life with Christ. Changed. Which is something no other religion offers or can make good if promised.
After condemnation and justification have been dealt with through receiving Christ’s gift of salvation, God’s restoration begins. What He placed within from the beginning is still His blueprint for our life.
Why principles? Because it is through their application to specific areas in need of healing and realignment that our brokenness is repaired. The work of sanctification is made sweeter with Holy Spirit. It is not by our or anyone else’s might (effort), nor by power (whether knowledge or strong-arming) that repair unto victory is accomplished, but by the Spirit of God. He is our daily, present Change Agent.
We are the ones who give Him something to work with.
“Not by might, Nor by power”
(Zechariah 4:1-14, especially verses 9 and 10)
I love how F.B. Meyer spoke of this Zechariah passage above, which I recommend you open to in your Bible and read:
Zerubbabel had faltered in the great work of reconstruction and had practically lost heart. Here he is encouraged to renew his efforts and persevere to the top-stone. He might be weak and flexible as a wick but none of his deficiencies could hinder him from finishing his life-work, if only his spirit was kindled with the divine fire and fed by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Passionate Pursuit of the Principles
One of the first and most important principles is this: passionate pursuit of the principles is to be anchored in our desire to grow, not out of attempts to purchase God’s acceptance. Otherwise, plain and simple, we do not fully appreciate nor understand the gift of our salvation and acceptance in Christ.
All more reason I am a tired but determined Zerubbabel. Having spent years in the great work of reconstruction in my own life (which is ever in process, with joy when there is progress), I live to validate the experiential transforming love of God. It began and continues with sowing His principles into my life the way He intended before and inspires now.
Desperation, when disposed before God, serves to kindle in our spirit the divine fire we all need.
May the grace of Holy Spirit feed us well where we soldier on and labor, not in vain.
“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
In the recounting of Abraham’s faith as “a friend of God”, Hebrews 11:10 (NIV)
1 II Peter 1:3 2 Psalm 149:6 & Hebrews 4:12 3 Romans 8:28 – But we know that to the ones loving God all things work together for good, to those being called according to purpose; (Literal translation)
Click here for a printable PDF of this article: Redemptive Gifts Lexicon – What is a Principle Part Two