Worship of Will

From Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline pages 5 – 6:

Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack. We rely on our willpower and determination. Whatever may be the issue for us — anger, fear, bitterness, gluttony, pride, lust, substance abuse — we determine never to do it again; we pray against it, fight against it, set our will against it. But the struggle is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt or, worse yet, so proud of our external righteousness that “whitened sepulchers” is a mild description of our condition.

In Colossians Paul lists some of the outward forms that people use to control sin: “touch not, taste not, handle not.” He then adds that these things “have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship” (Col 2:20-23 KJV). “Will worship” — what a telling phrase, and how descriptive of so much of our lives! The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over sin by the strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshiping the will. Isn’t it ironic that paul looks at our most strenuous efforts in the spiritual  walk and calls them idolatry, “will worship”.

The will has the same deficiency as the law — it can deal only with externals. It is incapable of bringing about the necessary transformation of the inner spirit.

When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given.

Romans 5:17 “… those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness [shall] reign in life through  the one man Jesus Christ.”