Doctrine of Dependency

The Doctrine of Dependancy    Pastor A. W. Weckeman – April 2015

trusting-the-lordKnowing that Jesus said, “…without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) how is it that we attempt to accomplish so much on our own?

Jesus commanded, “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).

If we can trust the Lord with our eternal souls, why is it so difficult to trust Him with the affairs of everyday life? Why is it so difficult to depend on the Lord…yield to the guidance of His yoke? Why do we try so hard to manage our lives; make our own plans, solve our problems, bear our burdens?

The answer in a word: SELF as in “self-willed”, “self-identity”, “self-reliant”. Salvation, as glorious as it is, does NOT remove our fallen nature; our inherited temperament, disposition, and sinful desires remain intact. These leftover self-centered tendencies and fleshly appetites continue to exert a powerful influence, setting the stage for an unrelenting struggle between two diametrically opposed forces; one born after the flesh, the other born of the Spirit.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s description of the inner battle found in Romans chapter seven:

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom.7:15-23).

The above verses explain the constant tug of war which begins shortly after salvation…a refining process commonly referred to as sanctification. It involves an ongoing battle between self-will and God’s will; often a choice between that which naturally seems to make sense (our ways) and that which seems to make no sense (God’s ways).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa.55:8-9).

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov.14:12).

Obviously, learning to completely trust and obey are major issues for every child of God… essential to spiritual development. Ultimately, who we follow is a matter of who we trust…ourselves or God.

“Trust in the LORD with ALL thine heart; and lean NOT unto thine OWN UNDERSTANDING. In ALL thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) [Emphasis added].

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa. 26:3).

“Bear not a single care thyself, one is too much for thee; the work is mine, yea mine alone, thy work is to rest in me.”

The Other Side of the Coin

Does “…without me ye can do nothing” mean we are to do nothing? Are we to interpret this verse to imply total passivity on our part?

The confusion stems from the fact that the Lord seems to be simultaneously commanding trusting and doing…passivity and activity.

The same Lord, who informs us of our total inadequacy, assuring us that we, in and of ourselves, can do nothing, also commands us “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

“…put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom.13:14).

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…” (Col.3:5)

If Jesus has declared, “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5) and “the flesh profiteth nothing…” (John 6:63) how then can He expect us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, subdue Adam’s nature and attain genuine personal holiness? Why would God command something unobtainable; would you demand the impossible for your children?

The explanation is found in one word, PARADOX [That which appears contradictory, yet is, in fact, true]. Different sides of the same truth; that which appears unreasonable and contradictory is actually paradoxical.

Because trusting and doing are contrastive the Lord’s commands seem contradictory. The contradiction disappears when we realize that sanctification (putting off the “old man” and putting on the “new man”) is a joint effort; two parties at work, God and man.

Simply stated, man’s part is to trust and God’s part is to perform that which has been entrusted. The believer doesn’t “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” by self-efforts; sanctification is not merely the fruit of self-disciple; but the by-product of faith and trust in God’s word.

Once we grasp the crucial difference between a “work for God” as opposed to a “work of God” it becomes apparent that everything He commands can only be accomplished by believing and trusting His word; yielding to His power. He then accomplishes the work IN us and THROUGH us.

To answer the former question: How do we “Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth…”? The answer, “through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body…” (Rom.8:13)

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” (Eph.3:20)

Illumination regarding the paradoxical nature of spiritual truth provides the crucial insight to see the inner struggle and inevitable defeat for what it really is; the liberating means to an end…the end of self-life. Once the implied passivity of Jesus’ declaration of our inadequacy (John 15:5) is truly understood, our weakness becomes His strength…what appears to be passivity is actually learned dependency.

No longer relying on our own understanding, feelings or emotions…we simply take God at His word; truly trusting and joyfully obeying. Fleshly, self-motivated activity is then exchanged for Spirit guided activity. “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col.1:29).

A common misunderstanding

The doctrine of total dependency is widely challenged on the grounds of impracticality; often misunderstood to imply inertia, ceasing from all outward activity. However, in reality, the principle is not advocating idleness; but rather serves as a vital counterbalance to carnal, self-motivated activity. The only activity it is intended to prevent is that which is rooted in the flesh; empowered by the “old man”

Total submission to the Lord doesn’t release us from our responsibility to diligently apply ourselves to the things which He commands; but rather dispels the “myth of self-sufficiency”; reminding us “…our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5) and to “…have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil.3:3). Surrender prevents us from the inherent tendency of getting ahead of God; disarming all attempts to do the Lord’s work in our own strength and abilities.

The conclusion of the whole matter

Only God can make us what He wants us to be. Our part is to put ourselves in the hand of the Divine Potter, allowing Him who first created us, to recreate us in the image of His Son. By a continuous exercise of faith allow Him to gradually mold us into “…a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim.2:21). “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…” (Eph.2:10). In reality, “He puts into us all that He wants out of us.” “Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Col. 1:27)

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I LABOURED more abundantly than they all: YET NOT I, but the GRACE OF GOD which was with me.” (1 Cor.15:10) [Emphasis added]. That which the apostle Paul achieved was not in his own strength or ability…so it must be with all who desire to “bear much fruit” and please the Lord of glory.

Whatsoever we do in word and deed must be done in accordance with Romans 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

The greatest hindrance to spiritual growth is the lack of spiritual understanding and the greatest obstacle to spiritual understanding is often expressed in the form of paradox.