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Spiritual Ketosis

By Chalcedon Editorial
September 27, 2017
The habit of continual sentence prayers will take a man out of these evil times and give him grace and power to triumph over the spirit of the age and more.[1]

Typically, one would not think of Rushdoony were they searching for teaching on prayer or the Christian’s spiritual life, but you might find that he is an essential resource for such topics. After all, outside of Calvin, how many theologians do you know of who would dedicate an entire section in their systematic theologies on the subject of prayer? Rushdoony did to the tune of twenty-eight pages.

Is this because Rushdoony had pietistic leanings? Not at all. He viewed prayer as an essential part of the Christian’s life—one that carries power for Christian action:

Prayer is not a substitute for action but its accompaniment.[2]

Prayer is an aid to help empower us for greater obedience, greater responsibility, and greater dominion. For Rushdoony, prayer and living after the Spirit are central to Christian Reconstruction.

What Are We Living On?

If you’re familiar at all with nutritional trends, you may have heard of the Ketogenic Diet which prescribes a high intake of healthy fats, a moderate amount proteins, low carbs, and no sugars. The objective of the diet is to transfer one’s body from running on sugars to running on fats, i.e., becoming fat-adapted. This new state is referred to as ketosis, because one is using ketones—derived from fat—instead of sugar for fuel.

Whereas most other diets focus on counting calories, the Ketogenic Diet is first about becoming fat-adapted, which means “living in ketosis” where you are driven and animated by a different fuel source than you’ve been living on throughout your life. The benefits are cleaner energy, general feeling of well-being, sharper mental power, and so on.

This is a fitting model of the New Testament life in the Spirit, hence the title of this article, Spiritual Ketosis. Are we living from the flesh—the old way—or from the Spirit—God’s way?

According to the apostle Paul, we must become spirit-adapted (Rom. 8:4-6, 12-14; Gal. 5:16-25) which means eliminating our intake of the things of the flesh while we increase our intake of practices like prayer and the study of the Word. But not simply formal prayer at set times of worship, but as Rushdoony encouraged, “the habit of continual sentence prayers.” He continues:

Praying is like breathing; it is a part of the Christian’s life and basic to it. It is more than formal prayer, important as that is. It is a continual openness to God in all our being. Instead of talking to ourselves as we go through the day, we talk to God, sentence prayers, momentary calls for help, grace, or strength, quick words of thanks, or expressions of need, all this and more. Such constant sentence praying gives us the greatest freedom and advantage in prayer, because it is the practice of the presence of God, of our awareness of it. Its greatest reward is the growing awareness that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.[3]

Such is the way of the spiritual man or woman who is looking constantly to God for the power needed to fulfill a life of obedience and the dominion mandate. The individual Christian life is to move from being flesh-adapted to being Spirit-adapted. It’s about walking after the Spirit so as not to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

Dominion Man Practices the Justice of God

In the hands of mainstream Christianity, the life of the Spirit can become something quite divorced from God’s law, but with Rushdoony the walk of the Spirit is intended to give expression to God’s law:

The lordship of the Spirit is manifested in the happy rule of God’s law in our lives. By recognizing that our fallen human nature has been crucified, sentenced to death, in Christ, we daily grow in grace by assigning it to death and by heeding the Spirit and His law.[4]

If anything, Rushdoony would argue that the end result of salvation, and the work of the Spirit, is to fully manifest God’s justice and righteousness as expressed in His law:

The justice of the law is to be made full, perfected, or executed in us. This is only possible in those “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” The word “walk” is peripateo, to tread all around, i.e., it refers to those who apply God’s justice across the boards to all of life. It has reference to the exercise of dominion. Dominion man executes or puts into practice the justice of God.[5]

The law of God is written upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 10:15-17), and according to the writer of Hebrews, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (v. 16, NKJV). Therefore, could we not say that the essence of the New Covenant—and salvation itself—is about the writing of the law upon the hearts of God’s people so that His law might be fulfilled? And doesn’t this gel with our Lord’s great postmillennial promise that “till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled?”[6] (Matt. 5:18, NKJV).

He Who Does the Will of God Abides Forever

The Lord redeems us. He writes His law upon our hearts and minds. He sends His Spirit to dwell in us that we might be empowered to live out His commandments. Our task, as the apostle Paul lays it out, is to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11, NKJV). We are alive to God but dead to the flesh and the world.

Though we are in this world, we are no longer of this world in terms of the flesh. Therefore, we must cut off our intake of worldly things so as to sustain our life in the Spirit. As the apostle John wrote:

 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NKJV)

It’s at this point that salvation, covenant, spirituality, law, and Kingdom all come together. The apostle John said that “the world is passing away, and the lust of it,” and who’s left in its place are those who are doing the will of God—they abide forever!

This is similar to the writer of Hebrews stating, “that the things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:27, NKJV), and our Lord declaring that the Kingdom comes when His will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

This is the heart of postmillennialism, and the great assurance of God’s victory in history, but these things do not transpire outside of our obedience. We are regenerated, renewed, and empowered so that the law written upon our hearts might be lived out and God’s Kingdom advanced. For this, we must become “Spirit-adapted,” where we no longer live according to the flesh but rather give full expression to a life lived according to the Spirit.

Paul tells us that we are either governed in our thinking by the Holy Spirit or by our human nature. To be “carnally minded” is to think in terms of man-centered considerations, or egocentric goals; it’s result is death. The government of our minds by God’s Spirit and His law-word is life and peace.[7]

To move into “life and peace” is spiritual ketosis, and the benefits are clearly presented in passages like Galatians 5:22-23 regarding the “fruit” of the Spirit. To begin the transfer to being Spirit-adapted is to start with continual prayer. As Rushdoony notes, the spiritual life is about being close to God—the One who is closer to us than we are to ourselves:

But, if we walk and talk with God every hour of every day, we can’t help but grow close to Him. We breathe easier and talk more easily and talk more around someone we love and delight in. Likewise, we pray more easily and are more alive when we maintain a continual conversation with Lord—talking with Him and walking with Him all day long.[8]

[1] R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes(Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), p. 1204.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] R. J. Rushdoony, Romans & Galatians (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1997), p. 394.

[5] ibid., p. 128.

[6] For a rich discussion of Matthew 5:17-20, see Martin Selbrede’s “Does Theonomy Have a Fatal Flaw?” in Faith for All of Life, July-August 2013.

[7]Romans & Galatians, p. 129.

[8]Systematic Theology in Two Volumes, p. 1200.

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