August 1, 2010

To Live is Christ — out of that "same old, same old" rut

The Bible says that Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered. It also says He was tempted in all ways like we are. However, the one thing He did not have to struggle with was a sinful nature. Paul wrote . . . 
The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21–25, CEV)
I’ve often wished that salvation included total eradication of this “something” that makes me a prisoner of my selfishness. Yet as Paul writes and my experience clearly shows, God did not remove that sinful self when I became a Christian. Instead, He gave me Jesus and the power of choice. He wants obedience to be my decision, not a robotic or an automatic reaction to Him.

Paul chooses to respond to the reality of his sin by agreeing with God, being miserable over sin, and feeling grateful for Jesus Christ.

Not everyone has the same response. Some embrace their sin with an eat, drink, and be merry attitude and go wherever their selfishness leads them. Paul learned from the law of God that this was not a good idea. Some learn the hard way. Traveling that route eventually brings harsh results and the judgment of God.

Others work out a compromise of sorts. Their conscience tells them that their lives do not measure up, but they hope that God will give them an A for effort. Sadly, as some say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. God considers the desires of our hearts, but as Paul said, mere desire does not change our actions.

A few people don’t give this inner conflict much thought. They do the best they can, saying things like, “This is the way I am” or “I cannot change so I don’t even try.”

Paul knew, and I know also, that pleasing God and doing right are more important than giving this inner conflict a mere shrug. In my battle against selfishness and sin, I’ve learned (repeatedly) that I cannot defeat my sinful nature. I also know that this battle will continue as long as this life — but it will end when I see Jesus. 

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2–3)
The Christians who say “people don’t change” need to heed this passage and realize that God is in the business of using all things for our good. His goal is to transform us into the image of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29). Change is our destiny and Jesus Christ is way it happens. Under the power of God, people do change.

Left to myself, I would be just that — myself, the old me, the selfish person that the law of God brands as a sinner. However, as Paul says, Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. He will do it on that day when I see Him face to face by eradicating my tendency toward sin.

Meanwhile, He gives me power over sin each day through the work of the Holy Spirit. He enables me to turn to Him. I can choose purity and obedience of heart only because God put Jesus in my heart.

Again, I go back to my favorite Bible verse. It reminds me repeatedly that sin cannot be accepted as the norm nor conquered by trying harder. 1 John 1:9 points out that there is only one way to win this inner conflict . . . 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness!

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