I can already hear your next question: "Does that mean I can't even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?" No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God's good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.
I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
We have all experienced this haven’t we? We try really hard to do the right thing or to do good, but then we fall short. It seems to be the way of the world.
“Welcome to the struggle bus. I’m Dan and I will be your driver.”
All of us have within us this longing and desire to do good. Yet, sin is so attractive and looks so much more fun. Too often it is easier to give in than it is to hold firm.
The struggle is real.
There are so many conversations where I think, “OK, be kind, be gentle, don’t take the bait and get into an argument.” Five minutes in, I’m in an argument and saying things I promised myself not to say. Sometimes it just feels so good to be mean to someone who we think deserves our meanness. Doesn’t it?
I know I’m not alone. I see your social media. I see how when your side in on the down you call for kindness and respect. But, then when your side is on the up you look for revenge on those who you chastised to be kind.
The struggle is real.
For me to change, for you to change, for us to change, requires us to rest in the reality of what Jesus has done. He has set things to rights.
But how? How do we do this?
We pull into community and listen to one another. We give a select few people the ability to speak unvarnished truth in our lives. This has been critical for me in my own growth and development. Of all my friends there is a very, very small handful of people who I listen to and trust implicitly. These people are able to say, “Dan you blew it.” I don’t argue, I don’t make excuses, OK I do (but that’s beside the point), and then I embrace my sin-sick actions and seek forgiveness. This isn’t everyone. This is a very small group of people. We need them in our lives. If we don’t have them then we will fall into the trap of covering up our sin-sickness and sin management.
This self-management of sin is nothing more than a cover-up. We make excuses or better yet try to find some bible verse to make us feel OK about it.
It’s like our health. Many of us need to make changes to diet and exercise. But, we always find a reason not to.
“It’s too cold. I will start in the Spring.”
“There’s a birthday party this week. I will start next week.”
“I had a busy week and need a break. I will get going next week.”
We always have excuses to avoid making necessary changes in our physical lives. The same is true for our spiritual life, we just don’t vocalize them. This is why we need a small group of people who can boldly and with total honesty speak into our lives.
When we have this then, we are able to some to rest in the reality that Jesus has set all things right. This moves us from the place of intellectual ascent to true life change. Following the Jesus way is never an isolated experience. It requires a faithful community to walk with us.