Ya know that place in the Bible where Paul expresses his frustration with himself? It is literally an identical copy of my mind today. Romans 7:15-25:
I do not understand the things I do. Me either.
I do not do the things I want to do, and I do the things I hate. Me again.
And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good. Yup, my brain understands right from wrong and why we need rules…Totally on board.
But I am not really the one doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them. Excellent excuse! It’s not me, really! Wait, did I just contradict myself?
Yes, I know nothing good lives in me – I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. How I feel…but what can I do? I mean, my head gets it, my heart is just a better debater. I’m saved! Why is this still so hard?
I want to do the things that are good, but I don’t do them. My problem exactly! Where is God’s strength? Where is my motivation? How can a godly woman be so lazy and procrastinate? How can I still let emotions rule my every move? Seriously.
I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. Guilty!!! Are you sure I didn’t go back in time, pretend to be Paul and write this myself? This is literally my spiral of crazy thoughts like, every day.
So if I do the things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things. So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. The other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. Prisoner. Perfect description.
What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Saved, and beyond grateful, but still feel like a prisoner.
So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self, I am a slave to the law of sin. War.
Do you guys ever feel this way? At complete war with yourself?
I mean, my mind runs a mile a minute, and I’m always coming up with amazing ideas, sometimes big things, sometimes simple, but things that could make huge differences in the lives of people around me. Like Pinky and the Brain, plotting to take over the world one crazy idea at a time (but in a good way).
Only none of it ever gets accomplished. There’s always something holding me back. Time, money, kids, resources, talent, ability….. I’m a master of excuses.
I start about 30% of the ideas I conjure up. Then quit. I procrastinate. I feel overwhelmed and lose any and all motivation. I again make excuses. And I quit. I’m a quitter.
Except when it comes to being a rebel. I’m on fire in that area!
Oh, can’t have sex with the man I’m going to marry just yet? Ok, well don’t blame me when lust becomes an integral part of my thought life, when I become quite the little temptress, when I push the boundaries of the word “sex” to very furthest end of the cliff without actually jumping.
No problems with motivation there.
Spread the hope of Christ through my blog? Ummmmm….who’s gonna do the laundry, make all these complicated paleo and keto meals, who’s gonna vacuum (Roomba is on my Christmas list) and clean the toilets? Who’s going to take the kids to the endless appointments they have each week? Who’s gonna answer the bazillion phone calls I get and haggle with all the people I owe money to right now? Fairies? Didn’t think so.
No problems making excuses.
Get involved in a small group at church? Surround myself with godly women? Build friendships? Are you serious? I’m pretty sure the reason I seclude myself from all outside life is because of many a failed attempt at just that. I am weird, and people don’t like me. No. I’m not doin it.
My ability to play the victim is uncanny! I mean, seriously, the passion I can conjure up when I don’t want to obey! Amazing!
And this war is what wakes me up at 3 am and makes me cry out to God in repentance, wondering if somehow I’m missing something, if maybe I’m really not a new creation. How can the old me be dead and the new me be alive in Christ? My expectation of the Christian life I am supposed to live and the one I actually live carries a pretty significant gap.
The problem is, I really do love God! So so much! I really do believe that Christ died for me, that he is my Savior, and my feeling of humble gratitude for that is very, very real and intense. I know who I was before, and I can’t even describe how glad I am to not be her anymore!
So why do I still struggle so much with walking the walk? Why do I wake up every day with a clean slate, expecting to do great things for God and ending my day feeling like a disappointing waste of life?
This is an issue I’m not sure I’ll ever completely get a grip on, but my understanding is this: We are at war. We aren’t in our perfect bodies yet, in our perfect world free of sin. We, our souls, are free from sin. We have been given the ability to see the truth – that sin and earthly desires are a prison. We didn’t know before, we couldn’t see that we were in a prison cell. We were blinded to it. We only knew that deep inside, there was pain. Pain we couldn’t identify.
But now, we know. I have been rescued by the sacrifice of my Creator. His unworldly love for me opened my eyes. And I have a choice now. I can leave the prison and accept the truth. Or I can stay and deny the gift.
I have chosen to accept. I have chosen to see the truth, to live the truth, to follow my Savior to the end.
But it will be a fight. Accepting the sacrifice for my soul will require sacrifice of my sinful self. And it will not be easy. This is war.
Thankfully, I am not alone, I have help. I have an army! My cries to the Lord release armies of angels in my defense. I have the Holy Spirit leading the way, showing me the right path one step at a time. I have the Word, the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide, speaking truth into every situation the enemy throws my way.
So what is my deal? With all of this, how can I still be defeated? How can I still give in?
Because this is war. And you don’t win every battle in war. One day the war will be over. The sin will be dead. We know the score, we know who wins in the end. But we must. Still. Fight.
I think what matters, is that we do choose to fight. I think what matters is our heart, our intention. I think that losing a battle is only really losing if we decide to stay down and give up. If we know we have a choice to keep going, but we decide to turn around and go back to the prison cell. To deny the truth. That is losing.
The Christian walk is not a stroll through the woods. It is a dangerous journey through the darkness with the lamp of truth giving light only to our next step. It is trekking through alien terrain with monsters lurking in the shadows and thieves waiting to attack. We are no longer locked up and held prisoner, we have a light to guide us, a voice to lead us, supernatural strength to carry us and an army of warriors to defend us.
But this is war.
You must fight. You must guard your heart. You must trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And if you stumble, you must not lie down in defeat! You must get up and keep going!
There is nothing to fear, God will not abandon us. He will not look at me in disgust if I fall. No, he will reach out his hand and pull me to my feet. He will heal the wounds inflicted by sins violent attacks, and cover me with grace and purity. He will carry me if need be, as long as I am willing to keep fighting. To keep believing. To keep accepting.
I am not condoning sin. Sin is that enemy warring with our souls. To condone it would be to sleep with the enemy, to turn our backs to the truth, to welcome the empty life of being a prisoner once again. To give up the fight.
But remember, we are at war. Battles will be lost. God has already sacrificed everything to give us the opportunity to follow him to freedom. He knows you will fall. He knows that sometimes, you will lose. His only requirement is that you don’t give up. Don’t stop fighting.
Victory is already yours.
Victory is already mine.
But this is war.
Ephesians 6:11-18 The Message (MSG)
A Fight to the Finish
10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
1 Peter 5:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Deuteronomy 20:4 The Message (MSG)
20 1-4 When you go to war against your enemy and see horses and chariots and soldiers far outnumbering you, do not recoil in fear of them; God, your God, who brought you up out of Egypt is with you. When the battle is about to begin, let the priest come forward and speak to the troops. He’ll say, “Attention, Israel. In a few minutes you’re going to do battle with your enemies. Don’t waver in resolve. Don’t fear. Don’t hesitate. Don’t panic. God, your God, is right there with you, fighting with you against your enemies, fighting to win.”
2 Corinthians 2:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.