Friday, May 19, 2017

What I Ought, I Don't

It's an age-old struggle. You make a promise to yourself to do better, to do more ... maybe just to do - and you don't.

I've heard people I admire say "I must not be a very good Christian." I guess they think Christians are immune to failure, like Jesus is some shot you get that protects you from doing wrong.

Let's get some perspective on that, shall we?

Can we all agree that the apostle Paul, admittedly a late-comer to the apostle group, was a pretty good Christian?

He was quite likely a pretty good fellow, too. Well-educated, well-traveled, a great speaker - I imagine he had a story for almost any occasion, and was probably pretty great to listen to. There was this one time he spoke for so long that a young fellow hanging out in a window fell asleep, dropped three stories and died. It's okay. Paul raised him back to life (Acts 20:9-10).

So let's agree that Paul had it all together. I can't raise people from sleep who listen to me and Paul raised one from the dead!

Wait a second! When writing to the Romans, Paul says "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom 7:15 NIV)

Why does this happen? Here's my thoughts on that.

Natural Inclination
It is instinct to do certain things and avoid certain things. We want to have fun. We don't want to work hard (suffer). We like sweets. We don't like salad (maybe that's just me).A dog loves to chase squirrels. Walk a dog down the street, he sees a squirrel and wham! It's off to the races.Maybe you have a well-trained dog. You're walking down the street, he sees the squirrel and you feel a bit of a tug, but he doesn't bolt. He wants to. He almost does. But he catches himself.Maybe you have a dog that is trained to lead the blind. That dog won't bolt. He won't even tug on the leash. But his eyes follow that squirrel just a little bit.You know he wants to run.Yeah, we're dogs.

Sometimes it's less instinct and more habit.You have done it for so long and so often that it becomes natural to do it again.I chew ice. I shouldn't. My teeth can't take the abuse any more and are starting to crack.I still chew ice.Or that one cookie that just calls out to you - along with all its companions. One becomes many.You're bored. You turn on the television instead of reading something worthwhile. You eat some candy instead of get a glass of water.Yeah, those hit some nerves. You get the idea.

You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.Over and over again.Your buddies are having a drink or two, so you indulge.I just happened to wander down the cookie aisle at the grocery store (again) and cookies jumped in the cart.Or I go grocery shopping when I'm hungry.Or hang around the wrong people when I'm lonely.Or find the wrong pages on the internet.
Combine more than one of those and you're just asking to fail.

And you wonder why?

You can change the environment. Don't hang out in the wrong places, with the wrong people, down the wrong grocery aisle.

You can change bad habits to good - but that's hard work and whoops - that's one of those things we don't do when we know we should, so it's part of our natural inclination.

Oh, there are solutions. I have a few thoughts on those, too, but they aren't comprehensive. 

Vigilance helps - spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.

Forgiveness helps - when you fail, remember that Paul himself failed also, and I doubt many of  us are better than Paul.

Does it mean you aren't a Christian? Does it mean that somehow when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He didn't hear you and passed you by?

By no means! That is one of the BIG lies Satan will toss at you when you fail, so don't buy into that one.

I don't have a lot of other thoughts on this, but this guy does. It's a long sermon, but worth every sentence.

Here's where he ends up. After Romans 7 comes Romans 8.

After our failures comes Jesus and His forgiveness, mercy and strength.

And if you don't know the Jesus I'm talking about, here's His plan of salvation.

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