Why is it so hard for all of us (me certainly included) to just do the things we know we should do?
Lets take a very personal example from my life. I like junk food. I really, really, enjoy junk food. There isn’t much more that I enjoy that a mid morning snack on a box of pringles, or some oreos, or many other assorted sweet and savory treats! But there is a problem. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about these things, I eat too many – and that has a negative affect on my health.
I always claim I am going to do something about it. Sometimes I even get in the swing of eating less and exercising more, and I feel better. But every time, without fail, I do something to stop exercising (like injuring myself), and I go back to wanting more and more of the rubbish food (that tastes so very, very good).
All I need to do is recognize the problem – and do something about it. I know what I need to do, so why can’t I do it?
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1:22-25 ESV)
Now lets take that problem – and call it sin instead.
How many of us, in our lives, have some sin that just keeps coming along and dragging us down? We excuse it (it’s not as big as another one, or someone elses), we hide it (it won’t happen again), we deny it (the devil made me do it), but we never overcome it. We know what needs to happen – we have read God’s word before. We have heard the pastor speak about it. We might have even had a friend or two pull us up on it. We know, deep down, that we are basically disobedient, but we don’t want to deal with it.
Because just like my problem with junk food, it ‘tastes good’. More often than not, it feels good to sin. You might feel terrible after, you might feel like a horrible person, dirty and ashamed. You crawl back to God for forgiveness and proclaim that you will never do it again.
But, it tastes good, and soon the hunger is back.
So what do we need to do? First, some encouragement – it is not as bad as you think. As a child of God you are NEVER beyond hope.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
Second, it is going to take some self discipline (yep, ouch). When the ‘hunger’ comes, that desire to do what is wrong, despite all that you know to be right, despite all of your experience, despite all of your memory of how you feel afterwards, when that ‘hunger’ comes you need to put your foot down. It is at these times that you are given the choice – you can choose to sin, and so go backwards, or to resist in the strength that God has given you, and go forwards. There is no standing still, there is no status quo. You can go forward, and grow in strength and faith, or go backwards into sin.
That is a hard word – to sinners and junk food eaters alike. But it is what we are called to do – go forward in Christ to the reward that He has set before us, to grow in His grace, not in our sin.
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:19-20 ESV)
So remember – your old self is crucified with Christ. It is gone – and only you can choose to bring it back. But there is always a way out of that sin – a way to a greater peace with God (and yourself). So next time that hunger strikes – choose to say no. Every time you do, the next time will be easier!
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
(Romans 8:1-6 ESV)
(Photo flickr:Irene Jorba)