“…love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or proud. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5 ESV
Last Sunday, August 23, 2015, I came face to face with how little I really love God and my wife and family.
As I told some of my close friends, when confronted with how poorly I have been treating my daughter…
“Instead of humbling myself and letting the Holy Spirit rule my tongue, I spoke completely in the flesh and spewed a lot of venom at [my daughter] and [my wife]. All my pent-up selfishness and resentment and blaming others and all kinds of junk came forth. Wagging my finger at [my wife] and telling her it’s her fault I’m shut down emotionally. Telling [my daughter] she’s irresponsible and lazy and making her feel worthless. A comment [my daughter] had for me later was “I feel like you destroyed the part of me that for so long has been your little girl.” [My wife] said for the first time in all our marriage regret entered her mind and heart.
I don’t know if our relationship will recover. The only hope is for me to truly love God, and then [my wife] and my family. I am lazy, and I don’t pursue God. I don’t do the hard things. But I have to change that.”
So, am I a broken man? I guess, in the area of sexual immorality, I have brokenness in that I allow the Holy Spirit to rule over my flesh in that area when temptation comes along.
How about the verses above?
I certainly envy and boast a lot. I can’t let one of my kids be the center of attention – I have to come up with something from my distant past to prove that I am at least as good or as cool. I can’t just praise them.
Arrogant? Definitely! Rude? Certainly! I talk down to my wife, children, co-workers, just about everyone. Not consciously most of the time, though I can be cruel in doing so when I get going.
I insist on my own way often, usually through passive-aggressive means, whether at home or work. I pout, or put on the martyred look.
Irritable? Always! Especially when I get pushed to do something I don’t want to do, or when my direction is suddenly changed by other needs (unless I get to jump in and be a hero, which stokes my ego).
Resentful? I gave my wife and older children an earful of how resentful I am that I have put in so much hard work over the years to give them everything they want, only to receive ungratefulness in return. What a joke! The main thing they really wanted was ME, being engaged in their lives and eing there for them instead of running off to serve everyone else, since it is easier and more gratifying to serve outside the home, in a way more people will see.
My wife says she wants me to BE, not to DO. To BE a man of God, a man in love with God. I can see so clearly how I have failed.
Time to CHANGE!
What do you think…is God really involved in our daily lives? Is He really like the God described in the Bible, or has He backed off, and doesn’t get all that involved in our world? I have heard that latter opinion all too often, and it was a major stumbling block in my own battle against bondage to sin.
If you have a hard time seeing God as described in scripture, therein lies your most basic problem – you don’t really believe in the God of the Bible. Rather, you believe in a God who is shaped by your intellect, by what you think of Him, by what you perceive Him to be.
Your actions will show that you don’t fear God as much as you fear the opinion of people directly around you (and, conversely, you don’t hunger for His approval like you hunger and thirst for people’s approval).
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)
God is the God of the Bible, regardless of what you may think or believe about Him or His involvement in your life.
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?“(Numbers 23:19 ESV)
Adam and Eve shook off God’s authority because they wanted to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil, and they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil to become like God. It didn’t work out so well for them.
The only way to be truly free from bondage to sin (anger, adultery, fornication, lies, covetousness, etc.) is to put ourselves back under God’s authority, to allow Him to be God in our own lives instead of stubbornly wanting to decide for ourselves what role He is to play on this earth.
So, you have to decide. Are you going to acknowledge that God IS, that He is everything the Bible says, and bow your will to His will like Jesus did right before His crucifixion? Or, are you going to be like those described in Romans:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25 ESV)
I never could break free from bondage to hidden sin until I truly started to fear God more than the opinions of people around me, and determined to seek His will and do it, no matter how painful, Whatever It Takes!
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)
May you fully acknowledge the grace of God and the blood of Christ to truly set you free,
Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?
I have. Plenty of times.
On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.
On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”
That version doesn’t really fit scripture.
Have you ever really read the Great Commission?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)
Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.
Earlier, Jesus said:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)
God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.
THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!
Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.
Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)
God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”
I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.
The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)
and in John:
“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)
He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)
So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.
You have to decide.
The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!
So, you’ve become a Christian…walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, spoken in tongues, experienced miraculous healing, received Jesus into your heart – whatever your starting point might be. The point is, you are a Christian, and now you’re wondering why you are not automatically walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Why do I keep sinning? Why doesn’t God do something to stop me?” I know – I have had the same thoughts, the prayers of, “God, please help me!”
I don’t want to give the impression that God doesn’t give us power and strength to resist sin, but for a long time I didn’t really latch onto God’s answer to my cry: “I already did help you. My Son already died and rose again to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again – it’s all in there. You don’t have to sin. You’re free from slavery to sin!”
I didn’t want to hear God’s answer. I wanted Him to give me brokenness – to force me to obey. I didn’t want to have to choose not to sin, to discipline myself “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)
Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just because the Holy Spirit is living in me does not mean that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, to guide me, to shape the way I think and act. There is a constant battle between the flesh (the lustful desires and actions laid out in 5:19-20) and the Spirit. God does not force us to obey Him – he leaves it up to us to decide to love Him and serve him and to choose to walk in the Spirit. It is all our choice. God lays out the gift before us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us when we become Christians, but we still have to choose to obey. He won’t force it.
If we keep feeding the flesh, keep choosing to give in to temptation instead of choosing to humble ourselves and accept the Holy Spirit’s help, we won’t live godly lives. If we continuously choose to disobey God, then we have to wonder whether we were ever saved to begin with, since a true Christian is not characterized by the continuous choice to rebel against God (as opposed to desiring to obey, and failing because I am not accepting the help God is holding out to me).
It can be confusing, and lead to despair if we let it. Satan wants to convince us that we can never really follow God, and that he doesn’t really love us because he doesn’t make us obey. We need to be like Paul, who perseveres even though he sounds discouraged and frustrated with his own ability to follow God: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25
Paul does not give up the fight, and neither can we! We must be determined to follow God, and focus our hearts and minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh, fighting hard with every weapon we have; prayer, scripture, fellowship, etc. That is why openness is so key: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9
Note how John ties together openness (walking in the light) with fellowship with the verse we have all probably memorized about being forgiven when we confess our sins. It all goes together. Without openness, no brokenness. No brokenness, no confession. No confession, no forgiveness and cleansing.
So, all that is to say, just because I am a Christian does not mean that somehow I will automatically walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and be devoid of sin. Instead, it means that my greatest desire will be to love God and obey him, and that even though I still sin I keep bringing it to light, keep confessing, keep changing into the man he wants me to be. Everyone seems to know Romans 8:28, but 8:29 gives the purpose: “For to those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.”
I hope that helps, somehow.
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