Training Verses Trying


I would like to talk about the often great divide that exists between our intentions and the reality of our actions. As Dallas Willard states, "Most people deeply desire to be good, but they are prepared to do evil, and to do it repeatedly." Paul candidly and transparently addresses this subject in Romans chapters seven and eight--so candidly that we almost feel embarrassed reading it. We feel like we are reading some diary entry where he is bearing his soul's shame. Let me quote just a portion of it:

Romans 7:15,18-24 (MSG)
[15] What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. [18] I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. [19] I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. [20] 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. [21] It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. [22] I truly delight in God's commands, [23] 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. [24] 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?

Paul's words are so candid, so raw and so revealing. But let's be honest, we have all felt this rush of emotion, this same hopelessness that overwhelms us at the moment of our weakness and failure. The mistake is to believe "I will do better next time" or "this is the last time" or "I will try harder and have more discipline." That is what you said last time and you were as sincere then as you are now.
Fortunately, Paul concludes in Chapter eight by talking about how Christ came and conquered the power of sin to rule us. Let me quote again:

Romans 8:2-3 (MSG) [2] A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. [3] God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all...

Most of us at this point are thinking then what is the problem? To begin with, many mistake Christ's redemptive act as it pertains to sin. Believers often mistakenly believe that Christ has set them free from sin, when, in fact, this is not true. We know this because believers have proven quite capable of going right on sinning. No, Christ has not set us free from sin because we continue as free moral agents quite capable of sinning. The New Testament writer James puts it this way, "Temptation to sin still is still active in our lives when we are drawn away, enticed and baited by our own evil desire (lust, passions)" James 1:14. These still remain a part of our lives as long as we do nothing to renew our minds, address habits and other ingrained tendencies. The reality is that Christ did not free us from sin but rather the control of that sin. You see, before Christ, sin had dominion over man, he could not through any effort of his own free himself from slavery to sin. Christ set us free from this enslavement and the death consequence of sin. We, however, must by God's grace work to see our minds renewed, old habits changed and our lives transformed by his indwelling presence.


More on this later...

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