I had an interesting conversation with my nephew Jacob yesterday (or Ja-Bob, as I call him). He has been going through a very difficult time lately and is struggling with some serious issues.
We were in the car alone and had our local Christian radio station on. He was commenting on the songs, which ones he liked best and how powerful the words were. Then he told me, “sometimes I listen to this music, and I like it, but sometimes I listen to rap and it isn’t good for me, but I want to do it anyway. I just can’t help it.”
I thought to myself, Jacob you are not alone. You see, my problem isn’t rap music, but it is my flesh at war with my spirit. There are so many things I know I shouldn’t do, but does that stop me? No. I am an adult – fairly mature and a parent at that. But it does not prevent me from battling with anger, pride, jealousy and other aspects of my sinful nature. On my own, I fail.
Paul could relate to me and Jacob. He spoke about how this affected him, in the book of Romans
“For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 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.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, 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.
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? Isn’t that the real question?“
Romans 7:17-24 MSG
If we were to leave things there, we would be in a sorry state. But it doesn’t end there, with hopelessness and defeat. Paul continues on…
25“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.“
The key is not in working harder, but in submitting control to the One who is perfection. This does not let us off the hook. Quite the opposite. It requires a daily, sometimes hourly submitting of our will to God and admitting our weaknesses to him. It is our pride that keeps us striving for perfection. It is our humility that allows us to admit that we are flawed.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Ephesians 2:8,9 NLT
Thanks, Jacob, for reminding me that we are all alike in this struggle, and we are not alone.
“Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”