NAVIGATING THE TREACHEROUS SELF
When I was in my 20’s I became a Christian. Up to that point I lived a life that resembled a roller-coaster, with all the ups, downs, twists and turns that accompany all of our lives, anything but peaceful or stable, at least inwardly.
As I read the Bible, listened to sermons and watched Christian friends I increasingly felt downcast and hopeless. How was I ever going to be like Jesus, or Paul or John, or Peter, or any of the true believers I personally knew? The problem was that no matter how hard I tried to walk a righteous life I left behind a trail of failure. My heart yearned for something that seemed permanently out of reach. This went on for some time until one day I read the following in Romans chapter 7:
For we know that the law [God’s law] is spiritual, but I am mere flesh, sold as a slave to sin. I don't understand what I am doing. For I don't do what I want to do, but instead do what I hate. Now if I do what I don't want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, I am no longer the one who is doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but I cannot carry it out. For I don't do the good I want to do, but instead do the evil that I don't want to do. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am no longer the one who is doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I find this to be a law: when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my body a different law waging war with the law in my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin that exists in my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin….
What’s this, the great Saint Paul struggled, just like me? To say that was a freeing moment would be a severe understatement. Here was someone suffering, AND overcoming the struggle we call life!
Being made in the image of God while inhabiting a body prone to sin makes for a treacherous life for all of us, no matter the lifestyle. We find ourselves walking around in our everyday life wanting to do right, all the while hindering these efforts with actions that seem to take us everywhere, but where we expected our good intentions to go.
For even the strongest of us depression is a factor. So even the outcome of trying to do good takes us often to a condition worse than where we started. Depression (trigger alert) is a dangerous form of feeling sorry for yourself, a mind made the prisoner of sin. To cave in and submit to this war in your mind can only lead to a further deterioration in your life, and a grave condition of hopelessness. Desperation leads to desperate action!
That young man above who struggled and saw no way to overcome until God showed him Paul’s struggle, was losing his war against sin. He was indeed captive to depression all the while earnestly searching for peace. He considered suicide, but clung to the hope of God’s promises. From the darkness of his life, a life others jealously thought was great, he was set free from the law of sin.
God only wants one thing from you. It is the only thing you can rightfully call your own. It is your will. Your will is not your friend, it is a dangerous enemy that alienates us from God, and sanity. He offers in its place His Holy Spirit. When you walk as one with God and His Spirit residing within you it is awful hard to get depressed, or think selfish thoughts. It is in God’s example of selflessness on the cross to pay for our sins that we gain a victory over the struggle of our flesh and its selfish desires. When you humble yourself and submit your will to Him your burdens in life will become amazingly light and you will at last find a peace that transcends all understanding. Will your life be sin free? Nope, but you will now have before you the path to overcome it when it tries to get the upper hand on you. The flesh is a sore loser, it wants its way, but in Christ we are more than conquerors of the law of sin and death!
….Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to deal with sin. He condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not live 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. To set our minds on the flesh leads to death, but to set our minds on the Spirit leads to life and peace. That is why the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile toward God. For it refuses to submit to the authority of God's law because it is powerless to do so. Indeed, those who are under the control of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not of the flesh but under the control of the Spirit, since God's Spirit lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, your bodies are dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive by his Spirit who lives in you. Consequently, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die, but if by the Spirit you continually put to death the activities of the body, you will live. For all who are led by God's Spirit are God's children. For you have not received a spirit of slavery that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
From Outside Babylon