And it got me thinking more about my priorities--is this statement what I am doing?
Romans 7 and 8 really address my situation. Paul states that even though his heart loves God and His law, Paul's sinful nature continually prevails and he falls into sin and separation from what God desires. "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't." (Romans 7:18, NLT) So often this is how I feel--weak and unable to do what I know I need to do...I repeatedly make the wrong choices. And I begin to get really sick of myself because of it. Paul can sympathize: "Oh, what a miserable person I am!" (Romans 7:24-25, NLT) But Paul doesn't stop there...he gets to the core, and this is so good: "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." I love that he uses the word "slave" here. This is how the verse is in the NKJV: "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." The Greek word for "serve" is douleuō. Here's the definition:
1) to be a slave, serve, do service
- a) of a nation in subjection to other nations
2) metaph. to obey, submit to
- a) in a good sense, to yield obedience
- b) in a bad sense, of those who become slaves to some base power, to yield to, give one's self up to
So back to how this applies to my life--I am continually letting my sinful nature win out...be it laziness, busyness, or just plan hectic life events, I am not making all the best choices, and I am constantly stressed out about them and worrying about the next time I'll make a bad choice. I am left with this conclusion at the end of chapter 7: I cannot do it on my own. Depressing? Well, that's not how the story ends. The next chapter begins so strong! Romans 8:1-2:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. " (NKJV)
But wait...I'm still struggling, and I know the Holy Spirit is in me. Let's keep reading...
"The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit." (v. 3-4, NLT)
Wow. So the battle is already won? Why am I still stumbling then?
"If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace." (v. 6, NLT)
Apparently I need to give the Holy Spirit more control then, because it often feels like I'm in this downward spiral. Then I can truly walk in God's plan for me, the "life and peace" given by the Holy Spirit. I knew all this stuff in my head...but its so good to re-read and study this now. A serious refresher!
"But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)" (v. 9, NLT) I know I have accepted Christ as my Savior and that He has put His Holy Spirit in me. "So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do." SCORE! I don't have to make the choice to fall back on my responsibilities or put things off. I can do as the Father does, and live my life in His peace. "So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his family--calling him 'Father, dear Father.'" I do not need to live a lifestyle of poverty by giving up everything I love and doing what I know does not please God. Instead, His Son has redeemed me and I am God's very own child! "For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God's children. And since we are his children, we will share his treasures--for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering."
Check this out: the same word that is used for us being co-heirs, sygklēronomos, is used to explain how the gentiles get the same treatment as God's chosen people the Jews (Ephesians 3:6), is used to show how Abraham had the same promise as Issac and Jacob (Hebrews 11:9), and to explain how a husband and wife are "equal partner[s] in God's gift of new life" (1 Peter 3:7)
I would take that to mean these glories and trials are not something that will come later in life--I think it means in God's sight we are Christ's co-heirs NOW.
And that means I need to start living like one.
I need to go into every situation as Christ would. (The old, "What Would Jesus Do?" comes to mind here!) I need to approach my trials with the patience, endurance, and confident authority that Christ has. Through the right mindset--God's perspective--I can make the choices that will line me up with God and then I can receive the glories of living my life the the fullest here on earth. God has already paid the price for me and established me as His child, He is by my side and no struggle can break me when I walk in His ways. He is full of forgiveness and blessing and He will help me move forward and make the right decisions in every moment. I just need to be in constant communication with Him and remember to ask for His help and direction.
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
"Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks."