1). It was late Sunday night after a long week. 2). My wife and I had had an intense conversation earlier. 3). A late afternoon meeting was a washout. 4). I was reminded my team wasn’t in the NCAA tournament as I rooted for yet another conference rival (who was getting beat). 5). My grandson was tired. 6). We were playing cards. 7). A joke, a poke and I blew up.
It wasn’t so much the word I said, but the look I gave my wife that disgusts me. We are one. Yet, I find myself hurting her when my deepest desire is to cherish her, encourage her, and live a life of love with her!
When I let my life get out of focus, “I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
“But I need something more! For if I know the law [of love] 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?
Jesus’ death on the cross brings forgiveness, but I need something more. I want to overcome this problem I (we) have. How about you?
“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” (Romans 7:14-25, The Message).
“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 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.
“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” (Romans 7:14-8:4, The Message).
“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
“Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily (Galatians 2:19-21, The Message).
Yes, I did it again!
I took my eyes off of Christ. I leaned into myself instead of walking in step with the Holy Spirit. I chose to take on the human condition in my own power. I hurt my wife’s heart. And not just her. I regularly hurt those around me because I think I can overcome the junk that comes at me. Jesus is the overcomer. I can find success in Him alone.
I have followed Jesus for a long time. This is what I have learned:
Failure comes when I choose to take my focus off of Jesus. Sometimes it comes in a split second. Other times it is a gradual slide.
Success is not having failed, but training to walk in Jesus’ way so that my life demonstrates to others His transforming grace in both victory and failure.
Sadly, it will happen again and again. But by the grace of God, I will abide in Christ where He wins! I will learn to stay focused on Him through it all. Because we all know what happens when I lean into my own sinful nature, ugliness.