Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The problem with the world is me

Don't you hate learning painful lessons over again - or is that just me?!? I was reminded yesterday in Bible study of a verse that I often neglect, and it came home with me to teach me more that night. This passage is from Genesis 8:21 and is part of God's promise to never flood the entire earth again.
Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.
Sounds pretty hopeless, but it is true. Those of us who are parents are often wondering why our children do the rebellious things they do - sometimes over seemingly trivial things. Are their lies the results of active imaginations or a bent to do evil? Why do they take food without asking (after being told not to and then sneak it away somewhere), when I would probably give it to them if they just asked? Okay, just a couple of examples - you probably have many more yourselves.

The problem is that as civilized as I have become as an adult, I like to think of myself as a pretty nice person. I try to let the clerk know if they made a mistake in my favor. I try to take meals to friends who are sick and in need. I sometimes even try to help strangers who look like they might need it. I look at the good I do and think it outweighs whatever tiny bit of evil might still be lurking in my heart. Last night I was confronted again with the reality that this type of thinking is just living in denial.

I won't go into unnecessary detail, but let's just say that things don't always go perfectly in my house. Last night as I was processing a series of imperfect moments from earlier in the evening, I was cataloging all of the wrong that others (who shall remain nameless) had done. The thoughts of how others could have behaved more correctly to me and how could I get them to understand how to do it were also consuming a lot of my time. Then that part of Genesis 8:21 came back to mind, only it was as if God said, "every inclination of your heart is evil." Well, as you might imagine God and I struggled for a little while over that one. But I had to agree with Him. That was the first step. But while admitting that you have a problem is good, it alone does not make things right. That's when I was reminded of the need to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" from Romans 12:2. Then I remembered Paul's famous confession of his own struggles in this area from Romans 7. I know it's long, but it's good. This version is from The Message, but you can click here to read it in the NIV (or pick another translation of your choice).
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 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?

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.

So the answer, as I understand it, is my submission (from Romans 12:2) to God's transforming, renewing, making-me-more-like-Christ power. And I was also given hope that I can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

So, the problem with my family, my friendships, my work, my finances, my church (if there were any, of course), myself ... the world - the problem with it all begins with me. It's my selfish desire that springs from my evil heart. So, in wanting everything to be about me, in a way I am succeeding. At least the problem is all about me.

The solution begins and ends with God. As Paul said, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."


jenn said...

Thanks for reminding me of this! I love seeing the truth of one particular message from lots of different scriptures throughout the Bible! :)

The Steele Family said...

Thanks for the always helps to put things into perspective.

Michelle said...

wow. awesome entry. great food for thought, and a good reminder of how desperate we all are for God's grace.

| Top ↑ |