For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15 (NASB)
Time after time I am asked by those I minister to why we continue to struggle with sin. They ask why we just can’t move on to the next thing and be done with the struggles. Most of us want to do what is right, we want to honor God, and we want to serve others- until we are given another option. It is so easy to think all the right things, isn’t it? It is easy to be objective and look at sin and tell ourselves and others that we never want to go there; we never want to go back when it is not staring us in the face.
What is it that leads us to return to the sinful actions we despise? Sometimes we want to fit in with our friends and family. We think it will feel good to blend in and be one of them for just a little while. The heart longs for that connection with our brothers and sisters and other family members who do not understand what our life in Christ is about. Our friends have disappeared and we find ourselves alone more than we would like to be alone. We succumb to the temptation to “be one of them again” in whatever form we have to take to do that. It doesn’t have to be a major crash like drug use or drunkenness, it can be viewing a movie or program that causes you to stumble or having just one alcoholic drink.
It is not always what is done, it is the reason and the heart behind the reason. Returning to old sinful behaviors is a result of having old sinful desires of the heart. Returning to things of old reveals that a person still struggles with worship in a particular area of the heart.
Our actions are the end results of things we want or desire and those desires begin in the heart. When you and I make decisions to do something or have something we are fulfilling the desires that are born in the heart; the immaterial part of us that the Bible talks about hundreds and hundreds of times.
When a person returns to old sinful actions to “fit in” or be a part of their old life in some way it is because they desire to please themselves or to please others more than they desire to glorify and honor God. The desire for “self” is stronger than their love for God in those minutes or hours. You might want to argue that with me and I understand that desire too… Sin hates exposure and there is nothing like having to look at the logs in your own eye to rile a person up with self-righteousness, justification, and rationalization.
Let me encourage you to take a different path with this realization. Take the path of self-examination instead. Check yourself in light of God’s Word and see if He is your first love, if His will is your first thought, and His glory is your highest goal and desire. Then follow the exhortations of James, the brother of Jesus:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:6-10 (NASB)
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