Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Struggle

Sometimes, many times, rather, I beat myself up for not doing what is right and falling into the many temptations of life.  Guilt turns into heavy shackles and frustration builds a wall that separates me from the very source of power , strength and grace who can pull me out of the darkness in which I've fallen.  On this past Sunday, however, I heard a message from Romans that brought me great hope.  Tucked in the middle of very mind boggling concepts, in which God's economy of dying in order to be born again shines through, there is a comforting idea that helps my anxious soul find some rest.  The revelation is the fact that the struggles are not ever going to be truly over on this side of paradise.

For some strange reason, hearing the confirmation that struggling is just part of life became a comforting thought.  Knowing that I am not the only one who struggles with my weaknesses helps me continue on the path.  And the Lord knows that we need a constant reminder of such message.  Therefore, He places books in our hands.  He leads us to Sunday school.  He sits us in front of a video series.  He brings a friend closer.  He makes His whispering a bit louder...all with the purpose of reminding us that it is OK.  That we will be OK, and that the good news is, that in the end, we are already victorious in Him!

The message in Romans tells us that we are to "count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus! (Rom 6: 11) What a blessing!  What good news! We are crucified with Christ, dead to sin, and free to follow, know and obey Him!  But Paul doesn't tell us that we are free from the struggle.  He goes on to say that we are NOT to "let sin reign in our mortal body so that we obey its evil desires."  We are NOT to "offer any part of ourselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness."  Instead, we have to "offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of ourselves to Him as an instrument of righteousness."  (Romans 6: 12-13)

If the struggles were over once we are born again in Christ, why would Paul tell us not to let sin reign?  Sin is defeated...death has no power in those who belong to Christ; but we are still in the world, and darkness is all around us, and we are still in our "mortal" bodies.  Our flesh is weak and until we live in this flesh we will continue to fight it.  The thing is that in Christ we have the strength to be in this fight without surrendering.  We have the power of Christ in us as the Holy Spirit dwells inside of our soul and He changes our will so we obey God along the path to becoming instruments of righteousness, rather than falling helplessly in the clutches of sin to be turned into instruments of wickedness.

We are under grace! (Romans 6: 14) And we seek obedience to Him and we are free from the slavery to sin which condemned us to eternal death.  That freedom allows us to choose to offer ourselves as an offering to righteousness which leads to holiness, to be set apart for Him

We are saved/justified; but the process of sanctification is a life-long affair.  In that process, we will stumble and fall since it is a constant battle against our mortal nature.  But we are not the only ones who struggle.  The line of holy fighters in the Bible is truly long.  My favorite is Peter.  Walked with the Lord every day during Jesus' entire ministry on earth.  The Rock! The one who got out of the boat and walked on water with Jesus.  One of the few chosen to see Christ Transfigured! But he still denied Him at a moment of intense weakness.

The hero in Peter's story is not Peter, however.  The hero is Jesus!  It is not what Peter did what restored him.  It is what Christ did.  Peter's heart remained in Jesus, and that's why he wept bitterly.  Humility hit him like a ton of bricks when he realized what he had done.  But Jesus picked him up again and gave him a seat of honor because His grace abounds in those who belong to Him.

We are God's handiwork...His song...His poem...His precious creation.  He will see us through our struggle in this life and He will, in His time, restore us.  In the meantime, we trust and we rest in His care.

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