Sunday, September 5, 2010

I understand better now

I don’t think I mentioned about a month ago I finished reading the Bible. I had planned to read it within a year but was about 8 months late. As the months passed I was happy to adopt a leisurely pace. I am reading a little less of the Bible now, as I breeze through a few other books. A friend loaned me “Thr3e” by Ted Dekker, a psycho-thriller which ends with this quotation by Paul:

“I do not understand what I do...It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing...I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me...I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin. I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25

I am not about to say I understand this paradox, which is like so many other unsolvable mysteries. However I am convinced we are, as Bruce Cockburn sang, “habit and skin,” and what follows is surely commonplace to contemplatives. We thoughtfully decide to do very few things per day compared to the vast number of habitual actions: putting on our pants, one leg at a time. Consider further that a significant percentage of those habits are neither neutral nor “good.” So we have taken into ourselves habitual sinful activity: over-eating, being prone to anger, tuning out one’s family...But here’s the rub: we are no longer slaves to that sinful nature. One cannot serve two masters: “one must either serve the one and hate the other, or love the other and despise the first.”

God can free us as readily as we have taken these sinful habits into our daily routine. It is not rocket science, my reader. However it does require a small step of faith. Stop doing it, one time. Pray every day. Allow yourself to be convinced it is actually sinful, and that your life will be better without it. Don’t do it the next day, either. Be thankful for and celebrate the good habits: daily prayer, being circumspect, listening to others and feeling compassion. When asked what God requires of us, I have often said, “To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” The Westminster Catechism is perhaps less specific however delightfully instructive: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” So many Christians in my life were never taught, nor did they consider the enjoyment part. Please do! “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world!”

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