Saturday, March 18, 2017

So Easy, But So Hard

I remember the first time I came across the scripture in Romans 7:15, when Paul expresses his struggle with sin saying, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do."  As a young Christian and a young girl, I remember thinking, "Yes!! Awesome! That's me too!"  It was such a relief to learn that I was not alone in my struggle.  Not only was there someone else who experience the same inner battle, but it was Paul!  I mean Paul was a big deal.  Apostle of Jesus Christ and writer of more than half the New Testament, Paul was not just anyone, he was a big kahuna (spiritually speaking) and yet he found himself confounded by his own sinful behavior and choices, just like me.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years, although I have aged in years and wisdom and grown in my faith and walk with Christ, unfortunately, I still find myself relating to that scripture.  Back then it was a blessed revelation that brought reassurance, but now it is a source of frustration for me. I'm over it!  I feel like I should be past that by now, right?  I should be doing what I want to do, and not doing what I don't want to do.  It should be the opposite of Paul's scripture by now, shouldn't it?  I am not so sure.  Again, that was Paul who penned those words; who I am to imagine that I would be farther along than Paul?

So this morning I was reading in the book of Leviticus, where God gives the Law through Moses to the Israelites, His people. I am always amazed at how specific the Law is.  Yet, I realize that is because God was instructing His children in a way that would guide them and protect them, keeping them safe.  It was for their own good.  The whole book of Leviticus is filled with these detailed instructions.  Then near the end of the book, God lays out the consequences for either obeying or disobeying the Law, and the breakdown is pretty simple--obey the Law and you will be blessed; disobey the Law, and you will be punished.  It is so clear and seems so easy, a no-brainer.  If I am an Israelite, I would want blessings, not punishment, so I will obey, right?  Right.  And yet, the Old Testament is filled with account after account of the Israelite's disobedience against the Lord.  They disobeyed over and over again, and ultimately suffered painful judgment and punishment for it, just like the Lord had said.  As clear and easy as it had seemed, the Israelites struggled to obey.

I think sometimes we modern-day Christians read through the Bible and feel inclined to judge the Israelites for their disobedience.  Why didn't they just listen to God?!  How could they do "that" again?!  Don't they know??  I know I would have done better than was so easy and clear, of course I would have obeyed.  Or would I?

As I read through God's Word and reflect on the history of God's people, I am keenly aware of how much I am like them...and forgive me for saying so--you are too.  We fail and disobey as often as they did.  And I would have to think that we actually have it easier than they did.  In our time, we have the Bible to guide us and the living presence of the Holy Spirit, and yet we still disobey as well.  I still find myself right alongside Paul saying, "I just don't understand myself!  Why do I do those things I don't want to do, and don't do those things I desperately want to do!!  God help me!"  I could have given those Israelites a run for their money!  I am pretty sure I would have ended up in Babylon too.

So where is my hope, and our hope, in all of this?  Once again, it is in God's Word.  Thankfully, and as always, the scripture does not end with just questions.  There are always answers.  All the way through, this is true.  I love it in the Psalms when David cries out to God in despair, questioning his circumstances and his pain, that he always comes back to the solid truth that God is sovereign and in control, and our hope is in Him.  The same is true for Paul, and for us, in the book of Romans.  Paul may have started out by asking those questions of himself about his own sinful choices and behavior, but he ends that same passage with a statement of hope and deliverance.  He concludes, "What a wretched man I am!  (boy, can I relate!) Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" There is our hope--in Christ.  We are not lost to this endless struggle with sin, because with His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Jesus delivered us from it!  Because I have put my faith in Christ, I am delivered from my sin.  Praise God!

Yet, as long as we are on this earth, on this side of glory, we will still struggle with sin.  But we struggle with the hope of knowing that sin and death are conquered in Christ, and that because of His power in us, we get closer and closer to glory each day.  On many days, I can still relate to Paul's angst, but I know with confidence that the struggle is different than it once was, and God's work in me has made me stronger in Him.  So, I may still be an Israelite, but I choose blessing, and I am heading to the Promised Land!  I hope you are too!