When What’s Dead Rears It’s Ugly Head

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.

huge mistake

Have you ever done anything you immediately regretted? Once, about 30 years ago, I decided to ride on the back of a volkswagen owned by a friend named James. I do not know why. I just did. We were in the field house parking area, he was headed for the gate, maybe 80 yards away, and as he drove off I jumped on the back bumper.

He saw me, and really hit the gas. It felt like he was going about 40 MPH at one point, and I got scared – so I jumped off. And I immediately regretted that decision.

My feet hit the ground, then my head, then my feet again, then my left shoulder, then my knees, then my head again. Then I can’t remember anything. Then I was in the locker room with a bunch of people standing over me. I’m pretty sure they thought I was dead.

Another time, I threw a drum stick at our choir director. I saw as I let go if it, that this was not a wise choice. The pointy end hit him in the ribs, he jumped, grabbed the stick and started chasing me. Then I ran into a door frame with my right shoulder and separated it.

I could go on – and if you know me, you know this is true. It’s just funny to me to look back on the things I’ve done, and see that, really, my life in the early years was built on a foundation of bad choices. What makes this so painfully humorous, in a Keystone Kops kinda way, is that if I had my way, nothing would ever have changed.

I know people who make the same lousy choices over and over and over again, and who complain that nothing in their lives ever gets better. Why would it?

Sometimes, as I sit wondering to myself, “why did I do that?” I remember the words of Paul. The guy wrote a lot of the bible. He was a Pharisee, then after being called by God, became an Apostle. He planted churches all over the place, preached the gospel to the Gentiles (you and me basically – unless your reading this and you’re Jewish) was sent to prison and then got his head chopped off – all for following Christ.

You’d think a guy with the kind of resume would have his crap all together, right? Well, listen to this –

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. (Rom 7:17-24, MSG)

I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds a lot like me! I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, and bless me, but I do too much of one and not enough of the other. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it right.

If this sounds familiar to you, there’s still hope! Because when I turn the page in my bible to Romans 8, it says this – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” What? I’ve done all these terrible things, and I don’t have to feel bad about it, or feel guilty, or worry that God is going to punish me?

Yes – that’s what that means. No condemnation means NO CONDEMNATION. And if God doesn’t condemn you, why do you keep condemning yourself?

The catch, though, is this – you have to be operating on all cylinders in the supernatural – “You, therefore, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Rom8:9)

It seems like every day I have to lay down my intentions, my plans, my will, my responses, my guilt, my feelings, the things I think I deserve – because those things come from the flesh. If I focus on those things, I am not being led by the Spirit. But when those feeling rise up – and believe me, they do! – I have to ask the Spirit to help me overcome all those things so that I can act and react as a redeemed person. As the person God created me to be – and more and more, I am getting it right. But when I don’t, there’s still no condemnation because I am in Christ!

So ask yourself this – am I in Christ? Look back over your life, take inventory of what you’ve done and truly examine if you have ever given yourself over to him. If you have, then learn, as I am learning, to recognize that even though I am saved, I have to continually be in a state of surrender to him, or everything falls apart – because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, and apart from his Spirit there is only bondage.

You can do this! But the only way is to give yourself to God, be filled with his Spirit, and seek him every day, every hour, every minute – and let him put to death again what is already dead. Your old self that you gave up when you came to Christ is dead! But it tends to still haunt us, so we have to serve it back up to God. When we do, the foundation of poor choices gives way to a firm foundation that never crumbles, and God will help build a life full of peace and we can rest upon it.
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