You love the Lord with all your heart, you read the Bible, you go to church, you generously give to the ministries that help you on your spiritual journey, you pray for God’s strength to do His will ... but those old habits (in thought, word or deed) just continue to dog you to death. They not only cause frustration but even failure at times; failure right at the feet of the Jesus you love and serve.
You start to doubt and think, “Am I even a Christian?” “Am I even saved?” Don’t go there, buddy! Your entire sufficiency is in Christ, not in your ability to control your behavior. If it were all about behavior modification, you’d go to a shrink. This is all about a “heart transplant” ... giving the Lord dominion over your inner being; letting Him be God of your life and have His Spirit enter into yours. You purposefully and powerfully choose to deny yourself the luxury of being your own boss so that the Lord’s mind, will and emotions would rule ... there is the victory.
I can remember when I first gave my heart to the Lord over 35 years ago. The transformation was swift and sweeping. Yet, I knew my own weaknesses to some extent back then, and struggled greatly before the Lord in fear that I would fall back into certain sins. Civil war was raging deep within (the good fairy and the poo-poo fairy, as my brother Bobby puts it, were fighting for my attention). My greatest fear was that, while in the midst of some stupid sin, I would die during that period and end up in hell. That fear was dark and kept me frozen in time ... just what the “Ole Deluder” (Satan) wanted ... saved but in the freezer ... stored away not doing anything bad, but not living life to its fullest and being an ambassador for Christ.
In crying out to the Lord to show me something, I opened the Bible, and it happened to fall open to Romans 7 and 8. Yeah, just happened to fall open to exactly what I needed. Do you think the Lord was orchestrating that moment? Yeah, me too! It really helped me to understand that old habits don’t go away overnight, and God knows that. His love for us helps us through those times. He’s not there holding His nose as we waddle through some mucky sin. He is on the other side wooing us through it. Through the sacrifice of the cross, that fallen person of yesteryear was restored and reinstated with the great and mighty heavenly Father ... Father ... get it? You get a new heart and a new covenant. He loves you and forgives you eternally IF you are His. In Him we have a guarantee of protection from hell; a new way of thinking, feeling and wanting AND a promise of a one-way ticket to be with Him in Paradise (as was the original plan!).
Those assurances filled my heart, for sure. Here is what I read:
We must all realize that before we came to know Jesus we just went by our own ideas and willpower and got really good at it. So don’t be surprised that there’s a bit of a learning curve in switching tracks from the natural to the supernatural. (Ephesians 1:18-19 and 3:16-21). So whether it’s your impatience, your rotten temper, your bad attitude, your hard to control sex drive or your compulsion toward chocolate brownies ... how in the world do you find the strength to put these urges under control? The answer is ... you don’t find it in the world! You find it in Christ. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world! The same power God made use of in Jesus is available to you when you ask Him in. Remember, Jesus says He stands at the door and knocks and if you let Him in, He will come dine with you ... sweet!
Use the weapons of prayer, Bible study, and seeking truth; go worship and fellowship with strong Christians, practice thanksgiving in everything, with a strict accountability for your stinking behavior and walk in the power of the Spirit, not your own ways. That is what will push back temptation and deception ... not your willpower, which flounders far too frequently. It’s a fight to the finish. Ah, but what a finish. God is with us!