I have been a follower of Jesus for 32 years and a pastor for over a decade and I honestly have to say that I have “NOT” arrived! You see God created us individually as a spirit being with a soul (mind, will & emotions) and we live in a body. The scriptures say that the flesh is continually at war with the spirit. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “So I say let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” Galatians 5:16,17
As you can see our flesh, or you can say it this way: our natural man is constantly at war with our spirit man, the person that we “really” are that wants to do what its right, the actual crave inside of us that wants to follow Jesus and our heavenly Father and fulfill the life He has called us to live and that is a life of faith and love for one another. Throughout the years that I’ve chosen to believe in and follow Jesus words and instructions I have experienced some wonderful and amazing times in my life. Yet on the other had I have been faced with many obstacles (inside and out). Some I’ve conquered, some not, and for the many times I’ve chosen to not follow his example I am very thankful for his mercy. Yes, I know there are some of you that are saying right now, “but I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength” Yes that is true, the word of God is always true, but we have to remember that there are times when (because of the flesh and spirit constantly battling it out) we don’t ALWAYS do the right thing. The Apostle Paul describes it perfectly: “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:14-17. As for me, my struggles are no longer with drugs and alcohol as it was when I was quite younger. Today they are much different. Just like Paul said, “…And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…” For me, the most difficult at times is loving others. I wish I could get up every day and never get hurt, offended or upset with another soul! Let’s be honest here, we all have some area in our lives that need improving. My advice to you and myself would be to stay in faith and strive (by his Grace) to improve in these areas.
HOW? One particular way is this truth: The Lord Corrects those He Loves: One thing I never want to let slip, and that is to be able to hear his voice when he is trying to help me in an area. “For the Lord disciplines (corrects) those he loves…as you endure his divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who is never disciplined by it’s own father/mother? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! BUT afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:6-11
I may be stubborn in certain areas of my life, but this is ONE area that I do not want to ignore and that is the Lord’s correction. Listen folks, he does not shoot fire from heaven or strike us with lightning when we do something wrong (thank God!) No! His correction is full of Love. For me, It’s his “voice” I hear him in my gut. It’s just a “knowing”. When I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth for the millionth time I KNOW what I must do next and that is face the pain! Admit to myself and others involved that I was “wrong”. Folks this is what I believe the scripture reference above means as being “painful” Have you ever had to tell someone that you’re sorry, or that you were wrong? Some people refuse to do it. But if you’re a follower of Jesus, a child of the living God then he is going to “require” it of you. This is called humility. Once we yield to his correction, and do what he says, which by the way is ALWAYS love, then and only then will we get back to a life of “peace” the “peaceful harvest” or King James says it this way “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”
The NEXT STEP: Once we’ve done the “right” thing, we must then FORGIVE ourselves. When we ask God to forgive us he says that he “will” and that he will no longer remember our sins (wrongs). If he can forgive us and forget then we must learn to forgive ourselves and take Paul’s advice in the scriptures, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us” Philippians 3:13,14