Are You Playing Tug of War with Your Salvation?
Have you ever wanted to give in to a desire so badly, just so the tension of temptation will go away? Do you play tug of war, with your flesh battling your will, where a winner and a loser are decided upon only by brute strength, while presided over by a distinct, thin line separating truth from fantasy?
As introverts, we prefer the company of art, books, or movies, and can get ourselves twisted up when asked to socialize. We play tug of war with feelings of craving friendship but cherishing solitude and fretting over how we can have both. But, can I tell you something?
There is no introvert/extrovert conflict within me that strains like the spiritual tug of war for my soul.
Try as we might to do better, temptations infiltrate our soul given the slightest opportunity. We research answers to our problems, read the Bible more, and study harder only to find ourselves back to square one in the temptation game. Internal conflict stops me in my tracks.
External conflict drives me. Different than confrontation, external conflict challenges me intellectually, and builds character. Internal conflict, on the other hand is what makes me lose sleep, binge eat, and wish I'd never gave up smoking eleven years ago.
Internal conflict zaps my energy almost more than a surprise party.
Paul of course, says it best:
"For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do...For the good that I will to do I d not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice." (Romans 7:15, 19)
I appreciate the structure of Paul's internal conflict, he uses this 'mirrored-speak' often. It leads me to picture him holding his head in his hands, overthinking, and mind-mapping his way out of it so he can get on to doing God's work. He knows how crazy he sounds, loving God so much one minute and then next wondering how in the world he let himself sin! Oh, how I resonate with that!
The art of trying wears me down. Like Tug of War, so much energy is exerted without making any physical contact with another human being. I know what I need to do to avoid any temptation, but but what I want to do is altogether something different.
The rules are clearly drawn in the middle, with the desires of my flesh on one side and the will of my heart on the other, pulling with all their might against each other. I hang on for dear life, but know my strength cannot be sustained forever.
So I square my shoulders with stubborn grit, because my heart says it is a bigger sin to simply give in to temptation and drop the rope.
I dig my heels in with dogged determination to avoid forging more deeply into sin.
This Tug of War with sin is not what Jesus had in mind for us.
Jesus loved us to BE better, not just DO better. To be better is to do better. The law cannot save us from sin. Following the rules is a result of our love for Him, but the law of Moses will not save us. Sin uses this legalism within each of us to pervert the truth, trap us, confuse us, and worse - trap and confuse others.
Thankfully, we have the Good News - Jesus suffered and died on the cross so we could set our minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:2 says, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."
I can want, wish, and hope, every second of my life, and still see no change. I can beg God to show me what changes I need to make in my life, but there is a part of me - a big part - that admits these prayers feel a little more like asking God to show me how to try harder, than a heart-felt prayer for the holy spirit to renew my mind.
I have to let go of looking inward, as introverts are so prone to do, and instead look to Jesus in everything.
Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I do not have to focus on the works of the flesh. I can focus on the fruit of the Spirit changing me. I don't have to exhaust myself pulling one side of the rope only to barely stay on the right side of the law. Instead, I can set my mind to the things of the spirit and let Jesus change me and prepare me for His work instead.
It's not about praying harder and focusing more intently - it's a sweet surrender of any and all control. As my pastors remind our congregation, it's a decision, not a feeling.
I can choose to ensure my thoughts, emotions, values, desires, and purpose are set to seeking Jesus through study, prayer, and meditation on His Word, but then, I MUST LET GO of the rope and walk away from the temptation to try harder.
The Good News of the cross tells me salvation is in Him and Him alone. His love fuels me with the energy I need to do the exact work He calls me to do. This is the choice I am making in the new year. And what a great year it will be.
How about you? Are you trying too hard? Are you playing tug of war with your emotions? With your salvation? I pray you were encouraged to surrender to the comforting arms of Jesus today.
Do you need prayer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to pray for you!