Doing what I don’t want to do
Rev. Jim Beard, Delano United Methodist Church
By this point in the year, half of us have broken those New Year’s resolutions we were so determined to make happen this time around. And the only reason the second half haven’t broken them is because they never set any in the first place!
Seriously, there are a lot of things God wants for us, and we know it. But we keep doing those things we don’t want to do.
Fear grabs our tongues right when we are about to share our vulnerability; mistrust grabs our courage right when we are about to forgive; complacency grabs our resolve right when we are about to try something new.
I don’t know about you, but my soul gets tight with disappointment sometimes, and I begin to think that maybe I’ll never change. I want to, but I can’t.
Paul’s letter to the Romans resounds of similar discords. Whenever I read chapter 7, I find myself nodding in agreement. Yep, that’s me, alright. This guy knows me well. In case you haven’t read Paul’s letter lately, let me lend you my copy. Here’s the part I like; maybe you can relate too . . .
“I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
“But I need something more! For if 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. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions, where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:17-25 The Message)
That’s our only hope, my friends. Jesus Christ can, and Jesus Christ does.
Throughout Lent, we need to let the one who can set things right in this life of contradictions have his way in our lives. We need to turn ourselves over to him, to let him do the things we cannot do on our own.
I believe this is possible, for me and for you. This is possible not because of what we can do, but because of what Christ can do. Thank God indeed!