But I need something more! For I know the law but still I 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. [Romans 7:17-20 (MSG)]
We all know the speed limit, but most of us break it. Obviously knowing a law is not enough to make us obey it. We know the guidelines for a healthy lifestyle, but most of us still eat and drink more than we should and exercise far less than recommended. Evidently, self-determination is not enough to make us behave as we should. We may believe in Jesus, but we still succumb to sin. Clearly, calling oneself a Christian doesn’t create an invisible shield against temptation and bad behavior.
If someone as devout as the Apostle Paul struggled with sin and couldn’t overcome it on his own, we are in good company. As Paul found, knowing God’s law is not sufficient and struggling to obey it on our own is unsuccessful. Like Paul, we will continually struggle with the attraction of sin. It’s not easy to repent and tougher to forgive. It’s challenging to love our neighbors and even harder to love our enemies. Having faith is only easy when we already know the results. Try as hard as we can, honesty, humility, and obedience seem to escape us while pride, anger and deceit rush in to take their place. Being God’s child is a life-long process. We will continue to be a work in progress for the rest of our lives. Willpower is not enough; we cannot do it on our own.
We must follow Paul’s example and call on the Holy Spirit to give us the power we need to change. God promises he will be there! Every time we fall (and, like Paul, we will fall many times), God will be there to pick us up.
“I told myself not to do it, but I didn’t listen!” [Neighbor girl’s excuse to her grandmother]
I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be – I can truly say that I am not what I once was – a slave to sin and Satan. And I can heartily join with the apostle and say that “by the grace of God I am what I am! [John Newton]