Tuesday, April 27, 2010

R12: Why is the Christian life so difficult?

Reposted from last week to get back on a M-F schedule...

The title speaks for itself. I could leave it there and open up for discussion on Romans 12:2 and satisfy [last] week's blog carnival on self-control all at once. But I won't leave it there. We need to answer this question. We need to know how to overcome.

Chapter 7 in Living On The Edge lays the groundwork to answer this in future chapters, I'm sorry to tease. But the set up is just as valuable. We can't answer this question because we don't know why it's an issue to begin with. This week's blog carnival is on self-control. The question is bound to be asked, "why, as Christians, do we still struggle with sin?" Chip Ingram poses that the reason is because we do not understand the struggle. As I mentioned last time, I learned from the book Wild At Heart that our struggle against sin has three enemies- Satan, the World, and our sinful nature. Chip comes to the same conclusion but words it differently- the who, where, and what of sin. If our religious tradition focuses only on one, or even two, of these but not all three, we are destined to fail. This is because Satan wants us to fail, we live in a world designed to discourage us, and we desire comfort that satisfies our sinful nature. We need to overcome each of these.

Chip goes into the grammar of verse 2, but I'll spare you. One important point in each of the verbs is important though: "conform" and "transform" are both passive. That means it's not us doing it. The world conforms us with external pressure and only God can transform us by the power of His Holy Spirit. So much of my struggle against sin is relying on my own strength. I will always fail so long as I continue to rely on myself. Trying hard to 'do right' or be religious cannot overcome Satan's schemes or the World system.

So we need to come to terms with who overcomes and how. It is not us. It is not our church. It is not some self-help book or any special preacher or brand of Christianity. It is Christ alone. And we need to ask ourselves why. To be more moral than someone else? To be more holy? Will that elevate us to some closer level to God? No! We need to remember that God is our Father and as His children He only wants the best for us. So we turn ourselves over to him so that we can "test and approve" His will.

More on how next time.

Think: did you learn anything new in this discussion?
Reflect: why is the Christian life so difficult? What specific schemes of Satan in this World appeal most to your sinful nature?
Understand: how do you currently battle the temptations of the World? What works for you? What doesn't?
Surrender: share honestly with God where you struggle most. Ask God to reveal whomever or whatever s keeping you from the fullness of your relationship with Christ.
Take action: address whatever God reveals to you as an answer to this prayer. Ask for forgiveness and claim 1 John 1:9.
Motivation: listen to the audio message How To Get God's Best for your life by clicking the R12 button on the right.
Encourage someone: invite someone struggling spiritually over to your home for dinner, to a Bible study, or just to coffee to catch up.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.


JC Dude said...

It is not some self-help book or any special preacher or brand of Christianity. It is Christ alone.

That statement is so powerful and true.
Thanks, Jay

Anonymous said...

So much of my struggle against sin is relying on my own strength.

This is so true... we can't do it on our own. Thanks for these thoughts.

Fatha Frank said...

I think we put too much "self" in self control and not let God do his work.