I don’t know about you but I find myself encouraged by Romans 7 & 8. Here we have Paul more than 20 years after he was chosen to be an Apostle by Jesus Christ after His resurrection telling us that he has the same experience of war within his body as me! In Romans 7:15 he states that, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do I do.” Can you relate with Paul here? I can!!!!
But what makes this a different experience from the non-Christian? Now this is the fascinating part of these two chapters from the book of Romans and a re-read of the last post in Romans found here might help before you continue. The difference is best described as existential; meaning, an internal subjective experience that occurs when confronted with the desires of the flesh. The objective reality of the truth of God’s law and a Christian’s response to those desires of the flesh that disagree with God’s law is the center of the difference. Let me explain.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” – Romans 8:5
The unbeliever’s mind is “set” to follow his or her desires in the flesh and will live according to those desires that is best summed up in the modern day mantra to “following your heart”. The non-Christian will at the moment of the desire be at peace existentially with following the desire, but will have a life that lacks true peace after the experience when the realization hits that this experience did not deliver on its promise. It was a false promise because it was built on a false premise. And what is the false premise? Jeremiah 17:9 declares that “The heart is deceitful above all things”. The non-believer has become a slave to his or her desires and does not even realize it.
On the other hand, the Christian’s mantra is to “lead your heart” not follow it. The reality is that the true Christian may fail and fall into the desire of the flesh, but existentially there was a war before the fall into sin and the experience of loss after the fall because the Christian is reminded like Paul that “what I hate to do I do”. So, if you do not hate it when you fall into sin, no matter what it is, then ask yourself where your mind is set. Further evidence of your Christian mindset should be a confession to God and to the person that you may have injured. This act of humility through confession and repentance is incredibly rewarding and refreshing. The goal of the Christian then is to destroy the foothold through obedience before it becomes a stronghold due to continual disobedience.
We are FREE and no longer slaves to our desires I don’t care how strong they are. These desires grow over time through continued disobedience which makes the connections in the brain to the data of the desires even stronger. But we can change our desires!!! We can change the way we live if we change the way we think. We change the way we think by renewing our mind (knowledge) and applying this new knowledge to our life though obedience (wisdom). This leads to true peace that is lasting because God always delivers! This is why I summed up our family theme this year of “Read the Directions” into 3 points that had to do with this very topic:
(1) Renew your mind to renew your life
(2) Right thinking leads to right living
(3) God reveals what we conceal so that we can heal.
So how do we live as free men? I remember early on in my Christian walk men telling me to “walk in the Spirit”. Now though this advice is biblical it is incomplete. So, I would ask follow-on questions that would be met with a list of sin “don’ts”. Again, this sin don’t list is incomplete and leads me to thinking about sin differently with don’t. Now there is a problem here because I end up still thinking about the sin!!! Let me refer to the history of slavery in America as an illustration of why this is not helpful.
One of the saddest realities of the abolition of slavery is the fact that though the slaves were in reality free, many of them “willingly picked up their old chains” because they did not know what else to “do”. The “don’t” be a slave message was not very helpful without the corresponding “do” this instead, thus free men remained slaves because nobody taught them practically “how to be free”. For many of us this is the sad reality of our Christian walk for the very same reason.
“Don’t” causes you to focus on the flesh—makes you a slave!
“Do” activates the Spirit of God—makes freedom in Christ a reality!
Do creates desires to make the right decisions for the right reasons. These decisions create connections in the brain to good data as we put into practice 1Timothy 4:7 “…train yourself to be godly.” This training pays off as has been shown by experience of Christians through the ages and recently through scientific studies.
- It turns out that the brain patterns related to moral decisions need to be trained.
- “Subjects make more rational decisions, he reports, when the neurological activity from the primitive part of the brain is blocked from interfering with the frontal lobe.”
- Cohen then concludes that these patterns of open and blocked communication are not fixed by nature. They solidify over time.
- Our brain patterns are vulcanized, as he puts it, and this occurs by the constant repetition of these patterns.
Here is one of my favorite quotes on these results: “…contemporary brain science and Cohen’s picture of the vulcanized brain lead pretty much to the…vision of the soul shaped by virtues—or vice”
God gave me a practical tool to help us remember a “DO” message that I believe will help. This tool is what I have named “Man’s Ultimate Challenge” and it uses the concept of military challenge coins and the 7 virtues. So here is the positive do message to remember as a goal of life to be somebody:
(1) be a man of Fortitude and not Fear; (2) be a man of Prudence and not Carelessness; (3) be a man of Temperance and not Gluttony; (4) be a man of Justice and not Injustice; (5) be a man of Faith and not Uncertainty; (6) be a man of Hope and not Despair; (7) be a man of Charity and not Indifference
For more information on Man’s Ultimate Challenge you can visit my brand new website at: www.MansUltimateChallenge.com
So go and DO!
Until He Returns,
Peter P. Lackey Jr.