It seems that when people are born-again certain addictions or weaknesses drop away immediately. Almost without effort an area of temptation or assault will be lifted out of our lives when Jesus comes in. And what an amazing miracle it is when that happens. But oddly enough certain other problem areas dont disappear, or return quickly to plague us for years. Why some things are removed and others allowed to remain I dont know, but I suspect it has something to do with tribulation bringing about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope (Ro 5:3, 4). It seems its the struggles of life that humble us and teach us to depend on God (2Co 12:9, 10). In fact, most of us would have to admit its in our trials that we mature in faith and become wise. So maybe we shouldnt be surprised that certain problems are left behind for us to learn to overcome. It isnt that God doesnt want us to be free, and it isnt that He withholds the help we need. But real freedom requires us to make costly choices. It forces us to daily take up our cross and follow Him. And as painful as that sounds: thats a good thing!
Review the message of Romans 1-8
Read: Romans 8:1-4, 12-14
Passivity vs. Partnership
What is God waiting for? Why am I still struggling with this? I asked God to take it away, but He hasnt. The only way some people know how to respond when overwhelmed by temptations and spiritual assaults is to pray, asking God to take it away, and then wait passively for the problem to miraculously disappear. If it stops, praise God. If it doesnt, He must have decided not to answer my prayer, so I guess Im stuck with this for now. This attitude places the responsibility for freedom entirely on God, as if I had no part to play other than asking for the right thing. But living in freedom requires me to participate as a partner with Him. I have a very real part to play. Yes, of course, He supplies the power and I can do nothing without Him, but the truth is, its not God whos holding back my deliverance, its me. I have deep attitudes that need changing and steps of faith that need to be taken. Only then will the miracle I long for arrive. Heres one attitude that must be present before God can set me free:
I must be honest and ask myself this question: Am I really willing to live without this? Its far too easy to answer, Well, of course I am. I asked God to take it away didnt I? And very likely that request was sincere. I recognize this is wrong or makes me feel miserable so I want to be rid of it. But the human heart has the capacity to want different things at different levels. At one level I want something, but at another level I dont. Deep down I love certain sins or have grown comfortable with familiar areas of pain. At that level Im really frightened by the thought that God might actually take something away or heal that part of me. Its hard to imagine life without it. Im conflicted. Ive asked God to take something away, but at the same time Im terrified He might. This indecision can prevent me from receiving my miracle year after year after year. Sadly, not all of me wants it gone yet.
2 Corinthians 7:8-10
Grieving (sorrow over the damage Ive caused) vs. repenting (wholeheartedly desiring Gods way)
Repentance begins with a revelation: What am I doing? This is evil and full of death. Its killing me and people I love and breaking Gods heart.
Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-19
For freedom to come I must see the enemys lie for what it is. This has to die. It cant be managed more efficiently or pushed to a hidden corner. It must be crucified.
Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
What will it take to convince me to let God completely take this away from me?
Illustration: Cake in the refrigerator (warning: this cake contains rat poison)
What changed? I realized it may taste good but it contains death.
Genesis 3:2-5 You wont die! And when they ate the fruit it appeared the devil was right because they didnt die, right away.
We have to want to stop not just because we know its wrong, but because we too see the death and have come to hate the sin. At the deepest level we must want it gone.
Oddly enough depression also requires a similar decision. After a while we become so accustomed to being depressed, feeling good is unsettling. We wait suspiciously wondering when it will return. Were afraid to hope for freedom.
Remember: God wants to teach us why something is wrong not just give us a command to obey. He not only wants to change our behavior but He wants us to think like He thinks, love what He loves, hate what He hates. Hes fathering us into His likeness.
When this decision is made the resources of God are released and real freedom can come quickly so long as the person is taught how to live in freedom. But until this decision is made there will be a constant pattern of relapse, sorrow, asking for forgiveness, promises to do better and then relapse again.
It appears there are three ways for a person to arrive at this decision:
1) Actually hit bottom: I become so devastated, my self-effort has failed so often, the death hidden in my sin has become so obvious I am faced with the choice to either forsake Christ and yield entirely to the sin, or give up all pretense and take whatever radical steps are necessary (often these are the steps Ive avoided for years).
2) Walk into the anointing: In a meeting where the power of the Holy Spirit is strongly present Im mercifully given a revelation of my spiritual condition. God shows me the depth of my sin and His love and calls me to take His hand and come out.
3) Ask God to show me the truth: I earnestly ask Him to lift the deception and show me my double-mindedness and the death hidden in what Im doing, to see that this bondage is no friend but a deadly enemy.
1) Have you ever experienced that moment of revelation when you suddenly saw what you were doing through Gods eyes? What effect did that change of perspective have on you?
2) Did you experience some sudden change when you were born-again? Name one.