Some days, I just don’t know where to begin…

Making the choice between doing something enjoyable and doing something needing to be done, is always an easy choice.  I usually choose…

I didn’t leave that hanging for you to fill in the blank.  I left it hanging because I know what I used to do, and I know what I am likely to do these days.  Am I still leaving you guessing?  Probably not.

Beach…or clean the garage…beach or clean the garage…beach…

Movie…or taxes…movie or taxes…movie…

Juicy fat burger and fries…or salad with colorful toppings…juicy fat…

You get the drift.  It is so easy to go easy and so fun to go fun.  I find the same choices before me every day when it comes to focusing my heart on being with God.  I don’t know what happens inside of me, but why is it that when I consider spending time with God I can instantly think of ten other things to do, and surprisingly, not very enjoyable things?  Yes, part of this may have to do with my personality.  Yes, part of this may have to do with filling my life with too many things needing to be done; my list is always long.  However, I have come to realize there is another discernible resistance at work and in play every time I register the thought: I want to spend time with the Lord.  What is that?  Is it a force or some kind of unknown power playing at me from the outside in?

Lots of answers are out there, and all of them may be right to a certain extent.  I’m certainly not saying I’m right or I’ve figured it out for you.  I’m just saying that I figured it out for me. I used to be really hard on me and give myself a good beating:  “What a lousy Christian you are; you’re not willing to give the time of day to the one who died for you.”  But you know the kind of time you have with the Lord after you shame yourself into being with Him?  Not a helpful one…and certainly not an enjoyable one.  I also used to rationalize that when I did good things for others, or when I was teaching the bible, or even when I just sat and read the Bible, that was the same as being with Him…in His presence…talking with Him, or reflecting on what He is like, or perhaps listening for thoughts coming from Him.  It has taken many years, and many bumps and bruises to realize there is a difference between doing things for God and being with Him one on one.

“Jesus and his disciples went on their way. Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things.  But few things are needed. Really, only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42)*

“Chris, Chris.  You are worried and upset about many things.  But few things are needed.  Really, only one thing is needed.”  Two meals were being served.  Two good things in the presence of Jesus were good to do, but one was better.  Martha’s meal came out of love for Christ, hospitality for others and duty as the big sister in charge of the home.  All these things are not condemned; and that meal that Martha had in mind to prepare was likely very delicious.  But there was another meal being served by the Lord; a food that Martha did not understand as far more nourishing to the human life.  The Lord’s affection for Martha was actually an invitation to put down the pots and pans and come sit at his feet for a meal that would satisfy beyond just a few hours.

So what is it that I have figured out; what is that ‘unknown power’ or resistance being felt every time I consider sitting at the feet of Jesus?  It is a resistance that lies in me and the Bible calls it the carnal nature, or “the flesh.”  Yes I am a born-again, new creation, given a new spiritual nature which is connected to the Holy Spirit of God.  But there still resides in the old, other nature.  I’m supposed to live as if it is dead because when I said “Yes” to following God, the Bible says that the old “me” died.  But if the old “me” died and a new “me” has been place within, why is there still a “resistance” to making a better choice?  Even the Apostle Paul recognized the problem in his own life:

“Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law.  But I see another law working in me. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls me.  What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body?  I give thanks to God who saves me. He saves me through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law. But sin controls my desires. So I am a slave to the law of sin.”  (Romans 7:21-25)*

Residing within each believer is no longer just one nature—the sinful nature; there are now two.  These two natures are in conflict.  “Deep inside me I find joy in God’s law.”  This is where my ‘deepest’ identity now resides.  I am forgiven of sins, a child of God, a brother of Jesus, and a servant of God sealed in His Holy Spirit.  That is my identity.  My old I.D. card is out of my wallet and expired.  Nevertheless, “I see another law working in me.  It fights against the law of my mind.”  What is this negative power that still desires to have me and control me?  The law (or rule) of sin.  Now I have conflict.  The law (rule) in my mind which is captive to the will of God because I said “yes” to God and surrendered my life to Him, apparently must now take command over the law (rule) which is in my body.  My body feels like doing something different then what my mind (and my identity) dictates.  The Apostle goes on to say that whatever I give into, whether the rule of my mind (which is my understanding of who I am), or the rule of my body (which usually revolves around my feelings for doing what I want rather than what God wants), I become a slave to that rule.  I encourage you to continue into what Paul says in Romans chapter 8, for in it he provides a remedy for continued growth in our new identity in Christ, while resisting the old identity.

However, the purpose of this moment/article is to simply identify that there is a force within us which is resistant to the things God wants to continue to do in us.  He would like us to nourish ourselves in His presence…with food He has for us.  And instead of guilt-shaming ourselves into spending time with the Lord, how about just acknowledging that within our humanness, there is the old slave owner of sin (sin nature within), still yelling at us and demanding that we return to his farm producing the kind of life we used to have.  Once I realize that this will happen every time I decide to be with God (and every time I decide to do something to make God happy), my old self will be holding up signs, mocking me and yelling at me to stay away from God.  You may find it odd that because you have identified this resistant power, you have weakened it.  That is something to celebrate as you enter into God’s presence more readily and more often.

*New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)  Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.