by Pastor Tim Burt
When I was a young Christian just learning the Bible and trying to understand this new world of God that my eyes had been opened to, I had a goal. It was a naive goal. It was an unrealistic goal. It was in truth, an impossible goal. I thought that it was an impossible goal yet I wanted to pursue it. My goal was to live perfectly for God. I would learn all His ways and never sin. I was going to conquer every sinful area of my life and get rid of them. It was the least I could do. I was motivated. I so loved Jesus and felt so thankful to Him for giving His live for me. I wanted to do this for Him. I somehow wanted to pay Him back for what He had done for me. I loved Him and I wanted to prove it.
I immediately got into trouble. I sinned. I watched an inappropriate R-rated movie that contained profanity and some sexual scenes. Prior to Jesus I loved almost any kind of movie including the inappropriate ones. Now my heart convicted me yet I’d still occasionally watch one and feel horrible and repent after. After one of these occasions I was on my knees praying and asking God to forgive me. God spoke to my heart and said, “Tim, you can’t turn me on and off like a light switch. We can’t have fellowship that way. You are pushing me away whether you realize it or not. And, if you continue this way, it will harden you heart over time. You’ll become callous to this sin.”
I could have cried when I heard the Lord say this. I’d think about the pain and suffering Jesus went through out of His love for me and yet I couldn’t turn off a movie? No, I was using my freedom in Christ, to serve my sinful nature. I’d sin knowing it was wrong and then ask for forgiveness. That was using my freedom in Christ to serve my sinful nature. Something had to change. I’d think about my goal to live perfectly for God–learning all His ways and never sinning. What happened to that goal? That dream was quickly falling by the wayside.
I later learned and worked to draw strength from what I read in Galatians 5:16-18 (NLT) “So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law."
This was telling me that as long as I lived on the edge of playing with and doing what I knew was wrong, my life would be “sin conscience”–full of do’s and don’ts – “the law.” I would never defeat the feeling of the law nor win overcoming my fleshly sinful desires. I discovered that God’s freeing strength from the desire of sin came to me when I thought about the purpose and love of God for my life–Jesus. Strength would come when I would think about having an influence for Jesus upon my family, friends, and co-workers. When focused on that, I’d soon want to pray about and for them. From there my life and thoughts increasingly focused toward good things. Inward strength and godly desires replaced the fleshly desires and temptations. I would start using my time wisely and it would fulfill today’s Fresh Manna verse: “For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.” I got involved in a men’s Bible study. The richness of the atmosphere of studying together with other men that loved God was strengthening and rewarding. Renee and I started working in children’s ministry to teach four and five year olds God’s Word. Working with those children became eight of the most precious years of my life. I loved those kids and they helped my life be strengthened in the Lord.
Every time I purposed to serve others I gained strength and areas of sin which previously held me in bondage, dropped off. I wasn’t just giving time and love. I was getting it! The freedom to serve one another with set me free from the freedom (which was really the bondage) to satisfy my sinful nature.
I realized how futile my goal of living a perfectly sinless life by working it out in my own strength was. I couldn’t just will myself to not sin. The strength to stop sinning came out of a sincere love for Jesus and by experiencing the “freedom to serve one another in love.” It came from the Holy Spirit as I followed His direction and let my love for Jesus permeate my every thought and action. It was and still is the source and activator of my strength over sin!
Psalms 37:17 (MSG) "For the wicked are moral weaklings but the righteous are God-strong."
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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