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Today's Word - December 7
"For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." Romans 7:15
Practicing - What a controversial verse! There have been many debates about the person speaking these words. Was it Paul before his life was changed? Is it the state of a hypothetical unbeliever? Or is it about the experience of tension found in the believer's battle with sin? The Greek verb is prasso. This is a verb about continuous action, doing something over and over. And here it is present tense, active. Whoever "I" is, this person is constantly doing the things he or she hates to do. There is no evading the responsibility. No wonder the verse starts with, "I do not understand." This is the first century description of addictive habits.
Sometimes we act as though we are no longer in the clutches of this evil power. We think that addictions are simply a matter of improper chemical balances or poor childhoods or genetic predispositions. The solution is just therapy or group support or medication or education. I don't know about you, but I know from personal experience that there is a lot more spiritual warfare in addictions than the modern world wishes to admit. Shaking my head in disbelief, I find myself returning to the same old ground. Left to my own will power, I have no will power. I am right there with Paul. I long to do good but I find that I am swept away on a tidal wave that throws me back into the drowning sea.
I doubt that Paul was speaking as a recovering alcoholic or drug user. I don't even think he had anger management in mind. He probably was not tempted by the Las Vegas slot machines or the luring call of the mall. But he knew that every effort to rid ourselves of those things that have strapped us to death in this life are powerful, overwhelming forces that cannot be conquered from personal management. What we were in the past easily pulls us back. It takes only the right circumstances, stresses and feelings and suddenly we are swirling toward that mood change death trap. This verse has given me more terror than nearly any other verse in Scripture. It is about me, even as I desire to put all my life into the hands of the Lord who rescued me. It is about those siren calls that wake me up in the night or attack me in a moment of weakness. Paul and I cry the same cry of desperation. God, save us. We cannot do it ourselves.
And that is the point Paul is trying to make. There is no explanation for sin. Sin is clearly insane. Its only purpose is to destroy us. It is the opposite of life. So, why does it seem so intriguing? I just don't understand. I know only this: God help me. In my weakness, I need His strength.