Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why We Do What We Do (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of a discussion on why we do the bad things we know we shouldn’t be doing, and why we don’t do the good things we know we should be doing.

Doing What We Shouldn’t

The flip side of this is that we often do things we shouldn’t be doing. Again we read about Paul’s frustration with himself in Romans 7:19b: “I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” NLT

Why is that? Why do we consciously break God’s law and often hurt other people when we know better? This happens for a number of reasons:

1. Propensity to Sin

First, we do wrong things because we have a propensity to sin. It is called “original sin” and it is sometimes referred to as our “sin nature.” We inherit this sin nature – unfortunately it’s in our DNA. That doesn’t mean we’re helpless, that we shouldn’t be able to control ourselves. It just means that we’ve got a lifelong struggle against the warring factions within ourselves. It’s sort of like those old cartoons that showed a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, each telling the person what he should do.

2. Temptations

Second, we do wrong things because this world is filled with temptations that appeal to that sin nature. Some of the things of this world are very alluring, and so we give in to those temptations which appeal to our weaknesses. We are bombarded with temptations through the media, through our own desires, and even from friends, family, and co-workers.

3. Worldly Involvement

Third, we sin because we get involved too much in the world, and don’t spend enough time learning about and serving God. Paul gave this analogy to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:4: No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer. NIV

Likewise, we shouldn’t want to get caught up in worldly things, because we want to please Jesus. I admit that isn’t easy – we are surrounded by a culture that encourages materialism and all kinds of immoral and unethical behavior. Yet if we worship regularly, attend a Bible study, pray often, and spend time with Jesus every day, we will be much less vulnerable to temptation. Then we can put the world behind us as Paul wrote in Romans 12:2a: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds… NRSV

Our Hope

Is there any hope for us? Yes, there’s hope for us, because God has provided his people with grace. In the Methodist tradition, it is called “Sanctifying” or “Perfecting Grace.” It simply refers to the fact that once we have made a conscious decision to become a follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit works within us to improve us. The point is, God does not leave us helpless and hopeless – we have the Holy Spirit to help us, guide us, and empower us to resist evil in all its forms.


I urge you not become discouraged, but keep your focus on Jesus. Make your relationship with Jesus a priority, and you’ll find your life greatly improved. When you have such a deep relationship with Jesus, worldly temptations lose their power over you. Here are six steps to overcoming temptations:

1. Look Inward, and examine what is causing you to give in to temptations. Ask God to reveal anything within you that may be part of the problem. Assess what your weakness is and then seek God’s help in dealing with it.

2. Along those same lines, admit you are weak and are a sinner. The first step in any kind of recovery is admitting you have a problem.

3. Look to the Lord, meaning keep your focus on Jesus, as I mentioned earlier. When Jesus is part of your daily life, you’ll be in a better position to resist temptation.

4. Recognize that this is a spiritual issue more than anything else. We have to understand that we are in a spiritual battle, as Paul clearly tells us in Ephesians 6:12-13a:

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God. NRSV

5. Get into God’s word so that you are equipped for this spiritual warfare. When you spend time every day in prayer and studying God’s Word, you’ll be less inclined to do things that are against God’s will.

6. Pray regularly for God’s help. We’ll never achieve perfection in this life, but we can continuously improve when we submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Draw closer to God, and you won’t be disappointed.

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