I have spent a lot of time the past couple of weeks wearing my pastor hat. Along with leading a couple of small group discussions, God opened several opportunities for me to chat with some of my girls about their lives and struggles. Be it over quesadillas or coffee I had the immense privilege of listening to these women talk about where they are, what they are dealing with and where they want to go. Not only did He give me the opportunity to speak into their lives, but He spoke into mine. He whispered a lovely little reminder about being led by HIm.
It sounds like a simple thing. After all we should want to follow Jesus. Usually we want our own way more. We are stubborn and selfish and turn our nose up at God's best as we willingly settle for less. Then we wonder why we are dissatisfied. George Macdonald said it this way, "“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.”
It doesn't make sense but yet its how we live.
Romans 7:15-20 MSG
I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
Does that sound like you? Because it sure sounds like me. I know what to do but I don't always do it. I know that the good church girl answer is that we are to follow Jesus but my life suggests that I have politely asked Him to follow me instead. I want Him in the car, I just don't want Him driving. Why? Because I want control. I want to know where the car is going. I want to be the one tuning the radio on the way. I like to be in charge of my own destiny.
That's funny right? The God who created me, and my destiny, is more than happy to show me the exact, best way to get there and I don't want to take His directions. I just want Him to reroute when my GPS fails or clean up the mess when I crash but not to drive.
Really though, deep down, I want to be the person who wants to follow Jesus. I don't want to live an inverted gospel as Mark Batterson put it. I want to be led by His Spirit, I want to give Him the keys. But I can't do it out of my own power.
Romans 7:21-25 MSG
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
The answer is Jesus. Thank God. Jesus has won the battle against sin, against those selfish desires. And His Spirit lives in me. I don't have the ability on my own but I have the power through Him. I just have to feed it.
An old Native America proverb says that we have two dogs that live in us. One that seeks to do good and one that seeks to do evil. These dogs are always at war with each other. (Sound like what Paul was talking about in Romans?) The dog that will win is the dog we feed the most. If I want to be led by the Spirit, if I want to do the things that make Jesus happy, then I have to feed the right dog.
I can't fill up on the world, on negativity and selfishness and expect to be anything but those things. If I want to hear God's voice, if I want the fruit of His Spirit to be nurtured in my life then I have to fill up with Him. I have to read His Word. I have to clean out the junk and take captive those negative, harmful thoguhts replacing them with His thoughts toward me. I have to spend enough time in conversation with Him that I recognize His voice when He speaks. I have to get to know Him well enough, His character, so that I can truly trust His leading. The more I feed myself with the things of God, the more organic following Him becomes.