Identity Crisis: Who are we really?
Paul had overcome his past. Once, he was a cold-hearted killer. But he had changed his life. Now he was one of the foremost leaders of the church. A man who loved God, Paul had endured several hardships for the sake of his new life. But still there was a struggle. He confessed:
I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate...I know that good does not live in meâthat is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it.I don't do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do...
(Romans Chapter 7 verses 15, 18 to 19, Good News Translation)
I can identify with Paul. I think if we're honest with ourselves, we all can. Christians do not become perfect people overnight. We're not 100% obedient all the time, nor do we feel like it. Don't get me wrong: this disobedience doesn't mean that God doesn't still love us, forgives us or that we are not still His Children. Jesus' sacrifice is for all present, past and future sin. We have a relationship with God because of faith in Jesus Christ- not because we stick to a list of "Things to Do".
But this doesn't give us a licence to sin ("by no means!" according to Romans Chapter 5 verse 20 to Chapter 6 verse 2). We don't get a "free pass" to do all the things God says we shouldn't do because we can "get away with it." God's grace means that when we do the wrong thing, we can immediately turn to Him and count on forgiveness, something that great men like King David, a murderer and adulterer, understood. No matter the sin, afterwards, we can cry out: "be merciful to me, O God,because of your constant love", knowing that He hears (Psalm Chapter 51 verse 1).
The Shame of Sin
Even if it feels good at the time, eventually, sin disgusts even the doer. Have you ever shocked yourself by doing something you would have said you'd never do? Maybe you think you've drawn a line in the sand in terms of how bad you'd ever be. We can proudly recite all the times we bypassed opportunities to do the wrong thing. Then all of a sudden, one day, you surprise yourself by doing something that you wouldn't ever see yourself doing. The feeling of guilt and repulsion is palpable.
God tries to safeguard against this by warning us about having a "holier than thou" attitude:
<sup>"If you think you are standing firm you had better be careful that you do not fall." (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 verse 12)
We have to be constantly vigilant to avoid placing ourselves in situations where we are tempted to yield to sin. Our approach to sin cannot be lax. Fooling around with sin is a bad idea. Playing with sin is like waltzing with a wild bear but not expecting to get mauled.
There is perhaps one positive thing that can come from the aftermath of doing a sinful act. That is that it can help us to keep our estimation of ourselves in proper perspective: to not judge others too harshly, or be hypocritical in our attitude because we realise that they could be us â "there but for the grace of God, go I." When we see people trapped in a lifestyle of drug abuse or sexual addiction, obsession with porn or gambling, we should see where our poor choices can easily lead us down a path of self-destruction.
One thing I've also learnt is that God always sends a means of escape in the midst of a sin you're about to get trapped in. He may send a phone call from a friend that causes you to change your path; just as you're about to click that website or watch that movie your computer may freeze or when you turn up at that nightclub or bar you find it's closed. The Bible tells us that:
"Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out." (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 verse 13)
Granted, we are wilful. If we really want to sin, we'll ignore the escape routes and find a way to do it. In moments like those, we have to ask ourselves: "are we allowing ourselves to be controlled by the person we used to be before we accepted Jesus; instead of following the Holy Spirit he has placed inside us?"
Paul rejoiced that Jesus freed him from the struggle with sin (Romans Chapter 7 verses 24 to 25). For Christians, the freedom we have in Christ is in knowing that we aren't enslaved to sin any longer. What would your life look like if you started acting like it?
Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, having visited, studied, worked and lived in several Caribbean islands. But when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html