Purity is eternal. Evil is temporary.
Think about that statement. Purity is eternal. God is pure, holy and eternal. Evil had a beginning. Evil began when Satan chose to rebel against God. Purity will continue forever. Evil will be separated from God for eternity. Purity was and is and will forever be. Evil began; it lingers; but is overcome. I like thinking about the eternal nature of purity. I especially like the idea that evil is temporary.
“All things truly wicked start with an innocence.” – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was right. Evil is the twisting of something good. I like to define evil as the counterfeit of good. Jesus teaches that Sin is birthed in our heart before it is expressed in our behavior. In His most famous sermon (see Matthew 5-7), Jesus said uses the phrase “You have heard it said…, but I say to you…” several times. Each time He demonstrates how sin happens in the heart. Our sinful behavior, then, is the result of that sin.
Religious Rules are unsuccessful in changing behavior because they only attempt to control the symptoms of our sin. The real sin happens on the inside. It is a battle we face everyday. We struggle with doing what we know is right and not doing what we know is wrong. Listen to the Apostle Paul as he describes this conflict in Romans 7:15-23,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So, I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”
Religious Rules only address the symptoms, but what is the real issue we need to address? For the answer we look to James 1:13-15:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (emphasis mine).
The real problem is our “our own evil desires.” When Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we were all polluted in our nature. We were created in the image of God, but that image is now contaminated.
Let’s go back to Paul’s writing in Romans 7:24-8:5 to find the solution to the problem we face:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (emphasis mine).
Jesus is the solution. He delivers us through His death on the cross. Then the Holy Spirit comes in and recreates the image of God, the nature of Jesus in us. So that we can set our minds on what God desires.
James 1:21-22 agrees,
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (emphasis mine).
What Religious Rules cannot do, Jesus can. We cannot earn our salvation, but it takes a lot of effort on our part. The victory comes when we humbly accept Jesus and His truth. And then put it into practice!
Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
The one word that best describes this process is: REPENT. It means to change the way you think. Paul shares this concept in Romans 12:1-2, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – humbly accept the word planted in you – then you can accept what God’s will is – so you can do what it says.
We cannot do this in our power. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. Have you accepted Christ? Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? The Bible’s process for this is BAPTISM. In baptism we identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are accepting Him as the leader of our life. Then we can access the power to do His will, what He says.