In the seventies, Flip Wilson, a well-known comedian, had a popular weekly TV show. One regular feature was a skit in which Flip was the fiery preacher Reverend LeRoy, constantly warning his congregation about the devil’s plans to lead ‘em all straight to hell. Just when he had worked himself up to his self-righteous best, he would let it slip that he himself had committed the very sin he had been warning them about. Caught in his own hypocrisy, he always offered only one excuse, the one the TV audience just knew was coming: “The devil made me do it!”
We all laughed, of course, because each of us saw ourselves in his silly skits. We’re all looking for a devil to blame.
To be sure, there is a devil, and demons, too, alive and active in this world – enemies of God and enemies of ours also. And it’s true: we Christians are unwittingly being played all the time by these very subtle, supernatural, evil forces hoping to derail our lives. But let’s drop the “devil made me do it” excuse. Because if the Spirit of the living God lives in us, Satan and his hosts may be able to blow in our ear, whisper their lies, and tempt us to doubt – but they cannot make believers sin.
Then of course, there’s also the world and it’s buffet of temptations to distract us from obeying God. “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16
So, what is the “world?”Anything that lures your heart away from God. But the world isn’t only “out there.” Any version of Christianity that offers a religious alternative to actually believing in and behaving like Jesus is also the world.
However, the other voice I hear most often isn’t Satan’s or the world’s. It’s my own; it’s me resisting Jesus’ full claim on my life as Lord. I’ve told him a thousand times he’s my Lord and I’ve promised to love him and obey him. I meant it, and I still mean it! But there’s an independent, sinful part of me that wants to reserve a part of my life for me. I want to be able to call at least part of my life mine.
The Apostle Paul said it well: “The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to rip 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.” Romans 7:21-23
So, let’s give it a name – call it partial surrender. And I’ve notice that others who believe themselves to be Christians apparently have bought into the partial surrender idea, too; they like hanging on to their “mines” also. And there have been times I’ve begun believing the lie I so desperately wanted to believe – that because of grace, Jesus is fine with partial surrender.
Is grace – the amazing truth that God through Christ Jesus has forgiven all our sins – really a contributing factor to my spiritual mediocrity?
It is, only when I abuse it.
Grace abuse is holding God to his promises while using them as an excuse to break our promises to him. Most of us wouldn’t think of ourselves as actually doing that – but isn’t that what we’re really doing?
Christ’s sacrifice was meant to pay the price for that which I cannot do for myself – perfection and absolute surrender. Jesus expects all of us who claim his name to full-heartedly give our all to loving God, doing his will, and serving his kingdom on earth. When that’s not enough – and it isn’t, of course – yes, in the end he remains faithful, even if we aren’t. That’s the real purpose of grace – to do what I can’t. It should never be my excuse for what I won’t.
So the primary reason some of us aren’t making more progress on living more godly lives is that we’ve made peace with our consciences. We’ve come to what we think is a reasonable balance between sin and surrender – a compromise we can live with, and one we think God is okay with, too. We tell ourselves that Jesus died not just for our past sins but for our present future ones as well. We’ve been forgiven! And that’s a powerful incentive to settle for partial surrender. For good enough. Anything more just feels unnecessary – overkill.
At times, I am my own devil.
So, I could give you all kinds of ideas and Bible verses that you could and should use to resist Satan, but it’s not all that complicated. No matter the source, there is a war in each one of us between what we know we ought to do and what we want to do. Every day, I hear those dueling voices in my head or feel them in my heart and mind. So, while there is a cosmic war going on out there, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be won by each believer if we want it bad enough. Here is our reality;
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
No Devil is making either of us sin. He cannot make true believers sin. So, what is the real reason if you’ve settled for “good enough?”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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