The War Within
For years, I found myself fighting a war that I could not win. I was captive, unable to change what I knew needed changing. If I was a Christian, why couldn’t I conquer the sin in my life? Salvation wasn’t a question. I knew Jesus had saved me from my sin but why couldn’t He also give me victory over it daily? I felt anything but “free”.
These feelings came back vividly when I was reading through Galatians. It reminded me of how I felt oppressed and helpless back then.
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:17 NIV
The feelings of utter frustration were especially keen as a young mother. I wanted more than anything to be the picture of the fruit of the Spirit ( love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) to my sweet children. They deserved a mother who was all of these things but it seemed that no matter how hard I tried and prayed, I always felt lacking at the end of each day. I would lay my head on my pillow thinking that maybe tomorrow I would be better.
Thankfully, there came a turning point.
Fighting the Right Battle
At the time, I had 3 kids 4 years of age and younger. Because I was a “night person”, I chose to have time in God’s Word after the kids went to bed. The problem was that I was getting what I needed but after the battles were already lost!By having my time in God's Word at night, I was getting what I needed but only after the battles were already lost! Click To Tweet
God urged me to get up before the kids awoke so I could fill up with Him before anyone else started taking from me. He convicted me that I was fighting the wrong battle. All along, I had been fighting against my sinful behaviors like losing my temper or allowing a frustrated tone of voice as I disciplined my children. He showed me that I needed to stop fighting against what I didn’t want and start fighting for what I did want. God drove home the point that the way this would be achieved was by spending time with Christ for the right reason- to know Him and enjoy Him.
Nobody likes being used, not even God. So instead of spending time with Jesus in order to fuel my perfectionism goals, I needed to seek Him with a pure heart. Holiness would be a by-product of spending time with Him but it should not be my primary motive. Freedom from besetting sin would come, not as a primary result of reading my Bible but as a secondary one. Knowing and loving the Lord should be the priority and that was a battle worth fighting for daily.
It really allowed me to cast off the pressure to change and just focus on enjoying the Lord.
The Simplistic Plan
At 53, I am living in the freedom of Christ as never before. Until recently, I had no idea the extent of such freedom that Jesus offered in these words in Luke 4:18. I guess I thought He was setting captives free from literal prisons.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
What I learned was that He came to set us free from the penalty of our sin but also the oppression of it. He does not expect us to go to the Word in order to bear the burden of change for ourselves. Just as He saved us from our sin, He will also sanctify us. It is His work alone. That is why I used to be so frustrated with my lack of progress. I was trying to do it in my own strength.
I have heard it said that as we go to the Word, the Word goes through us. This verse in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 echoes that truth.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
This is indeed what has brought me freedom from my selfish ways. Through the years as a young mother to when my children were teenagers to now as they are in their twenties, I see how God has changed me from within and brought about the freedom I had only read about. The moments I spend with Him, the more I am transformed through His Word and Spirit. I get to have “Jesus” as my goal daily and leave the rest for Him to work out in and through me. He is what I am to follow hard after, not the transformation He offers me. Having the right priorities matter.Thank God that the battle plan is a simple one! Jesus is our daily goal, not producing the spiritual fruit that comes as a by-product of time with Him. He is our Savior AND our Sanctifier! Click To Tweet
It is truly the story of redemption, how Jesus becomes our rescue story over and over in our lives. I love how this song conveys this truth beautifully.
The Life of Freedom
Now that I am older, I see how our sanctification gets better and better because it ultimately grants us freedom. It is a wonderfully progressive work in us. There’s no end to it this side of heaven!
It moves from helping us with our own sinful habits to helping us with our responses to the sinful habits of others. Since we are all in relationships with one another, how one person behaves can have far-reaching consequences. It isn’t enough that we seek to love others initially but we also have to be loving in our responses to their sinful patterns toward us. It is amazing how God can change us on the inside so that what used to enrage us no longer does so. We can offer what the Spirit wants of us no matter what.
Freedom is too wonderful to miss out on and it is worth every ounce of our cooperation with God.
If you find yourself frustrated over your lack of progress regarding the fruit of the Spirit and how it wars against your flesh, consider your time with God. Are you spending time in His Word and if so, are you doing it for the right reason? Are you obeying what you learn? Are you being persistent in your willingness to die to self and yield to God? Are you confessing your sin to God as He convicts you and are you repenting of it?
The more we spend time with Jesus, the more we begin to reflect Him because we begin to perceive life as He does. We are able to pull back from frustrating circumstances or people and process it differently which allows us to respond differently. That, my friends, is where the freedom begins to flourish.
Do you hear the prison door unlocking? The captives are FREE and that means YOU!