Rescue from the body of death
by Glen Doss, Major –
“This new life is cool,” said the young man, grinning broadly. He was sharing how he had emerged victorious following a particularly arduous conflict with his old sinful nature. He had applied his new faith tools and won the victory.
Like many of us, he wavered for days in the course of his journey of surrender to God, lurching back and forth between the pull of the old life and the new. The subtle nature of temptation (selective recall) had him in its grips. Yet, truth finally hit him squarely between the eyes. Refusing to go out like a sucker, he clung to Jesus. Now, four months into his new life, the joy he experiences far outweighs the misery of the old. Relinquishment of control of his life to God is leading to increasing serenity, contentment, and power as he shares in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
The journey all Christians must travel begins with a single act of obedience: accepting God’s help to give up our sinful lifestyles. Repentant, we humbly embark upon a journey following God’s leading that ultimately brings us such contentment that we regret we did not begin it long ago. Yet, the discomfort we feel as we begin our sojourn into the abyss of our unconscious, seeking out the source of the compulsive thoughts that prompt us to sin, cause many of us to throw in the towel. Tragically, we choose to return to “a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body,” rather than brave the storm and win the prize.
However, there is no way around this step: there are no shortcuts in the journey to wholeness. We can choose to anesthetize ourselves with anti-depressants, ceaseless television shows, the cruel dramas of the gossip circles, or alcohol and drugs. Or we can confront the truth. When driving across country, if we hear a clunking sound coming from the car engine, there is only one thing to do—lift the hood and find the source of the clunking. Of course, a wise person would do preventative maintenance before starting the trip: he would do a thorough diagnostic on the car. Surely it is even more imperative to do PM on our spiritual engines to avoid breakdown on the journey through life.
Since we are living beings—not machines—probing into our spirit can cause discomfort, even pain. And since we don’t like pain, we are tempted to pull back and seek out shortcuts to spiritual health. Eventually, however, we find there are no shortcuts. But, thank God there is divine help available:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I, the Lord search the heart and examine the mind…’ ” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV). “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25 NIV).
Repentance, giving up our old lifestyles, can only be accomplished with divine help; failure will always follow if we go it alone. The Amplified Bible shows us the Greek word translated “believes in” in John 3:16 means to trust in, cling to and rely on Jesus. Clinging to our Lord the way a shipwreck survivor clings to a piece of driftwood for dear life, we stay afloat amidst the temptation to lose ourselves in our comfort zones—old familiar, fruitless ways of thinking. Yet the lure to revert to them is powerful, for our comfort zones are psychic fixtures—they are our whole identity. “That’s not me!” cries out the unchanged person when he is shown he must be obedient to God.
Deeply entrenched, many of these old comfort zones have roots in early childhood. Since they are blind spots, we do not even see them, yet we remain at their mercy. We experience the “clunking,” but do not see the source. However, we must uncover them if we are ever going to own them. And we must own them in order to get rid of them: no one can surrender something he does not own.
The locale of these comfort zones is sometimes the very “valley of the shadow of death.” Yet even there “I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NKJV). Yes, we can succeed in this journey of surrender with divine help!
If we lean on God to resist the pull of the sinful nature, that urge “to do what I do not want to do” (Romans 7:16 NIV), we can obey him. If we walk by what we have learned to be true—and do so consistently—then new patterns of thinking begin to take shape (1John 1:7). As we walk obediently, our love will grow. Divine truth will emerge in our hearts—old comfort zones are slowly but surely replaced with new, productive ones. The cry of the heart, “That’s not me!” no longer applies. A “new creation” has been formed (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).