Every person on earth has broken God’s law and are all under its consequence: death (the origin of evil). In His overwhelming love, God has sent His only Son into the world to provide a way out for you and me (the best news ever). It is the best news you could ever get, but many still struggle to receive it.
At the time that I am writing this, my wife and I are less than two weeks away from the due date of our first child. While we were talking about the idea of wanting to have a baby, one of the things that came up was epigenetics. It’s amazing how much your actions, routines and habits impact your descendants. Your eating habits for example, can even affect your grandchildren. Both positive as well as negative traits can be passed along. A strong example is alcoholism. When this runs in your family’s genes, you have a greater risk of the same condition than maybe your best friend has. There is one thing that we have all inherited from our great -repeat many times- grandfather, Adam. A disease if you will, has been passed along the line of humanity affecting all: a sinful nature.
After Adam and Eve sinned (= broke God’s commandments), Jesus came walking through the garden looking for them. The three used to hang out together in the garden to enjoy fellowship and creation, but this time it was different. They heard that Jesus was looking for them, but instead of running toward Him, they did something else, they hid themselves from Him. When Jesus called them out of the bushes, they had covered their bodies with leaves because they were naked. The feelings of joy, happiness and peace they experienced before were replaced with shame, guilt and fear.
The inner war
I do and don’t do
I think everyone has had at least one experience where they’ve done something, even though before they did it they knew they shouldn’t. Has this ever happened to you? Ever happened more than once? Well, you are not alone.
“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. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Romans 7:16-24 NIV
Doesn’t that hit the nail on the head? This Bible writer experienced the same problems we do. Doing what you don´t want to do and vice versa is the disease that has been passed down from generation to generation, starting with Adam and Eve. They had given up their sinless nature and replaced it with a sinful nature by sinning. Now you cannot pass along what you do not own yourself. The only thing therefore that they could pass along was their newly obtained sinful nature. The conflict between doing right or wrong raging in your heart today is its consequence.
Have you ever been around someone that made you feel bad about yourself? I don’t mean it in the way that they would insult or disrespect you, but simply because they did the right thing and you didn’t. There are people who seem to always do the right thing. These people are often referred to as the ‘holy’ people (usually called ‘holier than thou’). If you wouldn’t know any better, you would think that it is a compliment. It is not. At all. Though it should be a compliment, it is used as a term for disapproval or denigration. It’s those who always get good grades in school, are always paying attention and don’t run in the halls. Those who do not cut corners at work, come in on time and like their boss. Those who do not drink alcohol at parties and go home at a reasonable hour. The ‘holy’ people, always seem to do the right and responsible thing. Does it sound familiar? Maybe as you were reading this you are thinking of that person in your life and you start to feel agitated. Why is it that this behavior generally triggers irritation in people? Why are they being mocked and not praised?
Avoiding the elephant
Mocking those doing the right thing is more often than not a defense mechanism. The focus is being diverted to a scapegoat, so no attention will be brought on your own choices and behavior. In an effort to calm your conscience you try to talk down the right-doing of others and talk down the severity of your own wrong-doing. This is not something that always happens out loud, many go through this process in their head. Think for example about gossiping behind someone’s back. We all know it is wrong and that we would not like it to happen to us. But still a lot of people do it. Why? The severity of doing the wrong thing is made submissive to the feeling it gives you when you do it. When criticizing and pointing out all the shortcomings of another, you feel better about yourself. The pursuit of those type of pleasing feelings even leads you to the point where you actually enjoy doing the wrong thing. From relatively small things -eating a whole bar of chocolate in an hour- or bigger things -getting drunk and having a one-night stand. And often you end up repeating the same behavior later again and again. The attitude of loving the wrong thing is even being promoted for example through music and movies or by celebrities. “I feel something so right, doing the wrong thing. I feel something so wrong, doing the right thing.” Lyrics to Counting Stars – OneRepublic. There are thousands of other examples I could give where it is normalized to do the wrong thing because of the way it makes you feel.
The number one reason why people reject the concept of God has everything to do with the above (John 3:19-21). It is often not a well-balanced and informed decision based on rational and intellectual research, but a decision based on feelings and denial. Why? Because if you find out that God is real, right and wrong would no longer be measured by your own interpretation, but it would be defined for you. Accepting this makes you accountable, you cannot continue simply chasing feelings any longer. Your defense strategy collapses and your own actions are exposed to a higher power. The discovery of God would require changes in your life that you desperately want to avoid. Are you familiar with the expression ‘the elephant in the room’? It means: a major problem or controversial issue which is obviously present but is avoided as a subject for discussion. As people love doing wrong -small and big- and know that they have done it in the past, they think that life would be easier without an external moral standard. So just like Adam and Eve tried to hide from God directly after they had sinned, many try to hide from God today. Ignoring the elephant in the room.
Settling for a cheap knock-off
“You won´t die, you´ll have a better life doing it your own way, not God’s way”. The devil managed to sell this idea to Adam and Eve, and pretty much the whole world today has bought it too. Building on the sinful nature, the devil has made wrong feel right and right wrong. As people live so much in the present day, they are always looking for things that can immediately make them feel good. I believe that more people have problems with the type of life they think they’d have if God is real, rather than His existence. Many fear that believing in God would result in a boring life that makes them miss out on ‘the real’ life and all the good feelings. Feeling good is functioning like a drug to most people, it’s addicting and leaves them craving more, even if the feeling lasts no longer than a short while.
I think that almost everyone is familiar with ‘knock-off’ products that resemble products of larger expensive brands. Companies fabricate products that look very similar to the product of the expensive brand but sell them very cheap instead. The similarities are striking and often you might not even be able to identify which one is the real thing when comparing them. The cheap knock-off products are often very popular as not many people are willing to pay the full price for the real thing, or are simply tricked into believing it is the real thing. It is exactly these two reasons that the devil uses to sell you his philosophy. There is a problem with these kinds of products though; it might hold up for a little while, but it will not take long before it falls apart. Empty promises cannot hold a product together that is poorly constructed and built with cheap materials. No salesman would pitch you their knock-off product and tell you the honest story and show you all the bad aspects of it. Of course, the salesman would sell the product by having you focus on the few superficial elements that make the product look desirable. The devil is selling a life that might seem to hold you up for a little while, makes you feel great for a little while, but soon you discover that it comes tumbling down and you are off worse than when you started. Many times I have heard drunken stories where happiness is pursued, but violence, hangovers, misbehavior, one-night stands are found instead. Many pursue money, fame and power and think this will make them happy. If it would, how come there are hundreds or thousands of stories about people who have all those things and become addicts or commit suicide? The devil cannot give you the real thing, as he is not the one who designed you. Only the creator knows your design inside out, only He knows what you can endure and how you can get the most out of yourself, your life, your purpose.
The real story
In Western countries, God is taken more and more out of the picture. At the same time the world fills up with fear, suicide numbers are rapidly increasing, murder, crime, rape, depression, anger, wars, selfishness, drugs, broken marriages, sexual immorality, the list goes on and on. Throughout history the times where God has been disregarded, have been the darkest times for humanity. That is what happens when people act on the devil’s philosophy of ‘do what thou wilt’. Yet somehow, defying all logic, it is the same people that rebel against God, who, the second something goes wrong, blame God. O how tragic, the distorted picture of God that people have come to believe! If only people could discover what life with God truly is like.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV
According to the reasoning of the world, you are simply an insignificant result of a giant accident in the universe; no purpose, no future, no value, no meaning. The Bible however teaches that you are marvelously designed, so valuable that He came to die therefore you don’t have to. You are called to be a walking reflection of God´s own character and the creator of the universe, the One who made everything, wants to give you the best life possible on earth and wants to be with you for eternity. These few statements don´t even begin to describe all the mind-blowing promises God has for those walking with Him.
Many people in the world are crushed by the stress and worries of the daily life and try to escape them using all kinds of different destructive methods like alcohol and drugs. But none of them escape anything, they only avoid their problems for a little while. What so many are desperately looking for, is something that Jesus freely gives to anyone coming to Him.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34 NIV
How much I wish I could help you see through the lie of the devil, because you will never find anything like a life with God. It is the best thing that could ever happen to you. Together with God you can overcome fear (Psalm 27:1), stress (1 Peter 5:7), temptations (James 4:7), addictions (Psalm 50:15), oppression (Isaiah 58:6), insecurity (1 Samuel 16:7), anxiety (Philippians 4:6), heartache (Psalm 34:18), anger (Galatians 5:22-23), sickness (Luke 4:18), depression (Isaiah 41:10), burn-out (Isaiah 40:31) and I could go on.
A life transformation
There was a man named Saul who lived about two thousand years ago. He was a very educated man and a zealous Jew. He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, at all. Rather, he persecuted and was involved in the killings of those who did believe in Jesus. One day -long story short-, Jesus appeared to Saul and confronted him and told him that he was doing the wrong thing. Saul -got his name changed to Paul- believed Jesus and he became the greatest missionary of his day, preaching that Jesus was the Son of God. Now why am I telling you the story of this man? Because this is the same man I referred to earlier who was struggling with doing the right thing. This man ended up writing the majority of the New Testament.
Like a sugar rush the devil makes you feel great when you choose his way, but give it a little time and it comes crashing down hard, leaving you in a worse state than you were in at the beginning. God offers you a deeper, enduring purpose and life experience. Jesus does not only want to help you overcome struggles in life, He has much more for you. He wants to take you on an adventure, where you will find true joy, peace, excitement, purpose, value, meaning, hope and love. But it takes a transformation of the heart to see and understand it. Saul experienced the same issues as you do, the effects of the sinful nature. But then he met Jesus, trusted what Jesus said and then had his life transformed. Only after the transformation could he see the true beauty and treasures of the life with Jesus as savior and Lord. Not all characteristics of the life with Jesus might look appealing to you right now as they are so opposite to the culture we live in and the lifestyle you have. It’s up to you to decide if you trust Jesus to find out for yourself. Throughout the years many followers of Jesus have been persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus: burned at the stake, decapitated, even crucified upside down. They endured it and did not give up their faith, because they had the real thing which is worth dying for.
The whole conflict between good and evil arose based on the accusation of the devil that God’s way would not be the best way. Now that we have seen the results of that accusation and the sacrifice Jesus made to save you, it is evident that God’s way is pure and selfless love. Jesus wants you to turn away from sin and to walk in the way that you were meant to walk in. The life that Jesus wants for you is so much better for you than you can even imagine. The problem is that it will most likely not look like the life you are having now. After Jesus went to heaven to work as our high priest, He sent the Holy Spirit to the world. The Holy Spirit helps you from within to live a life without sin and open your life up to receive the abundance of blessings that God has for you. Allowing the Holy Spirit to work on your heart, will open your eyes and understanding to the beauty of living His way. It is completely up to you whether you want to live the cheap knock-off version of life with its eventual downfall or the real life designed and branded by your creator specifically for you.