Why do I choose wrong when I know what's right?

(Russell Mashburn) #1

In hard times I know what I should do, but I always try fixing it myself. Food, alcohol, sleeping, etc. The Lord has interveined in my life on multiple occasions so why am I still so quick to try saving myself? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

(Paul Thoroughgood) #2

HI Russell
This is not just a struggle for you, it is a struggle for all believers. I see it this way, when we accept Christ and are born again our old self does not completely die. He now has some competition and a struggle for control begins between our old self and our new self. It is a daily task to die to self (our old self). One of my early pastors used to say we are “human becomings”, on a journey to become “human beings”.
As I am sure you know there are plenty of examples in the Bible of apostles choosing the wrong way, Peter denying Jesus after his arrest just one such example.
An aspect of this I find hard and you are possibly referring to, is when do I trust Jesus and when do I use the initiative and problem solving skills he has given me to “fix it myself”.
I encourage you to keep up the journey “running the race set before us”.

On another note I see you are a Doc at the Wellness Institute my wife recently purchased a book called Unstoppable by Ben Angel and I just started reading it. Be interested in you view of it if you have read it.

(Russell Mashburn) #3

Thanks for the reply Paul. That’s good information to think about. I appreciate it.

I haven’t read the book, but it seems interesting.

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(SeanO) #4

@Russmash1 If we read how the apostle Paul describes his own process of sanctification, it does not sound at all like he is just letting God do it. It certainly appears that Paul, while he certainly is relying on God’s power, is himself exerting a great deal of effort - literally forcing his own body into submission like an athlete who trains daily for hours on end.

1 Cor 9:24-27 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Here are a few additional thoughts. May God grant you wisdom and strength :slight_smile:

  • when we first accept Jesus we are like new baby Christians, and we must grow up and mature in both knowledge of God and self-control
  • like Daniel, we have to anticipate temptation and decide what we will do before we find ourselves in that situation. It is very hard to make the right decision in the middle of temptation. If it’s overeating, we need to decide how many plates or what type of food before entering a restaurant and stick to it (and if we know we struggle, maybe avoid buffets until we grow in self-control…).
  • as @pt8662 said, there is a battle between the sinful desires of our flesh and the Spirit - so we must walk in the Spirit in order to have victory over the flesh (Galatians 5/Romans 8). We need to be in prayer and in the Word and have our eyes fixed on Christ rather than on things that will lead us back into temptation.
  • self-understanding is critical to overcoming sin. Sometimes we do not really understand why we continue falling. We need to identify the lies that are leading us astray, the truths that counteract them and then practice living those out. Sometime are brains have literally been warped by sinful habits and then it can take time to rewire those pathways.
(Russell Mashburn) #5

Thanks for the reply Sean. I’ll work on being more disciplined. Great information.

I pray for God to use me for his will. I want to be available and not compromised. I know there’s a spiritual battle of good and evil going on until the end. I’ve had a very real experience on being compromised and God stepped in and said that’s enough. He loves us.

(SeanO) #6

@Russmash1 Amen! Yes, His love endures forever! Blessings in the battle :slight_smile:

(Kathleen) #7

Hi, guys! I’ve often thought through the same question, @Russmash1, but I am curious what you meant by this…

Are you referring to giving into coping mechanisms when you’re in tight spots rather than going to God or others? To rephrase it using a metaphor: why do we choose to self-medicate rather than to go to the doctor?

(Russell Mashburn) #8

I know there’s situations that only our Lord can help, but I try fixing it myself. Maybe it’s our need to feel in control of our lives. It’s beautiful when he gets our attention and answers our burden. I feel it shows he’s all powerful, loves us, and brings us closer to him. Through Christ anything is possible.

(Russell Mashburn) #9

I hope that answers your question Kathleen. Thanks for asking.

(Stephen Wuest) #10

This question gets into free will, and the difference between the mind and the body, and the old nature and the new nature. I’m not sure that it’s a good thing to try to simplify the reality of our struggle.

NIV Romans 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 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.

NIV Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

The problem is made worse when people confuse becoming a Christian, with the full process of lifelong Christian growth, and the day-by-day struggle to live as someone who is freed from the slavery of sin, instead of reverting to living according to our old nature or cruder physical impulses.

Orthodox Christianity holds that our slavery to sin is broken when we convert/enter the people of God/enter the new covenant. There is powerful support in the New Testament that the kind providence of God supplies us with choices during temptations, so that we always have a righteous choice that we could have made. But there is also advice from John that, although we could have lived sinlessly, we still can fail to live out our potential, and sin. And our free will is right in the middle of this ongoing struggle to live out perfect righteousness.

The Romans passage (above) is one of the passages that different denomination debate (whether it is dealing with a one-time conversion, or whether it is talking about an ongoing struggle to “put on the new nature” and “put off the old nature.” Unfortunately, Paul’s language of “spiritual” versus the body, and the old nature versus the new nature, and the concept of not being able to earn our perfection by keeping law, are mixed together. Paul is making a number of points, at the same time. And different groups focus on a single point he is making, and use these verses as support for a single point.

A point that the New Testament writers would accept as normal, but that we would not intuitively accept, is that the mind lives on the spiritual nature, and not on the physical nature. All the ancient philosophers accepted this. And we can argue that Paul accepts this, as he commands us to get a renewed mind, but never commands us to get a renewed body. Paul sees the physical body as not being redeemed, until the (future) resurrection of the body. But Paul uses a lot of language dealing with the radical regeneration from the Holy Spirit, that goes on throughout our earthly lives. For Paul, we are to get a renewed mind, then make the right choices and enforce them on a body that is not renewed (and still gives us trouble, leading us with sinful urges in the wrong direction).

It is clear from Paul’s language, that we can still choose to live according to “the flesh.” But for Paul, this means bypassing the mind (and the conscience, and moral considerations), and so living like a merely physical animal. It’s not that the physical body is inherently evil, but that living without using our mind/moral consciousness is evil.

I think that the Romans passage deals with this dual state: I KNOW what I should be doing, in my renewed mind. But my physical emotions and passions are not redeemed, and they struggle against “me.”

I think that this much more complicated view of spirit and body, is what the first century language is talking about. And it presents a real, ongoing struggle to live out the righteous acts that God planned for each of us to live out (Ephesians). We are still living in a fallen world, and our physical body is not the eternal, redeemed body that we will receive at the resurrection of the body.

Some theologians like to focus on the role of “law” and don’t like to see Paul’s use of the spirit/body that reflects a real ongoing struggle. (James also reflects this spirit/body duality in chapter 2, when he commands that the spirit (the intellectual choice of faith) is dead without the body (living out the physical acts of faith). I think that a lot of moderns are missing the richness of the first century language in the New Testament.

Even before we accept the radical benefits of the new covenant, we have a conscience that tells us that what we are doing is wrong. But when we become a child of God, the radical regenerating power of the Holy Spirit breaks the slavery to sin, and makes a radically righteous form of life (really) possible. I don’t see the Romans passage as dealing uniquely with Christians, until you get to the end. All who are “in Christ” have a radically new potential. But the core struggle doesn’t automatically end.

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(Kenny) #11

Hi @Russmash1, thanks for being so honest and real about the situation you are in. As the others have mentioned, it is actually a very common issue amongst Christians, myself included. So there is no need to beat yourself up over it.

In the bible the Apostle Paul also shared that he had the same issues as you:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, cit is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7-15-20)

So be encouraged that you are not alone in this.


<< Actions Over Relationship >>

I do feel that the some aspects of the Christian faith has evolved to be more focused on “what you have to do” rather than the relationship between us and God. It’s often either “you did / did not do this”, or “you did not do this enough”. It may sometimes become very draining because you feel that you aren’t able to hold it altogether.

However, I do believe that it is not intended to be this way.

Some time ago, in my cell group meeting, someone brought up an interesting question:

When we are sick, we know to pray for healing / take communion, etc. When we have a problem, we know to seek God for inspiration for a solution, or pray that He takes care of it. But we also know that the Christian walk is not formulae based (because God did healings in many different ways for the same problem). So how will we know if it has become a formula to us or not?

Well known speakers like Darlene Zschech or Steven Furtick will probably share about not becoming too “familiar” or base our walk on “feelings”. So where is the line drawn between formula or not?

The conclusion that the cell group came to was that the difference between praying as a formula or not lies in the foundation of relationship. Take an example of you and your parents in the context of making a weekend breakfast for them. You can either:

  • make the breakfast for them because you have to
  • make the breakfast for them because you want to

The action itself is the same, but the spirit foundation in which it is built on hinges heavily on relationship. If you have a good relationship with them, you will want to, whereas if the relationship is bad, you will feel that it is more of an obligation.


<< Starting Somewhere >>

This is not to say that your intent to seek the Lord for your situation is bad, but rather, to shift the focus from what you must do, and more towards just enjoy spending time with the Lord during your quiet time. Quiet times may differ from individual to individual (some prefer reading the Word, some prefer worshipping, some prefer listening to a sermon / reading a Christian book).

In addition, focus on taking things one step at a time rather than looking for a major shift. (e.g. You can start off with just involving God in the small things, like chatting with Him about how your day is gonna be at the start of the day. Then gradually converse with Him more on the other things.) I do believe that many of such involvement starts small, rather than a big revelation, wham-bam kind of switch.

Know that you already “know what to do” because the Holy Spirit is in you teaching you all things, and the only reason why you “try to fix yourself” is because our flesh is still a fallen vessel after all. After all, in that same example of a relationship with your parents, you may sometimes make breakfast for them, but there will be times you don’t as well. Either way, it is fine, because it is based on a relationship. :slight_smile: Once your positioning is right (e.g. you are your parent’s son, or you are the child of God), naturally the actions taken will gradually be aligned to what is required of for that position.

(Russell Mashburn) #12

Thanks for the reply Stephen. That’s very good information for me to learn from.

It makes sense. We’re born into sin and through Christ we’re saved.

We all have the holy Spirit dwelling in us. Do we embrace it and pray to be receptive to our gift or like some… do we ignore it and numb ourselves to it. We embrace it and pray for those who haven’t to open their heart to their Lord.

(Russell Mashburn) #13

Thank you Kenny. Excellent insight and very appreciated.

The part where you mentioned making breakfast for your parents really caught my eye. It’s the same action, but from the heart it’s different. Want to vs. obligation to. Our relationship with the Lord is because he loves us and we should want to do his will and overcome our sin nature.

(Kenny) #14

Yes that is right. :slight_smile:

The “want to” comes naturally when you have a good relationship with the Lord. When you have been so filled with His love and goodness, you cannot help but “want to” give back to Him. The actions are but the fruit of our receiving.

As opposed to the opposite, which is the focus on what you “have to” do. You will never be able to get the heart to change if you approach from this angle.

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(Russell Mashburn) #15

It’s interesting when we approach difficult situations in life with the holy Spirit. It’s usually the opposite of our sin natures reaction. When pushed naturally we want to push back, but in the Lords divine ways he shows to return with love.

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