When consulted for a particular symptom, some doctors would simply send you off with a lengthy prescription and a list of “dos and don’ts”. You have no clue what’s going on let alone why you have to adhere to the instructions. A good doctor however, would ask (annoying as it is at the time) zillions of questions. He then may refer you to a specialist or two, to get down to the root cause and attempt to eliminate the problem rather than simply treat the symptom alone and have it recur.
I saw the Bible as a book of “do’s and don’ts”! Well this was not because I had personally read and understood it, but based on what I heard from the Christians in my life at the time. I was a teenager dating a non Christian guy. “You shouldn’t go out with a non Christian” is what I heard every turn of the way. Pretty much every part of the Christian life sounded like a book of rules. In fact, I felt I just couldn’t measure up to the Bible. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite by reading the Bible knowing that I wasn’t capable of following through with it. As it is, I was migrating from one country to another. Latching on to this guy I was dating was hanging on to my comfort zone in one sense of the word.
Due to restrictions at home I couldn’t attend church. Joining the Christian fellowships at school and then at campus helped my spiritual life somewhat. However, my avoidance of the Bible didn’t allow me to get rooted in God. Eventually I fell back into my old faith despite having a burning desire to get to know Jesus intimately.
To cut a long story short, with much brokenness, a few decades and testimonies (and countries) later, I returned to my Heavenly Father like the prodigal son. However this time round I found a supportive church. My pastor reminded me how Jesus accepted a prostitute, how God touched the heart of a murderer… story after story, it was about grace. Truth was the other side to the coin, but not just one side alone.
As I started to grow in the Lord, my quiet time shifted from meditating on merely devotionals to a real hunger and thirst for God’s Word. I knew transformation was happening inwardly in a rather escalated fashion especially compared to all the former years. I realised I was right that I just can’t keep up to rules and regulations. Paul’s words were encouraging and something I could relate to,
“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, is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” – Romans 7:15-20. (Do read the rest of that chapter!)
I wonder whether the years I wasted away from God would have been spared if I had known about this passage when I was a teenager, if I had known about the battle of the sinful nature and the concept of grace – the essence of the message of the cross! How I regret all those years, missing out on the most wonderful relationship of all!
The more I grow in the Lord, the more I realise change doesn’t happen because of what we do, it’s not about works. God is “with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). God isn’t looking for those who have got it all together and walk about as if they have fallen out of heaven. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13) – He came for YOU and for ME!
God revives the spirit and heart of him who is contrite and lowly in spirit – it is not our works. The more we surrender to being led by the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit becomes increasingly evident. It’s the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the works of the flesh! (Read Galatians 5:16-24)
One thing I do know is the more I’m led by the Spirit, the more I long for the things of the Spirit…. and the lesser the things of the flesh appeals! In fact, I can’t dream of considering a non Christian as a partner…. I can’t dream of considering even any Christian as a partner… I only desire someone who can look in the same direction with the same value system which of course stems from the Bible!
Treating the symptoms doesn’t work… Change needs to take place from within to outward…
May our fleshly nature decrease as the spiritual nature increases…