Well, after finally finishing the rundowns of each day of my one week holiday, one thing I haven't been doing much through all that is really sit back and reflect on other things I was thinking of throughout the week. One thing I noticed is that throughout my week, I completely pushed aside doing my regular quiet time with my big Daddy a.k.a. God. Usually I am quite regular with reading a short chapter of some book in my Bible, once at night and once in the morning, but recently even before my holiday, I was getting less regular and more lazy. And during my holiday, I completely threw all that out the window, barely touching my Bible and only praying to God when I needed Him to help me kayak back to shore quickly, or keep the bus from leaving without me, or make sure my parachute opened well. And I'm not mentioning this to kick myself for being less 'spiritual' than I should be. It just made me think about how amazingly easy it is for me to be so into reading my Bible and be fascinated by the fresh things God reveals to me through it everytime I read it, and then the next day, I completely forget what a wonderful book it is and just don't want to take a few minutes to read it. And my prayer life is even more pathetic than my Bible reading time , coz' usually, even though I know I'd have plenty to talk to God about if I just sit down and thought about it, I'm just too lazy most of the time and I don't really wanna talk to Him. I'm too lazy to spend time with God. The big guy whom I know can love me better than any other person in the universe. The big guy who loved me enough to give His son to die a pretty nasty death to save my unworthy ass. I'm too lazy to spend time with Him. It's kinda like I'm saying to Him, "Yeah God, I really appreciate and believe in the whole Jesus dying for my sins and all, but I still wanna live life my own way, so I'm just not gonna bother talking to You all that much or reading that big book of Yours. But would still like to be able to ask You for some favours every now and then, cool?". And He's always answered my prayers and blessed me with with so many things that I want. Yet I continue to take Him for granted, especially since I know He'll always forgive me. And because I haven't been praying much or Bible-studying much, my character has barely changed for the better, and I really don't think anybody sees any overwhelming love outpouring from me like it's supposed to for Christians.
To the nonbeliever's point of view, my unchanging character, in light of scriptures' claims that anyone who truly believes will become a 'new creation', is just evidence that the Bible is full of hogwash. I mean, it doesn't seem as though being a believer for most of my life has made me much of a 'new creation' at all. I'm not full of love for everybody around me. I'm not bright and sunny and joyful like some supposedly completely transformed Christians are (good on them, by the way). I still get depressed. A lot. I still get very annoyed by people who ask me silly and redundant questions all the time. I still swear some colourful things, although usually not in public. It seems as though I'm still just like anybody else, instead of becoming more like Jesus. And after repeatedly praying that God will help me to change so that I can become more loving and patient and all the other nice things Christians are supposed to be, but never really seeing any change in myself, at some point I have to ask myself...If what the Bible says is true, why am I not changing much for the better even though I keep praying about it and I am a believer? Could this mean that I've been putting my faith in a lie all along, and there really isn't any all powerful big guy who can miraculously turn my personality around as soon as I fall to my knees and yell "My life is Yours, Jesus! Take me, mold me, use me, and all those other things in that song!!!"
Well, I have read enough to be pretty sure there's plenty of evidence to support that what the Bible says is true, which I won't go into coz' that would make this the longest blog entry on the planet. So I know my faith is based on pretty good stuff, although I suppose any non-believers reading this would argue otherwise. But for simplicity's sake that the Bible is completely true in its teachings, which I believe it is. Which means there would be nothing wrong with what the Bible teaches about believers being changed and becoming 'new creations'. So what exactly is wrong here?
One thing I've realized in all my years as a Christian is that most people, both believers and non-believers, take certain portions of scripture at face value, without considering it in light of other parts of scripture. As such, they jump to conclusions about what the Bible is saying just from reading one short sentence, and use that to defend their faith or refute the Bible. Many examples I can give, but let's focus on 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!". Most people reading that for the first time, me included, would assume it means as soon as you believe in Jesus, you'll be completely transformed into a different, new improved person. Unfortunately, that obviously isn't always the case. Some people do go through that wonderful miraculous change in personality almost immediately. But others, like me, take little longer. Is that really a surprise? Well, for one thing, looking at that verse, it didn't say "...he is immediately a new creation". It doesn't say, "...he is a new perfect creation". My point being that the whole becoming a new creation business probably does take a while, and being a new person doesn't mean we're perfect. Christians everywhere, no matter how changed for the better they become, will always screw up and do naughty things that deserve a spanking from God.
Another thing people might assume when reading that verse is that this change to a new creation will be due to some supernatural touch from God, or something like that. Like as soon as anyone seriously decides they wanna believe in Jesus, WHAMMO! God gives them a big invisible zap from the sky and they are completely changed! And for a long time, I thought that's what's should've been happening to me. I thought, hey, all I have to do is pray and keep da faith and that change in me will happen sooner or later. I will miraculously learn to hate doing things that are bad and sinful, and do all the good stuff instead. But it didn't happen. Coz' I forgot one tiny little detail.
God created people to have free will, which means He gave us the ability to make choices, both right or wrong. Without such free will, Adam and Eve wouldn't have had the ability to choose to do the wrong thing and eat that apple. But they did have free will, so they chose to eat the apple, thereby officially screwing up the entire human race by introducing sin into the world. The point of that is that I, like every other human being, have the same free will, and thanks to good ol' Adam and Eve, am also a sinner. Which means I have the ability to choose whether I want to do sinful things or not. And I will always have that ability to make that choice because even though God can take away my ability to choose to do wrong things, He won't. Coz' if He takes away that freedom to choose, I'd have no choice but to do only things that He finds pleasing. But doing such things would not be coming from my heart, since I have no ability to choose the wrong things! In essence, my obedience to God would not be real...it would be Him using His power to make me do it. And since God loves us, He can't use His power to overrule our choice. As the Sting song goes, "If you love someone, set them free". He loves us, and therefore He lets us be free to make our own choices.
And because He loves us, naturally He would want us to love Him in return, and show our love for Him by obeying Him. Which means I would have to choose to obey his commands...to choose to follow everything He says in the Bible...to choose to do whatever He puts in my heart when I pray to Him. It's not as simple as praying for a change in my character and than WHAMMO, it happens right there and then. He would help me along a lot. But a change in me still requires a deal of effort on my part. I have to choose to change. Only then can I show that I truly love God...coz' it's a heckuva lot more difficult to make that personal effort to change myself. So if I truly do love Him, I will not only want to change myself for Him, but make those difficult choices to do so.
Thing is, at the moment, I'm not making those difficult choices. Obviously, it's because I find them too darn difficult. I still want to do things my own way instead of obeying Him all the time. I still love to do all those naughty sinful things. Which has also made me wonder...does the fact that I still love to sin mean that I don't love God? For a long time, I thought the reason why I continue to disobey Him, even though I desire to follow His ways, is because deep down inside of me, I don't really love God and I just don't wanna admit it to myself. I was still thinking that up until last night, as I was writing this and I came across a section of my Bible that completely blew my mind away. So mind blowing that I just have to put the whole chunk of passage down...
Romans 7:15-25 - 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. I know 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. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, 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: When 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 the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Aye carumba! It's not just me who went through such issues with my spiritual walk, that dude who wrote Romans went through exactly the same thing! And now I know'...it's not because I don't love God that I disobey him'...it's because of my own sinful nature, keeping me from doing what I know I should be doing. I have both love for God, and love for sin, both continuously battling within me. No wonder it's not as easy to make the right choices for God as I thought it would be.
Does that give me an excuse to keep on living the way I live - choosing to not read my Bible, not pray and not follow God's commands - and just blame my disobedience on my 'sinful nature'? Of course not. But at least I've come to understand a bit more about why I do the things I do and why I constantly fail. It's discouraging to constantly try to obey God yet always fail, and to beat myself up for it is something that dastardly devil wants me to do. This helps me understand that there is no need to beat myself up for failing. I will always fail. I will always sin. I will always disobey God. But that doesn't mean I should give up trying. And now I suppose what it meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17 by 'new creation' is not someone who is miraculously changed for the better straight away after believing in Jesus, but someone who is changed in a way that they will continually have that desire to obey God. They won't be perfect, but they will keep trying. :)
Geez, I just love it when God shows me something fresh from the Bible that whacks me straight in the face!