Let Yes be Yes and No be No

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Recently I had the opportunity again to remember the value of boundaries. Setting limits for others in your life is not only acceptable, it is important. If you don’t, you will wish you had.

But you should expect those boundaries to be tested. This is especially true if you have allowed something in the past that you no longer want to allow. People will whine, bargain, accuse, or argue to get you to change your mind. Users and narcissists will simply ignore your boundaries and do what they want.

Yet, you will know that you have set the boundary even when it is disrespected. At least you will have tried. You may not be able to control the actions of others, but you can control the permission you give.

You will have a lot more difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries if your yes isn’t really yes and your no isn’t really no.

Users look for people who try to be nice. They seek those who are able to be compromised. If you can’t say no, someone will use you. You will be hurt and abused, and that other person will get what he or she wants. You have to learn to mean what you say.

And that means that you have to say what you mean. If you want to say no, don’t say maybe or someday or give any sort of opening. Users will hear only your opening and seek to stretch it to get what they want. Even friends can be confused when you don’t say no simply and clearly.

I accept that this is a problem for me. I don’t want to hurt or disappoint people. I tend to give in rather than face conflict. So, I need to remind myself that others will use that fact to get something from me that I don’t want to give. When I am not okay with that, it is at least partly my own fault.

In other words, when I feel that I should say no, I should say it and stick with it. I can pray for guidance, then do what I think is right. If that means I have to say no to someone or yes to something, then I should feel free and confident to do that. Otherwise, I may communicate the wrong thing, and others may take advantage of my apparently weak commitment to my position.

Now, as I said, narcissists and abusers will use your reluctance to say a firm yes or no as an excuse to ignore your desires. But friends may do the same thing. When you tell a friend something bluntly, he or she might not be used to that frankness. But without it, he or she might misunderstand. And misunderstandings hurt on both sides.

So, when you want to say no, say it. When you want to say yes, say it. Don’t redecorate your words so they sound nicer because you will probably make them weaker.

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What does it mean to find favor with God?

It’s Monday Grace!

I remember the teacher telling us about Noah and why Noah found grace (favor) with God. The teacher said that it was because Noah was “a good and perfect man.” And Genesis 6:9 says something very much like that:

This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9

The verse just prior to this says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

So, there it is, said the teacher. Noah found grace because he was already good and perfect. God gives favor (grace) to those who are good enough.

And, of course, we were all supposed to dedicate ourselves to becoming good enough to gain favor with God.

This idea of favor with God became an escape clause for those who wanted to teach performance spirituality. They knew that salvation came to those who called out to Jesus and trusted in Him. They knew that no one could be saved by works. So they said, Yes, that person is saved, but won’t find God’s favor. If you want God to like you, you had better act right.

Now, this had many extensions. How could you tell if someone had the favor of God? If good things came to them, of course. The wealthy, the healthy, the successful in business and life, must be in god’s favor. Never mind that many unbelievers had money and good health and even good families. Christians who wanted these things had to manage their behavior, and Christians who had these things were obviously doing things right.

The formula was therefore simple: doing good things made God like you.

But I studied the story of Noah for myself. What I found told a different story. There was no “because” between verses 8 and 9 in genesis 6. The truth was that Noah found favor and was a good man. Not because.

In fact, if you look at the previous chapter, you find that Noah was a promised deliverer for his people before he was born. How did Noah find favor before he even had a chance to do enough good things? No, God chose Noah by His grace, and, by God’s grace, Noah was a good man. The cause was God’s choice, the favor (grace) that God gave freely. The result was Noah’s good life.

God grants favor to His people freely. He calls us to Himself and anyone who comes to Him finds favor. This is grace. This is God initiating and choosing and calling and saving and blessing. To suggest that a believer could be out of God’s favor is nonsense and manipulation.

If God’s favor comes by works (or good behavior) then it is not a gift at all, but a wage for a work. That’s what Paul teaches.

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:6

The whole point of grace (favor) is that the Giver gives and the receiver receives. If the receiver gives in order to receive and the Giver receives in order to give, that is no longer grace, according to Paul. Those who teach otherwise do not understand grace.

So, are you in God’s favor? Of course you are! He loves you. He loves you the same: yesterday, today, and forever. God may not like the things you do to yourself and others. He may not want you to do the things you do. But He has given you His grace in Jesus. He has already shown you His favor.


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Never Give 100%

It’s Narcissist Friday!

What do you have left when you have given it all? What is left for you? How will you rebuild?

There are people who would joyfully take everything you have and leave you with nothing. They think they have the right to do this. They don’t see you as a person, and they simply don’t care.

It might be a coach. It might be a boss. It might be a politician. It might be a pastor or a community worker. It might be a spouse or a parent. To them, you are something to be used and discarded. They have goals and dreams and battles. They need what you bring. They need it all.

When the boss says you should stay late without extra pay because you are an important part of the team and he needs people who give 100%, you are being used. When the politician asks you to spend your energy and time and money to support his cause, you are being used. These people want to look good, and they are quite willing to try at your expense.

So, I caution you: never give 100% to anyone or anything—other than Jesus. And you know that I mean Him personally, not the church or the pastor or the important cause. Do what He calls you to do, but beware those who claim to call you in His name. Yes, there are users in the church.

Otherwise, always reserve something for yourself. It isn’t just that you deserve it. It’s that you need to hold something in reserve, something that will help you when the users walk away. If your work takes it all, what is your life? They can find another employee, but what is left for you?

Keep your real life, the one that holds your secrets and brings you joy, separate from those who want everything. Even if that is a spouse. Have a quiet place in your heart, in your day, and in your space. Have something that is just yours.

What does this look like in practice? Don’t always go home exhausted. Save a little energy so you can enjoy the rest of the day, And make sure there is a “rest of the day.” Don’t spend your life at work. Have a hobby or make some friends or cultivate a calming and building routine. Take walks, spend a little money on yourself, rest.

There is only one reason you can feel free to give 100% to Jesus. That’s because He gives it back to you. It all comes from Him. Your time with Him builds you and restores you. He blesses you with His presence, and you are filled and rested. No one else can give what He can. He said that His burden was easy and light. If you feel otherwise, you are probably not giving your offering to Him. Someone or something else is taking it.

So, if you feel like someone is expecting 100% from you, willing to leave you with nothing, walk away. Either that or shake your head and hold something back for yourself.

You are worth protecting and maintaining. You have a great deal to offer the people around you, but only if you don’t give any of them 100%.


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What does it mean to be holy?

It’s Monday Grace!

Holiness must be the concept most misunderstood and misapplied in the church. For generations, preachers have called their people to holiness, to become holy by living good lives. Yet, if you ask most church people if they are holy, they claim that they are not but are trying. To strive to be holy, for some, is the work of the Christian life.

That’s putting the cart before the horse. That image of things in the wrong order is very old. Before the 16th century it was to put the cart before the oxen. The idea is that of a horse behind the cart it is supposed to pull. Interestingly, the word “preposterous” means exactly that: the “pre” and the “post” are mixed up.

We do not act holy in order to become holy. We accept the fact that we are holy and learn to act according to who and what we are. No amount of human effort or sacrifice will make anyone holy. It simply doesn’t work that way.

To be holy is to be set apart to the Lord. Another English word is to be “sanctified.” It means to be set apart for the Lord and by the Lord. God made all of Israel holy when He identified the people as His and pulled them out of Egypt.

For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. Leviticus 11:45

Then, after He did that, He called them to be what they were. He made them holy, now He wanted them to live in the holiness (consecrated) state they were in.

Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 20:7

Notice that it does not say they were to “become holy.” They were already holy and are asked to live like that.

This truth is important and runs throughout Scripture. We cannot overcome sin on our own. We cannot pay the price of our own redemption. We cannot become holy. Instead, God reaches out in His love to those who are willing and makes them holy through Jesus. That’s the gospel.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, Ephesians 1:3-4

He chose us and made us His. We are in Him because of His initiative, His work. Only God makes people holy.

The call to right living is a call to live in the holiness God has given. The old has passed away, the new has come. Live in the new. The old life was a constant struggle of grief and shame, live in the new life where you are accepted and loved and strong. The old life was bondage, the new life is freedom and joy. Live in the new.

Your flesh remembers the old life and finds it both comfortable and reasonable. So you are pulled back into sin and shame almost daily by that old way of thinking and the pressures of the world and the devil. But you are no longer that old person. You are holy, set apart to the Lord. Your conduct, behavior, does not have to be dictated by the old thinking. Now, let the Spirit of God guide you into the pleasures and peace of the new mind in you.

You belong to Jesus. He bought you with His own blood. You are holy and nothing will change that, not even your behavior. When you slip, when you disobey, when you forget, He still loves you and guides you back. And He is not ashamed of you.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Hebrews 2:11

Nothing can separate you from the Lord who has chosen you for His own. That truth alone brings freedom and rest. If there are things in your life that do not reflect who you truly are, let them go. Stop doing the things of sin. Look to Jesus and follow Him moment by moment. Why? Not to become holy, but because you are holy.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39


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Don’t be the answer

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It feels good to save the day. Mighty Mouse, the cartoon superhero, would fly up into the sky with the words, “Here I come to save the day!” Even a mouse can feel important when he is the hero.

Narcissists and other abusers know that you want to help people. They know that you feel good when you are the answer to someone’s prayers and hopes. So they will use that as a hook to manipulate you.

Years ago I interviewed for a church in Michigan. The congregation had a lot of problems. They brought us to the church, gave us the grand tour, and made a lot of promises. Then they sent us off with these words, “You are our last hope.” I was a new pastor, but those words terrified me. Somehow, I was able to feel the threat in them.

You are no one’s “last hope.” You might be able to help others in significant ways, but you do not want them to be dependent on you. Beware of those who look to you as a sort of savior, the answer to all their problems.

There are several kinds of abusers. Some are what we call “overt.” They are usually loud and control others by intimidation and power. Others we call “covert.” They are able to twist your heart until you find yourself controlled by their neediness. They seem to have no power but use others as tools with ease.

The covert abuser has just the kind of needs you will be tempted to fill. I have seen these folks take money, time, love, and loyalty with no scruples. They are users who have a different way of getting what they want.

And they will make you feel like you are their last hope, the answer to their prayers. They will overwhelm you with praise and gratitude—at first. After a short time, they become demanding and expect you to come running when they cry. You will find yourself drained and weakened, used up, by their constant expectations. All because you felt like you could save their day.

It is good to help people, but you must avoid the role of deliverer. There is one Deliverer, one Savior. The best you can do is turn people to Him. If you find them looking to you as the answer, rather than to Him, back away.

Obviously, some people cultivate the savior side of the relationship. They want to be the answer for others. That gives them control. But you don’t need to control others. You just want to be kind. So, set some limits and be willing to say no.

You are not the answer people need. No matter how good it feels, you cannot take on that role. It isn’t good for them and it will come back to bite you.


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What does it mean to backslide?

It’s Monday Grace!

There are few things easier than returning to an old habit. Overeating, smoking, cussing—we clean up our act for a while then slip back. Sometimes it is a small step, and sometimes we just jump right back in with both feet.

I have written a lot about the flesh, those patterns of living and coping we learned before we came to Jesus. They are so familiar, so automatic, and they feel so right. They were normal for us. Now, in Jesus, things are different. We are different people, and our lives are drawn from a new source. The old ways no longer define us. At the same time, we continue to live in a familiar world, surrounded by familiar people, and the old familiar ways come back easily.

Now, that’s all that is meant by the term “backsliding,” as used by the Scriptures. It means to turn away from the new path toward the old familiar way. The problem, of course, is that the old way either wasn’t getting us anywhere or was taking us into serious trouble. Who would want to go back?

I think it was Keith Green who sang about the people of Israel wanting to go back to Egypt. Egypt was their place of bondage and pain and hopelessness. But life in the camp of the Lord was not easy. Everything was different. And our minds have a way of redecorating the past to look better than it was.

So, we slip back. Into old habits, old relationships, old risks and dangers. They are even worse than they were before, but at least they are familiar.

Preachers love to warn people about backsliding. If most preachers couldn’t scold their people for slipping back to the old way, they wouldn’t have anything to say. It does little good to tell unbelievers not to do bad things, so these preachers have to rail against their own people.

And, to be fair, there are warnings against backsliding in the Bible. Jeremiah mentions it a lot as he grieves for his people. It is worth talking about. Paul asked an interesting question of believers:

What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. Romans 6:21

In other words, why would you go back to the behaviors that defined your life apart from Jesus, the ones that brought you so much pain? The only end to those behaviors is negative.

Yet, those old sins call to us. Their memories and patterns are still with us. Are we doomed to bounce back and forth in shame and repentance until we die? That’s what you might learn in some churches.

But I would bet you have never heard this verse:

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. Hosea 14:4

Who will heal your backsliding? You? By your own efforts? By accountability groups or a stronger will? No. God will heal your backsliding. How? By the living Spirit within you. The more you open yourself to the Spirit’s power and love, the more consistent your walk with Jesus will be.

The message of grace is that any “do-it-yourself” message is not only false, but doomed. You have no more ability to fix yourself now than you did before you came to Jesus. The power is His. Look to Him. Ask Him to guide you in your actions, to heal your thinking, and to keep you close in His presence. Trust that He is working all the time to heal you.

God is not angry with you. He loves you and is working good in your life. Trust Him.


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Wipe the dust off your feet

It’s Narcissist Friday!

“The person who says he has no regrets probably lies about other things also.”

My father and I used to say that to each other. Life is full of missed opportunities and wrong decisions. Investments that don’t pay off, friendships that turn sour, dreams that fade away. If you have never suffered disappointment in life, you haven’t lived very much. We all have ideas of how things should have been but were not.

I believe regret is part of investing in life. We try, and sometimes we try hard. But then it doesn’t work, and we are disappointed. Regret is normal.

But the key to regret is moving on. Don’t let failure or disappointment become a stopping place in your life. You may never forget, but you can move on. Regret is just a memory.

If you let regret be a normal part of your progressing life, you won’t waste time and energy trying to fight it or deal with it. You can feel it without making yourself live at that point.

Jesus told His disciples to go into a village to tell them the good news. (Matthew 10) If the people of the village did not receive the gospel, the disciples were to “wipe the dust off” their feet and proceed to the next village. Was this because Jesus would give only one chance and then abandon the lost? Of course not. This was for the sake of the disciples.

No, Jesus didn’t want the lost to stay lost. He came for the lost He came with good news, and He wanted the people to receive it. Those who would never receive His gift would suffer, and the importance of sharing the gospel was serious, but the disciples were never responsible for the results. They were to move on.

When we feel that something is important, perhaps vitally important, we want to see success in our efforts. But failure and rejection do happen. They are part of dealing with real people. And those failures and rejections are not to remain stuck to us. We are to wipe them off and move on.

Don’t let your regrets rule or ruin your life. Too many people are stuck at the point of their regrets. They cannot forgive themselves for failure. They cannot forgive someone else for an offense. They cannot let go of a dream that has slipped away. They live in the moment of their regret.

Not you. You are more than the events of your life. You have a future and a hope. There is more to life than what you have been through. Find it by letting yourself move forward.

It has been my experience that there are people in our lives who don’t want us to move beyond a certain negative point in our lives. It is a point they can laugh at or use against us. They label and categorize us by that one point in our lives. These abusers hold you to that regretful point of time or event so they can keep you weak and confused. They seek to control you by your regret.

Don’t let them. That is not where God sees you. He sees you walking perfectly with Him. He is always looking forward to something wonderful for you.

I have always loved the revelation of the heart of God in Jeremiah 29:11,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

This is a word for you today. God wants you to move toward the future He has in mind for you. Don’t get stuck along the way.


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What Does It Mean That The Old Man Is Dead?

It’s Monday Grace!

Whatever happened to the old you? You know, the person you were before you met Jesus?

Some teachers would have you believe that you are still the same person, that you still need to repent for those things you did before you came to Christ, and that you are still identified by those sins. In other words, you might have become a Christian, but you are still the same as you were before.

Other teachers would have you think that you are some kind of hybrid, a schizophrenic dual personality. There is the new you in Christ, they say, but there is also the old you in sin. Each moment you have to choose which you will be. The successful Christian life is one where the person chooses to be the new self most often.

Now, those two ideas present some very practical problems. In the first scenario, becoming a Christian has really done nothing for you. You are still in your sins, still afraid and ashamed, and still under bondage. You might go to Heaven when you die, maybe. There is no real hope and no freedom for those who are still in the old person.

And, to be fair, the world and the devil, even our own flesh, constantly tells us that nothing has changed. When we find ourselves doing the things we used to do, we condemn ourselves and the evil one accuses us and the world points to our sin and offers testimony against Jesus. There are certainly days in the new life when we don’t feel like much has changed.

Yet, we want to believe that something has changed, in fact that everything has changed. So, we become open to the second teaching, that the old self and the new self live side-by-side and battle every minute of every day for control. That also feels sort of right, doesn’t it? We do have some good times when we do the right things. But the old way seems to be there too.

Many believers live this kind of broken and conflicted life. They spend their days fighting against themselves and have no confidence of success. If they win, they feel good, but they also believe they might fail next time. After all, they think they are two equal and opposite people. The old and the new.

So, believers continue to live in fear and shame. Never confident in their relationship with the Lord. Never sure of eternal life. Never really at peace. The yoke they carry is neither light nor easy.

The Scriptures, on the other hand, are quite clear that the old man is dead! There are three specific references to the “old man,” the person you were before Jesus.

…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6

…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts Ephesians 4:22

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, Colossians 3:9

In the first reference, the old man died by crucifixion with Jesus. He/she was not raised with Jesus. The old person died. In the second, the old man is becoming “corrupt,” which means decaying. It is so dead that it is beginning to stink. In the third, we are told that the old man has been “put off,” no longer attached to us in any way. We have been separated from what we were.

I think that is pretty clear. We are no longer that old person. What we were is not what we are. Even if we still do some of the same things, even if we remember those things too clearly, even if others accuse us of still being the same, we have been made new in Jesus. We are not what we were.

So, the message of grace is not for us to get better or work harder or try to make up for what we did before Jesus. The message of grace is for us to live according to the Spirit who is guiding us into who we are. Our hearts and minds are being transformed day by day. The flesh, which I have written about before, wants to pull us back to what is familiar, but the Spirit pushes us into the truth of who we have become in Christ.

The good news for the believer is that the old is truly gone. That person died on the cross. You and I are new creations, and we no longer are guilty and shamed by the past that is separated from us. Nor are we bound to the sins which once controlled us. We are to live as free sons and daughters of the King of kings. We are good and righteous and strong because of Jesus. His life is the new life that flows in us, and we are never going to be separated from Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17


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Never Join Anything

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Okay, so the title of this post might be a little overstated. But I don’t mean simply to be careful about the groups you join. I mean never join yourself to anything. Never connect your life to an organization or cause or ideology. Never add an association to your identity.

You see, there is an idea (pushed by controllers and users) that when you join their group you submit yourself to their leadership and authority. For example, when you join some churches, you are supposed to live like they tell you to live and serve like they tell you to serve. If you don’t, you will be punished or separated from the group.

After every election you will hear someone say something like this: “I didn’t want to vote for that candidate, but I felt I had to since I am a member of his/her party.” Joining a certain political party or a certain movement seems to demand a loyalty, a service, that binds a person to performing or even believing a certain way. Few organizations willingly embrace those who disagree with the “company line.” Walk a different path from others who have joined the organization and you will usually find yourself criticized and under some kind of threat.

Your loyalty is very important to narcissists and other abusers. You are expected to release your will, your identity, into their hands. They will tell you what to do, how much money to give, and anything else they can get by with. And, interestingly, most people obey simply because they “joined.”

I realize that joining things is a part of life in this world. You are expected to join a church you attend regularly. You may be required to join a union. You will be pressured to join clubs and organizations of many kinds. It is challenging to live in society without joining something.

So, if you have to join something, be sure you consider your connection an “association.” In other words, you are choosing to associate with a certain group or cause, but you are not joining your identity to them. You should not identify yourself with their label, whether it is a political party, a church, or a civic organization. The moment you do, you become burdened with their weaknesses and compromises. You also lose a little of yourself in the label.

Sadly, church labels and organizations are just as much a part of this caution as are political parties. Groups of all kinds tend to speak for their membership. All xx’s believe this. All yy’s vote this way. All zz’s do these things.

But you are not of this world, not limited by any association. The only joining that matters is your relationship with Jesus and your connections to the special people He leads you to in life. Join with Jesus. Join with your spouse and children. But that’s about it.

Some readers might find this hard. Others will find this liberating. My point is that you are a person, unique in thought and heart. You cannot be defined by an organization’s goals or a church’s doctrines. You must always be free to follow the Lord who loves you. An organization’s label does not add to who you are, and the risk of guilt by association may communicate to others things that are not true of you.

The day will come when all associations in this world will end. Some of us have experienced some painful separations already in our lives. Loyalties, investment, commitment—sometimes these words had little meaning to the groups to which we were joined. When the trouble came, the group simply added to our pain. All our joining meant was that it was harder to go a different way.

But our joining with Jesus will never end, and in Him we are joined to each other. The day is coming when we will see and enjoy the beauty of all that.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22


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What Does It Mean That The Flesh Still Has Influence?

It’s Monday Grace!

So, okay, I believe in Jesus and trust Him for my salvation. I want to please Him with my life. I want everything He wants for me, and I want to avoid the things He warns me against. I really do.

But why is it that I fail so often? Why do I get angry or lie or cheat or do things I know I shouldn’t do? Why do I forget to pray, neglect my Bible, and walk through so many of my days unaware of His presence? And where do all these awful thoughts come from?

Well, here’s the problem we all face. We are saved, completely, with nothing more to do to become more saved. Those who look to Jesus find Him and receive the life He gives them. He is our life. He will carry us through death to be with Him forever. But here and now, in this life, we still remember the old ways. In fact, the old ways are still our default mode.

As we grew up, we learned a system of living, a way of life that worked more or less. It became habitual, ingrained. We see life in categories and patterns because that’s how we learned to cope with the craziness and fear. And we learned some bad things and some dumb things.

When you see two people laughing at something and they quit just as you come up to them, do you wonder if they were talking about you? Whether they were or not, the thought goes through your mind because you have learned to fear it. Do you flinch when someone raises their hand quickly to you? Perhaps you still have a response that came from times when you were hit. These things get deep into our subconscious minds.

In the same way, anger pops up when we feel threatened or cheated or accused because we feel we have to defend ourselves. That was what we learned before we knew Jesus. Fear comes when we face uncertain circumstances because we remember and anticipate pain and suffering. Even though we believe with our conscious minds that Jesus is enough for us and His is the only opinion that matters, we still react by default according to what we learned before we knew Him.

This is what the Bible calls the flesh and what Paul tells us not to walk in. We are to walk in the Spirit, to think according to the Spirit, because we no longer have to be controlled by our flesh. The world system and the coping mechanisms we learned no longer have power over us. But our flesh, our memory and habit patterns, usually has to be convinced.

So, lust and anger and fear and worry and bitterness and all the negative emotions that move us to wrong thoughts and actions still have influence in our lives because of this flesh in which we live. One day we will be rid of it forever. In the meantime, we have to remind ourselves of who and Whose we are.

Does Jesus know about this? Of course, He does! He knows that you and I fail. He knows about our fears and worries and temptations. He loves us and walks with us through all of them. He calls us to give more and more to Him so that we don’t have to be under such destructive and confusing influence, but He also understands why we fail so often.

Never forget that the goal of the Christian life is not perfection, not perfect thinking or behavior. Those things will be ours forever when the flesh is left behind. No, the goal of the Christian life is to be with Jesus. The more we live in and enjoy His presence, the more we will find the influence of the flesh slipping away. Then we will live and walk in the Spirit.

Your failure does not separate you from the Lord who loves you. It only serves as a reminder that you should draw nearer to Him and His love. He is always looking for that “closer walk” with you.

Galatians 5:16-17
16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

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