This month, my bible study group looked at how we live as free Christians but also exercise self-control in order to please God. One of the things that came up was how difficult it can be to control those desires that go against the will of God and the guilt that sometimes derails us when we make mistakes. I'm not a stranger to this and for a few years, I was bound to this feeling of guilt which actually stopped me from getting closer to God. I got to the point where I would over rationalise why God would want to use someone who wasn't even strong enough to control their flesh on a daily basis. I spiralled and began to spend less and less time with God, instead, spending time beating myself up over things that I had done a long time ago that were not even relevant to what God had planned for me!
Paul's teaching on grace is a very important one and as he says, we should not continue to sin because grace abounds. There are Christians who choose not to work on developing their self-control because they accept their weaknesses. That was my mindset also and all this caused was lots of guilt to build up over time and it weakened me further. I know people who were unable to recover from the crippling guilt and accept the unconditional love of God, turning away from Him completely instead. It's a very slippery slope and many are on it who don't realise it because they expect grace to do all the work. Now, when I refer to work, I don't mean doing 'good' deeds to get back into intimacy with God because we know intimacy with God is not built this way. By work, I mean spending time getting to know God and understanding and accepting His unconditional love for you so that you can start to live freely.
Once you have accepted His love and surrender to His will, the Holy Spirit will begin to lead us according to the will of our Father and give us purpose so that we have focus. Understanding God's will for my life allowed me to accept His love and understand that nothing could separate me from Him. Because of this understanding, my desires began to change and my thoughts were no longer focused on things of the flesh. Does this mean I'm perfect and don't make mistakes? Absolutely not. It does mean that when my flesh is weak, the Spirit of God in me is so much stronger and can guide me back to God's truth. The example I always turn to is Peter. Before Jesus was led to the cross, He told Peter he would deny him 3 times. Peter, of course, couldn't imagine ever doing that to someone he loved so much. And rightly so! We don't wake up with plans to sin against God but it happens and it happened to Peter. Peter also, prior to denying Jesus, knew what he needed to do after Jesus died, i.e. preach the gospel so he had an assignemnt.
Why am I highlighting this example? How many of us would have had the strength to get up from denying Jesus and continue to do what He had called us to do? Judas couldn't cope with the guilt of what he had done and killed himself! How many of us are surrendering to darkness (death) because we cannot cope with the guilt of what we have done? Peter didn't succumb, but rather, repented and went on to complete the assignment God had given him. This post is to encourage whoever is reading that there is nothing you have done that you cannot turn away from. God is waiting for you with open arms so repent and get back to your Father! Pick up your cross and crucify your flesh daily and if you fall, pick yourself back up because the world needs what God has given you and there is no time to waste!