Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Straying from the Path

As a follow up to our recent series on the Principle of the Path, someone submitted a great question: "Why is it so easy to stray from the path, even when you know the path?" I think we've all asked that question on some level in our lives. We know carrots are better for us than cake, but we put the carrots IN the cake to help us feel better. We know exercise is better than sitting on the couch, but instead we watch TV shows of other people exercising (ie, the Biggest Loser). We can see the right path, but walking it, and staying on it, is another matter all together. Why? I would offer these three suggestions:

1. Our Human Nature
It may be comforting to know that this struggle with knowing what is right and actually doing what is right has been going on for centuries. In the book of Romans, Paul laments his own struggle, "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway." (Romans 7:18, 19) This is coming from a man who planted churches all over the world! What Paul reveals is that no matter our level of spiritual maturity, we can still become misdirected by our old nature- that part of us that rebels from God and His good will for us.

The truth is that even though we can be set free in Christ, the actual experience of living free is an on-going process. How does this happen? It occurs as we allow Jesus to transform us. In trying to stay on the path, we can get overly focused on our actions. Changing our actions is important, but more important still is a change on the inside. That's what Jesus can do! Paul goes on in Romans to say, "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24, 25) So on a regular, daily basis, surrender your heart to him and ask him to help you make the right choices.

2. Our Environment
Let's face it: most of us are surrounded by influences that encourage us to live in ways that we know are destructive or unhealthy. Sometimes these influences are intentional, but most of the time it's a by-product of the culture we live in. We don't live in a world that highly values humility, self-discipline, or patient perseverance. We are immersed daily in an ego-driven, free-wheeling, have-it-your-way-right-now kind of environment. Unless we are intentional about placing positive influence in our life, it just won't happen.

There is a proverb in the book of Ecclesiastes that says, "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecc. 4:12) Add elements to your life so that you never stand alone. Go to church. Join a small group. Meet with a friend and go through a book together. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Taking steps like these, asking others to join you on the path, will help you keep your life pointed in the right direction.

3. Our Enemy
It's not very in vogue right now to talk about Satan as a real being, but the Bible says differently. The Bible clearly portrays an enemy of our souls who would like nothing better than to shipwreck our lives and our faith. Now I am not one who sees a demon under every bush- but I do believe we need to recognize that we live in a world that is not just physical. Spiritual realities exist, and we are in a battle. "For we are not fighting aginst people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

In this battle, it is asbolutely essential that we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit. This is the very presence of God, living in us and guiding us each moment as we learn to trust Him and listen to Him. Paul says, "So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then youw on't be doing what your sinflu nature craves." (Galatians 5:16) The Holy Spirit can lead us down the right path, no matter who, or what, is trying to lead us astray.

May you find peace and joy in Christ as you follow Him down the right path-


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