"Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you
rest." - Matthew 11:28
It seems like I've been battling the same old battles week after week, year after year, for almost half a century now, and wondering why it's so hard to break bad habits. Seems like I'm forever setting goals and declaring new beginnings, only to fall short time and time again. I can so relate to what the great apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15--"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." That describes me to a tee, and I spent much time this week pondering why that should be so.
Well, a few days ago I took one of my neighbors to an Alpha course. This week's session was all about the Holy Spirit. Nothing new that I haven't heard or read about before. My mind started to wander a bit, but all of a sudden I was sitting bolt upright in my chair. It was one of those moments when you see something you've seen a gazillion times before, but this time it jumps off the page and knocks you right between the eyes.
The Lord brought something to my attention that was so obvious, I couldn't believe it hadn't impacted me sooner. All along, without realizing it, I have been trying to do what the "Law" proved it was impossible for any of us to do. I have been trying to transform myself, when the Holy Spirit is the only one who can set me free from my various bondages. Hello!!!
The whole purpose of the law was to show us our need for grace. Nobody was able to keep all the commandments, ever. The old covenant was constantly being broken. However, God promised that one day He would make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33) and the law would become something inside of us instead of an external thing. Instead of all those rules weighing us down from the outside like a heavy sack of potatoes, we would be energized by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
According to Isaiah 59:1-2, we have all done wrong and gone astray, and the things we do wrong cause a separation between us and God. No one can bridge that gap by their own efforts. Jesus is the only way. On the Cross He took all our wrongdoing upon Himself (Isiah 53:6) and paid the price for our sins.
The moment we come to the foot of the Cross and receive the gift Christ offers us, we receive complete forgiveness of our sins. The barrier between us and God is removed, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and He begins to transform us from the inside out. This takes time. Only rarely, if ever, does it happen overnight.
Victory comes when we stop trying to gain it in our own strength. It comes when we lay our heavy burden at the foot of the Cross, turn our lives over to the Lord, and are willing to let the Holy Spirit take the lead. Only then can the process of transformation begin, for it is God "who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13). All good things we have or become, whatever the world's explanation may be, are a result of His grace, and His grace alone.