Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
~ Romans 8:12-14
I really don't like these verses sometimes. OK, a lot of the time. It goes against what I want for myself. It takes away my reason for not trying to come out of the sinful habits and attitudes that I have.
I like being selfish. I like having an extra piece of cake. I like not having to restrain my natural response to people and situations and just let go with whatever I am feeling at the moment. I like spending money on things I don't really need instead of paying off debt or saving it. I like doing pretty much anything that will keep me from reading the Bible. I like doing things that will bring me glory from my friends and family, even if they have no eternal value.
We like to use the terms "too hard" or "I can't" but they are simply not true if we are children of God. If you have received Christ as your only hope of eternal life with God, and if you have truly given your life here for God to do with it as he pleases, then you have also received the Holy Spirit, which will guide you and give you all you will need to stand firm against your sinful desires, attitudes and actions. Ugh. We don't like that do we?
Romans 8:12 states that we have no obligation to do what our sinful nature urges us to do. Simply put, no matter what you struggle with or what sinful nature you have in your life, you have to change it. It doesn't say that you will easily give it up, get over it, and get on with your life. It says that you can't use "I can't" or "it's too hard". They simply aren't true. God equips you with all the power you need, all the instruction it will take, and his people to support you. But you have to actually WANT to change. Verse 14 uses the term "led by the Spirit of God".
You choose what will lead you. Your wants and desires, or the Spirit of God. Putting God first looks a little like this: I will choose to put others first instead of myself. I will choose to only have the food that God has provided as fuel for my body, not continue eating because it tastes good. I will choose to keep control of my tongue and my attitude, and immediately confess any harmful attitudes or thoughts to God, and then ask him to help me change the way I see others. I will choose to put my desire for that new flat screen, new phone, new computer, new outfit, vacation, night out, etc. aside and get rid of the debt that I have so that I can more fully and freely honor God with my finances. I will spend time in my Bible before I even think about putting in my ear buds, turning on the computer or TV, or cracking open the latest best-selling book. I will put more of my time and energy into glorifying God than glorifying myself.
There is never a time when the excuse of "I can't" or "it's too hard" is acceptable. If we were truthful with ourself and with God, we would simply say, " I don't want to" or "I don't care". Just be careful, because in verse 13 we are very clearly told that if we live by the sinful dictates in our life, we will die. Just so you fully understand, that isn't just talking about physical death. The things we choose, the attitudes we have, what we glorify and what we put first in our lives tells us clearly if we have a true and living relationship with God. Praying a prayer as a safety net to keep us out of hell is not a relationship with God. Matthew 7:16-23 tells us that just calling on the Lord will not save us. It is only when we truly give our life to him, repent, and turn from pursuing the things of this world by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us can we be sure of our standing with Him.
1. Get Focused: You are not under obligation to live by your sinful nature. Spend some time in focused prayer, asking God to show you if you are choosing to live by it, or by his dictates, and if so, in what areas.
2. Get Purpose: Do you truly want a relationship with God that is active and living? Repent of the things in your life that you have not allowed God access to, or which you have chosen over him. Choose to repent and follow Jesus.
3. Get Wise: Get in the Bible every day. Just because you want to change doesn't mean it will come easily. You need to be putting God's word in your thoughts and in your heart every day. Ask someone that demonstrates a dedicated life with God to hold you accountable. CHOOSE to put God first.
4. Get over it: We will always struggle with putting God first. The world is full of things that seem more fun, make us feel good, and makes us happy. But only for awhile. Those short moments of selfishness are not worth the eternity without God that they lead to. No matter how good it feels, if it isn't putting God first, don't choose it!
One to get you started:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
~ Matthew 7:16-23