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Peter is a giant of our faith.
He was a fisherman, not highly educated. He was a leader and an evangelist and teacher. And with the Holy Spirit‘s inspiration, he wrote the wonderful and spiritually deep epistles in our New Testament.
Yet on the other hand, Peter messed up a lot.
He was outspoken, impulsive, always eager to jump into the action. Jesus could be hard on him at times, but He was always patient and forgiving and accepting.
Often I feel like Peter.
I fail daily, whether it’s at holy living or merely seeking to do what I want to do for God. I’m impulsive at times. I want to jump into things.
I so often feel like Paul’s description in Romans 7:19…
“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
The Lord commanded us to be perfect…
…as our Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Yet He most certainly knows we are not. And that it will be a while before we get there. That’s the end product, the maximum maturity. And our struggle in this life is part of the plan.
But God always loves us, even when we fail, even when we sin. He is never soft on sin, but His love is constant and eternal.
He has the end in view:
“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4)
And He won’t give up on us
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure off the stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:14).
But this struggle–what kind of struggle is it?
All too often it winds up being a struggle in our own strength, doesn’t it? It’s natural to us to succumb to trying to get by that way. My default action plan is to think “If I can just make up my mind to do this and not to do that, I’ll be a better Christian.” Not good.
Our real struggle is to work more at believing than at trying to be good. Or, more accurately, at feeling like I am being good. My feeling good about myself becomes all too easily an ego thing. It’s the beginnings of pride, and pride leads to failure. It says to me, “You earned that.”
Our real struggle has to do with bravery, really.
The courage to believe. Much more than trying to be good.
Back to Paul’s words, Romans 7:24-25:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
There is the solution
The pathway to the victory we all want to travel. Paul points us to God. It’s not my fighting my way out of my failures that works. It’s God rescuing me.
And the rescue comes through faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
As Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)
We are to fight against sin, but never in our own human strength. Our faith must be in God, our rest in Him, our trust in the cleansing of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. That’s really the key.
There’s an incredible verse in the New Testament:
“But where sin increased, grace super-increased.” (Romans 5:20B, literal translation) No matter how huge our failures and many our sins, Grace is always bigger. We lay hold of God’s grace through faith, not by earning it.
And what’s really great is that God sees us not just as we are now, but as we will be. He sees the end, as well as now.
And this means, too, that we must walk in the Spirit…
…so that we do not fulfill the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
Ah. There’s the answer.
But we cannot walk in the Spirit by becoming self-conscious. “Let’s see, am I walking in the Spirit or not?”
So, it’s a walk that’s accomplished by faith, moment by moment, day by day. Taking one day at a time. That is the only way to escape our carnality, to get beyond walking like mere men in this life. (1 Corinthians 3:3) And to discover in our experience the supernatural and lovely fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-24)
The moment, the nano-second, I trust God to enable me to walk like He wants me to, He does. For it’s His will to help us. It’s His will for us to live in dependence on Him.
A life that honors God, focuses on God.
It is a walk of daily acknowledging Him as our Source of all that is good, including when we manage to do good things, when we transcend failure, even when we feel better about ourselves.
And that is a powerful way to live and please Him.
As we face a new year…
… may we learn to live that way daily out of love for all that He has done, and is doing, and will do because of His great love for us.