That 18 inches that separates my head from my heart is sometimes a great chasm! You know what I mean? We ‘know’ and understand a truth but we may not love that truth. That chasm is a place of inner conflict. We may know that God holds our life securely in His hands and yet experience times when we are anxious. We may know that life’s greatest treasure is Christ, our Lord, but still covet lesser things. We may know it is the will of God that we love and struggle to love the unlovely.
Paul, that man of God who walked in the Spirit, knew the inner conflict. He wrote (from the paraphrase The Message) “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.” (Romans 7:19-23) This revelation is shared with us so that we can excuse ourselves from holy living, so that we can grow comfortable with our failures. We learn this so that our faith will grow and our focus shift from SELF to SPIRIT.
If we live ‘religiously’ keeping a constant score of good and bad, measuring ourselves in comparison to other Believers, or using punishment alone to try to bring ourselves into conformity with Christ’s desire for our lives, the cycle of despair will only deepen. Why? Because just when we think that something is overcome and banished, something will trigger us and failure will find us again. The only One who can close the gap between our head and our heart is Jesus Christ, with a supernatural work. Here is how Paul says it: “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:24-25, NLT)
The heart of Christianity is not religious works we do. Our hope is centered on a profound faith in Christ Jesus Who entered the Creation, walked alongside of us, and defeated sin’s Curse on our behalf. The frustration of fruitlessness that sin brought into the world is replaced by the fulfillment of fruitfulness found in the Spirit’s life in us. So many Believers make a common mistake. After finding hope in Jesus at some desperately low point in life, coming to Him with open heart, falling into His love like a child, when life starts to come together, they revert to religion, subtly convinced of their own goodness. Though they find restoration with God in faith, they attempt to live the Christian life by their own wisdom and will. And, the inner conflict rages!
The first Christians in Galatia followed that pattern and Paul angrily challenges them. “Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. In the same way, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him righteous because of his faith.” (Galatians 3:3-6, NLT)
Many Christians are struggling in this season when church, Bible studies, and small groups are not as available. They are slipping, failing to do the things that they know are part of discipleship. You may be one of those people, your head and heart in different places, torn between two worlds. Focus on Christ! Do not hide the failures or attempt to cover them up with ‘good’ deeds or lofty prayers. Admit, to God, to yourself, to a faithful Christian friend, that you are struggling and trust the grace of God that is ‘greater than all our sin.’ (By the way, we can and we must learn new ways to share our Christlife, to encourage one another. COVID cannot be allowed to steal the fellowship from us.)
The amazing fact is that Christ’s strength on our behalf operates in the very place of our weakness. Why? “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV) He makes us His masterpieces, showing off His mercy and grace in us, once wrecks, now trophies. Truth, my friend!
So, here is a word from the Word about how we can live when we remain ‘in Christ,’ trusting His grace, inviting the Spirit to be at work. It is not misery. The battle is over as far as Heaven is concerned. “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, The Message) May this truth travel that long road from your head to your heart, transforming you in the process.
(worship with this great hymn)
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not, Nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, Now and always
Thou and Thou only , first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art
High King of heaven, when vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all
Eleanor Henrietta Hull © Words: Public Domain