I don't hear from God in conversation form often. Imagine my surprise to hear from Him so direct this morning:
Me: Hey, God, I'm not reading out of my Bible, so I'm not sure exactly where I left off in Acts. Where do you want me to read this morning?
Me: Uhhh... ya hearin' me, buddy?
Me: Alright then. I'm just... gonna... roam... I guess...
God: Roam on into Romans.
Me: That was almost as punny as Howie Mandel. Really, God, you're gonna have to bring your A-game humor to impress me.
So anyway, I 'roamed into Romans' (so glad I'm not responsible for that phrase) and found a great excerpt on temptation. Paul, a significant and respected figure in the Bible, admits himself powerless against his sin nature in Romans 7:15-20. In order to understand what this means to me, let's backtrack a bit.
In the last 10 years, I have had more than a few ups and downs with God. The most recent "down" lasted about four years and was due largely in part to sin nature. Why in the world would a God create a man with biological, physiological impulses and then instruct him to never, ever give into these impulses? What kind of a set-up for failure is this? Certainly not one a loving God would provide. I struggled with this for four years, and never did find a straight answer. I ended my girlfight with God in February of 2009 with no resolve on this issue, but just an agreement to "lean not on your own understanding, but trust in the Lord God with all your heart" (Proverbs 3:5-6). April 2010 finally brought me some breakthrough in this area. Prepare yourself for the most elementary revelation ever: We do not get to choose our areas of temptation. I know, right? Obvious. If we got to choose, it wouldn't be a struggle. I think I would choose the temptation to eat too many vegetables, and spend too much time in prayer and volunteerism.
Point is, I used to take responsibility for my sin history, and the shame I find in it. It was my free will that erred, and my flesh that acted irresponsibly, and my reputation that suffered as a result. Pile on top of this guilt the pressures of keeping secret my past, and there's a tension mounted within me stretched to its breaking point. Of course, under such strain, I'm bound to fall again and boost the vicious cycle in its spin. It's no wonder I couldn't maintain a stable relationship with God. So there's the negative cycle, and here's the relief part again: We do not get to choose our areas of temptation.
This is the "freedom from sin" concept. You did not invite the world's darkness to your doorstep. You did not go begging society to please fall further away from God's will. It happened out of your control, and you happen to be an impacted bystander. Nobody blames a burn victim for simply being present when the fire raged out of control, and nobody judges the scars as the victim's responsibility. To have freedom from my sin history and the weight of its responsibility allows me to engage in a positive cycle with the Lord. One in which temptation does come, as it came to Jesus Christ himself, and I am not to blame for this.
My responsibility lies solely in my reaction to the temptation. It is my opinion that God is most flattered by honesty. What could be more rewarding to God than to take your deepest, darkest secrets and expose them in His light? The less responsible I feel for my temptations, the less personal the temptations become, and thus, easier to combat.
Praise God for freedom, and for the provision of this daily bread.