It is amazing how often we as Christians are frustrated in our spiritual walks. For many of us who truly desire to reflect the nature of Christ, the nature of the Gospel in our lives we find ourselves frustrated when we don't do those things we are "supposed" to be doing. You know what I am saying; to reject sin, embrace charity, live selflessly. It seems all too common to look at your lives and say, "Gosh darn it, why can't I live right!" It's funny because even Paul had this experience in Romans 7:
15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God,in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am!
It almost seems like this is the the "natural" state of Christianity. Frustrated. But obviously that isn't God's calling for us. I mean Paul writes in the very next chapter in Romans 8: 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. So what's the key? How do we live free from that frustration? How do we move from "wretched man that I am" to "more than conqueror"?
One "method" many in the church world use is to just kinda ignore the true biblical expectations of a believer. It is the "we prayed our prayer of salvation so Im ok, your ok, we're all ok" christianity. It's the "churchy-anity" approach that focuses almost exclusively on the forgiveness of Christ and then lives in the "blessings" it affords us. Unfortunately, most often it defines blessings in the asame context that the world and the flesh defines blessings; health, wealth, prosperity and security. It ignores the true calling of the Gospel. The one that calls us to pick up our cross and DENY ourselves. The one that positions us to live a holy, separated unto God, life that is not engaged in the pursuits of this world. It still pursues wealth and pleasure and sees Christianity as just a great way to get it. It's the Christianity that puts a smile on your face, embraces the "forgiveness" of Christ and ignores the difficult, sacrificial, self denying calling of the Cross. If you never put forward an expectation of holiness you never have to feel bad when you fall short.
Another method many in the church use to move past the frustration is to find a false sense of spiritual superiority in the "good" life they lead. They have established a bunch of laws and rules and they live close enough to the line that they can always find an ample number of people to whom their religious life is so superior. It is the security that the Pharisees in Christ's time clung to and that Jesus came to explode. It is always interesting to me that the only time Christ addresses people who are "good tithe-ers" he calls them whited tombs, spiffy on the outside but full of death inside, and filthy cups, clean on the outside but dirty inside. The law may work to pacify your guilt but it does nothing to cleanse you or bring you into alignment with the Gospel of Christ.
I think the key to living a life that strives to emulate the Gospel of Christ and at the same time not be gripped by frustration is to reject the premise that we have to deny the declaration "wretched man that I am" to embrace the role of "more than conqueror". I believe the doorway to truly embracing the life of true conqueror is knowing the wretchedness of ourselves. You see in the verses that followed his statement about his wretchedness and preceded his declaration of conquering, Paul never rejects the truth of his wretchedness. He realized, and lived in that realization, that nothing he could do would ever bring him to live in accordance with the Gospel calling in his life, only what Christ could do through him. He realized that Christ's sacrifice on the cross freed him from the sin-guilt of his fallen nature. He had been put in right relation with God, cleansed, justified, no longer under the judgement of sin. He understood the "positional sanctification" ,that we talked about this last Sunday, had happened in his life as a result of Christ's sacrifice and Christ's calling and therefore he never had to live in fear that his position in Christ's kingdom would be threatened by the weakness of his sinful flesh. That source of frustration is gone. I am God's and He is mine.
He then was able to move to the Gospel living nature of his calling, realizing that in spite of the "shell of flesh" that encases our spirit of man we can live by the Spirit because we have been given, by Christ, new hearts and minds that desire and dwell on the spiritual path of our calling. He acknowledges his wretchedness and rejects his ability to lean on his own strength and discipline while embracing the growth that comes from following our new hearts and from knowing the will of God that comes from the mind of Christ we have been given. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Christ is working to perfect us as we yield. Does this mean we live in perfection? No it means we are being perfected by Christ. This is why Paul states: 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Frustration is not our natural state but we don't avoid frustration by ignoring the call of our new hearts and minds to live in accordance with Christ's Gospel or by thinking we can ignore the wretched inability of our compliance with law to justify us. The state of the believer is being conformed to the image of Christ. The journey of being transformed by the power of Christ's spirit is our state and our destiny. He is at work in you. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!