I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 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 7:21-25 (New Living Translation)
If you ask anyone who knows me well what my favorite dessert is, they will tell you chocolate. It's really hard for me to resist. I have no trouble resisting things that I don't like or that I am allergic to, but I find it almost completely impossible to resist chocolate. Holidays that revolve around candy are incredibly difficult for me. I think to myself, "Just one little bite..." and before you know it, I have eaten an entire candy bar. I cannot resist the temptation to eat that one little bite ... or the bites that come after it.
I know what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, "when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong." It's as if I were being controlled by another power. Paul calls that power "sin." The "sin" power that exists in us tells us it's OK to do the wrong thing, and even takes over with urges and desires that sometimes are very hard to control.
But Paul gives us a word of hope. In ourselves alone, we cannot stand up against these urges and desires, but because Jesus died on the cross to defeat sin's power in our lives, when we love Jesus and ask him to live in our hearts, he gives us a new power - the power to resist the urges of sin. The Holy Spirit works inside of us to give us strength and power to say "no" to those sinful urges.
On our own, we cannot resist the power of sin, but thank God, through the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we no longer have to give in to the power of sin or to the temptations that challenge us. We will always have those temptations to do what we know is wrong, but when we rely on the Holy Spirit's power in us, we can say "no" to those temptations.
With what uncontrollable urges in your life do you need the help of the Holy Spirit to overcome? Have you asked Jesus to live in your heart to help you overcome those urges?
Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.