Yielding to God: an "I" for an "i"

While animatedly catching up with an old acquaintance, you get careless and betray a confidence, something you'd promised to keep to yourself. In a flare-up of self-justification during a domestic spat, you dredge up some old grievance. Even as the words tumble out of your mouth, you wish you could reel them back in. Mentally shaking your head afterward, you ask yourself, "How many times do I have to fall into that trap?"

All too often when we've given in to the repetition of some grave or even seemingly harmless mistake, the temptation is to get so down on ourselves that we sap the very confidence needed to face the next challenge. Equally unconstructive is the tendency to respond, "Well, I guess that's just the way I am!" and hope our friends and relatives will remember our good points and either overlook or adapt to our shortcomings.

The Apostle Paul summed up this predicament rather succinctly when he wrote, "The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." The letter from which these words are taken was written to a group of early Christians in Rome, many of whom were converts from Judaism. In it, Paul tried to explain why he had to struggle to bring his life into accord with God's nature. His conclusion may sound naive to modern ears, but its spiritual accuracy is timeless: "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Or as a translation by J. B. Phillips puts it: "Yet if I do things that I don't really want to do then it is not, I repeat, 'I' who do them, but the sin which has made its home within me." Paul goes on to exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

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The Bible Lesson: a true refuge
December 9, 1991

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