The Devil Made Me Do It..

How early we learn to hide..to cover up..to lie..
Just recently I asked my girls how their playroom had gotten to be such a mess and one of the three year olds chimes in, “I think one of the little girls down the street came up here and messed it up.” (Note: we rarely have guests and we live on a county road, not a subdivision, so no little girl from down the street had been there.)

Did she fear punishment?
Was she ashamed?
Is this a natural and normal human reaction?

About three years ago, when my daughter Anna Beth was the same age as her sisters, she had gotten into the habit of replying with, “the devil made me do it.” Yup..at three she was already shifting blame and pointing to her depraved sinful nature. And little did she know how correct she was (well there’s a ton of theological issues we could hash out about that one statement..but we’re not..so stay with me.)

“No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.” (C.S. Lewis)

If you claim to be a follower of Christ (and/or grew up in/around church), then certainly you can relate to this sentiment and the excuse that the devil made you do it. See, you know the “rules” and you may even love and respect the rules. But you find yourself taking one step forward and two steps back in the sinful life vs. holy life battle. But you’re TRYING, right!?! I mean, there was an easier time when you didn’t even TRY to follow the rules..only when you became aware of the rules and began trying to live by them did you encounter this inner turmoil and the feeling of failure. So, in an effort of self-preservation you MUST blame some outside force..YES..the DEVIL made me do it.

So, if you have ever experienced this holy tug-of-war you MUST go and read Paul’s letter to the Roman church..specifically chapter 7..and this commentary at EnduringWord.com. But here is a portion of Paul’s confession about his struggle with the problem of sin, law and grace.

15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.

17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 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.24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

(Oh, and by the way, this confession is from a man that wrote most of the New Testament.)

I’ve seen a couple of responses from followers of Christ when confronted with this difficulty with the law/rules:

  1. They cannot bear the thought of failure yet they fail to live up to every rule, they inevitably break one somewhere. So, they justify their own sin while highlighting the sin of others. They pick and choose. They point fingers and judge (more on that topic here). And in a sense, they become like the Pharisees, trying to abide by every rule but failing, and becoming self-righteous and hypocritical as a means of coping with their own failures.
  2. Then there’s the follower who tries hard to obey all the rules for a while. They believe in the law. They know it is right. And they try with all their might to follow it. But because they can’t possibly go a day without breaking some rule..feeling defeated they loose hope and give up even trying. Some stay in church and play the game, while their heart is not in it..and some just stop coming to church altogether because it is a reminder to them that they can’t live up to the law.

The law shows us where we are wrong..it exposes our sin..but the law has no power to help us obey..it simply brings our depravity to light. But Christ’s victory over death and now the Holy Spirit residing in us, give us the power to live a holy life, not one constantly tripping us up. Letting Him have complete control and letting Him guide our thoughts and actions is the only way to better way of living. We’ve tried it on our own..we’ve tried obeying every rule..we’ve tried to score high on the Good-O-Meter..but we are powerless without Christ at the controls. This may sound trite..I realize that. It isn’t easy..that’s for sure..so let’s hear from you..

How do YOU do it?
How do you manage the tension between the law and grace?

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