Many believers think that obedience is primarily a matter of spiritual discipline, desire, and determination.
This is essentially a legalistic approach to the Christian life.
If we just determine not to sin and determine instead to do good, then we will be trapped in a Romans 7 experience.
When we focus on the commands of the Bible, it produces enslavement to sin, not freedom from it.
While we need to desire to obey God, the way in which we do this is not by ratcheting up our determination.
It is by realizing who we are in Christ and then allowing God’s Word to transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A determination to obey is good, but we must recognize that in and of itself, it is actually insufficient.
We need the empowering of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word of God to our thinking and to renew our minds, so that the desired transformation will be lived out through us.
The problem is not in the goal of desiring to please God, which is a good thing; the problem is in the method because the Christian life cannot be lived victoriously based on determination, dedication, and drive.
Galatians 3:3 says this in the Amplified Bible:
“Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”
The word perfection here has the idea maturity.
We cannot be mature as believers by determination alone; we must live in total dependence on Christ.
Trying to become spiritually mature by our own fleshly self-efforts is self-defeating.
Back in the early 1930s, C.D. “Bigboy” Blalock of Louisiana State University–a six-foot-six-inch giant of a boxer–was taking on a stocky fellow from Mississippi State.
In the second round, Bigboy let loose a roundhouse.
The Mississippi man stepped in, and his head caught Bigboy’s arm inside the elbow.
With the opponent’s head acting as a lever, Bigboy’s arm whipped around in almost full circle, connecting with haymaker force on Bigboy’s own chin.
He staggered, grabbed the rope, walked almost all the way around the ring, and then fell flat for the count–the only prizefighter who ever knocked himself out with a right to his own jaw.
This is the way it is for believers when they try by their own efforts and determination to grow spiritually, it is self-defeating.
May we totally trust the Holy Spirit to reproduce Christ’s life through us!
Pastor Ken Keeler, Director of Church Ministries