I've had a sort of spiritual epiphany recently, and I hope you don't mind if I share it with you. Proselytizing was never one of my goals here, but I sometimes feel like I've come upon some notion that might be helpful to my gentle readers.
It all started with Romans 12:1, a scripture that was a part of the sermon this past Sunday:
"I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. " (RSV)
I'd heard this passage many times before, and I imagine you have too. Only this time, I felt it take on a new meaning. Sacrifice means to give up something of value, so if we're to be living sacrifices, what are we giving up? Time and money usually come to mind first, but I think there's more. You don't offer your body as a living sacrifice by giving money to a church or spending time at a worship service. I think you offer your body as a living sacrifice when you make the intentional choice to give up the very desires that your flesh seems to have "hard wired" within you.
I heard it put this way once: we each have "IT." "IT" is our secret sin, our failing that we always have, the temptation that gets us every time. Sacrificing our bodies means giving up our desire for "IT." The only problem is that we keep wanting to take "IT" back. We keep coming back to the things that tempt us because we still desire them, and we can't give up those thoughts and actions. Paul even says
"But I give blows to my body, and keep it under control, for fear that, after having given the good news to others, I myself might not have God's approval. " (Rom 9:27, BBE)
At first, this seems to be a cruel calling. It's unfair to expect us to break free of and go beyond our own humanity; the flesh we were born with and cannot escape until death. But here there is a profound difference between the truth of God and the lie of Satan. The way of God is not restrictive, it is freeing. Living with the self control of a holy life is to achieve ultimate humanity, not to submit to something less. The commandments of God do not make your life worse, they make it better.
So lately, I've been fighting a battle of thought. The war for the soul begins in the mind, and it's often the hardest battleground to fight on. Psychologists (and especially the vaunted Dr. Phil) talk all the time about the "tape loops" we have playing in our head - the unconscious repeating thoughts that define who we are and how we see our world. "I'm just not a reliable person." "I'm just always going to want that, even though I know it's bad for me." "I can't help it, every time I look at a woman, I just feel that way." These and many more are the thoughts that we hobble ourselves with, the things that we've just always lived with and never realized were there. The challenge for you and me is to seek out those thoughts and break the loop before it gets started. To be consciously aware of what you're feeling, and to realize when your mind drifts to the comfort of an ultimately destructive train of thought. I've caught myself when this happens, and I literally say in my mind "Lord, I sacrifice these thoughts to you." A silly mantra, some would say. Perhaps, but the biggest part of the war for your mind is to realize when to fight.
"Dare you to live like today never happened before..."