When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We all go through different seasons in our lives, and how we find ourselves at the end of one season often provides insight into how we will view and react to the seasons to come.
I grew up in the church, was very active there, and in tune, so I thought, with God's word. When college started, I began to drift away from that solid upbringing, and put my relationship with God on the back burner at a setting that was just above cold. Then, when I was 19-years-old, my mother died after a long, painful struggle with cancer. How could this happen to me? Where was God now that I needed Him? I decided that this religious and God stuff was a bunch of malarkey. I thought I could do it better on my own.
For the next 15 years or so, I lived a life that, at times, seemed out of control and very "me"-centered with no thought to God's involvement. At times, I even professed to be an agnostic, yet I probably could not have told you what that meant.
But, God was always there, working in the background, leading me ever so gently to a place I needed to be. We moved to Kennesaw and found Kennesaw UMC; ever so slowly, my life began to change, and God began to move back to the front. No longer on the back burner. Yet, there was much work to be done. How does one turn around that life of sin and temptation?
There are steps which we all can take to get ourselves back on the right track. God has laid out a plan for us, and all we have to do is follow.
First, we need to identify our personal weaknesses. We all know what they are, but you can't fix what you don't recognize. Unsure about what those weaknesses are? Pray about it. I am sure the Lord will help you open your eyes to things that need to be changed.
Second, recognize the things which tempt you. It is a byproduct of examining your weaknesses. When they are identified, they lead you to those things in your life that you find ever so tempting.
Third, stay away from sources of temptation. This one seems obvious and easy to do, but often this is were the biggest changes must take place. You may have to change the places you go, the activities you like to do, or your friends. I had to change my friends. i had to actively seek out those who led a more God-centered life. It wasn't that I couldn't speak to my old friends, or see them on occasion, but I could no longer invest large amounts of time in people who were not walking where I needed to go.
Fourth, practice self-restraint. Looking back, during those times when my life seemed to be heading in the wrong direction, if I had just practiced a little bit of self-control, I could probably have found my way back to the right path. We need look no further than Jesus to see the model of self-control. How many times during His life must He have wanted to strike back at those who ridiculed Him, or lash out at the religious leaders who mocked him and even tried to stone Him? But, our Lord did not. He exercised self-restraint.
Fifth, invest time in good habits and service. For me, I had to get back to my youth. I had to get back in the church and serve God by serving others. When you actively seek to rekindle your giving and helpful spirit, there is not time for sin and temptation. I know it is a bit trite to say, but an idle mind truly is Satan's playground. God wants us to stay busy and stay involved in his church serving his people.
Finally, lean on God's strength and grace. This is where I fell down. When my mother died, God was there, I just didn't trust him to be ready for me. His strength is always available to us, but we have to open to it. We have to want God to help us. A "me"-centered life only offers weakness and chaos. A God-centered life provides peace and strength. It shouldn't be that tough of a decision, should it?
Make your life a God-centered one. Identify your weaknesses, practice self-restraint, but most of all, serve God. It doesn't mean you won't face temptation, but God will be there to help you deal with it. Just look for Him. He is there for you. Amen.
Psalms 87, 90 or 136