The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will

I can’t.

Our culture despises those two little words. Hatred for weakness and inadequacy is why we tell our kids never to say, “I can’t.” It’s why we love the inspiring words of Thomas the Tank Engine: “Yes, you can!” The belief that we’re capable of anything, if we set our minds to it, pervades our worldview.

This “I-can” mentality also colors our reading of Scripture, specifically how we understand and respond to God’s commands. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be deceived into thinking we’ve “got this” apart from the power of the gospel motivating and empowering us.

When God’s Will Is Impossible

Consider a familiar passage. Many of us can recite it from memory. It’s one of the few answers we give to the common question, “What is God’s will for my life?” We affirm it—

But struggle to apply it:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God couldn’t be clearer: His will for his people is a life steeped in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving! We never have to wonder if we’re on the right and godly path with these actions. They are God’s will for us. Yet—

They’re some of the most difficult commands to obey.

Think about it:

  • Why does God command us to “rejoice always”? Because it’s more natural for us to grumble and complain about our circumstances than to see God’s character and purposes at work in them.
  • Why does he tell us to “pray without ceasing”? Because, in an age of distraction and entertainment, it’s easier to give our focus and time to nothingness, wasting it on self-centered, temporary pleasures, than to give ourselves to eternal, Kingdom matters.
  • And what about his command to “give thanks”? We usually forget or refuse to because, somewhere deep within our hearts, we fail to remember that everything is a gift from God. We think we’re entitled to what we want and deserve an easy life.

Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. I often fail to fulfill God’s will in these particular commands. I’d rather complain about what he hasn’t given me than praise him for what he has; and I’d more quickly scroll social media for the umpteenth time than set aside what feeds my pride for the prayerfulness that will expose it. Turns out these basic commands to do God’s will are much harder to obey than they seem.

Yes, on our own, obedience to God is impossible. We need his help and power, secured for us through our union with Christ, to do his will.

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20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Sin perplexes us.

We love it, and we hate it. We embrace it, and we war against it. We act on it, yet we don’t always understand why. Sin is alluring and confusing, pleasurable and destructive. The redeemed heart has been set free from sin’s power, yet still wars with sin’s presence—and sin distances us from the God who willingly came to rescue us from it.

When I asked friends, “What are some sins and areas of temptation we must fight every day?” the response was overwhelming: jealousy, laziness, discontentment, control, discouragement, pride, a sharp tongue, vanity, slander, inadequacy, anxiety, fear, selfish gain, impatience, anger, disobedience, lust, fear of man, and critical judgment of other Christians.

20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Which of these resonate with you? Do others come to your mind? No Christian is exempt from the battle with sin, and it’s wise to consider what and how we’re actively fighting each day. But we do not fight alone:

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11)

Believer in Christ Jesus, you are dead to sin and alive to God – and your calling is to “consider yourself” in this way. So what does it look like to fight sin on a daily basis, when temptation is all around you and spiritual death is sin’s goal (James 1:15)?

Ponder these 20 practical ways to “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God” by killing sin today:

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Glory Not in Your Independence

I love playing the hero.

And when I say “love,” what I mean is that I simply cannot resist the tendency to do so. To appear weak before other people, to admit that I cannot perform certain functions or that I’m at a loss, often seems like the worst kind of failure.

So I pull up my bootstraps, wipe the sweat off my brow, and pretend I’m Miss Independent.

The last time this happened in a grand scale was not my proudest moment. A significant foot injury had landed me in a hard cast for six weeks. The doctor’s instructions were to “take it easy” and elevate my lower half as often as possible.

Somehow, in my unspoken desire for independence I interpreted those instructions as, “Go grocery shopping, even though your foot hurts, and don’t bother to ask for anyone’s help.”

Great idea.

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When Freedom Is Actually Slavery

In many ways, our nation celebrates freedom this weekend. Freedom to worship God in public places without restrictions, freedom to believe various worldviews, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and participate in democracy – the list goes on and on. Praise God for the United States of America, a country benefiting in more ways than one from the freedom gifted to its citizens through the Constitution, reigning governmental powers, and armed forces. Most of these are freedoms to celebrate.

At the same time, however, there is another “freedom” we have glorified that has ironically led us into greater depths of slavery. This is a so-called freedom that encourages rebellion against God at the cost of our very souls.

Think about it. Our “one nation” was founded “under God,” yet we have decided that we’d rather have our nation be “under ourselves,” or under our own human authority, our own ability to decide what is right and wrong and best, our own judgment based on changing cultural tides rather than on the unchanging nature of God Almighty.

The “one nation under God” phrase confesses our inability to rule ourselves, along with our need for his authority, power, and wisdom to reign over us. It’s no surprise how fallen our world is because our natural inclination is not to submit to God or to live lives of light and purity.

Why is it that my first response when someone hurts me is to hurt them back? Because my natural inclination is fallen. I need Someone to change my heart and rule me. We as humans need help from the outside because we cannot change ourselves.

So our forefathers submitted to God because they knew that men could do nothing of eternal value apart from his Lordship: no wise decision-making processes, no direction of goodness or purity, no peace with our neighbors. And, today, we are increasingly seeing the brokenness that comes from our rebellion against God come to fruition.

We think we are celebrating greater, truer freedoms with court decisions of past and present that give us what we want. But because what we want isn’t trustworthy on its own, these so-called freedoms are actually driving us more deeply into the slavery our hearts are crying to be released from.

The irony? We think we are becoming more free when we are becoming increasingly less free.

Our sinful nature, our natural fallenness, is bondage. What we need is to be set free – truly free – from this bondage, and there is only one person who can do that. Jesus came to set broken sinners free from their own destructive, enslaving desires…at the cost of his life. He entered our brokenness for the purpose of taking it upon himself at the cross. Jesus absorbed God’s due justice for our wrongdoing and rebellion against his holiness. He laid down his very life so that you and I could be truly free.

How is this freedom achieved then? If what we think is freedom is actually slavery, then what is freedom? Freedom is actually placing ourselves “under God” again. It is realizing that, in acknowledging Jesus as Lord over everything and everyone, we are no longer slaves to our own fallenness but freed to walk in the newness of life found in Jesus, himself.

Getting what we want is not freedom. It is slavery. Slavery is giving ourselves exactly what we want, at the cost of our souls. But freedom from slavery is realizing the misdirection, brokenness, and cost of what we want apart from God and pursuing what God wants instead.

What does God want from us? He wants us to admit our inability to be good apart from Jesus, to see our true, natural state of brokenness. He wants us to behold the goodness of his Son, who took our punishment at the cost of his own life, and trust in his ability to free us from our slavery to sin. He wants to lead us in the best life for us. He wants to give us actual freedom, actual life, in Jesus, who did not stay dead in the grave but rose from it, who is now seated upon the throne of heaven, ruling with authority over us all.

As Russell Moore put it so perfectly after the recent court ruling, “The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb.”

So what freedom will you celebrate this weekend, and at what cost?