I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Like plenty of Christians, I reached a critical point where I had to decide who I really was, and, in light of that, how I could really be true to myself. That’s what brought me to repentance thirty three years ago, when I said no to the practice of overt sexual sin, walked away from it, and determined by the grace of God never to practice it again.
I didn’t have any illusions about temptations. I knew I couldn’t just make them go away by repenting, so in saying “no” to the behaviors I assumed I was also saying “yes” to a lifetime, perhaps, of resisting them.
But I also knew that to do as Shakespeare said – To thine own self be true and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man – then I’d have to say no to some things, yes to others, and Thy Will Be Done to God. Because that’s who I truly was, had been for years, and couldn’t be anything else. He’d written His laws on my heart; etched them there, in fact. Ignoring them was as fruitless as ignoring my need for air.
In this I know I’m anything but alone. Plenty of Christian men and women know the conflict between what we crave and what we are. They desire to serve God; they also desire forbidden things, relationships, experiences. Their deeply ingrained cravings are at war with laws of God etched into their hearts, and something’s gotta give. So today, any number of times, they’ll decide to go with what they crave, or what’s in sync with who they really are.
What they crave is no indictment of their sincerity. It’s only proof that their flesh (as in, their old and fallen nature) is still there, a crucified carcass stinking everything up and surprisingly powerful, considering it’s supposed to be dead. (Romans 6:6)
But who they really are is another matter: new creatures (II Corinthians 5:17); joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17); sacred temples (I Corinthians 6:19); a priesthood (I Peter 2:9); adopted and reborn children of royalty. (Romans 8:15) So they – we, really – live in a seemingly uninterrupted arm wrestling match between craving and identity, lust and authenticity. We will ultimately decide who wins, based on what we choose to act on: temporal urge or eternal nature.
Or not. I mean, is it really our decision? I often wonder to what extent we really have a choice as to whether or not we’ll persevere to the end, or if we’re predestined one way or another? There’s a great doctrinal question to wrestle with: do we really decide, or is our ongoing quest for purity both predetermined and out of our hands?
I don’t know, and arguments from both sides can be pretty compelling. But I do know this: I didn’t write the laws of God onto my own heart. They were written there for me, engraved while He and I bonded and I grew, both in knowing Him, and thereby in loving Him.
I can ignore that engraving for a season, but ultimately, it wins out over wayward passions or rebellions I experience. To this day, laws He put in me determine so many of my decisions, so when I make the right ones – the decision to yield to righteousness, resist the wrong, offer my body as a living sacrifice – I smile, knowing full well what a rebel I am by natural birth, and how any right decision made by this old guy is howling proof of the new nature only He can give
So if you wrestle with temptations today, be sure to ask Him to soften your heart towards Him and what He’s lovingly carved onto that heart. Ask Him to remind you of who you really are, and what you really want in the end. Ask Him, in short, to make you true to yourself.
I’d never say that to a non-believer, as that would be a shortcut to eternal death. But to the new creature in Christ who can’t be plucked out of His hand, I think it’s more than safe to say be who you really are. Let Him keep fashioning you, and never stop asking Him to make you love what He loves, hate what He hates, and revel in His ongoing Lordship in your life.
Whenever I do all of that, peace and contentment flood in, outweighing any pleasure I have to say no to. It’s all because of His composition carved into me, made up of words indelible and sacred, promises comforting and incredible. It’s clearer than ever. It can’t and won’t be erased; it can and will see me safely to the end.