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Friday 9 August 2019

James 4:13-17

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Do you know that health authorities recommend drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water (approximately 8 glasses) a day in order to stay adequately hydrated? I probably drink 3-4 glasses on average. How about you?

Do you know that two small glasses of wine would take you over the recommended maximum alcohol unit limit? How often do you meet or exceed that?

After typing just the words, “How many glasses can I” into Google, the majority of questions asked by users refer to alcohol. Alternatively, “How many glasses should I”, leads to questions regarding water.

We, as humans are so predictable. When we know something is good for us, we will nearly always ask what the bare minimum is that we need to consume or partake in to tick the “healthy” box. When it comes to the things that are bad for us, our primary focus is the maximum amount we can eat, drink or do before it really is dangerous. Even then we will be tempted to push the boundaries!

Paul shared his thoughts regarding this strange human dilemma in Roman 7:15-25a. Disclaimer – you’ll really need to focus on this one! Read it as many times as you need to; it’s a good’n!

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

James summed it up a little more concisely:

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

My young children would eat all the ice cream, pop corn and sweets I put in front of them. In fact, so would I. There is nothing nutritious about sweets, they just taste nice. Without beating around the bush, sweets are not simply without good nutrition, they are detrimental to our health. Sweets create more bad than good, yet many of us would crave a bar of Dairy Milk over a stick of celery any day! I don’t believe enjoying tasty treats is innately sinful, but our eating and drinking patterns can be a reflection of the “war” that Paul describes as waging inside of us.

How many of us have returned home after listening to an amazing sermon at church, only to let our hanger (hunger + anger) and impatience for our late lunch lead us to lash out at one another? How many of us hear a message about taming our tongue and then used harsh words during the week? Or how many of us have felt convicted during a service, but rather than responding in worship, choose to look around the room and inwardly judge other people, or criticise the service?

It’s quicker, easier and often more comfortable to refer back to our default: the basic setting of our flesh. But basic settings are just that: basic, bare minimum, less than a quality experience. No professional photographer keeps their camera in default mode; they adjust the settings manually to achieve the best results*. So why, as people, are we so quick to go back to our default, our less than best, our bare minimum, when what Jesus has delivered us into exceeds what we could possibly hope for?!

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. It’s less than God’s best, it’s what Jesus died to set us free from. When life presents us with a choice, I pray that we don’t allow ourselves to switch into default mode, but ask God to grow in us the character and faith that we need to choose what we know is right and live His best life for us.

*Carl Lentz wrote an epic chapter about our default setting in his book, “Own the Moment” You should read it!

Emma Carman, Sawyers Church Ministry Team

Sawyers Church
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