It is God’s will that we, as Christians, grow up in Christ:
- Ephesians 4:13: … until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
- Ephesians 4:15: But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
- Colossians 1:10: … so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
- 1 Peter 2:2: Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation …
- 1 Peter 3:18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
What does that mean? It means that we are on a forward trajectory of Christ-likeness and intimacy with God. It means that day by day we are maturing into what it means to be called the child of God. It means that God has counted us righteous in Christ and adopted us into His family, and that we spend the rest of our lives growing into what we have already become.
This is a battle. I feel it. You feel it. But what is the biggest challenge to that growth? We might answer in all different kinds of ways:
- “If I only had more time to spend reading the Bible in praying I know that I would be able to grow in Christ.”
- “If I hadn’t had the experiences with the church or Christians I have had in the past I know I would grow more in Christ.”
- “If only the culture around me was different and didn’t oppose my holiness at every turn, I know I would grow more.”
Those are legitimate obstacles. But they aren’t the biggest challenge to growth in Christ. You know what is?
And I am for me.
To be even more specific, our feelings are the biggest obstacle to growing in Christ. It’s not that we don’t know the right thing to do, or the right thing to believe, or the right way to prioritize our lives – it’s that we don’t feel like doing it. It’s encouraging to know that Paul, I think, felt this same way:
For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:15-24).
You can feel his frustration here, can’t you? You can feel it not only because of the words, but because we resonate with it so deeply. What Paul articulates here is the “want to want” that is within us all of we are Christians.
- We don’t want to read the Bible, but we want to want to read the Bible.
- We don’t want to pray, but we want to want to pray.
- We don’t want to practice purity, but we want to want to practice purity.
And what’s standing in our way? We are. Our feelings which are so fickle draw us away from what we know we ought to do, or to feel. And when we don’t want, but we want to want to badly, it can feel as hopeless as Paul seemed to feel in the moment:
What can save me from this body of death? What can help me when I am my own biggest obstacle?
And then the answer comes, both for Paul and for us. When we are our own biggest obstacle, we cannot look inside of ourselves for help. We can look only to the One who began, and will finish, His good work in us:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25).
So, Christian, be encouraged today in the midst of your want to want. For Jesus is faithful to do His work in you so that someday, our want to want will not not only solely be want, but will be completely satisfied as faith becomes sight.