Since I want to be a psychologist when I finish school, I always tend to keep myself under close scrutiny. I evaluate every thought and action and ask myself, “Why did I do that?” Of course, this isn’t of a critical nature, but rather it’s a way to discover more about myself. A lot of times, what people do aren’t as a result of what they think consciously, but rather as a result of how their subconscious mind has been shaped. Of course, our subconscious mind is shaped mainly by our surroundings and our thought life, but then that subconscious area of our mind makes the majority of our little decisions during the day that we don’t even realize we made.
Anyways, as I’ve examined the processes and motivations behind my actions, speech, and thought, I’ve noticed a variety of psychological factors that contribute to what I do. However, they all seem to fall into two main categories: the body and the mind.
You see, as a Christian, I was freed from the slavery of sin. Being born with a sin nature, I was enslaved by it until I was freed by Christ’s power and shook off those chains. I now have the choice and the opportunity to do the right thing. My mind has been freed; however, my body still has a tendency to fall back into its sin nature. I can control my body with my mind, but in the absence of a direct action from my mind, my body relapses back into its natural tendencies – and that’s what I try to avoid.
All Christians have this power. The problem comes when the body and the mind conflict. It becomes a power struggle as the body says, “I want to do this,” and the mind says, “Uhh, I don’t think you should. Just let me check my files to see whether it’s right or wrong.” Then, while the mind is away looking that stuff up, the body goes ahead and does it anyways. The subconscious mind just isn’t powerful enough to conquer the body – it must be a conscious decision that a Christian makes. They must decidedly choose not to sin.
One of the most encouraging things I find is that I’m not alone in this struggle. Every Christian on earth who is trying to live out their faith faces this difficulty. Even Paul, the “super-Christian” that basically started the early Church and was responsible for the majority of its growth – even he struggled with this.
“The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master. I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good.But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.
“I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
“It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:14-25, NLT)
I think this has to be one of the most encouraging portions of the Bible, because it shows us that all Christians are indeed human. Even Paul, whom we look up to so highly, struggled. He was only human. And we are too. Although we must strive to be perfect, we have this contradiction within us that tears us in two sometimes. I thank God that He understands that and therefore always, always, always provides us with a way out of sin. And I’ve found that usually that way out is with a conscious choice on our part. The more you make this choice, the easier it becomes to make it again and again. And that’s what I’m working on right now.