Interest in physical fitness surges a few times throughout the year. The holiday season when we all tend to eat more than our body needs is a prime example. This carries over to New Year's resolutions to get physically fit.
Summertime also brings renewed interest in physical fitness for those who go to the beach or lake to catch some sun. Some gyms are even open 24 hours a day for the die-hards, but many of us have difficulty being consistent.
Inconsistency is also an issue for many of us with spiritual fitness. We may know what is needed for spiritual growth and strength, but struggle to move beyond the initial experience of making Jesus the Lord of our life.
Knowing isn't doing
Just knowing what we're supposed to do doesn't make it happen. I may know a healthy diet and exercise are primary for being physically fit, but if I don't make changes and act on those changes I won't become physically fit.
It works the same way with spiritual growth and health. I may know to read the Bible, stay in fellowship, pray, worship, serve, and so on, but if I don't do these things consistently I can't expect too much in the way of spiritual fitness.
And yet, there's more to it than doing things that lead to spiritual growth and fitness. There is an internal struggle we must contend with and overcome.
Because we're set in our ways, it's hard to make significant changes in our life. We need to ask some hard but important questions.
What are specific ways I can move beyond my present spiritual state? What can I do to overcome habitual tendencies I've held most of my life? Once I know what needs to change, how do I make these changes?
Just as commitment and discipline are needed to maintain physical fitness, the same is true for spiritual fitness and growth. But why does it always seem to be such a struggle?
Our internal spiritual struggle exists because of two warring natures—one is old and dead, but the other is new and alive. The old nature is more familiar to us, like a long-term, ingrained habit.
Habits like biting your nails are often done subconsciously. We do it without realizing it. This is the problem we have with our old nature, our old way of life. It's our go-to, our internal inclination.
How can we break away from this old way of life? How can we break free from it?
Just quoting Scripture won't make it go away. It won't just fade away with time by doing all the right things. Nor is it about modifying our behavior. It's a matter of our will.
The death of us
A few weeks earlier I wrote about a life hidden. This hidden life is our new life, our new nature given to us by God when we enter a personal relationship with Him.
But this life is like the life contained in a seed or seed pod. The seed pod has to die for the new life contained in the seed to come to life. Jesus spoke about this saying, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).
In an earlier post, I looked at this need to die to self. The Bible speaks of putting this old way of life, or old self, to death. But is it understood by most Christian believers? Maybe at a basic level of knowing it, but knowing how to do it is another thing altogether.
Here's what the apostle Paul said about in Colossians—
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (Col 3:5-9 NIV)
A choice and a commitment
So, how do we put such things to death?
Notice the figurative language used—"since you have taken off your old self with its practices." The image is that of taking soiled clothes off. It's an intentional choice and act. It doesn't just happen.
What's the key? Think of it as a slow burial.
Theologically, we can know we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) with a new nature (Ezek 11:19; 36:26), but our struggle is with letting go of the old self and its ways. It requires a continued choice and commitment on our part.
Burying what's dead
We need to realize the old way of life and its nature is dead to us. It no longer holds life for us. That is, it doesn't fulfill us, but empties us and holds on to us with a death grip.
Putting the things mentioned above to death requires us to acknowledge they only breed death for us spiritually. They are a dead end in themselves and they need to be buried in the past. Buried with Jesus.
Jesus died to put such things to death on the cross and He removed their power through His resurrection (Col 2:13-15).
After realizing this, we need to choose to not go back to these old ways of life, these habits of our old self. We do this by choosing not to live that way, be that way, and do such things. This is the way we will bury the old self.
Next week I'll look at the next step beyond putting the old self and ways to death.
What seems to hold on to you from your old way of life?
How is it a dead-end for you now? In what ways can you bury it for good?