“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…” Romans 7:18 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
The last few months have been some of the most incredible of my life. I have seen many difficulties (both mine and other people’s) and learned a great many things about my own heart with a clarity that has been deadly to my pride and desire to be in control. It has all come down to one critical change. I have stopped trying to fool myself. When I was a kid we had a massive maple tree in our front yard. It was a really neat tree but eventually we discovered that the roots of that tree were actually attacking the foundation of the house so the tree had to come down. The tree was cut down. Problem solved. If only! Almost immediately, all over the yard dozens, then hundreds, of little maple trees started shooting up all over the place. No sooner did we pull some up than more would appear all over the yard and in the bushes. We were pulling maples and mowing maples. We were doing our best to keep the trees below the surface but they were always popping out all over the place.
There are many ways in which it is possible to fool yourself but perhaps one of the most profound is to believe that you're a good person. This is something that culture tells us and our own pride whispers to us. "I know I've made some mistakes, but I'm still basically a good person.” What God has been opening my eyes to in these last few months is that my very best actions have been tainted with sin. Indeed I have been discovering what Paul declared to be true, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me.” That is something that we profess to believe as Christians but it is something we are rarely honest enough to let hit us at the heart level. “If I just try harder I can be good…” We congratulate ourselves at not having told that person off the way we really wanted to, as if success were achieved by an external action when there is still a tainted heart behind it pushing up those un-Christlike thoughts and desires. In reality we are just mowing trees or, as Jesus would say, whitewashing tombs. Yet this is how I have lived my life, making excuses for unloving, selfish, or proud thoughts, words or actions based on being tired or stressed or (fill in the blank here). As if those things could actually do anything to my heart except reveal what was actually in there when I am too tired to mow the trees.
Maybe you have been mowing trees too… the only solution is that the roots of the old tree have to die. A specialist had to come to our house, locate all the main roots, and poison them under the surface. Within a few weeks, all over the yard, the little trees turned brown and died. That old tree and its roots are my natural sinful heart and the only way that the yard of my life can be changed is if it dies. This is why Paul declares “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” The Christian life is not about justifying house-destroying roots, it is about removing them and that removal only comes if Christ rules in my heart completely. There is no place for a joint rulership or Jesus in an advisory capacity. Paul recognizes that Christ must live in us and the old self must die each day so that real LIFE can happen. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” And that is what people in our area (myself included) have been discovering. Since this change has hit home to my heart, I have seen God work in tremendous ways: eyes opened, lives changed, hearts converted, churches transforming, the list could go on for quite a while. I can no longer stay on the surface, I am through fooling myself by making excuses for a sinful heart attitude or anything that is not fully surrendered to God’s control. Where are you today? If you are where I have been then the solution is simple; ask yourself the question “What in my own heart am I resisting giving over to God’s control or is keeping me from being fully connected to God?” Then confess all that God brings to your heart. Believe He has forgiven you and ask Him to take over your life and live in you and He will! Repeat this every day as many times as you find yourself taking charge again and you will see Christ changing you in ways you never would have thought possible! I know I have.