Sunday, February 5, 2012

Compulsiveness Exposed

Have you ever had that one true friend who pours wise counsel into your life?  I am blessed to have had several over the years.  When seeking defined purpose, looking into future plans, etc., we seek counsel - advice to help us make wise choices.  Our passage today is bringing us to the point of giving the "wise advice" which will function as guidance for our lives. 

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
(Galations 5:16-18 The Message)

Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit.  Many have asked me over the years how they can move from a place of living ho-hum lives, inconsistent in focus, not knowing how to live free from self-determined wheel-spinning.  I have frequently brought them to these exact verses.  

To live freely we must be animated and motivated by God's Spirit.  Animated lives are full of life, moving with purposeful activity.  The thing to guard against here is the tendency we have to engage in activity for the sake of activity.  When truly animated by God's Spirit, our activity has a purpose.  Motivated lives speaks to our "cause" to live.  We have a desire to be participants in God's kingdom living more than we do the things of this world.

Look at the next portion of the passage - THEN you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness.  It is only when we have granted God's Spirit access to "control" our lives that we realize the greatest freedom!  This seems like a contradictory state - free, but under control.  Yep, it does!  Freedom is never the absence of boundaries - it is really the enjoyment of living within the boundaries established by one who knows the bigger picture!

Sin is really a condition of heart and mind which leads to us pushing the boundaries.  We want to live outside the boundaries because we have not learned the contentment of the safety the boundaries produce.  Why do we resist boundaries?  Look at the word Paul uses: COMPULSIONS.  In purely psychological terms, this refers to the strong and often irresistible impulse to perform an action which is often irrational or contrary to our real desires.  We want to live one way - but, alas, we live another.

Getting a handle on our compulsiveness is certainly one way of changing our lives.  Easier said than done, I am afraid.  Compulsions are first of all quite strong - there is some real force pulling or driving us.  We have to identify the force if we are to resist it.  This is where God's Spirit is so important - it is often his gentle nudges which alert us to the "wind in our sails" which is driving us to do something we may do well to resist, or the "magnetic pull" of something drawing us in.  The Spirit is often telling us to put down our sails, and dig in!  If we do, we see just how safe the boundaries really are!

Compulsions are irresistible because they present such a good "front".  It is like they have a "marketing" campaign which makes the action look way better than it will ever be!  If you have ever purchased even one thing which appeared one way in the marketing materials and performed completely below expectations in real life, you know what I mean!  The "image" is one thing - the "reality" is another.  Candy looks appealing - the extra pound on my hips does not!

Spirit-led lives find the boundaries as less and less "restrictive" the more they see the futility of obeying the compulsiveness of their selfishness.  There is something quite "freeing" in living under the leadership of one who has nothing more than our best interest in mind!