(Previously titled – Struggling Against Habits)
by Fred Pruitt
(I re-read this article this morning, and decided to do a little upgrade and put it out again under this “Romans 7 Dilemma” title, since that is really what it is about. “Habits” are secondary to the truth God imparts to us and in us in this “struggle,” and not the point. And one other little word. Lest anyone feel “threatened” by what this says below, only wear it if this is your shoe. If a reader does not know what I mean by “Romans 7 dilemma” or “coming to the end of ourselves,” and has no curiosity about it, no worries! This is something the Spirit does, and His work is not necessarily the same in each of us. If this is for you, take it, and if not, forget it, or save it for later!)
I have a habit that to me does not glorify God, and I cannot stop myself from doing it. I keep “giving it to the Lord,” and think He’s going to take over, and sometimes it seems like He does, and sometimes it seems like He doesn’t, but I usually end up succumbing most times to the temptation. Can you help me?
The first thing that comes to me is that you are in a really great spot at the moment, though you may feel the opposite. The reason for that is that you have run up against your brick wall, and the only way over or through it is that God brings you through.
The point is, He brings you to that point, the same point Paul and all of us have discovered, the point of final breaking, or as we call it sometimes, “coming to the end of ourselves.”
Paul saw the point when he could not escape his possessive “coveting.” He knew it was wrong, and he didn’t want to do it, but felt trapped by it and unable to do the “good” he knew he “should,” i.e., “not covet.”
But Paul also discovered another point, which was that inwardly he “delighted in the law of God,” yet even though he “willed” it, he could not bring it about. “To will is present, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” Why was this important for Paul and us to see? Because where it counts, in “the will,” Paul was willing God’s will. He longed to do it. He longed to escape possessive covetousness, but could not because of the rock-bottom principle he discovered when he “tried” to do God’s will. That rock-bottom principle was, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”(Rom 7:21).
Ah, there’s the culprit! It’s the consciousness of the “I” that tries to keep the law. Why would “I try” except I somehow thought I could pull it off, and deliver myself? There’s a subtlety there Paul has found. The subtlety is that “when “I” would (will to) do good,” it is a self that thinks it can do good, which it cannot, as Paul found and expressed in the other verses. And there, wanting inwardly to live God’s life, but not able to live it outwardly, is the misery, the struggle, that comes upon every person of Christ.
The vast majority of the church teaches that we are camped in that struggle for the entirety of our lives; there’s no going on through. We will always try and always fail, and sometimes we’ll live by the law of the Spirit and sometime by the lusts of the flesh. That’s just our lot in life. Just accept it.
But we know there’s more, and that Paul’s struggle didn’t end with the revelation that this was a lifelong struggle, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but that Paul was driven from within by the Spirit to press on through to the other side, which is the liberty of Romans 8, no longer living after the flesh but after the Spirit, as an habitual daily walk, rather than sometimes a hit and sometimes a miss.
And right there, in that crux, is what you are feeling now. And it is the Spirit Who has brought you here to this very current moment, not some supposed “sin” or “habit” on your part, and I daresay it is His intent to take you on through to the other side to reveal even greater glory – in you – than you’ve ever known before! God’s “concern” has never been over your “sin” or “habit,” but that through this utter helplessness you feel before it, you might find the true deliverance, that which comes from God only, and through no self-ability whatsoever.
I’ll tell you that’s a toughie! But in order for us to know Him as All in all, we have to know Him in darkness as well as in light. And that is part of what this is all about. It is first about the self, and the delusion of self-effort and self-will all coming out of a “self-in-separation (independent) consciousness,” finally coming not to a great triumph through our efforts, but to an utter abandoned helplessness. It is in discovering this helplessness, by the Spirit, that we are fully conditioned, having found our efforts all vanity and fruitless (“filthy rags”), to slip into the ease of living by faith by the Life of Another. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 7:24, 25).
And the first-fruits of this Spirit Life He brings us into as a gift of His grace, (and the Spirit Life is He Himself in us), is through the portal of “no condemnation.” What does that mean? It means that the circle of people around us who want to stone us for violating the law, (whether inward or outer), one by one let their rocks fall to the ground and leave, finally leaving only us and the Judge of the Universe, who says to us, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”
Now, this is important. I know what Jesus’ word to the adulterous woman meant, and she may not have at the time, when He said, “Go, and sin no more.”
The word as it pertains to us simply means, “I do not condemn you for anything you have ever done, been, said, thought, etc., and the word, ‘Go and sin no more,’ is not an outer commandment you must strive to fulfill, but is rather the inner Word of Life and the New Covenant in which the laws of God are written in our hearts and minds (and by “laws of God” I am meaning law in its best sense), and we are caused to walk in His ways.”
This is by the discovery, long in coming but steadfast from the moment we perceive it, that the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,HAS set me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:2).
You see, the “deliverance” is first of all in the spirit, in inner consciousness. That is the REAL deliverance! We have had a separated sin consciousness all our lives, still seeing ourselves as separate, still seeing ourselves as “responsible,” still seeing ourselves guilty, so that because of that it often seems to us as beyond reason and hope that something better than that is possible, or even if possible, that I could have it! (For surely one such as I could not deserve it!)
But that is what the Spirit brings us to. “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Ps 32:2).
All that condemnation that Paul, by the law, had heaped onto himself in Rom 7, all the struggle and failure, in all of that the Lord imputes to us no iniquity. We may be in the struggle of Romans 7, and not yet able to find our way through the maze to Romans 8, but either way we go, no iniquity is imputed to us – i.e., the Lord condemns us for none of that!
He knows the purpose He has brought us to. It was not to “clean up” our lives. We are already clean through Him. Peter was told to go unto “unclean” men (Gentiles), and give them the Word of Jesus Christ. In his vision he saw unclean (according to the law) animals and was commanded to “kill and eat.” He replied he had never eaten anything unclean, and the Lord countered with, “Do not call what I have cleansed, ‘unclean.’” And when the men coming from Cornelius arrived and wanted Peter to accompany them back to Caesarea, Peter immediately knew the meaning of the dream. He was no longer to think of anyone outside the covenant of Abraham to be unclean. The Lord had pronounced them clean, and He has far over and above pronounced US clean, as well! We are not defiled, but pure! Pure with His purity!
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (Jn 15:3). I do not think it could be any plainer. In Him, we ARE clean!
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Rev 19: 7,8)
Now, all that is just setting the stage for you. You are the one on the spot. I have pretty much laid out the situation for you. This is where you are. When you see it, you see that ALL God’s spots for us are always perfect in every way, whether it is easy or difficult, because we finally become convinced, or as Romans says of Abraham, we are “fully persuaded,” that what HE has promised, He will perform.
That is the prize, that HE will do it, because He already HAS done it, and we’re just catching up in inner consciousness to what God has done in us all along.
Like I said, I’ve laid out the situation you’re in, that I believe is the case. And it’s easy for me to say all that, but it is of course you who has to walk this through. And you will, because He is.
So, just some practicalities – and these “practicalities” are simply that we continue to walk in the same faith toward, of, in or through God, that we have always walked. There is really no other answer to anything except naked reliance upon the Living God, and a continued stand of faith that He lives your Life. You can’t “try” anymore. “Trying” makes us feel better because it looks like we’re doing something about our situation. We end up just spinning our wheels usually, but we really don’t know anything else.
And then when we kind of let it all go and throw ourselves into God, here comes that “habit” again knocking the steam out of us. And right there is where the battle is joined – not the battle of whether or not you will do or not do the “thing,” but the battle of faith that God is in charge, and that He is leading and guiding you, and living and expressing in the world as you, and that like Jesus, Who said, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself,’ we find ourselves with the same confession.
And coming to sort of an ultimate finality of self-effort, the Spirit, on the other side, begins to teach and “inform” us of the continuously occurring truth that is our inner lives, “The Father that dwells in me, He does the works.”
We see that in spirit-consciousness often long before we see some “manifestation” in the flesh, and the spirit consciousness is actually the REAL deliverance – the flesh just gravy. We begin to say “we are” (His righteousness, His presence, His Life) His life in the world, no matter what it looks like to us or to others, and leave it to the Lord to pull it off. But whether we see it or do not see it, we see it clearly in the eyes of faith and it is from that inner vision we begin to live, and not from the outer appearances, struggles and questions.
You can’t “keep” yourself, and we have to learn that to the uttermost. So we trust Him as the Keeper, accept NO condemnation, and boldly before the “Throne of grace,” we say, “As He is, so are we in this world.”So if the thing comes up, and it surely will, give it to the Lord, do not try, do not fight, but be nothing in the Lord and rightly tell Him this thing has shown up again and you can’t help doing it every time it comes around, but you believe and know that HE will keep you, and then leave it into His hands. And just praise. If you do it again, praise. If you do it again, praise. Thank God for your weakness and helplessness! And continually affirm His Life and strength in you. It’s the FAITH God is after, not the habit issue. The “habit” issue comes in order to stir the pot that finally brings us to that ultimate point of total helplessness.
God has moved us to this point. It is not because we have failed in some way. No, this is the Spirit’s path! And one of the greatest paradoxes of the faith is found right here. While we are sufficient in ourselves, we are somewhat cut off from the fulness of God’s promises. It takes a divine intervention to move us out of separation and into union. We cannot do it ourselves, God must do it. But here, for those who can see this, in being brought into this place of inner “nothing” before the Lord, believe it or not we have come into the heart of the power of God! Whereas in our own supposed sufficiency, we couldn’t “move or motivate” God and ultimately run into the brick wall which divests us finally of all our false self-sufficiency, now in our new helplessness state, “The Son can do nothing of himself,” and in that ultimate inner nothingness or utter humility, WE MOVE GOD!
That, I believe, is God’s plan for you in this moment. Perfect in its timing!
In short, no matter what —
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee.
My heart and my flesh faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works. (Ps 73:24-26, 28)
The truth is you are already whole, complete, clean, righteous, sanctified, holy, full and a whole host of other things, and finally —
“Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?
It is God that justifieth!
Who is he that condemneth?” (Rom 8:33-34).
That’s it, dear. It always gets back to the same thing, doesn’t it? “O ye of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?”
All love in Jesus,
PS – There are many more articles on the blog that deal with this “Romans 7/8 issue,” and I have listed some of them below.