By Mike Kelsey, MBC Silver Spring Campus Pastor
When it comes to understanding what causes us to do (or fail to do) certain things and respond in certain ways, we may give many explanations: physical causes, circumstances, Satan, willpower (or the lack thereof), etc. All of these are certainly factors for Christians to consider when evaluating behavior. However, none of these penetrate the problem deeply enough to offer genuine freedom.
In this fallen world, our bodies are prone to dysfunction and decay (Romans 8:20-23). This explains why physical and chemical processes in our bodies, when not functioning properly, can affect us in negative ways. Physical remedies like medicine, exercise or sleep can often be necessary components in our efforts to experience personal change. But
Circumstances influence our behavior and elicit certain responses, but we must understand our circumstances as the context in which we make choices and not as the primary cause of those choices. So, for example, we all have past experiences (family upbringing, abuse, etc.) that shape us in many ways, but there are factors at work within us that drive the way we respond. Practically speaking, this means that while we should pay close attention to external influences, we should not stop there.
Satan and his demons are real and powerful, and we must be careful not to underestimate their efforts to tempt and enslave us. However, demonic forces tempt us by appealing to our desires (James 1:14) and deceiving our minds (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:1; John 8:44). In other words, there are factors at work within us that make us vulnerable to evil influence.
Willpower is an essential aspect of experiencing life change. This is where most Christians focus their efforts. Typically, our accountability relationships and personal efforts are characterized by “trying harder” and mustering up more personal determination. And we do need to choose to change and work hard to follow through with those changes. As a matter of fact, God not only holds us responsible for choosing whether or not to trust and obey Him, but as Christians, He has enabled us to do so (Titus 2:11-12; Romans 6:11-14; Ezekiel 36:27). And yet, our choices are motivated by factors at work within us that go beyond sheer willpower.
Physical influences, circumstances, spiritual warfare, and the strength of our willpower are all factors that affect us. But as we’ll see in my next post, the Bible constantly points us within…to our hearts.