“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.” Romans 6:11-12
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Back then the city had an amusement park called Libertyland. It was not the most exotic of amusement parks; in fact, it was sort of lame. But it did have a couple of roller coasters that could get my blood pumping.
The one I remember most vividly was called the Zippen Pippen. It was made entirely of wood, which was part of the thrill because it felt like at any moment the entire ride might just fall apart. But the most exciting part of this ride was not the immediate danger of it collapsing in pieces, but the sudden drops that felt like free-falls. It was a true roller coaster…it went up and down and up and down and up and…well, you get the picture.
Often our life with Jesus can feel a bit roller coaster-ish. Let me explain. Say you went to camp and you thought about some good Biblical stuff. You prayed and stayed away from some of the things that are normal temptations at home and school. You’re feeling pretty good. In fact, you feel like God just might be fairly pleased with you and your spiritual diligence. Ahh, you’ve finally arrived.
But then you’re at home. And your mom asks you to resume your chores and you roll your eyes at her. Whoops. And your brother won’t get out of your room and continually messes with your stuff. So, well, you scream at him and attempt to hit him. Things are declining, right? And at school you find yourself thinking things about some of your classmates that are less than kind. What happened? Where did the spiritual high go?
So, how do you respond? Well, you try harder to get back to that spot where you were before. You make some firm resolutions that you’ll be nicer to your brother, quit rolling your eyes at your mom, and only think nice things about people at school. On top of that you’ll double your Bible reading time and join an extra small group. You’ve got this. And it begins to work! For about two days. Then you’ve disappointed yourself again. There’s got to be a better way than this.
Listen, growing as a Christian is not simply an act of resolute commitment to be a better person. It is actually growing more in your dependence upon Jesus. So, sometimes growth actually means discovering that there is more sin there than you thought there was. Some say it is a ‘growth downward’. But here’s the thing: the more I see my need for Jesus and his redeeming work on my behalf, the more precious he becomes to me. I start to understand that the Christian life is not just about regaining a feeling I once had, but it is being more like Jesus by seeing that Jesus is all that I have.
So, today how will you avoid the roller coaster? Try this: when you fail in some area that you’re trying to do better in, don’t first turn to yourself to think you can make it better. Instead, immediately turn to Jesus. Ask him for forgiveness, and thank him for granting it. Ask him to help you become more like him. It’s the right place to start.