Today I’m a happy mother and grandmother who can look back on a long life of being a disciple of Jesus. Following Jesus has been an incredibly instructive and interesting life. But it took a while for me to find that disciple life.
The endless cycle
As a young couple, my husband and I attended a local Pentecostal assembly. God’s Word was read, and I believed it was true. I knew the Scriptures spoke clearly about many sins: adultery, lying, covetousness, etc. Amongst these other things, I knew that gossiping and backbiting were clearly not the works of a true Christian.
We had some close friends from church whom we liked to get together with after youth meetings. I noticed that when we were together, there was a lot of backbiting and gossip going on. I didn’t want to be a gossip, but somehow every time the talk started up, I found myself either joining in or passively agreeing with what was said, powerless to stand up for what was right. Afterward I felt guilty and condemned. All I could do was ask God to forgive me. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t see how it could change. I knew it would happen again, and I would be right back in the same place, asking for forgiveness.
Why was this happening to me? Would more faith help me overcome these things? If so, it seemed unattainable. During church services I would be pumped up, but on Monday morning, my feelings were gone, and the doubts were overwhelming. It seemed that this was the normal way Christians lived—sinning and asking for forgiveness in an endless cycle of discouragement and failure. It was not a very encouraging prospect. I knew I was supposed to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4), but what was I supposed to rejoice about? Shouldn’t a Christian life have more meaning and be full of joy?
Christ manifested in the flesh
About this time I first heard the gospel about Christ manifested in the flesh; that Jesus’ work was not only to forgive my sins, but to give me power to overcome sin and become like Him. I heard that He had taken upon Himself the same flesh (human nature) that I had, and He had overcome sin in that flesh. That meant this was possible for me too! This was revolutionary! The Scriptures started to come alive for me. I heard them like I had never heard them before. This was a turning point in my life.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14.
I saw that I was in bondage to sin in many areas. For example, I was short-tempered by nature and could easily blow up in response to others’ actions or inactions. I began to understand that it was not someone else’s fault that I got angry. Jesus was not overcome by anger when He was tempted. How could I get there? (James 1:19-20)
“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23.
Getting to the root of the problem
I wanted to be a disciple, one who truly follows Him! I could see that there would need to be a tremendous battle if I wanted to overcome. When I was tempted—right in the moment—I prayed and asked God to give me His power, rather than give in to the anger. I began to consciously deny myself—I didn’t give in to being harsh; I held my tongue. And I soon realized it wasn’t enough just to be silent; I had to hate the very root of the sin. It was the lust to be annoyed and criticize and backbite that dwelled in my flesh that was the true enemy. I had to hate this rather than entertain it or agree with it. This caused a suffering for my human nature, as it was contrary to my reasoning and feelings, but I understood that this was the same suffering Jesus had undergone in order not to sin. (1 Peter 2:21-23)
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1.
I got faith that this was possible for me. With God’s power, I could suffer in my flesh and cease from sin—exactly as Jesus did! He opened this “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20), and I could follow Him on it. Just as Jesus received power to overcome, I too could receive that power.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain …” John 15:16.
The power in God’s Word is life-changing when I believe it and am willing to fight in my time of temptation. Little by little, sin can be overcome by remaining in this process of transformation. I have gone from being a powerless slave to sins such as gossip and anger, to learning how to fight sin like Jesus did when He was a human like us. I started experiencing the joy of being set free from these things in an ever-increasing degree. Even though there is still much to conquer, I see the way to go and can boldly ask for help to overcome whenever I am tempted. (Hebrews 4:16)
Every temptation is an opportunity—an opportunity to overcome and thus gain a little bit more of Jesus’ life and virtues! His life is becoming my life, step by step. I have more faith for this now than I ever have! (John 7:38; 2 Corinthians 9:8) There is no limit to what God can and will do in my life!