Why can’t we do the good we so desperately want to do?

What frustrated Paul so much was not being able to do what he so desperately wanted to do – and isn’t that the problem that frustrates all of us? In our inner beings we’d love to do good and make our world a better place. Barack Obama’s stirring call “Yes, we can!” struck a real chord, because “Yes,” we’d love to make a difference.

We see it in our huge drive of late to “go green.” We’d love to band together to save the planet, reduce pollution, end our dependence on fossil fuels, and make the Earth beautiful, livable and able to renew itself – but – our efforts are constantly being hampered by the self-interests of governments, large corporations and people who put their own lusts ahead of the right thing to do. It’s so frustrating. We want to end poverty and disease, make cities safe, see girls get the same opportunity as boys, but there’s always something holding us back, be it weird religion, stifling tradition, power-hungry maniacs who care for no one but themselves – and our own personal excuses, too.  

Our experience as humans tells us so clearly we have a problem: We want to do good but we just can’t do it. Paul discovered the same thing happening in himself, too: “In my mind I’m a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin,” Romans 7:25. In his mind he desperately wanted to do good, but there was this other power inside him constantly working against him making the good he wanted to do so difficult. It was always an uphill battle, just as it is today trying to get anything good going that would improve life on this planet.

If only the entire world realized, then, that “Yes, we can” do the good we so desperately want to do because God sent Jesus to make it possible. How? By dying for us, first of all, because his death “condemned sin in sinful man,” Romans 8:3, literally knocking the legs out from under our sinful nature, releasing us from its grip. He also gave us his Spirit – and it’s this marvellous “Spirit of Christ” (verse 9) that “gives life to your mortal bodies” (verse 11).

What gives life to our desire to do good and make it possible is Christ’s Spirit living in us, because “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body,” verse 13. It’s the Spirit in us that keeps the legs of our sinful nature knocked out, so that finally, at last, “Yes, we can” do the good we so desperately want to do. 

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