The older that I get, each year seems to be a carbon copy of the last one. I start off strong, eating healthy, exercising and spending regular time with God in January. When spring arrives, I usually let some things slide, struggling with my diet and working out. By the start of summer, my life resembles a house that hasn’t been cleaned for months. As I was singing a worship song on Sunday, a spirit of conviction overwhelmed my soul. Like a still small voice, the Holy Spirit asked, “what have you been doing the past few years?”
I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death], Romans 7:9.
In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays Phil, a news reporter from Pittsburgh on assignment. During his trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Murray get’s stuck in a blizzard, forced to stay another day. Unfortunately, Murray is caught in a time gap, reliving Groundhog Day over and over again. To a certain extent, I feel like Bill Murray’s character, trapped by time. However, while Phil slowly learned to make the most of each day, I keep making the same mistakes year after year. Like the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, I find myself stuck in a pattern of sin, unable to break free.
So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully delight in the law of God in my inner self [with my new nature], 23 but I see a different law and rule of action in the members of my body [in its appetites and desires], waging war against the law of my mind and subduing me and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is within my members, Romans 7:21-23.
Since I began working nights four years ago, attending church has been a difficult task due to my sleep schedule. When I did miss a Sunday, I started watching a few pastors on TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network. At some point, I thought I was strong enough to go without a congregation, attending church about once a month. Yet, now I know I was misled by a rationalizing mind. God designed human beings to be social creatures who thrive in a fellowship of believers. Unfortunately, I was blinded, believing that I could exist apart from Christ’s body. Boy… was I wrong!
Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin, Romans 7:24-25.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know the necessary course of action, reconnect and join a church. As a former youth pastor, its hard to overlook all the flaws that I see when I visit a new church. Nonetheless, I have to make a decision before the summer ends. As I cope with my wretched state, at least deliverance is available to those who trust in Jesus Christ. May this blog serve as a warning so that you don’t make the same mistake of trying to serve God without a church to call home. If you don’t, you might find yourself pondering, “what have I been doing?”
by Jay Mankus