A man ignores a traffic sign and hits another vehicle. When the police arrive they ask him what happened and he explains that it was his fault. Why doesn’t he just lie?
A woman is shopping in a jewellery store. Suddenly she sees a beautiful ring lying on the counter. She sees that no one is watching. Why doesn’t she just take it?
For some time now I’ve been thinking about the words “right” and “wrong” and wondering what they mean to people. I know that many people live good lives. They don’t steal. They don’t beat people who irritate them. Most students don’t cheat in their exams, and most people will pay their taxes honestly.
Why do the right thing?
But why? Does the woman leave the ring on the counter because she knows it is wrong to steal and she doesn’t want to do what is wrong, or is it because of the security camera that “sees” everything in the store?
Does the man in the car accident tell the police the truth about what happened because of all the people that saw what happened, or because he knows it is wrong to tell lies and wants to do what is right?
What about you? If you had a chance to steal a lot of money and you knew for sure that no one would ever know, would you do it? Maybe you won’t take a lot of money but what about just a little bit of money that no one will miss?
There is a big difference between “doing the right thing” because you are afraid of being caught, and doing the right thing because it is what you really want to do from the bottom of your heart.
Love doing right?
If you actually want to do the wrong things, then it can feel very heavy to always say No to them. But what if there was a way to want to do what is right? Wouldn’t that be easier? Wouldn’t it be so much better to want to be truthful and honest? That’s the attitude of mind that Jesus had. We can read this about Him in Hebrews 1:9 (GNT):
“You love what is right and hate what is wrong. That is why God, your God, has chosen you and has given you the joy of an honour far greater than he gave to your companions.“
The verse is very clear. Of course He was happy when He loved what is right! Wouldn’t anyone be happy if they loved doing what was right, if they liked it more than doing wrong? Everything becomes so much easier. But how did Jesus become like this? He was born with a nature like ours – which most of the time doesn’t want to do what is right in God’s eyes. How did He come to the point where He actually loved to do what is right and hated doing what is wrong?
The answer is very simple. Jesus loved God so much that He only wanted to do what pleased God. He wanted to please God more than He wanted to obey His own human nature with its lusts and desires. This is easy to understand in normal everyday life. Think of someone who you really love very much – you wouldn’t want to hurt them in any way, would you? The people you care about are the ones you want to be happy, and if you love them enough you would be willing to give up many things to make them happy.
A new attitude of mind
It’s exactly the same with God and with Jesus. When you start to understand how much they love you - God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16, CEB), and Jesus who gave His own precious blood to save you from your sins (1 Peter 1:19) - then you will want to return that love.
Your whole attitude of mind will change. Your human nature doesn’t change – you will still be tempted to tell lies, be dishonest, etc., but you will have a new mind. Unlike before, you now want to resist the temptation, because you don’t want to do what is wrong anymore. You love Jesus and want to make Him happy, and you know that it won’t make Him happy if you, for example, tell a lie to cover up a mistake.
You will still have your sinful human nature, so you still have to choose, but it’s not a difficult choice anymore. You’re saying No to your sinful desires because you love Jesus. And as you continue to say No to the things you are tempted to, you start to see a change in your reactions. The sin that is in your human nature – that which the Bible calls sin in the flesh – that which causes you to be tempted, slowly loses its strength. The Bible says it is “put to death”. (Romans 8:12-13.)
This process is clearly described in many places in the New Testament. For example, in Romans 8:5,12 (GNT) it’s written: “Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants … So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.”
It actually becomes easier and easier, and there comes a day when you won’t even be tempted to those sins anymore. Can you think of anything better?