I Want – I Will – I Ought
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Rom 8:9-11)
Think of these three things: I Want – I Will – I Ought. All action is the result of desire. If you don’t have a desire for a thing, you will never seek to act on it. We have desires (I Want) some of which are probably good and some not good. We have the will (I Will) that allows us to act on our desires or to suppress them. Since some desires are good and others bad, we are taught a list of moral, ethical or social laws that define which of our desires should be considered good and which should be considered bad. We are taught that we must compare each desire (I Want) against the list of morals (I Ought) and then use our will power to suppress what is bad and only act on what is good.
Of course, we fail in this. We may have a misunderstanding of the “I Ought” part, but even if we have a perfect set of moral principles, we still have the problem that the will power requires a conscious act to suppress what is bad and act on what is good. Eventually in a moment of distraction or weakness, we fail to suppress the bad or act on the good. In other words, we can sin if we lack knowledge of good and evil. But, even if we have perfect knowledge of good and evil, we still fall into sin because the flesh is weak.
Most philosophy and religion is just arguing over what is the best set of “I Ought” rules. Traditional Christianity isn’t really much different. It adds on the idea that if you fail you can “plead the blood of Jesus” and receive atonement and forgiveness for what you did wrong. But, it never seeks to actually eliminate the problem that produces sin. As a result, it becomes another self-serving religion.
Consider the situation if all of your desires (I Want) were good. There would be no need to compare them against the moral law (I Ought) since it would be a waste of effort. Most people never seem to even consider this as a possibility. They don’t really have faith that God can change their very nature. Thus they continue to struggle and fail until one of two things happens. Either they despair, or, they simplify the moral law to a level they can fulfill.
However, when all of our desires are turned from “I Want” into “God wants” then the actions are automatically moral. By definition, whatever God desires is inherently moral. He defines what is moral. Thus, we need to displace our desire with His desire. That’s what we mean when we say things like, “You must be born again” or, “Let the Holy Spirit guide you.” It is this process of dying to self and living in Christ. When all desires are of God, and we no longer have carnal desires to suppress, we say we are “not under law but under grace.”
When we face a temptation or carnal desire, we have to resist the habit of just using the will power to suppress the desire. The only way out is to pray for the spirit of Christ to displace the carnal desire with God’s desire. This takes time and practice. Different people will have different desires that have to be dealt with. There is no one-size-fits-all in this situation. You must take your desires before Jesus and have him lead you out of them. Our walk with Jesus is a process of letting go of our desires and seeking to be filled with only His desires.
Most importantly it takes faith. We have to trust that Jesus will generate this change in us. That is where most Christians fail. They can’t get their self out of the way and truly trust Jesus. Moreover, when you realize that Jesus will do this work in you, you also realize you will have nothing to boast about. So many people never come to complete faith because they still want to do something that they can offer to God to get His approval. Unable to let go of the idea that they will be righteous by their knowledge and will power, they block the spirit of Christ. (That’s what freewill really means. God allows you to choose to act from self desires and will power rather than choosing to be an instrument of His will.) Thus they never enter into the bridal chamber and never experience the joy of the spirit of Christ motivating their every desire. It’s very sad.