No Means NO

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, June 6, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

As a parent, I often have "deja vu" moments, where what is coming out of my mouth as I discipline my children is something I have heard before.  Not just because I have most likely repeated it a thousand times already, but because I remember hearing it from the other side - when I was a kid.  One of those phrases that feels like a continuous feedback loop is, "No means NO."

Let's face it, as human beings we have a problem with the word "NO."  We especially have a problem with it when someone is telling us what we should not do, or are not allowed to do.  The minute we hear the word, there is a part of us that takes the restriction as a challenge - one that we either must experience to understand, or one that we must see if we can get away with.  Curiosity is one part of what drives us, and independent willfulness is the other.  This dynamic duo has been getting humans in trouble for generations, well truthfully, since the dawn of creation with Adam and Eve.

In Romans 7:7-13, Paul continues to explain our relationship to God's law (His teachings and commandments), and why the "rules" themselves are insufficient.  The rules, and trying to keep them, cannot make us right before God.  In fact, I don't think they were ever intended to.  Read through the passage for a moment and then come back to the rest of this post.

Did you catch how Paul describes the law of God?  He said, "Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." In other words, God's law and teachings were meant to shed light on and expose the choices, actions, and desires that are wrong and destructive.  They were intended to show us the best way to live, and what true moral behavior looks like.  Consistently, God's law and His interactions with humanity through each generation address where people are at that time and urges them forward from that point to a higher standard.

But at each point we heard a "NO," we desired to keep or to discover what was identified as not good for us.  My own simple example is with coffee. I like coffee, and I can take it or leave it on any given day. Some days I forget to drink it, and other days I choose tea.  But the minute I think about getting rid of coffee completely for health reasons, I start desiring it more.  When I fast from drinking coffee, the desire for it can be so strong, I will smell it when there is no coffee anywhere near me.  Standing in my kitchen, my body will almost automatically at times start going through the motions of making coffee.  (I have caught myself mid brew before.)  So strong is the desires of the flesh, and so powerful, that when we tell them "NO," they try to take over and figure out another way to get what I want.  The desires of our flesh can seem almost unstoppable.

But they are stoppable, and they are weaker than they feel.  The first step in breaking free from sin is to recognize it for what it is.  That is what God's law and commands do.  He exposes our sinful desires, choices, and actions. When we see them and become more aware of them, we initially feel helpless and overwhelmed by them.  In the same way, children must feel overwhelmed at all the "NO's" their parents give them, and all the things that are unsafe for them.  I remember as a kid at times feeling like there were so many "NO's" that I didn't get to do 'anything' (which was no where near to being true - it just felt that way because I was focused on the "NO").

What's amazing, though, is what happens when we have a "YES."  We can choose to focus on that "YES" and enjoy the freedom of it.  Or, we can belittle the "YES" because it doesn't undo a "NO" that we really wanted to be a "YES."  That choice in and of itself is the choice between a life with God and a life apart from Him.

  So, how are you doing with letting "NO" mean "NO"?

Try focusing on the things God has blessed you with, and the gifts and abilities He has given you.  As you see your habits and desires more clearly, try redirecting them toward what God says is good.  See what you find out about your relationship with God when you stop throwing a tantrum over what is "NO" and start living for the "YES."

For a practical exercise in this, try fasting some food you really love for a week.  Pay attention to how you and your flesh behave when you want it and aren't allowed to have it.  Then pray, and let God show you how to let it go, and celebrate what you are allowed to have.

This simple exercise may help you understand this passage better, and may help you see some deep places of rebellion or ungratefulness between you and God.  It may also help you experience His grace, presence, and strength in a new way.

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