“I’m a mystery to myself, for I want to do what is right, but end up doing what my moral instincts condemn. And if my behavior is not in line with my desire, my conscience still confirms the excellence of the law. And now I realize that it is no longer my true self doing it, but the unwelcome intruder of sin in my humanity. For I know that nothing good lives within the flesh of my fallen humanity. The longings to do what is right are within me, but willpower is not enough to accomplish it. My lofty desires to do what is good are dashed when I do the things I want to avoid. So if my behavior contradicts my desires to do good, I must conclude that it’s not my true identity doing it, but the unwelcome intruder of sin hindering me from being who I really am. Through my experience of this principle, I discover that even when I want to do good, evil is ready to sabotage me. Truly, deep within my true identity, I love to do what pleases God. But I discern another power operating in my humanity, waging a war against the moral principles of my conscience and bringing me into captivity as a prisoner to the “law” of sin—this unwelcome intruder in my humanity. What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death? I give all my thanks to God, for his mighty power has finally provided a way out through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So if left to myself, the flesh is aligned with the law of sin, but now my renewed mind is fixed on and submitted to God’s righteous principles.”
(Romans 7:15–25, TPT)
What we really have is an identity crisis
We see this concept when the Apostle Paul says, “I don’t understand why I do the things I do. Even though I desire to do what I know is right, I end up doing the very thing I am trying to avoid.” He goes on to admit that his behavior is not congruent with the image he holds himself to, the image of Christ.
I remember vividly the day my journey towards health began. It was not January 18, 2021, the day Wendy and I began doing Optavia or even the first time I asked our congregation to hold me accountable to my commitment to health in a sermon on October 18, 2018. It was actually a few days after thanksgiving when I saw a couple pictures of myself and realized that there was a disconnect between who I claimed to be and who I had become. My reality was not congruent with my image. At that point change inevitable, I could not continue to be someone that I was not. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits states:
Most people don’t even consider identity change when the set out to improve. They just think, ‘I want to be skinny (outcome) and if I stick to this diet, then I’ll be skinny (process).’ They set goals and determine the actions that they should take to achieve those goals without considering the beliefs that drive their actions. They never shift the way they look at themselves, and they don’t realize that their old identity can sabotage their new plans for change…”
“….The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person that wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
The struggle to claim our identity in Christ is equal parts physical, mental, and spiritual. The shift from doing to being although seemingly subtle is actually fundamental to real change. If you identify as a sinner, you are constantly trying to escape from that nature, if your identity is in Christ, righteous decisions simply affirm who you are. In the same way if you identify as unhealthy person doing healthy things, every healthy meal or trip to the gym is a chore that grates against who you believe yourself to be. Inversely if you identify as a healthy person, every positive health choice serves to reaffirm that identity.
To change your mind, heart and attitude requires your full attention, but the first step into admit you are stuck and ask for help. If you need a a plan and a coach, I’d love to chat!