THE UGLY OLD “I” —A POSSIBLE REAL STORY IN OUR LIFE
CHONG FOOK FAH (LONDON, UK)
“There is another ‘I’ inside him,
who often suppresses the godly ‘I’”.
Human fallen nature is
demonstrated in the fallen world. Many Christians still submit to their old
‘I’. No doubt these poor souls deserve our care and love. But Oswald feels sad
about the ignorance that blinds them to their purpose of life. In fact, he is pitying himself. If he were still in sin (in reality he
is), life would be a long list of weekly lottery numbers, gradually conquered
by other vices suds as those stated in Mark 7:21-22, “evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy,
slander, arrogance and folly” (NIV).
One day, when reading the Bible,
solely by chance, he realises that the ugly old ‘I’ which had supposedly been crucified ages ago with Christ is
still very much alive in him. Despite outwardly following Christ, he still
keeps the old ‘I’ inside. Worse still, he knows he shouldn’t, but he allows
‘him’ to live on.
In this world, there are people
who take pride in their sinful activities. Sometimes, Oswald wishes to be
different. Unfortunately he does not want it radically enough. He goes on
committing what he thinks are negligible or pardonable sins — not condemning
adultery but watching pornographic films; telling others to be tolerant and
forgiving but attacking and slandering his correctors; wanting his close
friends to attend weekly Sabbath services but skipping others; promoting his
family in church but degrading the fervent and the knowledgeable. There is
another ‘I’ inside him, who often suppresses the godly ‘I’.
Oswald’s problem is partly the
result of social allurement to which he is subject at work, but can be overcome
if he is determined enough. It is, he knows very well, not possible for one to
be indulgent and godly at the same time. But he still goes to casino — though
he does not gamble big — a vice that ruins his Christian identity and morals.
As a result, the reputation of the church suffers.
When he was younger, he had
behaved quite well. He was a responsible youth in church, and he cared for the
needy, both physically and spiritually. He participated heartily in the
ministry of saving souls. He was exemplary to many older members. Later, his
fervency for the Lord dwindled. As soon as his family moved away from the
church following his father’s job transfer, he began to spend more time with
his schoolmates. Gradually the well-established relation-ship with the church
was severed. Perhaps, he should have been ready to face the challenge to his
spirituality posed by his new environment. But it might not have been entirely
Maybe he or the church should have
persuaded his father to look for another job or make a wiser decision, though
both were not in any position to do so and this has caused him his piety for
God. In life, the responsibility of stating what is right and what is wrong,
especially in difficult situations, tends to be replaced by ‘it will be fine,
if we pray for him constantly.’ It is true that no one likes to be labelled interfering, offering advice on matters that are
not of their direct concern. However, is that a biblical reason for not doing
it? A difficult decision which has to be dealt all the more straightforwardly
with God-given wisdom.
Now Oswald has returned to the
church. But he is no longer as pure and sincere as his earlier days in church.
He continues to join his colleagues for ‘unbiblical activities’, and he even
plays ‘politics’ in church.
Like any other who indulges in
sin, Oswald can only help himself if he realises that
there is a pressing need to do so. Until then, Jesus is just another person,
perhaps someone whom he needs only when hr is in trouble. This realisation may come about when he calms his heart down,
and focuses his attention on God and His word.
He should be able to change
himself for the better, if he return to the wise
choice of his school days — mixing with church brethren who are active in the
gospel work, and leading prayerful lives. He had experienced the ebb of faith
in the past, and was guided through both by God and the helping hands of the
brethren. Convinced then that he needed to stay close with those in the
community of faith, the godly ‘I’ grew in him progressively.
He ought to know that now the
godly ‘I’ is barely surviving. Indeed, sometimes in his spiritually awakened
moments, he can only think of one reason for worrying about ‘him’ — if the
godly ‘I’ is dead he loses his salvation. But then he feels that if the godly ‘I’
is too ‘alive’, he will be restrained from and deprived of the fleeting
pleasures of the world. He believes that a person’s fallen nature is widely
demonstrated in this fallen world, and most people behave the same way. Why
should he make himself drastically different from the rest of the world?
The question is “Are these valid
excuses?” Above all, does God accept them?
Surely He does not.
Jesus has been praying for us to
be protected against the wickedness of this world. However, we should play our
role diligently as well as to put to death, by the Holy Spirit, the old ‘I’.
And this is achievable, because the Lord will give us the strength that we need
to overcome all temptations. It is usually a question of how determined we are
to take the first step to change and to rely on God. If we remain careless, and
allow the old ‘I’ to thrive, by continuing to indulge in worldly pleasures, we
will surely destroy our own spiritual life. Are the vain and fleeting pleasures
of this world worth such a sacrifice?