When Knowing the Answer Is Not Enough

When Knowing the Answer Is Not Enough

We’ve all known that student in class.  You know, the one who has all the answers any time a question is asked.  Hand raised, answer given, but often in reality, the person is completely unmoved and unchanged by the information so readily available to the mind.

As a pastor, one of the greatest struggles I experience is my inherent inability to make someone take the information they know intellectually and drive it deeply into their bones in a way that transforms.  This is simultaneously one of the most challenging, yet liberating aspects of my role as pastor.  Challenging, because I so desperately desire to see people changed and set free by the gospel.  Liberating, because I’m driven to my knees again and again, to confess to God that I am not the Holy Spirit, and to plead with Him to do what only He can do.

This week, a video from my home-town, Huntington, WV television news station made the rounds on Facebook, illustrating the God-shaped gap between what we know and the transformation that only He by His Spirit can bring into one’s life.

Tim Irr, the anchor of WSAZ-TV was at the Huntington police station, interviewing a woman who had been arrested that night as part of a prostitution sting in that city.  She desperately wanted to share her story on the air, expressing remorse to her family and offering a warning to others who would listen.  The anchor asked in multiple ways whether she had any hope for the future and what it would take for her to walk away from a life of addiction and prostitution.  Her answer broke my heart.  “I’m an addict,” she said resignedly.  “There is something broken in me, and I don’t think it can be fixed.”  The anchor, clearly displaying his own humanity did not want her to settle for that answer.

“What’s it going to take for you to stop?” he asked with hopeful compassion.  And that’s when the disconnect became tragically clear.

“The only way to get sober and stay sober is Christ,” she said.  “Belief in Jesus will save you.”  Irr had a little hope now – a breakthrough, perhaps.  After confirming she’d witnessed Christ’s transforming work in others, this mother of two teens said in a hopeless tone, “I don’t want to walk that life.  Apparently, I chose the wrong road.  I believe, but I don’t want to live the right life.”

What hope is there for this woman, living life with the knowledge of God’s transforming power in Christ, but unconvinced that it is for her?

Only a heart softened by the love and grace of Jesus, a heart that knows not only what Christ has done for others, but that it’s for “me” can be transformed to live for God, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit alone.

In Romans 8:1, the Apostle Paul explains that for all who belong to Jesus, they are no longer condemned, but instead, “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).  It’s only when we see that by Christ’s finished work, we are no longer condemned that we are set fee by God’s power to have that which we know driven deep into our hearts to live for Him.  The apostle explains it this way:  “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6-7).

My prayer this week has been that God would give this woman and all of us the grace not only to know, but to be set free by His Spirit to live for Him!