It’s the dilemma that (I believe) all those who are Born Again suffer with: am I doing what I want to do to please God, or am I doing what I want to do because it pleases me?
Shaul (Paul- that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus) had this problem, too. He tells us about it in his letter to the Roman Believers (7:15):
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
The Talmud tells us we are all born with the yetzer hara (the evil inclination) and only years later does the yetzer hatov (the good inclination) develop. The yetzer hara can, when controlled by the yetzer hatov, be made useful for it is the desire to have things that are pleasing to us, and so having a spouse, a house, a job- all these can be attributed to the yetzer hara and, when controlled by the yetzer tov, these desires of our hedonistic hearts can be channeled into useful and Godly activities.
However, what we really need to do is that which is pleasing to God, and to know what that is is to first learn to not trust ourselves. We are, by nature, self-centered, self-important, self-absorbed and NOT self-controlled. That which is of us is not that which is of God; that which is of God (the Ruach HaKodesh) is in those of us who have accepted Messiah Yeshua and asked for the Spirit, which we must learn to listen to. It is the small, still voice of God that Elijah heard, and not the loud shouting of the yetzer hara that Ahab listened to.
The Ruach tells us what God wants us to do whereas the yetzer hara tells us what we want to do, which is to please our physical bodies, to be the center of all things and to have more toys than everyone else, no matter what it takes to get them.
The yetzer hatov is not, in my opinion, the same as the Ruach HaKodesh. The yetzer hatov is, in Freudian terms, the ego, controlling the basic, animal desire for self-gratification, which is the Id. The Ruach HaKodesh is more like the Superego, which deals with the morality of what we take (Id) or ask for (Ego) from the world.
I am not an expert in the field of psychology, but I think the above simile is feasible as an example. We all want what we want- that is as primal as the need for self-preservation. Maslow (back to the Psych 101 class) had 10 levels of self actualization, which describes how he believes the human psyche works. We start at the very basic needs- food, water, shelter, and advance from physical needs, to safety, to love, to esteem, and finally to the highest levels where we have morality, understanding and acceptance.
The science of human psychology is fascinating, and having been in sales for a long time, I am glad that I have a fair understanding of human nature- it is essential to being a successful salesperson. But what really helps is to know the Lord, to know what He wants from us (that means to read the bible, duh!) and to have the Ruach HaKodesh to lead us. It’s OK if you have developed your Superego, if you are at the tenth level of self-actualization, if you have studied under the Guru, whatever- it’s all good to be a “humanly” moral and self-actualized person. But that isn’t someone with the spirit of God leading them. The Ruach will never lead you incorrectly, whereas human leadership is more based on what we want and what the world says you should be. It can’t be any other way: social morality is defined by the culture, right? It may be OK to cane a child in the Philippines for breaking the law, but not in the USA. Therefore, to be a morally upright person means to be in accordance with the moral and ethical norms of the society in which you live.
To be a godly person means to be within the moral and ethical norms of God’s word- the Torah. Human morality is based on your social or geographical environment, but God’s morality is based on what God says it is. It is universal. The bible tells us over and over what God wants of us; Old Covenant or New Covenant doesn’t matter- both are based on the Torah. Yeshua (Jesus) taught nothing but what is in the Torah, so the Torah is where we all need to start and where we all need to stay.
Religion is in the same category as social morality- each one is developed by people and each one has it’s own rules about right and wrong. The Torah is the foundation for all the Judeo-Christian religions, but so many different religions have built on the Torah in so many different ways that it is now buried under so many rules and canon that we don’t even see it anymore. Even within Judaism, the one religion that is closest to honoring the Torah as it was given to us by God, has almost over-ridden it with the Talmud, a document made by people. And there are 7 different forms of Judaism today: how can that be? One God, one Torah, but 7 ways to worship?
Oy! No wonder we’re all so screwed up!
The bottom line is the one that counts, right? So, nu? what’s the bottom line? It’s this:
God has no religion.
Read the bible, forget what religion tells you to do, and when you (if you haven’t yet) accept:
- that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised us;
- accept Him in your heart;
- ask God for forgiveness through the sacrificial atonement Yeshua completed for you;
- ask that the Comforter, the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, be given to you and indwell within you
then you will have the ability to know what to do and what not to do from God’s perspective (so long as you teach yourself to listen to the Ruach.)
In the meantime, try to live by this rule:
If the world likes it, most likely God doesn’t.
That’s easy enough to understand, isn’t it?