Last month I wrote about the physical and spiritual aspects of the reality we experience. The other aspect of our reality is the psychological, or soulish, realm. In contrast to the fact that the physical and spiritual realms operate according to God's unchangeable laws, the psychological realm operates in accordance with our own powers and abilities. Habit patterns, our intellect, and our own willpower are aspects of the psychological realm. Our willpower has been given to us as a tool to manage this psychological realm, and it has authority there. If I have a habit of brushing my teeth without flossing, and I decide to start flossing, I can generally succeed in doing so. But we have made a huge mistake because we have believed that our willpower has authority in the spiritual realm. However, we cannot overcome or defy God's physical laws or spiritual laws with our willpower. It was never given to us for this purpose.
To imagine the relative power of our willpower and the operation of God's laws, picture an ant standing on a highway. A huge truck is coming his way at full speed, and the ant thinks he can stop the truck by standing up and blocking its movement with his body. The ant's degree of failure is at the same level as our failure to stop the operation of God's laws with our own willpower! Yet we have been under the delusion that we can do so, but we need a righteousness that exceeds willpower.
One of the great tragedies in our Western culture is the elevation of our willpower and our intellect to the throne of our life. We think that the only things we can trust are these faculties, and whenever we are in need, without thinking we automatically rely on our willpower and intellect. If people who are hooked on drugs could "Just Say No," many would, but many try, and fail, over and over again. They have made a decision with their intellect and relied on their willpower to bring it to pass, but were doomed to failure because they have not recognized the sin issue involved in not treating the temple of the Holy Spirit with proper regard. When we sin, we set in motion God's laws against us. We will surely reap the consequences of what we have sown.
The good news is that there is a way to freedom in Christ if we understand the provision that Jesus has made for us, and make use of it. Picture another huge truck speeding down the highway. A traffic jam lies ahead, and the truck driver needs to stop the truck quickly. Does he open the door and drag his foot on the pavement to stop the truck? Of course not. He doesn't have within himself the power to stop the truck. What he needs to do is to decide to press the brake pedal, and then to act by actually pressing it. This activates a powerful brake system, which has been provided for just such a purpose. In this same way, in spiritual matters, we need to: 1) recognize the sin problem; 2) believe in the powerful provision Jesus has given us; 3) use our willpower to decide to activate the provision; 4) act by praying. Our willpower does have a part to play, but it is not the force or power that brings about freedom and blessing.