Letter Or Spirit?

by Rich Dixon on August 11, 2011

Do you think it matters “why” you do the right thing?

Training for Rich’s Ride is teaching me a lot. If nothing else, riding mostly alone for 3-4 hours per day provides a lot of time to think.

I thought I knew about getting in shape. There’s a process—you do certain things, follow the steps, and eventually you reach your goals. But I’ve never trained for this kind of long-term endurance event. I’m discovering that doing the training, following the steps, is really not the biggest part of the battle.

The hardest aspect of this kind of training is mental. I’m finding that I need to change how I perceive what I’m doing.

I remind myself several times during each workout why I’m doing the work. I want to honor God, serve others, share my story. The exercise is a means to an end; it’s not the end.

You may think it doesn’t matter what I’m thinking as long as I get the workout done, but I’m finding that it matters a lot. When I forget the foundations, exercise becomes drudgery, a series of expected behaviors I “have to” complete. All I want is to get done. The joy vanishes and workouts become self-imposed rules I “have to” follow.

That might work for a short period, but over time frustration builds and motivation lags. I begin seeking shortcuts and excuses, or I do the work half-heartedly so I can check it off the list. That’s not a formula for long-term success.

Look at the previous three paragraphs. Change the context. Replace “exercise” with your job, church, quiet time, marriage, friendship, family time, or whatever adds long-term quality to your life.

  • Have you reduced an essential area of life to a perfunctory set of behaviors?
  • Are you experiencing a sense of “have to”?
  • Are you conforming to rules or formulas?
  • Are you fulfilling the “letter of the law” or the spirit behind it?

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6

I always thought religion was about a long list of rules, things you should do and shouldn’t do—mostly things you shouldn’t do. And I was right. That’s what religion is about.

But following Jesus is something entirely different. He doesn’t want me to change my behavior, He wants to change ME. He doesn’t want me to conform to some code. He wants me to allow Him to transform my heart.

The letter kills. The Spirit gives life.

Has “letter” replaced “Spirit” in some important aspect of life? What needs to change?

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