3 John 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.
When I was a kid, my father and I were downtown one day when I talked him into buying me candy cigarettes. Being a father now myself, I know that he thought it would be amusing to see what mom would say. She of course, was not amused as she came home to find me puffing sugar-smoke clouds, doing my best James Dean. I thought it was grand however. It felt good to be bad. I wish I outgrew that feeling as I outgrew candy cigarettes.
Why is it that I desire that which is destructive? Why do I want donuts instead of broccoli, the couch instead of the gym, the flesh instead of the spirit? Why do I want instant gratification even when I know I will pay for it later? I do not know if it has to be more complicated than this: It is just the nature of my flesh. Since the breaking of the world, man has had an appetite for the forbidden fruit. I am no different. I have an appetite for that which is destructive. I did not have an inherent desire that day to be a choir boy. I wanted the cigarettes.
The problem is of course, that I will pay now or pay later. Anyone who has worked hard for anything will attest to the reality that anything good in life will require hard work up front. With instant gratification however, the price is paid after the pleasure. The darker and greater the pleasure, the greater and more destructive the price will be. I can lie to myself, insisting that I can engage in drugs, pornography, greed, gluttony, pride, anger, and bitterness, without paying any price, but I cannot escape forever. I will always pay in the end, one way or another.
John says it does not have to be this way. I am not a base creature of instinct, destined to wallow in the madness and misery of my own appetite. I am free, daily, to choose to imitate that which is good. It is always the harder choice, but it is always the right one. This is what it means to sow the seeds of God’s spirit in me: Choosing to put the hard work in up front so I will later reap a reward of life instead of death. I have known the destruction of imitating evil, so today I will choose to imitate that which is good. I want to reap that reward of life instead of destruction, so today, I will choose to deny self and follow God.