“Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attack. We rely on our willpower and determination. Whatever may be the issue for us—anger, fear, bitterness, gluttony, pride, lust, substance abuse—we determine never to do it again; we pray against it, fight against it, set our will against it. But the struggle is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt or, worse yet, so proud of our external righteousness that ‘whitened sepulchers’ is a mild description of our condition. In his excellent little book entitled Freedom from Sinful Thoughts Heini Arnold writes, ‘We… want to make it quite clear that we cannot free and purify our own heart by exerting our own will.’

In Colossians Paul lists some of the outward forms that people use to control sin: ‘touch not, taste not, handle not.’ He then adds that these things ‘have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship’ (Col. 2:20-23, KJV, [italics added]). ‘Will worship’ – what a telling phrase, and how descriptive of so much of our lives! The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over sin by strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshiping the will. Isn’t it ironic that Paul looks at our most strenuous efforts in the spiritual walk and calls them idolatry, ‘will worship’?… The will has the same deficiency as the law—it can deal only with externals. It is incapable of bringing about the necessary transformation of the inner spirit… inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside.” Excerpts from Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster