Friday, December 5, 2008

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Victory Over Sin

Several months ago now, I wrote a challenge entitled, "Struggling With Sin," (see the August 28/08 Faith Challenge) and described the battle that we all often feel rages inside of us.  I quoted Paul's words from Romans 7 because we can all identify with that which he feels.  And then I talked about the help that God wants to provide if we simply ask him to help us.  Today I want to go back to this and teach it even stronger.  I don't know why I didn't see it before.  Maybe that is just the nature of God's revelation, that each time we go back to a particular scripture, God's Holy Spirit is able to show us more and teach us something new (see John 14:26).  The word of God is always fresh and right what we need each day.  Paul said,

"I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do . . . . I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing . . . . What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:14, 18-19, 24).

What I don't think I realized strong enough was that this is not supposed to be our experience.  Paul was going back in his own history and reflecting on a former time, before he met Christ while he was still under the law and trying to make it on his own.  And, it is true that whenever we try to battle sin or defeat it on our own we will loose.  "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Paul asks.  He continues, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [and through him only is there any rescue]" (Romans 7:25).  What is Paul saying?  Read Romans 8!  Yes, "So then, I myself  in my mind  am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin" (Romans 7:25), or should I say, I was.  Read Romans 8!  It is no accident that Paul uses the little phrase, "I myself."  This way of trying to defeat sin in our lives will always be a struggle that ends in defeat.  We must read on (and I am sorry I didn't see this more clearly the last time I visited this passage).  Sometimes I think we just want a excuse to struggle or worse, to sin and excuse that.

In this struggle with sin on our own, we will always end up loosing and berating ourselves.  I think that that is where many of us live everyday.  I want to be better, but I don't seem to ever really improve.  Do we think that talking about it is improvement?  Romans 8 begins by saying, hard on the heels of Paul's acknowledgment in Romans 7:

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2). 

What we could never do, so don't believe the lie of the enemy that you alone can win the battle over sin, God did by sending his Son "in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Romans 8:3), and to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 8:4).  When we come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are no longer living according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit and as such, "the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us" (Romans 8:4).  Yes, they are met in us, not just in Jesus.  He has transferred his sufficiency to us!

The enemy of our souls will always try to take us back to the old way because he knows that it ends in defeat. When we are in Christ, "we are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).  We cannot and should not go back there.

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Romans 8:5-9).

I wonder whether our problem is not so much struggling with sin as much as it is struggling with the Spirit?  What would happen if we simply said yes to the Spirit of God that is in us?  Apparently we could really live (see Romans 8:10-13).  We would then be able to walk fully in the freedom that Christ came to bring us.  We would then be able to fully embrace the sonship that all who are in Christ have legal right to (see also John 1:12-13).  Why do we think that the Spirit of God will do anything but good in our lives? (see Romans 8:28).  We are sons and daughters of God!  We can come to God and call him "Abba," "Daddy," in an intimate and personal relationship.  And if we are his children, we are heirs heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). 

Read all of Romans 8!  Let the life of and in the Spirit be more real than our "former" struggle with sin before we met Christ.  Why, when we have been delivered from the law of sin and death would we choose to live there any more.  We have the victory in Jesus and in the on-going presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Yes, Lord.  More of you in my life so that I may truly live!

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