Sunday, December 28, 2008

Getting serious about sin

God spoke to me rather profoundly last night. About sin. Again.

There has been a great deal of this of late. Perhaps He is trying to make a point... Here, of course, when I say "perhaps" I actually mean "most definitely."

There are a number of areas in my life in which I perennially struggle with sin. One of them cropped up again this week. I've been attempting to deal with it. Attempting. Not really dealing with it as seriously as I ought. Making half-hearted attempts to prevent its rearing its ugly head in my days again, but not really seeking its active destruction. John Owen, a Puritan writing hundreds of years ago, rather accurately observed that if we're not killing sin, it's killing us. A rather chilling thought, and one that we all would do well to grapple with.

I wasn't grappling enough. God decided to make the point a bit more clearly. (I'm grateful. My heart really is deceitful and wicked, and I can and do deceive myself on a regular basis.) I had a conversation with Jaimie, and she spoke of how a person had hurt her. My anger flared, and rightly. The person had done her ill, had caused her grief and pain because of sin and unredemption, had flung that sin even in the face of God. The anger aroused in me was righteous. It was born not merely of emotion or of empathy, but of the deep sense that wrong had been done here. We've all experienced that. I experienced it powerfully in that moment.

Then God spoke.

Sometimes He speaks clearly; sometimes He speaks in a whisper so quiet we must be truly listening to hear Him.

This time was the former. Clear as could be, I knew the Spirit was saying: "That anger you feel at this sin? All well and good. But my anger at your sin is infinitely more than this. And you should hate your own sin so violently as this, and more." I simply sat there quietly. Jaimie wondered if something was wrong. There was indeed something wrong — with me.

I can grow so callous to sin, and here I had. God is glorified in our pursuit of Him. This was something less than pursuit of Him. It was perhaps a lolligagging wander in His direction, haphazard and caring little about the many extra weights I was bearing. He in His grace called me out of it.

We are not allowed to tolerate sin. The moment we begin to tolerate sin, we begin to become inured to its presence. We build up an immunity to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. We start to slowly embrace the sin. And in time, it gives birth — to death. The only ultimate fruit of sin is death; it can never produce anything else. So the fact that I was playing with this sin put me in a far worse position than playing with fire. It put me in the position of a man burning off his nerve endings so he is unable to feel the pain any longer, unable to recognize the clear signs that this is bad.

But God is faithful! So many times, Scripture cries out that magnificent "but God!" and speaks life where only death could reign — as here in my own life. But God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation, will provide a way of escape, so that you may bear under it! We have this hope in us: that it is not we who sanctify ourselves but Christ Jesus who is our sanctification as well as our propitiation and justification. We are not saved once by grace, at the moment of conversion: we are saved daily by His grace as He transforms us from death to life.

And so we, like Paul, can learn to say, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave me himself for me.

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