The Storm Rages On

Listening to the weather forecast on the first day of spring was infuriating.  I found myself shaking my fist at the TV and calling down curses upon the “computer models.”

This is spring, but its spring in the High Plains, which usually means another three weeks of winter! How I long for the sun to shine through these bleak overcast skies; for the world to turn green rather than this shoe-bottom brown.

But, alas, I must wait.  Though the sun is trying to shine through my window now, off in the distance the clouds are forming and the storms rage on.  More snow, more cold, more winter – that’s all the weather man said.

I saw this meme and knew it to be true:

Winter Meme

Old man winter just won’t die. He keeps rearing his ugly head. Doesn’t he know when he has overstayed his welcome?

Just as I long for the sun to shine and new growth to come to the world outside, how desperately do I long for this in my own heart.  I long to walk in the radiance of the glory of God, to see new growth in the life on the vine. I want to live a life that delights my creator, to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to grow in my love for my neighbor.

And yet, the old man in me simply won’t die.  Sin keeps rearing its ugly head.  The temptations I thought I had overcome keep creeping back in, the vices the gripped me, continue to squeeze all life from me. My old self, with all it’s worldly passions and tastes still rages on.  Like a winter storm that comes in the midst of spring, the old life in me  comes to bite, devour, and delay any growth in righteousness.

I grow tired of the battle, of fighting the same fights day after day.

Doesn’t the old life know its defeated? Christ has conquered sin and death, and in Christ, I live a new life.  The war is over, but the battle rages on. Why then do I struggle with sin?

Galatians 5:17, while speaking truth to my heart, may not give me a lot of encouragement.  Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against he Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to teacher other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  In Romans 7, he famously writes, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

There is a war that is raging between the old life in the flesh and the new life in the Spirit.  If we enter this battle simply laying down our arms, we will be overcome and lose all the joy of our salvation.  If we are engaging in this war, fighting against the last outposts of worldliness and the strongholds of sin in our hearts and minds with the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God), the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of faith, and all of the armor of God, then we will overcome, as Christ has overcome the world.

There is promised victory, new life, in Christ. Yet this victory, while glorious, is never complete in this life. The Westminster Confession describes it this way:

This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

How do we ready ourselves for this battle?  While I could focus on the armor of God, or the means of grace, or the pursuit of spiritual disciplines, I think the best place to start is with looking to Christ.  If you want to enjoy the delights of spring, then when the sun is shining – go stand in it for a while. If you want to engage in the battle against sin in your life, then “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  Fix your eyes upon Christ. Read in His word of His grace, His love, His power, His goodness.  Allow Christ to become bigger than any obstacle you face today (1 John 5:4-5), to become more satisfying than that which temps you (John 6:35), more rewarding than anything this world offers (Psalm 16:5-6).

I’ll conclude with yet another quote from Robert Murray McCheyne:

Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!
Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.
Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.
Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.

Killing My Old Man

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
(Romans 6:11)

The past couple of weeks I have written on the theme of “Killing Sin.”  I have more to write on that, but I thought I would first take a step back and give a little thought to the language here.

Is it acceptable to use terms like “killing sin,” or “putting sin to death?”  One might object to that kind of harsh, brutal language.  I mean, it doesn’t sound very Christian, does it?  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate, more polite to say things like, “pursuing the potential of good within,” “accentuating the positive,” or even, “Let go of yesterday. Let today be a new beginning and be the best that you can, and you’ll get to where God wants you to be.”  That certainly sounds a whole lot nicer than, “killing my old man” (thank you Petra).

The thing is, such polite platitudes fail to recognize the pervasive power of sin and how far that sin has permeated into our lives (phew, that’s a lot of “p’s”).  Sin is not just something we do, it is a power over us, enslaving us, which, if left untouched, will destroy us, rob us of the joy of salvation, and even call into question our very assurance.  Think about it, when we choose sin over righteousness, when we choose not to engage in warfare against sin’s hold on our hearts, then that sin is more attractive, more desirable, more of our hearts desire, than Jesus, the lover of our souls.

We must be in the business of mortifying, killing, sin.  This is what Paul is saying in Romans 6:

Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life… For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The mandate, the instruction, to mortify sin does not come as a way for you to finally “get right with God,” or “live into your full potential.”  No, the call to die to sin is based in the reality of your established identity in Christ.  If you have been baptized into Christ, that is, if by faith you have come to Christ for salvation and His word has washed you clean, then you are, in fact, dead to sin and alive to God.  The power of sin is broken, your life is hidden in the risen, righteous life of Christ.  You have been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ – this is your identity.

In Christ, sin no longer defines you, no longer rules over you, no longer determines your position.  Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above (Col 3:1).  Put off the old self, take on the new (Rom 13:12; Eph 4:22; Col 2:11, 3:9).

To walk with Christ and continue in sin is cognitive dissonance, an identity crisis to the nth degree.  You cannot feed a passion for Christ and also nurse a grudge.  You cannot proclaim the truth and spread a lie.  You cannot build one another up while also passing along rumors and gossip.  You cannot enjoy the fellowship of Christ and despise those who sit across the aisle from you.

At the Pastor’s Conference I attended last week, Sinclair Ferguson said, “Much of pastoral ministry is simply reminded people who they are in Christ, again and again.”  Remember your life is hidden in Christ Jesus, the one who died for our sins and who was raised for our justification.  He is risen, mighty over sin and death; and through faith, so are you.

Now, get busy killing sin!

SDG