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:
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.