Saturday, July 28, 2012

Striving Against Sin

You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:04, NKJV).
Sin, our sin, comes in so many forms, and so easily to us, that we really don't know what true resistance to sin looks like.

Don't get me wrong. Many give temptation to sin a good fight now and then, and many Christians are more than conquerors of some of the habitual sins that plagued them prior to salvation. With their new hearts, new world view, renewed minds, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these converts have put off old behaviors almost overnight, never to take them up again.

Yet, this side of Heaven, each one of us struggles with remnants of our old nature and, more than we care to confess, succumb almost instantly to temptation. Our resistance is lowered. Our ability to strive is limited. We are not nearly as antagonistic to our sin as we would like to think. Or need to be.

Covetousness, outbursts of wrath, foolish talking, evil speaking, gossiping, lack of faith, ingratitude, un-forgiveness, lack of love, lack of self-control, violence, pride, boasting, disrespect, lust, intemperance, and on and on - are treated as friends instead of enemies; like comfortable old drinking buddies with whom we long to reminisce. And make no mistake, these are the things that make life on this planet miserable. 

For everyone.

Can you imagine a world absent of such commonplace evil? Go ahead. Try. 

After a minute, the mental picture fades into cliche or incomprehension. It is like coming up with a new color. But again, make no mistake, it is sin that makes life miserable. Without it, this life would be Heaven on earth.

Now Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Author of our Faith, became Man to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin. But He did not just make an appearance on the world stage, accomplish His mission and depart. He lived as one of us, from conception onward, and was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.

Truthfully, this is impossible for me to fully comprehend. I do not doubt it for a second, but it, too, is like that never-before-seen-color. I just can't picture it.

But I can get a small glimpse of what agony a sinless Man must have suffered in striving against temptation. Perhaps, it was that very battle which caused Jesus to sweat blood that horrible and lonely night in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately prior to His brutal arrest and murder.

To be God, to have all power and knowledge, and to experience the many horrors of this life without taking action in His own strength must have been an endless and incredible temptation, and the stakes could not have been higher. Had Christ succumbed to any of it whatsoever, Redemption would have been impossible.

In comparison, any temptation we suffer is as nothing, and yet we fail continuously to resist.

I am not arguing here for legalism, for the letter of the Law kills, without the Spirit. It deadens the heart and mind and engenders the fiercest kind of self-congratulatory pride.

But I am illustrating yet another aspect of the magnificence of our Savior.

We fail constantly. He failed not one iota. His success is our forgiveness. And blessing. And eternal life.

Do you see even more why He is worthy of all power, honor, glory, dominion, gratitude, worship and praise?

He did resist to bloodshed. He did strive against sin - for us, because we could not; not for a nanosecond, even if we had all eternity to try.

If you don't understand why God had to redeem us through such mystifying means as sending His Son to become one of us, to resist sin, and to die, then you do not understand what it means to be a holy, righteous, loving, merciful, and just God. 

That's OK, as long as you believe that for Him to be just, and the justifier of sinners, Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection were actual and necessary; that He became sin for us that we could become His righteousness in Him.

Finally, it is only as you walk long and hard with the Lord in this life that you become sensitized to just how evil and pervasive is sin, and how much of a captive it has made you and the world. It is only as your perception of His goodness is deepened that you see the utter wickedness of your own heart, and you cry out like Peter, "Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

Unbelievers do not think this way, and they hate you, like they hated Him, for bringing to light by whatever means the darkness and deadness of living without Christ in this world.

If you doubt this for one second, just humbly voice your allegiance to the Son of God, and His teachings and ways, and, as consistently as possible, have your words and deeds match.

You will be amazed at how unpopular and reviled you actually become - even by those of your own family, or those whom you thought were staunch allies.

What they are really hating is not you, but Christ in you, the hope of glory.