We all struggle with sin as a part of our everyday. It´s there when we throw hateful comments after people who annoy us – in our minds, that is (´cause I´d never in a million years say those things out loud!). It´s there when the chores we know we should get done just gets postponed – always for good reasons – and our flatmates suffer because of it. It´s there when we – mid-conversation – realize we´re gossipping about someone, but since we´ve already started and the harm is done, we might as well just finish the conversation – our friends do know that we mean no harm by it anyway. It´s there when we know we get grumpy in the mornings and whoever we´ll meet the next day will have to suffer through our irritation and short, harsh comments – yet we still choose to stay up most of the night to watch whatever lame show that´s cought our attention or surf the internet (there are always some pictures on facebook yet unviewed).
«Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.» (2 Timothy 2:21-26, ESV)
Thoughts, words, actions. Why do we so easily live like we ourselves are all that matters? I do at least – too often. I choose to ignore the still small voice motioning me toward Jesus, and indulge in whatever I feel like doing in that very moment, allowing the lack of discipline in my life to bring me to new pitfalls. Yes, I´ve got excuses. Plenty of them, as a matter of fact! They´re mostly ready long before the sins are committed, but when I come to think of it, they´re really not all that valid in view of the One Who payed the price for my freedom from sin through the death of His Own Son, Jesus Christ.
«Well, if you put it like that.. I mean, isn´t that just a bit.. »
That´s the only way it can be put. Whatever my excuses were, they always crumble in the face of the all altering truth of the Gospel. «I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.» (Galatians 2:20, ESV). God will avenge whatever injustice has been done – both to us and by us (2.Thess.1:5-10). Our responsibility is to never make other people´s sin the excuse for our own. God knows that we are weak, He knows about the minimal amount of sleep (because of …) that always results in a sinful crankiness, He knows what they did – to us, to others – and He knows that we´re tired, bored, impatient, restless, lacking motivation, irritated, sad, jealous, brokenhearted, competative, angry, sick of the injustice all around us, our feeling neglected, not to mention feeling crushed under the weight of being human in a sinful and utterly broken world. He knows all this. That´s why He offers us freedom – out of sin, into Christ. It´s a freedom with restrictions, a freedom with rules, with the command of a certain way of living, but this is the only freedom that fills us with peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal.5:22-23). It´s also the only freedom which comes with a promise of the strength needed to face each difficult situation (2.Cor.12:9-10), abundance for every good work that is asked of us (1. Cor. 9:8); the only freedom with includes eternity together with our Saviour.
Lately I´ve been reading this blog called «The Beggars Daughter«, which is about women struggeling with porn-addictions. The writer of the blog, Jessica, has so much wisdom and insight into the constant struggle we have with sin, and if porn is the issue we struggle with or not, what she writes is applicable – because we all struggle with something – with plenty of «something»s.
Not too long ago she wrote a blog about guilt – not as the enemy we´re often raised to believe it is, but as a friend – a helper to get us back on our knees, handing our struggles over to God through repentance and resting in all the promises He has made to us; His beloved children (1. John 3:1). Jessica writes so beautifully about the process of facing the guilt, and dealing with the reason for it – our sin.
«Guilt means responsibility. Guilty is taking responsibility for a wrong. We just don’t like doing that. (…) If you want to continue growing on this journey, you are going to have to admit when things are not right. Yes, it is hard, humbling, and it hurts. You cannot push on like nothing ever happened. Moving on will give you a false sense of victory, a blissful ignorance, and when we are ignorant toward sin, the outcome can be disastrous.»
Close to always, my initial responce to guilt is to beat myself up – trying inwardly to choke my fleshly ways, and try to find a way to make up for my horrible tendency to fall into sin. This shows that I´ve misunderstood something essencial. Guilt is a friend beckoning us to run back to God, fall into His arms and experience the power of His grace – His life changing grace – the only thing that´s ever going to change our sinful tendencies.
«For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.» (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)
Grace saves us, but it´s also what works change in us – it´s training us. It is hard, and it costs us everything. But I believe with all my heart that it is worth it – for the «surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ» (Phil.3:8).
So will I lay it all down, live the perfect Christian life from now on? I wish I would, but I know that through showing me my sinfulness over and over again, the Lord also shows me His grace over and over again, and it just keeps appearing greater and greater. I know I will fall again, but I also know that He is there to catch in His grace me when I do – the grace that is training me to a life in godliness.
«To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.» (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, ESV)