Active or Passive in the Raging War?
April 21, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This past Sunday at Oak Hills we sought to answer the question, “If Christians are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), why do they still sin and struggle with sin?” I believe the apostle Paul wrote Romans 7 to describe this very real struggle for Christians and provide hope.
In this chapter, Paul explains that while a Christian is redeemed from the power of sin (Rom. 6:6) and has been given new spiritual life with God with new desires, delights, and will (Rom. 6:4) he is still afflicted by the lingering influence of sinful flesh (7:14 & 23). This is the identity of Christians and explains the mystery of the struggle.
Paul is pretty clear in his writings that a Christian is not to be passive about this inward struggle. “Let not sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12) and “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).
How does one fight the good fight of faith? How do we make progress in mortifying the flesh while enjoying the newness of life in Christ? I proposed on Sunday that this fight entails two fronts: know your enemy and know your victor. Let me unpack these a bit more here.
1. Know Your Enemy. Paul’s personal testimony of his struggle with sin illuminates the way sin operates and seeks to gain control in our lives. Simply, sin deceives and kills (7:11). Sin uses the commands of God, which reveal God’s holy and perfect will for our lives, leading to greater enjoyment of God and life with God, to turn us away from God. Here lies the deception of sin: don’t trust God and his ways, but trust the false promises of temptation. When we chase down those false promises of pleasure, security, significance, and acceptance, we find how empty they are and how far we have fallen away from God. There lies the death of sin.
Know your enemy so you can counter your enemy. If sin’s primary attack strategy is deception, fight back with the truth of the glorious gospel promises. Only in a reconciled relationship with God through Christ’s finished work on the cross do we find undiminished pleasure (Ps. 16:11), unfailing security (Rom. 8:31), unfading significance (Zeph. 3:17), and unbreakable acceptance (John 10:27-29).
2. Know Your Victor. When Paul asks who will rescue him from “this body of sin” in Romans 7:24, he simply answers with praise for God and Jesus. Jesus gave the fatal blow to sin on the cross, sustains every day in our struggle with sin, and will one day put away all sin. We can never overcome sin on our own. Only Christ is our victor.
Hearing and meditating on and fixing our hearts on the gospel is not only the means to know your victor but also the means to fight sin. Diving into the depths of all that God has done for us through Jesus renews our minds in the truthful promises, awakens our desires for what is holy, good, and righteous, and energizes our wills to choose God’s path for our lives. This is gospel transformation.
Do you know yourself a sinner, saved by the grace of God? Do you know yourself a saint, created in Christ Jesus for good works? Let’s press on together to walk in the newness of life.