Sin is a Cruel Master
Can you think of any place in the Bible where sin is described as a good thing? Neither can I. Sin is an evil desire. Sin crouches at our doors. It preys on us, lies to us, enslaves us, and destroys us.
Years ago, I struggled with promiscuity, pleasing others, and drinking too much. I did these things because I didn’t want to feel unwanted, unloved, or unhappy.
After every encounter, every repeated sin, I cried, begged for forgiveness, and prayed.
And, I committed the same sins. Again. And again. And again.
As much as I wanted to please God, I wanted to please myself more. I didn’t want to sit in my apartment alone feeling rejected or bored or lonely.
I wasn’t unwanted, unloved, or unhappy. God wanted me. He loved me enough to die a tortuous death for me. He offered joy and peace. My problem was something else.
I was unwilling.
Unwilling to listen to the God of the universe who knit me in my mother’s womb, to draw closer to Him and experience His comfort. I was unwilling to deny myself to follow Him.
The Heart Deceives
In ancient times, people believed the heart controlled everything we felt, thought, and did. When we read about the heart in Scripture, this context explains the heart’s role in our sins and why God instructed us to “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Here are a few ways the Bible describes our hearts:
- Deceitful and desperately sick (or depraved), Jeremiah 17:9
- Full of greed and self-indulgence, Matthew 23:25
- The source of evil desires and unclean things, Mark 7:21
When we ignore sin, when we follow the desires of our hearts, it traps us. Our hearts harden. Sin becomes our master. “Each one of us is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15, NIV).
So, then, are we without hope?
Paul Tripp writes in his book Do you Believe: 12 Historic Doctrines to Change your Everyday Life, “The enslaving power of sin is why we seek and celebrate the liberating power of divine grace.” What beautiful words!
The enslaving power of sin is why we seek and celebrate the liberating power of divine grace.
The Apostle Paul describes an attitude of the heart he calls “godly sorrow.” When we grieve over our sins, our sadness creates a desire to turn away from our sins, to repent.
I remember vividly the day–July 1, 1984–that grief overcame me and I responded to the Holy Spirit and committed my life to Christ. That day I chose Christ as my master.
Does that mean I don’t sin? I wish, but, no, unfortunately not. It does mean I am saved and that through Jesus Christ I am blameless, clothed in righteousness. I have the assurance that all my sins–past, present, and future–are forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
If we commit our lives to Christ, then why do we continue or return to the sins from which we repented?
Christ said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, NIV).
We are set free from sins the moment we turn our lives over to Christ as Lord. Sadly, few of us live in that freedom. We often live as though we are still slaves to sin. Paul’s letter to the Romans is mostly on this point. He urges them, and now us, to live different lives because our sins were crucified with Christ. (Study Romans 6.)
Being a disciple means being a learner. Learning takes time. The Bible calls this process sanctification. God refines us, tests us, teaches us through His Holy Spirit and His Word (John 16:7-15, 2 Timothy 3:16).
The Spirit and the Word
To live by the Spirit and desire things of the Spirit, we have to submit to the Spirit in our daily walk, just as we submitted when He called us to repent. We cannot achieve salvation through willpower and good intentions. We can’t be sanctified these ways either.
God gave us the Holy Spirit in our moment of salvation to enable us to live Spirit-led lives. A Spirit-led life comes from a mind set on what the Spirit desires, a mind controlled by life and peace. (Read Romans 8.)
The Holy Spirit acts in concert with God’s Holy Word, the Scriptures. Consider these verses:
- “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
- “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
To fully live a Spirit-led life, we need to equip ourselves with scripture. Meditating on and memorizing scripture is how the Holy Spirit leads us and fights against sinful desires for us. David wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
Ask ourselves the tough questions
On the surface, sin looks, smells, and tastes good. That is exactly why we are enticed by our evil desires. Following the heart leads to living according to our sinful desires.
As believers and disciples of Jesus Christ, we have forgiveness and freedom through Him.
We must ask ourselves tough questions.
- If I am not living in freedom, am I living as a disciple?
- If I’m not living as a disciple, how do I change my relationship with Christ today?
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
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