Margin Notes: Special Series – Waging war against indwelling sin #5 – Guest blog!

slipping-away-hrIn continuing through this series – it is my hope that not simply the material, but presenting it different ways and giving emphasis here and there and especially opening up an area more by others will be of additional help. Today is one of those “opening up” places with guest blogger – Scott Ferguson. How sin loses its grip progressively over time is one of the most encouraging things we can hear. Here’s how he describes it.

“In the first installment of Principle #2 (Sin doesn’t die), Pastor encouraged us,

We must absolutely get this right beloved – the “let not sin therefore reign” of vs. 12, is NOT predicated on sin having been killed or removed – but on the previous statements regarding our having died to it – and therefore reckoning ourselves – thinking of ourselves – as free not to have to obey its influence any longer.

The Believer is not one who suddenly finds themselves devoid of sinful inclinations – but the one who clearly and by faith, accepting the reality of the work done by Christ at Calvary and our inclusion in it through being brought into Christ by the Spirit – stands armed with that mind and defies the inclinations which arise out of their own hearts. This is what we need to digest – WE DO NOT HAVE TO YIELD TO OUR OWN DESIRES Christian, WE ARE FREE TO DENY THEM and the serve righteousness instead.”

I replied to Pastor that what I’ve “discovered” as I put this principle to work in my own life, is that although all of the temptations are still there – both inward and outward – they lose their “temptation-ness” over time. Temptation seems to decrease in frequency, strength, and range of things that tempt me as I stop yielding to my own sinful desires and giving in to those temptations. It is liberating and exhilarating as this works out, and the more liberated I am the more liberated I want to be. It is a wonderfully “vicious” cycle. He asked if I would write a little something more about this. So here goes.

I usually need practical examples of how a theory works in order to really get it in my head. One illustration that I’ve heard used is that of a fire: you don’t put more logs on the fire to put it out. That is good, except fires can be doused with water and completely extinguished. The analogy that has worked the best for me to understand this principle of dying to sin is a that of trying to lose weight. Maybe it will help you, too.

Think about it. When trying to shed those couple of extra pounds, most of us blame hunger for why we can’t control our eating. “If only I wasn’t hungry, I wouldn’t eat those 3 donuts at Monday morning bible study,” is how we excuse ourselves. So we put most of our effort into trying to kill the hunger: we buy appetite suppressant pills by the dumpster load, drink gallons of water, or utter silly mantras like “I am not hungry…I am not hungry…I am not hungry.” Some people even try hypnosis or have major surgery, all in an effort to eliminate hunger. This is why those pills and other diet fads don’t work; they fail to acknowledge that we’ll never be free of hunger. It is our nature to be hungry. We can’t do much to stop that little voice of horror inside of us crying, “Feed me, Seymore!”

But we do have control over how we respond to the hunger. For example, we can choose whether or not to eat every time we get that “rumbly in our tumbly.” If we do decide to eat, then we have to make choices about what to eat, and how much. It isn’t Hunger’s fault that we over-eat or eat junk food when he beckons us. It is ours. And we can say “No” to the bag of potato chips. We just don’t. And the reality is we won’t die if we delay or forego our gratification for once. This is one reason why routine fasting – of even 1 regular meal 1 day a week – is helpful to our spiritual maturity; it teaches us self-control. So by addressing our response to hunger, instead of trying to not be hungry — although we still possess innate hunger and appetite — eventually we gain mastery over it, rather than it continuing to dominate us. Soon, we no longer pay attention to that cake on the table, even though we’re hungry.

So it is with temptation and sin. Temptation sings her siren song to us seemingly non-stop. It resonates from all sides. And we’ll never be without this cursed sin nature on this side of heaven. Like hunger, it is ever present. But, as we’ve already been instructed, we don’t have to yield to it. We can stop giving in to those “hunger” pangs of selfishness, lying, anger, lust and greed. Just like we can say “no thank you” to that second helping, we can say “No!” to sin. We just don’t. But how can we “Just say ‘No!'”? Not by denying we have innate sin. Not by trying to cover it up with Christian fads. But by yielding our desires to those of the Holy Spirit within us, the same Holy Spirit that empowered Christ to reject temptation at every turn. Paul instructs us:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:16-18, 22-25a)

(Quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

If millions of people can muster enough self-control on their own to lose weight (and stop smoking, quite drinking, etc.), how much more self-control we should exercise – indeed can we exercise given the indwelling Holy Spirit – for victory over sin in our lives? Won’t you be liberated from temptation and sin controlling you today? Can you see the “scale” tipping in your favor, even ever so slightly? Watch closely and with expectation, dear friend, for the needle does indeed move.”


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