Struggling with sin

Colossians 3.12-17.  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.  Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

To me, this should be the passage that exemplifies people who profess to follow Jesus the King.  If we want to know what the will of God is for our lives (and who doesn't) this passage is a very good place to start.

If we were to live this way, there would be ample opportunity to tell people about Jesus.  Our lives would reflect, like angled mirrors, the love of God toward creation.  In us, they would see Jesus. We would be the Word of Jesus made flesh in the world (John 20.21-23).

But along with this is the issue of sin.  We are still people who deal with sin on a daily basis.  Perhaps 'sin' isn't the right term.  Maybe 'sins'.  There is a debate going on that there are different things.  And I don't really care.  It seems to me that one stems from the other.  I mean, you can't have 'sins' unless there is 'sin'.  So, to me, it's a moot point and I will be using the terms as I see fit depending on my comments and context.  So 'sin' is an issue that we have to deal with, wrestle with, constantly.  But are we really doing that?  Are we really dealing with the sins in our lives?  And these can be anything from gluttony to sloth to greed.  After referencing our ancestors whose faith was tested, the writer of Hebrews stated:
Hebrews 12.1-4.  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

'You have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.'  Pretty powerful stuff.  On one of the blogs I frequent, Ted wrote, 'It is better to die in the struggle than to live in the sin'.  I think that is the point of this passage. Another translation puts it this way, 'In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood' (NRSV).  I know that I haven't ever 'resisted to the point of shedding [my] blood' or have 'given [my] life' in my struggle against sin.  And honestly, I don't know of anyone else, either.  And that is the rub.  Why don't we do this?  Do we believe that Jesus conquered sin (John 1.29; Hebrews 9.26; etc.)?  Do we really believe that we are no longer slaves to sin because, when we were baptized, we died to sin (Romans 6)?  Do we actually believe that?  I have a real hard time believing that because I struggle with sin all the time.  But not to the point of bloodshed.  Is my faith that small?  I sometimes think the answer would be to live like the monks in medieval times.  You know the one who would flog themselves.  They would actually beat and torture themselves bloody in their struggle with sin.  Am I just a lazy (so-called) Christian who is only giving lip service?  I fear that is the case.  A lot.

I think we should set up AA type programs in our struggles against sin.  Places where we can have complete trust and be transparent like in those meetings.  Where we lay it all out on the table and are not judged by it because everyone else there is a struggle person, too.  I know, in my case, that might help.

You see, this is the delimma of everyone who is a follow of Jesus.  We see the paradox.  On one hand, we have complete trust that Jesus died to 'take away the sin of the world' -- to defeat it completely and totally.  And his resurrection proved he was successful.  And when we were baptized 'in Christ', we also died to sin.  It is dead to us and we to it.  But on the other hand, we still fumble around with sin!  We are still liars, law breakers, cheats, thieves, adulterors, drunkards, etc.  How can this be?  And if we know that we are to put away those things and to live as one who is dead to those temptations, why don't we do it?

Let's read slowly what St Paul wrote about this in Romans.  And then meditate on it.  And then digest it.  And then, with God's help, let's live it!
Romans 6.   Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again.  Death no longer has any power over him.  When he died, he died once to break the power of sin.  But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.  So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God!  Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this.  Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin.  Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.  And what was the result?  You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom.  But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God.  Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

God of the Universe, creator of all that is, seen or unseen; Give us your children the grace to make this passage a reality to us.  Help us to struggle against sin no matter what the cost.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Lord increase our faith.  Amen.

Peace be with you.

+ OD


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