“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” – Romans 7:14-25
Sin stinks! It is a perpetual problem in our lives and it makes it so easy to empathize with Paul: what I don’t want to do, I end up doing and what I want to do, I can’t. Who will free me from this body of death? Ugh!
And yet, so often we deceive ourselves into thinking that we can isolate sin (Galatians 6:7), put it into nice neat little boxes labeling them “Pride,” “Selfish desire,” or “Gossip.” And, if we can just contain these boxes in one place, everything else in the house of our soul will be unaffected by them (1 Cor. 5:6,7). So we hide them away into a forgotten storage room out of sight. But sooner or later, we are made to open up that storage room (Hebrews 12:5-14). And if you’re like me, you come to a place where God makes you open that door and deal with its contents, and to your surprise and dismay, it resembles a room that has been organized by a hoarder. That’s right…a hoarder. Pile upon pile, prideful box on top of prideful box with a thick layer of selfishness coating everything in sight like a blanket of dust…where do you begin? It’s all so overwhelming.
So you back out shutting the door behind you. You clench your eyes shut and imagine it all away, pretending that it doesn’t exist. The only problem is that when you open your eyes, you find that those boxes are not isolated in that storage room – in reality, they have permeated the entire house. Like waking up from a nightmare only to find you’re still in it, they are hauntingly in every room. They are in the bedroom where they are your first and last thoughts of the day. They have seeped into the living room where they motivate your activities. They have made their way into the kitchen where you eat, cook, and feed that sin. And as much as we’d like to escape them or pretend they do not exist, in reality, they are everywhere. In reality, they are part of a bigger problem. Because the root of the problem is…THE HEART.
Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
If you’re complaining about your husband, or gossiping about your friend, the problem isn’t your husband or friend; the problem is a complaining and gossiping heart. If you speak lies to your neighbor and deceit to your parent, the problem isn’t your neighbor or parent; the problem is a deceitful and lying heart. If you speak proudly of your accomplishments or boast to your peers, the problem isn’t your listeners who are put off by your endeavors; the problem is a proud and boastful heart.
If you’ve ever watched A&E’s hit reality show, Hoarders, you know that often times these men and women don’t even see the mess they are living in. They have walked past the piles so often and have become used to the stench, they don’t even see the hoarding as an issue – or even see it as hoarding. This same principle applies to the sin that we hoard. So often, we don’t even see how it affects those around us. We are blinded to how it plays out in our conversations, our relationships with others, our ministries, or even our relationship with God. Our heart has successfully deceived us into believing that everything is fine, and nothing needs to change. And the problem doesn’t stop there. For even if we wanted to change, we cannot rid ourselves of pride, deceit, or gossip simply by making sure we don’t do it (see Romans 7 again, if you think you can). For that would be like me trying to perform open heart surgery on my own heart. It’s an impossible task.
What then are we to do? Where do we begin? Where are we to go? “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 7:25a
As many of you know, last March, pastor John Piper took an 8-month hiatus from ministry to “not make peace, but war” with the sin that God was convicting him of. Pondering that phrase, make war with sin, makes me wonder, how do we go about doing that? How do you make war, and not peace with your sin? Paul gives us insight to this in Romans:
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” – Romans 13:11-14
1. WAKE UP! (From spiritual indifference and apathy)
Morning people won’t understand this, but waking up can be the hardest part of my day. I’m just so comfortable in my bed, slumbering restfully, in a tranquil peace where I just don’t want to move – only to be jerked into reality by the sound of my alarm buzzing. Every roommate I have ever had will attest to the fact that I would rather sleep than wake up. In fact, sometimes my body won’t let me wake up. My alarm could be going off for 20 minutes before it wakens me….and don’t get me started about the snooze button.
Spiritual indifference , apathy to known sin, or sin in your life that God is convicting you of is much like a non-morning person’s waking up experience. Sin can be comfortable, downright enjoyable even! And to hear the Holy Spirit speak into your heart and convict you of sin can be about as irritating as the sounding of the alarm going off in the morning. But, the truth remains…to make war on your sin, it’s time to wake up! “The hour has come for you to wake from sleep!”
Wake-up calls can take on many differing forms. Sometimes they are tragedy striking a family, a child dies, a parent has cancer, a near-death experience rattles open the door to the storage closet and you are faced with the boxes within. They must be dealt with. Sometimes wake-up calls are from the faithful wounds of a friend being honest with you. The door is opened, and the boxes stare you down. Many times that wake-up call is in a church service or a morning devotional. God’s Word is opened and the power of it causes you to see the state of your heart. When you hear a wake-up call in your own life, don’t hit snooze, don’t shrug it off, and don’t roll over and go back to bed. Because to get serious with God and make war with your sin, you must first wake up!
2. CLEAN UP! (Put off)
This is the step that might take the most determination in an effort to make war with sin, because there is an element of pruning involved that at times can be extremely painful. And to be openly honest with you, this is the part where I personally want to cut and run.
Romans 13:12, “So then let us cast off the works of darkness”
Isaiah 30:21-22, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
John 15:2-5, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you… Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Whenever renovations are in place, there is one initial task contractors, if they are good contractors, will never overlook. This is the clean up process. For they know that in order to build successfully, they must clean successfully. They must dig down and get all the junk out before they can build something new in its place. This truth applies perfectly to our growth as Christians. In order to get serious with God and make war on our sin, we must clean house. We must say, as Isaiah poetically shouts, “BE GONE!” Good riddance! Get out of my life. I don’t want you anymore.
Sin hampers us. It stifles us like the boxes crowding us out of living life. However, sin…is not playing games; it is seeking to destroy us. Genesis 4:7 says, “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” MAKE WAR with your sin! After all, it is MAKING WAR WITH YOU!
3. DRESS UP! (Put on)
This isn’t second-grade dress-up in frufie dress up clothes Paul is speaking of. No, he says, “PUT ON CHRIST!” There is an element of preparing for battle that Paul is suggesting here with “the armor of light.” In Ephesians 6:10-20, he goes in-depth as to exactly what the armor of God is, and what it is intended for. Paul is keenly aware that there is a battle for the soul in play – and not the normal battle of flesh and blood, but a spiritual battle in the heart, mind, and life of every person. We are told to put on the armor of God for one reason: to stand against the schemes of Satan. He is the master of deception, blinding us from our lust by the iPhone 4, distracting us by the 6,000 sq. ft. home, mesmerizing us with the six-figure salary, and keeping us occupied by keeping up with the Jones’. Too often, we forget this undeniable truth. We don’t even see the war being waged in our own hearts. John warns us of this when he says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” We must be prepared for battle by putting on the armor of God which is: truth, righteousness, good news of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer in the Spirit. Without these elements actively at work in your life, standing will be an impossible feat.
After looking at Hebrews 10:22, Dr. David Allen said, “Every single one of us is exactly where we want to be in our relationship with God.” If we draw near to God, HE WILL draw near to us. And if you’re not making war with your sin, God is not the issue. For, God wants you to get serious with Him, the question is…do you? God wants us to wake up to the sin that is at work in our lives…do you? God wants us to clean up the boxes that we’ve hoarded…but do you? God wants us to be protected by putting on Christ, but…do you? God wants us to MAKE WAR with our sin, not peace…do you?