The Battle Within
Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)
“Sinner” is not some theological term contrived to explain away the presence of evil in this world; nor is it a cliche conceived by colonial hymn writers or backwoods
Preachers to frighten recalcitrant congregations.
R.C. Sproul often says,” We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” We are not theoretical sinners or honorary sinners or vicarious sinners” We are sinners indeed and in deed.
Man goes to great lengths to avoid his own responsibility. Many blame Satan for every imaginable evil-but Jesus states clearly that sin is in us. (See Matthew 15:18-20). Others recoil with horror at sins of the society around them smugly satisfied that sinful abominations are not of their doing-not realizing that God holds us responsible for acts of omission as well as acts of commission. Still others believe, as did Socrates two thousand years ago, that sin is not man’s moral responsibility, but is caused by ignorance. Hegal, whose philosophy so enormously influenced nineteenth and twentieth century thought, argued that man is “evolving” through increasing knowledge to superior moral levels.
But history continues to validate the biblical account that man is by his own nature sinful-indeed, imprisoned by his sin.
The war to end all wars is a battle for eternal stakes between spiritual forces-and it is being waged in you and in me.
When we truly smell the stench of sin within us it drives us helplessly and irresistibly to despair. but God has provided a way for us to be freed from the evil within:it is through the door of repentance. When we truly comprehend our own nature,repentance is no dry doctrine, no frightening message. It is a gift God grants which leads which leads to life ( see Acts 11:18). It is the key to the door of liberation, to the only real freedom we can ever know.
The great mission of the church is to be a reminder that without Christ, mankind has no hope. It is through Christ and by Him alone that we can be delivered from the power of “the sin that so easily besets us”. We don’t need to participate in some great theological debate; we have no need to quote a lot of scripture to prove this point. We only have to look at our own lives. Even the small children are tainted by this sin nature. Every parent knows that finding things that they shouldn’t do is the natural thing for children. I think their first word they recognize is “no”. Rare if ever is a preadolescent constantly choosing the right conduct. One of the “logical” approaches to good behavior presupposes that knowledge of right and wrong is a deterrent to sin. Again we in our own selves have proven this theory wrong. We speak of the “terrible T’s”, Two, Teen, and 20. Most of us have observed that child who in their teens and twenties all of a sudden broke bad, and parents of teens and twenties know the stress of trying to keep them on track while surviving themselves. Again we have no need to prove that there is a sin nature in all of us without exception. We know that mere religion is not the answer, for we have seen those who were religious commit horrible sins. At every age and every stage of life without Christ humans are doomed to live and die in their sins.
Enter the church and the message of the Gospel. Paul reminds us in Romans that all have sinned.
As it is written and forever remains written, “ There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. “ There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God . “ All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one .” “ Their throat is an open grave; They [habitually] deceive with their tongues .” “ The venom of asps is beneath their lips .” “ Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “ Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And they have not known the path of peace.” “ There is no fear of God [and His awesome power] before their eyes.”
Again though we read this in the Bible, we have no need to find our proof of it there but in our own selves. No matter how hard we try, we find ourselves again and again falling back into the same old habits of sin.
The hope of the Gospel is in Christ. Hear Paul’s words:
“While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned. But the free gift [of God] is not like the trespass [because the gift of grace overwhelms the fall of man]. For if many died by one man’s trespass [Adam’s sin], much more [abundantly] did God’s grace and the gift [that comes] by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to [benefit] the many.
It begins with us, this change so desperately needed in the world. The evil conduct and actions all around us can only be mitigated through heart transformation by Christ. As believers, we must not rely on a single event of salvation but a daily washing by Christ. We may call it rededication, revival, awakening, or restoration and renewal, but whatever name we call it by, it is the work of the Holy Spirit cleansing us and breaking the power of sin in us.
What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts and passions. Do not go on offering members of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer yourselves to God [in a decisive act] as those alive [raised] from the dead [to a new life], and your members [all of your abilities—sanctified, set apart] as instruments of righteousness [yielded] to God. For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy]. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [you had no desire to conform to God’s will]. But now since you have been set free from sin and have become [willing] slaves to God, you have your benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose], and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. For the willingness [to do good] is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want to do, I am no longer the one doing it [that is, it is not me that acts], but the sin [nature] which lives in me. So I find it to be the law [of my inner self], that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin.
Finally let me give us the simple gospel. We often make things complicated but Christ came with a simplistic plan of redemption that all can understand and apply. I believe it’s time to refocus the purpose of the church. While we are engaged in good things, let us rise to engage in the Great Commission. This is our God-given mandate. This is our reason to exist. This is our mission.
“If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His word is not in us. My little children (believers, dear ones), I am writing you these things so that you will not sin and violate God’s law. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [who will intercede for us] with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous [the upright, the just One, who conforms to the Father’s will in every way—purpose, thought, and action]. And this is how we know [daily, by experience] that we have come to know Him [to understand Him and be more deeply acquainted with Him]: if we habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His commandments (teachings). Whoever says, “I have come to know Him,” but does not habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His commandments (teachings), is a liar, and the truth [of the divine word] is not in him. But whoever habitually keeps His word and obeys His precepts [and treasures His message in its entirety], in him the love of God has truly been perfected [it is completed and has reached maturity]. By this we know [for certain] that we are in Him: whoever says he lives in Christ [that is, whoever says he has accepted Him as God and Savior] ought [as a moral obligation] to walk and conduct himself just as He walked and conducted Himself. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. And everyone who has this hope [confidently placed] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (holy, undefiled, guiltless). You know that He appeared [in visible form as a man] in order to take away sins; and in Him there is [absolutely] no sin [for He has neither the sin nature nor has He committed sin or acts worthy of blame]. No one who abides in Him [who remains united in fellowship with Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin. No one who habitually sins has seen Him or known Him.
1 John 1:8-2:1,3-6,3:2-3,5-6
Let the change begin, let it begin in me, let it begin in us, and let it spread like wildfire to our world!
Dr. John Thompson