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Give up!!!

Greetings All,

It's been an interesting couple weeks here in Pennsylvania. An earthquake, followed by a hurricane minged with spot tornados. I thought it was a good illustration of what life often feels like when schedules get overloaded, pressures build up, and unexpected events occur to thwart our plans or disrupt our lives. It throws us totally off kilter for a while.

This week's thought can help in this regard, since such disruptions can sometimes lead to sin on our part (creatures of habit don't tend to respond well when their lives are turned upside down). The thought comes from Harry L. Kraus Jr. in his book, "Domesticated Jesus." In it he gives guidance in regard to how we can navigate through the constant conflictive battle with sin -- and actually make progress. I found it a helpful reminder of the most basic weapon of our warfare, and hope it will be of help to you as well. I know the problem is multifaceted, and thus demands greater explanation (for which you need to buy the book!). But it does expose false solutions to the problem and puts us back on the right track. Enjoy.

Winning Over Sin

"The sad thing is that many Christians today have remained infants in their understanding of how to win the battle over sin. They have accepted salvation by grace but walk forward fighting against sin as if they have to do it on their own. Week after week they hear messages from the pulpit that reinforce the pick-me-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality. Pray more. Witness more. Get more disciplined about growth. So they limp along, trying and failing, feeling guilty, then falling into the trap of some comforting sinful behavior to ease their guilt. 'I'll just fall again. I might as well give up.'

That would be a wonderful place to start. We have failed a generation of American Christians who have embraced a self-made-man concept of faith. We have allowed a strong work ethic to poison our faith. Christians who worship at the altar of humanism are destined to a life of struggle with the mud of sin constantly clinging to their boots.

What Sunday school teacher wouldn't be proud of students who proclaimed that they were going to work harder, pray harder, and make every effort not to fall into sin? Alas, John Wayne, not Jesus, has become our Lord.

It is God's job to work. Our job is to rest. Paul would be exasperated with our pitiful attempts to be perfect by our own efforts. What would his letter look like to us? "Oh foolish Americans, who has bewitched you?"

We don't need to pray more, witness more, and memorize more. God asks us to set our minds on him. In essence, to love him more. Walking in the Spirit doesn't have to remain weird and super-spiritual. It is centered in relationship and the knowledge that the Spirit of God is indwelling us as a result of the cross. We need to stop focusing on our sin and focus on the one who died to bury our sin in the sea of forgetfulness. And in focusing on him, we find the desires for sin becoming less and our desire to love him growing.

I can imagine that some of you are reading these words and thinking, 'It can't be that easy.' But it is. Dear brother or sister, meditate on Galatians 2:19-20 and II Corinthians 3:18. Victory is ours if we only give up and realize that our strength is immaterial. It is Christ in us who wins over sin, and he gets the glory in the process.

We began by grace, and by grace we will be victorious over sin. For some of us who have been discouraged by our inability to win over sin, this is nothing short of the most liberating news of all. Go forward in grace, just as it was by grace you have been saved.

For some of you, the pattern of fail, repent, promise to do better, fail and repent has become a way of life, pushing you toward the precipice of hopelessness. We can't be victorious. But Christ in us can be... Let the first temptation prod you into the arms of Christ and an acknowledgment of your need. Helplessness is where we begin. Run to the ABC's [Acknowledging our need / Believing the Gospel / Communing with Christ]. A life of peace, where God's love has saturated our hearts; a life of walking in the Spirit, beckons. Find yourself weak enough to embrace it!"

What else needs to be said? The Gospel works! The Gospel is the power of salvation. It's also the only source of true sanctification. We begin by grace, we continue to live in grace, and we will finish the race by grace. Even when Paul says in Phil. 2:13, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (a verse I often hear quoted by the opponents of grace alone) he is quick to add as a clarification, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure."
As von Hugel once said: "God is always previous."

He is always the Initiator, and we are always the responders to His divine initiative. That's the way grace works (even when we mistakenly think we're the one's doing the initiating).

With prayers that we might better learn what it means to rest in His power and fight sin by grace,

Pastor Jeff