"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Importance of Daily Prayer: The 'Law" of Sin

Although the reign of sin over us as regenerate people has been broken by the redemptive work of Christ, we remain utterly dependent upon God for both our forgiveness and our sanctification. According to the model prayer taught us by Jesus, we are still to ask God for the forgiveness of our sins every day. Paul reminds us that even though we who belong to Christ “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24), there remains for us the urgent, ongoing command to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Col 3:5; cf. Rom 8:13).
Let's read the words of the apostle Paul in his classic section on the effects of remaining sin in the believer. It is found in Romans 7 and you see there the different words and phrases he uses to describe it. He refers to it as, "the law of sin at work in my members" (v.23); "this body of death" (v.24); "my sinful nature" (v.18); "sin living in me" (v.17); "sin" (v.11); "the law of sin and death" (8:2). The Authorised Version often translates the phrase 'sinful nature' by the word "the flesh." We Christians display the works of the flesh when we are, for example, overwhelmed with self-pity, or when we are full of bitterness, or when we retaliate, or when we lust, or are covetous, or unforgiving, or deceive, or are proud, or hate, or are angry. All such actions appear because of indwelling sin. What I found interesting is that Paul in Romans 7 refers to it as a 'law.' Why does he do that? He uses the word because it expresses the power, and authority and control that sin wields in our lives. While the law of God says to us, "Honour your father and your mother" and demands our obedience, so indwelling sin cries, "Obey me! Go with the flow! Why be different? Fulfil your lusts!" Think of the law of gravity. It is a force that makes us obey it. Sin is just like that. It says to us, "I shall make you obey me. I will threaten, or I will make sin so sweet, that one way or another I shall constrain you to do what I want." So the evils that we Christians wouldn't do the law of sin constrains us to do. If you don't eat any food for a whole day the law of hunger will make you cry out for something to eat. The law of sin in every Christian is like that, "Feed my desires! Give me a tidbit!" it demands. Remember where this law of sin is. It is an internal power; it is within the Christian. I go in and I find it, and I go in and in and I find it there, in my heart; in my soul, in my body; this law of sin and death affects me from within. Satan and the temptations of this world are from the outside coming to bear upon me, but the strength and madness of sin is within me. Every Christian will know its power. At times it is like a raging river carrying us along and we fight against it, but non-Christians don't feel this power because they go with the flow. They have surrendered to sin and it is bearing them along remorselessly, day by day. But the Christian is fighting with it. Think of some people swimming and sailing along on the upper Zambesi river enjoying themselves and the excitement of the turbulent waters. They can take it if they're bumped out of the boat. They can also enjoy the calm pools along the way, where overhanging trees shade the river. They take it all in their stride, but they are ignoring the fact that the thunderous Victoria Falls are around the next bend. The Christian alone knows the danger of sin and its consequences and he is resisting it all his life. Especially when we are at our best we discover this law of sin. It is when we want to do good, then evil is present with us. These disciples were soon going to be serving people, preaching and testifying to the Saviour, defending his cause before councils and synagogues. It would be at times like that they would find the law of cowardice, and pride, and retaliation, and brashness, and hatred powerfully working within them. When they were sitting down on the shores of blue Galilee sipping a cool drink remaining sin ignored them. If they went through cold backsliding then sin would be very, very quiet, but once they had been restored, and set their minds on serving the Lord, and obeying the King, and loving God with all their hearts then, at that period, sin would be present within them. "I want to do good. I want to honour his name, but now I feel the power of the enemy within. What a sinner I am." That is the pattern, that when we do good evil is present with us. This law of sin never takes it easy. It never has a Sabbath rest. It is a permanent guest in our hearts. If only it would leave us for a while, pull back so that we could refresh ourselves, and call a truce. Alas, sin is always on duty. It subtly and persistently opposes us. If we think we should have a time of personal prayer, that is the time it opposes us. If we think we ought to go off to the meeting, then it opposes us. If we think we should make a call and encourage a friend, it is at that moment that it stirs itself and opposes us. We are in a constant tug of war against the law of sin and death. When there is a simple duty to do towards God or our neighbour then evil is right there with us. That's the reason we feel lazy, or stingy, or sensitive, or critical, or self-justifying - indwelling sin makes us act like that. Do we want to pray? Do we want to meditate on the Word? Do we want to give a generous gift to the kingdom of God? Do we want to resist temptation? Do we want to get out of our armchair and visit a person? Then it is that this horrible pest arises with a thousand distractions and surprises and he makes sure that we don't do what we want. The strength of the sin that is within us does all this as easily as a donkey eats strawberries. It is an expert in destroying us. It doesn't have to be instructed; it doesn't have to serve an apprenticeship; sin so easily besets us. To know what is the most disturbing response to any condition we are in of joy or sorrow comes easily to the law of sin. It can make us mad, or resentful, or sorry for ourselves, or bitter, or lustful, or stingy. It can sow seeds of doubt in our lives. It can make us indifferent and apathetic. It will encourage us to misquote the Bible. It will use high theology to justify us doing nothing in the local church. It will persuade us that we are serving God by the attitude we adopt, that we are wise and mature. It whispers that our sins are not like other men's; they are beautiful. Sin in us makes us act in all those ways and a thousand more. Remaining sin is the biggest enemy within every single Christian. That is the first thing I want you to understand.
Pray, MC Hammer

No comments: