Saturday, January 21, 2006

Throwing Your Toys Out of the Pram

Recently I've had a couple of conversations about sin and misbehaviour, and how they affect us as christians.

A friend of mine who is a Christian, used to smoke... but after wrestling with it, has finally managed to kick the habit. He doesn't believe that addiction to smoking is just a physical thing. Now, months down the road.... when the physical effects of addiction are totally gone.... he still gets the occasional pang to light up. He believes it is a spiritual stronghold. The only time he gets this temptation is when everything around him is going pear-shaped.

I know exactly what he means... but not for the same reason.

Against all the odds I've never smoked, despite the fact that my parents do (in fact I think my mum smoked during pregnancy - times were different), never had a physical addiction or dependency of any drug. I hardly ever drink alcohol... only having one or two glasses of wine on special ocassions (that's enough to make my legs feel like lead and for me to be a little giddy). However, that does not stop me from having my own rebellious moments. It's the equivalent of what we do as babies, we get upset and do something negative that is pointless or non-beneficial and will upset us all the more... such as throwing our toys out of the pram, just to get our poor parents attention. I believe this is exactly how we treat God.

Maybe you know what I'm talking about. Something goes wrong in your life... and you do something that damages yourself or your relationship with God and/or those near and dear around you. You know you really shouldn't do it, but you know in the sort term it will make you feel better... and yet when the dust settles, the smoke clears and the deed is done... you are immediately convicted of your actions and steel yourself not to do them again.... until the next time.

God is so gracious.

Despite our wretchedness, despite our rebellious nature; he still loves us and wants the best for us. The book of Hebrews comes down pretty heavy on sinning deliberately once we have recieved God's grace. Yet Paul and John in there works point out both the need to refrain from sin... but also the recognition that we still do it. Listen to what John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10)

Paul also makes the following statements:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:15-25)

and

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

Moving on and I want to look at one more curious thing that Paul wrote:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh" a messenger from Satan to torment him. Some scholars think it may have been a physical affliction... but others think it may have been Paul's own struggle with sin. Lets just consider that for a moment. What did God say to Paul? "My grace is sufficient for you." So God recognises us in our struggles and has mercy upon us. Ho wonderful is he? He offers us the way out - Life by the Spirit.

As I've said before... running away from sin is not enough... we must run to the Lord. Even this in itself is not enough, we need to learn ro run using the strength God gives us:

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

I just want to conclude by pointing out (whoever you are) that God says:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

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