Don’t Add to the Brokenness with More Sin.
“Unbind him and let him go.” (Jesus, in John 11:44)
Lazarus was dead and had been for days. Then, by a spoken command of the Lord, he was made alive. From stone dead to NOT dead. Think about that for a minute. Alive because of Christ through no act of his own!
When Lazarus got up, Jesus immediately instructed that his grave clothes be removed and discarded.
Every winter I go through my closets and get rid of clothes that are outdated and no longer fit correctly. I struggle to toss some out, feeling strangely attached to them somehow. They belong to me, though they are no longer becoming on me. Still, I debate whether I should let them go.
The Bible uses clothing language– put off/put on— when it comes to wearing virtue and removing vice. Put on the whole armor of God….put on Christ…put on love…put on the new man…put on the garment of praise. Put off…or kill…the old man and all its evil desires.
Maybe you’ve been holding on to some proverbial grave clothes, hindrances to your new life in Christ, and you are convicted that God wants you to get rid of them. What now? Should you self-loathe, remembering all the ways you’ve failed? No.
You should be thankful, because it’s a grace to see the need to change! And an even greater grace to desire to change!
It is God doing his sanctifying work in you. He’s in restoration mode!
But this is where it can be uncomfortable, just like stepping out in a new style of clothing that doesn’t feel like “you” and isn’t your usual look. I experienced this discomfort recently as I shopped for a Mother-of-the-Bride dress for my daughter, Holly’s, upcoming marriage. Most of these dresses are super fancy, floor length, with layers and sequins. I think they look lovely on others, but it’s just not my style, and putting on a gown when most of my real life is lived in the kitchen with an apron on is just out of my comfort zone. I’m more of a 3/4 length church dress kind of Mother-of-the-Bride, I guess.
That’s how it is with the new life sometimes. You might feel like you are trying to be someone you aren’t. Being patient with others when you are impatient and perturbed inside, or holding your critical tongue when you just want to call it as you see it, does not make you inauthentic. It makes you obedient. A faithful Christian woman will seek to obey her Lord and not yield her members to sin no matter how she feels.
C.S. Lewis states it bluntly: “Die before you die. There is no chance after.”
If you want to walk an authentic life, die daily to sin in all its forms so you can live like you really mean what you believe about Jesus, sin, and eternity. Easier said than done? Yes.
I remember a time when a loved one of mine was close to death, and I was sitting in the hospital waiting room for news of the outcome of their surgery. What should have been a three-hour surgery took six, and in those worrisome moments, I recognized that all the sadness and brokenness and death in this world was connected ultimately to sin and its consequences. We were facing death only because sin entered the world and that’s the best sin has to offer. And it helped me to hate sin a little more, knowing that despite all of its promises of pleasure and independence, in the end it served up 100% death.
And getting a glimpse of the horrible effects of it made the goodness of God and His love more attractive and comforting in that moment. Why would I choose sin in any of its forms, when THIS (death and misery) is the result? WHY DON’T I CHOOSE to side with Jesus Christ and obedience to Him every time?
But knowing things intellectually is not the same as practicing it, is it? Your sound doctrine does not benefit you, if it doesn’t bring you into obedience to Christ. In other words, who cares what you say you believe about Christ if you continue to live like a demon?
We all tend to downplay our sin and assume the consequences won’t touch us. Why? Sin is deceitful. And a heart that has been overtaken by sin can rarely see its own guilt, never mind admit it has been wrong.
You will never make yourself feel that you are a sinner, because there is a mechanism in you as a result of sin that will always be defending you against every accusation. We are all on very good terms with ourselves, and we can always put up a good case for ourselves.”Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God.
I’m reading Deeper by Dan Ortlund and he says this about the evil of “false morality”:
“The problem is not that we are going the right direction with occasional missteps. We are running the wrong direction….Even our morality is shot through with evil….Consider that act of service yesterday–was it in fact, at root, a matter of creating a perception of you and your virtue? Don’t answer too quickly! The way you cheerfully greet those around you today–is it, upon further reflection, mainly fueled by what you want others to think of you? Is it not, as Augustine put it, VICE CLOTHED IN VIRTUE?”Dan Ortlund, Deeper
Sin is the source of every unhappiness, and I don’t want to add to that pile of brokenness if I can help it.
Shouldn’t we, who know God, be the agents of goodness and gentleness in the face of all that’s wicked, brutal, and unloving in this world?
It’s hard to put into words the brokenness we experience here. Just last week, a man in Cohasset, a town not far from where I live, was charged with murdering his wife after claiming she went missing on New Year’s Day. Murdered. Gone. Tragic. Horrific. It’s hard to even wrap our head around such evil. We hate it, speak out against it, and loathe it in others.
But what about the evil we commit? Do we hate it? Or do we tend to justify it? Do we blame others? Do we see our evil as the heart-hardening, deceptive threat to our spiritual life that it really is?
Though the police won’t come running when you secretly hate your neighbor, and though the newspapers won’t report when a mother snaps angrily at her child, leaving invisible wounds with her words, and though you might be able to hide your infidelity (or tax evasion, or pornography, or theft, or addiction) from your spouse and your family, the Lord sees it all and the ripple effects of your choices may last for generations.
When we sin, WE are what is wrong with the world in this moment.
God has called his women to live with eternity in view, pick up our daily cross, and choose to die to our own desires. Does all this death analogy seem grim? Can I tell you a secret? When you open your hand and release your grip on your own life, and start trusting God with all of it, that’s when the real living starts. It seems counter-intuitive but it’s true.
Your cross may be different than mine, but though the trials have different names, it’s all the same goal: to humble us, to help us to rely on God, and to produce a crop of godliness that perseveres. Trust God with it all.
If we trust God in the middle of the trial, God will do His work of peeling back the glossy layers of our carefully crafted veneer finishes and show us our underlying “false morality” (doing wrong things we think are entitled to do or doing morally right things for the wrong reasons). He exposes the whole underworld and starts remodeling what needs to be remade.
So, when the bottom falls out, remember that God is HERE and near you and if you will just esteem Him as worthy in those hard, tender moments, and respond for His glory, if you will just trust Him and submit to His Word, even when it’s hard, He will give you the victory, and you will give Him the glory, and you’ll not be adding more sin and evil to this already broken world. You will have made a difference.
For Further Reflection:
When you find yourself struggling with sin, remember that God has empowered you to choose right. We have everything we need for life and godliness. God will give us grace if we repent. BUT, if we harden our heart to sin, and dig in our heels with defiance, we will begin to accept behavior in our own life that we know is wrong. Sin committed without grief and without repentance is the road to compromise and error.
When you find yourself acting in pride by raising your fist in defiance to the Word of God, sinning and not caring, remember that you are summoning God’s resistance of you. He can’t stand and won’t stand your pride. When you humble yourself, God’s grace will rush in.
If you sin. (I John 1:9)
- Confess. Tell God what you’ve done.
- Repent. Ask God to give you a clean heart.
- Pray that you would no longer tolerate sin by God’s grace. Pray for grace moment by moment and to be faithful to God even when you are struggling.
- Repair. Make it right with the person you did evil to.
- Renew your mind by holding Scripture in front of you. Focus on the attributes of God and the beauty of what true goodness looks like.
- Withdraw from people who practice the sin you are trying to forsake. Don’t befriend people who are walking “disorderly” (2 Thes.) and aren’t holding themselves accountable.
- Do the next right thing especially when you don’t feel like it.
What will it take for you to walk as Christ has commanded? Have you knowingly compromised in your life? What will you have to say no to? Yes to? What will you have to put off? What virtue must you put on? Who do you need to love? Forgive?