One of the most challenging books I have ever read is Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. He exposes undercurrent sins like frustration and discontent, impatience and irritability, along with sins of attitude and speech. He lists things I don’t want to see labeled as sin because they are present in my heart and life.
Sometimes, when I am more acutely aware of my sin, (mostly because the struggle against it is half-hearted at best) I have found that I employ a number of strategies you may recognize.
Minimize it – It’s not really that big of a deal.
Compare it – It’s not as bad as what someone else is doing.
Redefine it – I didn’t do this. I technically only did this other thing which is not even bad.
Justify it – I had a bad day. I didn’t get enough sleep. My blood sugar was off. They started it.
Balance it – But I did all these other things just like I was supposed to.
Ignore it – Maybe the attraction will fade on its own.
Cover it – Study more. Read more. Work harder not smarter. Be super holier.
That’s not how I was called to deal with sin as a follower of Christ. In Experiencing the Cross by Henry Blackaby, he describes the cross as the place, the moment when Christ radically dealt with sin. He writes, “If you more fully understand the meaning of the cross, you realize that to take up our cross as Jesus tells us to means that you deliberately choose to radically deal with sin in your life.”
In other words, following Christ means that I commit myself to taking whatever extreme measures are necessary to get rid of sin in my life. Extreme measures. Even as I type those words, my brain starts with those other strategies – Now that’s a metaphor, right? Extreme … that sounds excessive. I don’t want to be a fanatic, or heaven forbid, legalistic.
Paul outlines a better strategy for dealing with sin in Romans 6 – the power of the gospel. He says, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:8-12
Those verses are rich and deserve much deeper and more thoughtful consideration than I can accomplish in a post. There is one thing I will point out – the part about we shall live with Him … we don’t have to wait for heaven for that. We live with Him now, present tense. The life Christ lives, He lives to God, present tense. Likewise, consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God, present tense.
We are dead to sin. I am dead to sin. The only parts of me that are enticed by it are the dead parts. Don’t let the dead parts call the shots. They have been dethroned by power of Christ and replaced in their position of authority by the Holy Spirit who lives in me.
Because of Christ, because of the power of the gospel, I don’t have to give in to sin. Unless I let the dead parts win. Unless I choose sin.