Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life & Death Decisions

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace…For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:11-14, 23

There is a proverb in the Bible that has always struck me as interesting if somewhat disgusting. It says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). The first time I read this I was too confused about the dog and its vomit to consider what it might actually mean. But this proverb has more to offer than just a stomach turning metaphor.

Romans 6:23 tells us that sin brings death, but Christ brings life. This is reminiscent of an Old Testament passage found in the book of Deuteronomy. "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse- the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God…" (Deuteronomy 11:26-28a).

All of us have done things that we wish we could take back, things that caused us or others pain. “Had I only known, I wouldn’t have done it,” we say. (If you disagree with these last two sentences because you live your life by the “No Regrets” motto, please scroll down to the bottom of this post and read the asterisked paragraph.) The good news is that after reading Romans 6:23, we do know. Now we know without a doubt that when we reject the Lord we will always reap pain and death; when we follow the Lord we will always reap life and peace. It’s as simple as that.   

The problem is that many of us do not really believe in our hearts what Romans 6:23 and Deuteronomy 11:26-28 tell us. Our enemy has done a very good job convincing us that sin doesn't bring death it brings pleasure. Nearly everything we watch on TV and in movies, or listen to on the radio reinforces this lie.  It's hard not to believe it. But when we fall into this trap, when we believe this lie, we become like the dog in the proverb. Clearly the food didn’t sit too well the first time he ate it. Why would he try to eat it again? But many of us do the same thing with sin. We get burned by it, but we keep coming back for more.

I know I have made this mistake… over and over and over again. For some of us it’s sex, for others it’s alcohol or drugs, but for some of us it’s the little sins that no one else notices like pride or self-centeredness. It doesn’t have to be a big sin. Even the little ones bring death and pain. The challenge is getting ourselves to believe that these things actually do hurt us so we will stop doing them. It’s hard though. Sin is so tempting and it always looks so good. This takes faith, and the grace of God. It also takes exposing yourself to the truth. We have to read the Bible and get some of God’s truth in our heads if we have any hope of not believing every lie we are told.

If you are a Christian you know what it means to be enslaved to sin and you know what it means to experience the freedom and peace of God. Don’t go back and embrace the life of death that you have been freed from. Don’t believe all the hype. Take courage and be of good cheer. The Lord will give you the strength to swim upstream and to rebel against the norms of this world.

I want to give you hope today. If you are caught in a vicious cycle of sin, if you keep returning to the same pile of vomit over and over again, know that we’ve all been there. God still loves you. He will forgive you, no matter what you have done. God wants to give you life and peace. He has plans to prosper you., and He will make a way for you to be freed from that sin if you will trust Him. It isn't always easy , but freedom from sin is a birthright of every Christian. And if you have never experienced any of this freedom, confess Jesus as Lord today. He will set you free!

For further reading this week, check out these passages:
   - I Peter 5:8-9: He seeks to devour you.   
   - I Corinthians 10:13: But you can bear it.
   - I Peter 1: Do not conform to your evil desires.

*This paragraph is for those of you who live your lives by the modern “No Regrets” motto. By this I mean the popular point of view that says, "I refuse to regret anything I have done because all of my collective life experiences make me who I am. Without that experiencing I wouldn't have learned a valuable lesson. I wouldn't be who I am today." While I agree that we should not wallow in regret and self-guilt our whole lives, this attitude (which refuses to regret anything) goes too far. We should regret our sin. Regret is a healthy, natural emotion that we should feel when we hurt someone else or ourselves. Let me give you an example. Imagine a convicted murderer glibly saying this motto to the parents of his victim. Do you see the depravity in that? Or more commonly, imagine saying this motto to your friend after you betrayed and hurt them. Surely, you can see that any true friend would regret such actions. In either of these scenarios it  would actually be wrong not to feel regret. So sometimes regret is good. In fact, it is a necessary part of the Christian faith. How can one repent of sins he does not regret committing? Regret only becomes unhealthy when we refuse to  move on by accepting forgiveness from God, others, or even from ourselves.

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