Friday, January 15, 2010

To Live is Christ — and letting go of sin

Old Testament King Saul was told to destroy the nation’s enemy, Amalek. 
Thus says the Lord of hosts, I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him. (1 Samuel 15: 2–3a)
Saul took on Amalek but didn’t completely destroy this enemy. Because of his disobedience, God took the crown from him and gave it to David.

King Saul was not the only one who disobeyed God by taking forbidden plunder. Much earlier when Joshua let the people into the land God promised them, they had a great victory at Jericho, but were defeated at Ai, the next city. When Joshua asked God for the reason, God told him it was that one of his men, Achan, had kept some of the plunder for himself. This man and his sin kept the entire army from winning a battle. (See Joshua 7)

These two and other examples show the seriousness of incomplete obedience and of taking souvenirs. For Saul it meant loss of position. For Achan, it meant the loss of his life and that of his family, as well as causing defeat to an entire army and more loss of life.

The lesson here is not that God will defeat and destroy me if I don’t obey Him. If that were true, I would not be breathing. The lesson is that disobedience and partial obedience (which is also disobedience) has consequences both in my life and the lives of others. While God is merciful and forgives His people, sin is serious. I cannot assume that I can do whatever I please and it will not matter.

My devotional reading says that victory is incomplete until all that sustains the problem is removed. It is laughable to think that my problems with sin are external and can be simply avoided by running away or removed by putting them out of sight. This would be like the billboard advertising a certain Christian school. It said, “25 miles from the nearest sin!”

Instead, my biggest problem is my own sinful heart. As I prayed yesterday about this, one of the “souvenirs” that came to mind was that I had held on to my “right” to not forgive someone. Really? How can I claim to have the right to do anything that God forbids? Why withhold something that Jesus Christ died to save me from? Why refuse freedom from the bondage of this or any sin?

The devotional reading asks some thought-provoking questions, such as, “Does God want us to remove all obstacles that prevent us from living victoriously?” Of course He does and in commanding obedience, He isn’t being mean or trying to mess up my life. 

What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12–13, italics mine)
Sin runs deep. Even though I know God wants me to obey for my good, and I know that disobedience always hurts me and often hurts others, I still struggle with wanting my own way and with doing my own thing. I also know that this is the very reason that Jesus came, and this is why I need Him.

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