July 27, 2012

Rising to the Challenge?

When macramé was popular, I decided to try it and picked the most difficult pattern available. When I started making quilts, my first project was a queen-size using a pattern I had to resize and add borders to make it large enough. I’m one of those people that if someone suggests a task might be too difficult, I jump at the opportunity to try it. 
Challenges to accomplish something are one thing, but this “I can do it” attitude could get me into trouble when applied to forbidden things, like the “shall not’s” that God commands. Even speed limits and other legal or moral restrictions tend to bring out a “who says?” and “I can do whatever I want” response in most of us.

The apostle Paul wrote of his struggle with sin and with the desire of his old nature to rule his life. He recognized that attitude when he said: “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” (Romans 7:11) 

From this verse and the context around it, I can see that Paul was aware of the danger of sin. It is not a mere annoyance to brush off or take lightly. Sin is deceptive and deadly, deceptive in that most of us regard it too lightly, thinking it “really isn’t so bad” or that “everyone does it.” 

As for being deadly, sin like breaking the law or running over the speed limit obviously can lead to physical peril, but there is another kind of death that is far worse. Instead of life being separated from the body, this more serious death is being separated from God. 

It happened first in Eden. Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit and hid from God. After He confronted them, He put them out of the garden. The New Testament explains that, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Every one of us has been ‘put out of the garden’ away from God and the perfection He created for us, because all are sinners.

Paul clarified this to the Gentile church at Ephesus. He reminded them that before they believed in Jesus, they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) 

In Romans, he also wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

When he wrote of his own struggles with sin, Paul said that sin “seized an opportunity through the commandment.” Another verse says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). This makes me wonder about the connection between my struggle with sin and how that connects to the law and to death. 

Part of the answer is that tendency of sinful human nature to rise to the challenge when given a “you cannot do it” command. That tendency to resist the law gets us into trouble all the time. When God says no, the sinful human heart responds otherwise, seemingly oblivious to the danger.

Instead of trying to control these crazy impulses, the solution is found through faith in Jesus Christ. Trusting Him brings eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and the power of the Holy Spirit to live in a new way. Instead of trying to live by rules and “thou shalt not” commands, Christians are set into a different realm where we die to the law and can put to death that old nature.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
The law of the Spirit of life gives me a new response to the choices that are before me. Instead of being challenged to “do it anyway” the Holy Spirit changes my desires and removes my interest in being stubbornly independent. Like Paul, I have lapses, but God is persistent and thorough. He patiently and continually opens my eyes to the deception of sin and helps me stay alert to its deadly consequences. 

Lord God, thankfully You care about the dangers of sin and the awfulness of what it can do to those You lovingly created. You sent Your only Son to die for my sin and offer me new life to replace that sin nature that was (and still is) determined to kill me. Keep my eyes open and my heart turned toward You.

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