Saturday, October 12, 2013

Still in the classroom


The Ten Commandments are familiar to many, yet the New Testament has several “sin lists” that go into greater detail than those ten. When I read them, I shake my head in amazement that God bothers with any of us.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21)

While not guilty of all these, I cannot say I’ve never been jealous or worshiped something other than God.
Here is another list spelled out for the Christians at Corinth . . . 

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)

Quarrels, anger, gossip, conceit? These attitudes and actions are common in our world, yet condemned by God and not at all appropriate for those who claim to be Christ’ disciples. If Christians struggle with sin and claim to be saved, how can anyone ever please God? If pleasing God depends on what we do, no one would be able to do it. But there is good news in those lists. This one gives it . . . 

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. But such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11)

What happened between the condemnation in verses 9-10 and the victory of verse 11? Jesus happened. He came and changed lives. He transformed sinners guilty of everything from greed to gossip, conceit to sexual immorality and set them apart for Himself. He made sinners rich by becoming one of us and taking our sin upon Himself.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

There are days when I read these lists, look at the world around me and look in the mirror with marvel at the grace of God. He hates sin, but He loves His people. He determined that sin would not destroy us. By the power of His Spirit and through the death and resurrection of His Son, sin’s penalty was paid and its power has lost its grip.

I know the next question – why do we still sin? If the kingdom of God is here, and if “such were some of you” why then do we keep tipping over? Isn’t that the worst ingratitude?

Yes it is. I can make excuses. One of them is failure to realize how deeply sin has affected every part of me. I assumed that God’s zap will be enough whereas He ordains that in this life we fight sin and in that fight learn how weak and helpless we are and how powerful He is.

In this battle against sin, I also learn what it means to trust God with everything. Instead of trying to manage my life by myself, I need to rely on His grace and power every moment of every day, and to give Him glory for the victories won. I’m still learning . . .  


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