December 1, 2016

Choosing new life over the old life

An acorn contains an oak tree. If planted, an oak tree is what comes forth. Sin is something like that. It exists as perhaps a small thing, at least in a child who seems so innocent until growth happens. The seed of sin shoots up in that charming wee life and that little person begins to say NO, to resist authority, to want its own way, to act out attitudes that make parents wonder where that comes from.

Most of the time, environment is blamed. Sometimes heredity is seen as sin’s source, but the reality is that sin started in the heart, came with birth and as life grows, sin persists as the nature of human beings. It might grow into a tree that looks nice, but it is still there with its fruit popping up now and then and for some much more frequently.

James says that sin is has nasty characteristic because it is describe in the singular. That is, when the Bible talks about our root problem, it uses the word ‘sin’ rather than ‘sins.’ Sin shows up like the fruit on a tree, but the root of that fruit is within the tree itself, just as the root of my sins is my sin. If there are one or many, no matter — all come from the same sin-bent root.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:8–10)

That is another nasty truth about sin; no matter how good I appear or how well I behave, one sin reveals that I am a sinful person. One transgression marks me as guilty because sin is not measured by how many times I sin, but by the fact that sin’s source is there within, producing its fruit and revealing itself.

This truth puts me in the same category as everyone else. We are all sinners, from the cherubs in the bassinet to the snipers in ISIS. While that seems a bit unfair, Chambers rightly says that the moral law of God does not bend. It is “eternally and abidingly the same . . . absolute for all time and eternity.”

Not only that, any who do not realize this truth may feel as if they are alive, but actually they are dead in sin and separated from God. The Bible calls this spiritual death. However, when anyone is given the life of Christ, then sin is seen for what it is. As Paul said, “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”

The Spirit of God convicts me of sin and at first, I felt totally helpless and hopeless. At that point, the Cross of Jesus Christ meant nothing to me and it seemed as if I would bear the weight of my guilt forever, “sold under sin” and condemned. But then the Lord Jesus Christ walked into my life, He changed everything. He forgave my sin (and still does) and gave me eyes to see what His life, death and resurrection accomplished. I could never obey God in absolute perfection, but I am forgiven because of the perfections of Christ.

Consider that oak tree. An oak does not bear anything more than acorns, but for illustrative purpose, it could bear something other than the fruit of its nature if it were given a new nature. That is what faith in Jesus does. He gives me a new life and in Him I can bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22–24)

This fruit is not about moral law-keeping. No one can keep those laws. As Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) He talked about hate in the same way. If I hate someone, I am as guilty of murder as if I had done the deed. That means one bad thought and I’m guilty of breaking God’s moral law.

Even as God ‘grows me to maturity’ the battle against sin seems to intensify. Sins themselves might be are less obvious, even hidden in the crop of fruit produced by the Holy Spirit, but the devil knows, and I know too, that as long as I live, that acorn will continue to influence the tree. This is not an excuse. It is more like a process of learning how to draw all of life from that which Christ has put in me, rather than letting the nature of the acorn tell me how to live.

As Chambers says, on one hand I wish He would make me obey Him; on another I wish He would leave me alone. Yet as the desire for His will increases, that acorn compulsion decreases. When I choose to obey Him, then “with all His almighty power, He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand” to assist me.

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