“Inconceivable!” the round faced, bald headed Vizzini shouted time and time again at the most inopportune times. Finally, Inigo Montoya said what we were all thinking, “I do not think that word means what you think it means”.
[If you have never seen “The Princess Bride” first scold yourself and then go do your childhood a favor and rent the flick]
Last night I sat in Bible Study flanked on either side by two beautiful ladies (Bev and Katie) and I listened as Pastor shared about the Resurrection (capitalized here because Jesus says “I am the Resurrection and the Life”– so it has become a pronoun in my vocabulary) and its significance and power for our lives… and I started to think about my life as a Christian. And about the power or lack of it. And sin and the common Christian perspective toward it. And those lines from a favorite silly movie.
Have you ever noticed that Christians sometimes use this phrase, “I am really struggling with_______” ? “I am really struggling with bitterness”. “I just really struggle with her“. “My whole family struggles with alcohol”. “My husband has a real struggle with pornography”.
Hmmm… I do not think that word means what you think it means.
When I hear the word struggle I think about wrestling… and we certainly know to wrestle, to fight with sin, to make our flesh obedient to God’s Word… that’s all Biblical. Paul says this strongly when he says, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” There is zero doubt that being transformed into the likeness of Christ comes with a fight.
Sara Groves once wrote a song called “The Boxer” where she typifies the true meaning of what it is to struggle…
When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
Cause my ribs are bruised and its just round two…. [read whole lyric here]
…the thing is, I am not sure that’s what a lot of us mean when we casually say we’re struggling…
Do we mean that we are literally getting bruised fighting our flesh’s desire to be bitter? Or do we mean that we just want to be bitter? Are our knuckles bloodied from our attempts to take out sin that has plagued our families? Or do we just feel momentary unhappiness that we’re repeating history? Have died to our own feelings about her so as to put her needs above ours? Or are we looking for an opportunity to gossip about her issues? Have we cut off what causes us to sin- be it the computer, the bar, or whatever else? Or do we just keep going back like a dog to his vomit?
Have we resisted to the point of shedding blood? Because that is the standard, friends. That is the standard.
In the middle of telling us to run the race set before us and to throw off everything that would tangle us up and speaking about the necessity of discipline for sons, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that if his words sound rough, we have to consider Jesus. Jesus, the innocent, sinless man who shed His blood to pay our great debt. He says while we might not like the scourging from our Father or the death to self that following Him requires, we cannot complain unless we have literally struggle to the point of shedding blood.
There’s nothing casual about that.
I once heard a man speaking about how he had cheated on his wife. “I made a mistake,” he said with a shrug. I wanted to tell him that backing over a trash can or dropping a gallon of milk or overdrawing on a bank account- those things are in the mistake category. But breaking a holy covenant with God and your spouse? Let’s just call it what it is- sin against God.
There’s nothing casual about what Jesus did on our behalves and there’s nothing casual about sinning against Him. Its not cute. Its something to shrug about. Its not necessary. Being disobedient isn’t a “struggle”. Its the opposite- its caving in, its the easy route, its the wide road.
Yep- you read that right.
We don’t have to sin.
I fear that in modern Christianity we’ve taken to soft shoeing around sin. We make excuses. We explain. We blame. We’re a lot more like Adam and Eve, half eaten apples in our hand, hiding from God and pointing the finger at each other than we are a prototype of Paul training his flesh how to come under the proper authority.
And we’ve all gotten so used to it…so comfortable the lifestyle and practice of sin that we think its normal.
It is not.
A lifestyle of sinning is not normal for a believer. In fact, 1 John 3:9 says it this way…
“No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principles of life, the divine seed, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sin because he is born (begotten) of God.”(bolding mine)
The children of God, the ones born of Him, cannot practice sin.
Does that mean you will never sin? No. But it does mean you don’t have to. And it certainly means you cannot go around practicing sin and think you are God’s child because no one born of God practices sin. It is spelled out here very plainly. Does it mean you are perfect? No, but we are called to be.
Little children learn about fire safety in school and we say “Stop! Drop! and Roll!” and then we have them practice because practices ensures that when the fire comes, they will know what to do.
If you practice sinning, don’t act shocked and disappointed when the press comes and you sin. You cannot call character into being during a hard time, if you’ve not already built it! Right? Character isn’t built in a moment, but over a long period of time, one little decision at a time.
Sara Groves’ Boxer concludes near the end of the song:
Greater is He that is in me, Greater is He that is in me,
Greater, Greater, Greater
Paul says to the church that he is literally working to the end that Christ be formed in them… so that Christ’s thoughts and feelings and words…His being would literally come alive in His followers. Just like a seed dies and then gives life to a new seed who looks just like it and has the same potential and energy in it, so Jesus died to give us life.
But not just any life.
So if the Jesus, The Resurrection, can be formed in us as we submit to His will…. how is it that we’d dare to shuffle our feet, shrug our shoulders, and mutter lame excuses about defaulting to a dance with sin?
Am I resisting the enemy and his old school tactics to the point of blood? Or I am “struggling” with sin?