Friday, November 11, 2011

Overcoming the Power and Presence of Sin

Lay The Axe To The Root

By Abraham Israel

During my teens and twenties, years before God opened my understanding to the truth of the Scriptures, I used to think that being in a place or in a circumstance where something evil was present was the cause of my temptation. When I would see a beautiful picture of a woman in the daily news paper, it would immediately get in to my mind and would cause me to sin in my heart spiritually and then physically by myself. I would make covenant with my eyes like Job the man of God to not to look another time at the same genre of pictures, I would tare those picture on the new paper and would burn it secretly (Job 31:1). But then in a couple of days or a week after that, a wall poster would get the attention of my mind even when I would be looking at it unavoidably and unintentionally for the first time while walking on the street and then it would cause my down fall. I was frustrated with my spiritual condition at that point of time. After many years of battle with the same type of temptation, I was very discouraged to know whether we can really live like what God expects us to live or else is it just a waste of effort or time. But one thing was for sure, I would lose my peace and joy greatly until I would confess it from my heart. It was more like a sin-confess-sin cycle at that point of time.

There is a famous Indian tale that describes this scenario of temptation with sin. Once upon a time there was a clever fox that would deceive all the animals in the forest and would prey upon their sustenance. It was famous and well known for deceiving even the king of the forest
[i.e. the lion] a couple of times. It was proud about its achievement and was flaunting out loudly about it exploits in the open field and challenged any one who would be able to match his wisdom. That was when the earth heard about it and got angry about its prideful behavior.

The next day the fox went in search of some good food and suddenly found a tasty piece of fresh flesh on the ground, so it eagerly took that meat and started to feast on it. At the moment the earth sounded that it belongs to it and that the fox should either discontinue eating it or repay back the same flesh after eating it fully. The fox was very curious to know from where the voice came from, but then it could not wait to find the source of the voice as it had already tasted and have started to feast on the flesh. So it immediately thought for a quarter of second and shouted wisely that it would pay back the same flesh later.

After fully feasting on the flesh it burped out loud and looked in to the four direction to find where the voice had come from, but when it did not find any one. The fox laughed out loud and ran to another place in the forest thinking that the thing which spoke to it have been tricked. But then the earth a little time later again asked the fox about its commitment to repay back the flesh that it had feasted before, this time the fox was vexed to know that the voice had again come to that place by finding it rightly and demanding its share.

So the fox tried to change its location and was tortured by the voice of the earth which consistently demanded the fox to pay back what it had promised to do everywhere it went. The fox went mad in order to find who it was who spoke to it but to no avail and finally the foolish fox not knowing what to do, finally hid inside a cave thinking that it can finally be alone away from that voice that asked to repay back what it had promised to do. Finally inside the cave the same voice of the earth asked the fox to repay back what it had promised to do. Finally the fox cried to the voice inside the cave, not to torture it anymore as it cannot be able to pay back the same exact piece it had eaten already. With tears in its eyes the fox pleaded with the voice to forgive it for lying to it and from that time on the voice of the earth ceased and the fox learned a lesson that it should never boast about its wisdom anymore and flaunt about it as it is a gift from God.

What can we learn from this story? In our natural state we are like that foolish fox. In the same way as the foolish fox indulged in fleshly desires and then by it so called pride said that it can run away and keep itself from the effect of its sinful doing, we in our prideful so called soulish wisdom think that we can be free from the effect and the result of sins we do and some how can get away by the grace of God
(James 3:13-16). But little do we realize that God is like that earth that was everywhere the fox went to hide. God is everywhere we go and as his word says and agrees with this point that nothing can ever be hidden from his eyes (Heb 4:13), but we do try to cover up our sin many times foolishly from God following the footsteps of our forefather and mother Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8). He knows even the first thought we allowed which made us to sin and looks upon us with eagerness to find out whether we will open up our weakness to seek forgiveness and grace from Him to overcome (Psa 53:1-2; 94:11). The sooner we open the sin of pride, lust, anger, jealousy to God, the faster we can be forgiven like that fox. Once we confess our inability to pay back our debt for our sin and humbly plead the blood of Christ by faith (1 John 1:9), We become spiritually mature as we learn not to boast in our wisdom, strength and ability to overcome sin, but instead only boast in the grace of God and keep our face in the dust before God always.

Many times we think that our circumstances is the root cause which makes us to fall in to sin. But little do we realize that our sin nature inside us which influences us to sin never leaves us until we die in this earth
(1 John 1:8). The religious Pharisees and teachers of Jesus' time always considered that avoiding sinners and sinful external circumstances were the only thing that is needed to live a holy life. But inside their heart, they had no victory over sinful thoughts and their desire to fulfill it in the natural if opportunity arises to do it secretly without losing their reputation before men. Jesus said that these religious hypocrites were more like the white washed tomb which on the outside looked so beautiful, but inside were full of dead men stinking, decomposed, rotten flesh and bones which defiled the whole place to be unclean (Matt 23:27). To which ever part of the earth we go the temptation can be the same because it starts in our heart and gets conceived to become a sin once we allow it, as it grows in its intensity to control us by continuing to influence our thoughts further and further, then very soon it becomes a evil action through our body. It not wrong for us to get tempted as it is like bird that flies over our head, but it is absolutely wrong to let sin dwell in us continuously like allowing a bird to build a nest over our head.

Once a man decided to live a holy life and therefore chose to go to a uninhabited lonely mountain cave inside a forest and live without sin over there. With much joy he left the city where sinful people curiously were seeing him leave the place. When they asked him why he was going toward the forest, he told them about his pursuit to live a holy sinless life. Immediately they thought he was a saint to desire that kind of life.

But then the man went in to the forest cave and lived in that place without any contact with any humans. But then after a year the same man returned back to the city and people were surprised to find that man again inside the city. They went and asked him whether he was able to live holy inside the cave, he replied honestly to them saying that he became worse with the feeling of uncleanness and sin inside that forest than he was in the city after being alone in the forest for a year.

This is the truth that Jesus told when he said,
"20 ...What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20-23). O what a truth to behold and understand! In other words, sinful thoughts and all evil desires and things attack us from with in us. So to really overcome temptations we need to wage war in the mind against the unknown voice of evil that instigates us to indulge in evil things.

So once I understood these things, I have ever since asked God to deal with the root of sin in my heart rather than the external fruit or action that has come as a result of my weak mind overcome by sinful evil desires. Out thoughts are responsible for our actions. We cannot change our behavior by having a desire to stop its external manifestation. We can change really and truly only when we are able to overcome evil thoughts and desires which comes in to our heart by our weak mindedness and our natural fleshly inclination to fulfill its lust. Some people after being indoctrinated by cheap grace to sin licentiously as they want, begin to foolishly declare that they are tempted by God to sin and even foolishly go to the extent of wrongly interpreting the Scripture in
Matt 6:13 to justify saying that Jesus himself told to pray to God, to not to lead us in to temptation. Therefore coming to the conclusion that God is the one who leads them to sin so that they might receive more grace (Rom 5:20). O what a foolishness! The real grace of God actually helps us to reject the penalty, power and the presence of sin (Titus 2:11-12).

Apostle James said about the same thing when he prophetically sounded like a trumpet to say,
"13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16). In other words, only as we choose to give in to the evil desires that come to control our mind and deceive us to sin, that sinful desire gives birth to sin in our heart and then when it is fully grown over a period of time, when the opportunity to fulfill it secretively comes before us, immediately we start to act on the sinful thoughts and desires to finally put it in to a deathly action. Once we give in to sin, it desensitizes our mind to make us think that what we have done is nothing wrong. This is the deception of the evil one who wants to destroy you finally over a period of time when the same sin will become a bondage from which you will have not strength to come out. So the moment we come to know that a temptation has come in to our mind, we should resist it and not give in easily in to it (James 4:7). Once we overcome it, we should praise God and give Him all the glory for giving us the grace to overcome it (James 4:6). But in case we have fallen in to it, immediately we should confess the sin as soon as possible and get out heart cleansed and made spotlessly perfect by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9). In case we find that we are not able to overcome a sin and keep falling in to it repeatedly, as Jesus has said that praying much before the temptation ever comes, helps us to receive the grace of God to thwart and overcome it when it really comes in to our mind (Mark 14:38).

But there are times in our lives when we are not able to overcome a temptation and it becomes a pet sin or a besetting sin. We may be tempted to give in the fight and say that we cannot overcome such sin as I have told you before from my own experience. But when we give in to sinning, we will become miserable without the peace of God in our soul as God cannot condone sin which destroys man and his fellowship with Him. But we should understand that Paul the Apostle had the same kind of fight against temptation in his own personal life and was desperately seeking God for victory in those areas. Here is what he has said about repeated failures against temptations,
"17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." (Rom 7:17-20). We see that the great apostle Paul himself was wailing about his repeated failures in his fight against temptation to sin. Paul finally here has understood that his sin nature is the cause for his repeated failures and not his outward circumstances.

Why should God allow Paul to face temptation and fail repeatedly against sin in his personal life in spite of Paul sincerely desiring to stop that particular sin which was making him fail? It is to keep apostle Paul in humility and in utter dependence upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which later helped him to resist and overcome it. If Paul had said,
"21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:21-24) and had stopped there, we will all have no hope to ever overcome sin in spite of our sincere desire, heart cry, sorrowful lament and fight against sinful temptations. But he did not stop there, take heart! After this he victoriously cried out, "I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord [I resist and overcome sin]! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom 7:25). In other words, Paul was saying even though I felt there was no hope of overcoming besetting sins, I have found victory over it through our Lord Jesus Christ in spite of its evil presence and power inside me now and then waging war against my spiritual desire to please God always all the time. O what a testimony!

I have learned to the say the same over those sinful temptations that I was facing through out my twenties until now. Now I do not ask God why is such temptation coming to me and making me fail again and again, instead I have learned to thank my Lord Jesus Christ who gives his victory over these areas in my life honestly. That doesn't mean that such temptation never comes and trips me, but even though it comes against me, it cannot keep me in its bondage and its grip of oppression because of Jesus standing with me to deliver me from it now and then. O praise the Lord! I have understood that this is the faith that has overcome the world and the sin nature that tries to live within my soulish heart to make me get separated from God's presence which is with in my spirit-man
(1 John 5:4-5). I have understood that God allows us to repeatedly fail in certain areas of our lives so that we may not become prideful of our spirituality and to keep us always in utter dependence on the grace and the power of God which can only overcome the root of sin which works in us. The clean heart which is covered by the blood of Jesus is the heart in which the root of the axe of the word of God in the person of Jesus have fallen over it to remove the penalty, presence and the power of sin (Matt 3:10; Jer 51:20; Luke 2:35; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:9; Heb 9:14). Now my walk in my spiritual life is a victorious sin-confess-resist-sin cycle where God has consistently increased the period of resistance through the strength that comes from my Lord Jesus Christ. The ability to resist the fleshly temptations has given me the confidence and faith in God's power, and have made me to gloriously declare to others that, "Sin shall not have dominion over us anymore." (Rom 6:14, Paraphrased). Glory to God! Praise God for the New Covenant in which whether sin in its penalty, presence or its power can never overcome us permanently because we are under the mighty favor of the grace of God in Jesus Christ by whom we are positioned to receive His grace limitlessly and reign in this world (Rom 6:14; 5:21). Praise the Lord!

"When spiritual comfort is sent to you by God, take it humbly and give thanks meekly for it. But know for certain that it is the great goodness of God that sends it to you, and not because you deserve it. See to it, then, that you are not lifted up to pride because of the comfort, and that you do not rejoice too much in it or presume vainly in it; instead, seek to be more humble for so noble a gift, and the more watchful and fearful in all your works. That time of comfort will pass away, and the time of temptation will follow shortly after. It is not a good policy to let your lusts bear arms, which are sure to rise and declare against you." — Thomas a Kempis


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