I am convinced we live in a church culture today that largely doesn’t have a clue about the real meaning of grace.
Most of us are either so burdened by guilt or consumed by worldliness that we cannot conceive of a life that is not only free from the guilt of our sin, but totally free from sin itself.
I have written on several occasions on the freedom of God’s grace and how we can be totally free from guilt. The blood of Christ that forgave my sins yesterday is the same blood that covers them today as well. I don’t have to walk around carrying the shame of my inability to “get it right.”
But the other side of the coin of grace is the freedom from sin that is promised to believers. Yeah, we can be free from sin. Not just the guilt of our sin, but from sin itself. This is almost a foreign concept in today’s postmodern, cynical, sin-drenched church.
How is it possible, you ask? I believe Psalm 141 gives us a blueprint, a five-step formula for that freedom from sin. Check it out:
Verse 2 “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Prayer is a first step in this freedom from sin. When I pray, my heart and mind are refocused from me to God. Getting the focus off of me is a good first step. Prayer also is an admission that I don’t have the answers, that I need God. It’s in this humility that sin starts to lose it’s grip. And finally, prayer unleashes the supernatural power of God to free me from my limitations.
Verse 3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
James tells us that if a man can control his tongue, he can control his whole body. I’m convinced most Christians are so numb to what comes out of their mouths, they don’t even realize how it’s dragging them down. Complaining, gossip, cursing, off-color jokes, foolishness…it’s all there for most of us. I’ve personally found just reigning in my tongue did wonders in making me more sensitive to the sin in my life and in my environment.
Verse 4 “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.”
The environment in which we place ourselves is vitally important to overcoming sin, maybe the most important factor of all. We cannot overcome lust when we constantly ingest media that feeds it. We cannot overcome materialism when we are constantly going shopping or focusing on television and magazines that cause us to crave the latest and best. Focus is absolutely key. We cannot overcome the world when we have immersed ourselves in it.
Verse 5 “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.”
If we are to overcome sin and live the guilt-free life God desires for us, we cannot do it alone. I AM A SIN ADDICT. I can’t help myself. I’ve been sinning since birth. And just like a drug addict needs accountability and community to over come his dependence on drugs, I likewise need others to help me overcome my addiction to myself. The first step to overcoming a porn addiction or other compulsive behavior is to let someone else into my secret world. The beginning of controlling my tongue is placing myself in a comment of those who are equally committed.
Verses 8-10 “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I escape safely.”
Ultimately, our hope is in God. He wants me to live a sinful life even more than I want to. He is able to empower me to this new life that is free from the constant “up and down” cycle. The world is a dangerous place for those committed to being like Christ. Only His power can help me successfully navigate it’s traps and dangers, finding my way to my desired destination. Ultimately, keeping my eyes on Him is the only way to escape sin.
Don’t get me wrong. I am committed to helping you find freedom from guilt by accepting God’s unconditional grace. But not just freedom from guilt, there is more. Ultimately, freedom from sin is possible.
The question really comes down to this: what do I want? Do I want to live comfortably, or to be like the Savior who died for me? Am I willing to go through the hard work of separation from the world in order to find the life He has for me, or will I continue being a victim to the world and its delicacies.
It won’t happen instantly, but it will happen if I’m willing to give everything for Him. Until now, most of us have just been too lazy to go there.
#1 by David on March 14, 2011 - 2:59 PM
Hi Dave, I appreciate your thoughts and insights, but I’m left with a question. How would you respond to Paul’s struggle (present tense) with his sinful nature in Romans 7?
#2 by Dave Kirby on March 15, 2011 - 10:35 PM
Good question, Dave, and it’s really the other side of the same coin. I have written many times in this blog of the unlimited, unconditional grace of God. I believe the answer to Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 is the victory found in Romans 8. We have 2 choices: the law of sin and death, or the law of liberty in Christ. As long as my eyes are on sin and failure, that will always bring death. But walking in the Spirit frees me from that law. I no longer have to depend on “measuring up” in order to find God’s grace. He has unconditionally, irrevocably pardoned my sin…past, present and future. I can walk in that liberty no longer laboring to be good enough.
This post was written in response to that grace. What now? How do I live now that I am free from guilt in Christ? We see in places like Romans 6 and 1 John 3 that the sinless life is something that is attainable for those who die to themselves and live only to Christ. The problem is most of us don’t want to lay down our selfishness to find that place. And although my flesh will fight against that sinlessness (just like in Romans 7) I believe it is ultimately and progressively possible as I continue the process of dying to myself.
I know I’m probably not being clear on this. I could talk about it all night. For me this issue is deep and somewhat perplexing. It is a mystery how we can be immediately cleared from guilt, yet spend a lifetime overcoming the sin that caused that guilt in the first place. That balance between grace and works is something the body of Christ has struggled with since the very beginning. I’m trying to communicate my limited grasp in the best way I can, based on what the Spirit has shown me.