Over the past few weeks I have experienced several new revelations that, although they might seem minor, are far more profound in a somewhat subtle way.
Put simply, it deals with our continued sinning, even though we have become “new creations in Christ.” Scripture tells us that the old has gone and the new has come. Further, scripture confirms that our old self died with Christ. The problem then becomes:
“Why do we continue to struggle with sin? Does this mean that our old self is still alive? What’s going on here?”
During my prayer walk today, as well as during a time of reflection, the Spirit gradually revealed to me the following truths:
I am, indeed, a new creation in Christ. My old self did die with Christ and I have been reborn, resurrected with him in newness of life.
My continued struggle with sin is not a struggle with myself. It is not a struggle between my new being and my old being. Nor is it a struggle between my new being and my negative habits, thoughts, and strongholds, although these can be used against me. Christ tells us that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” It stands to reason that he would not give us newness of life and, at the same time, leave us saddled with our “old self” as a part of ourselves that we will have to war with from now on. No, there must be something else at play here, and there is.
My ongoing struggle with sin has nothing to do with my person, my old self, or my identity. My ongoing struggle is with “a principle of sin” or more accurately, a “sin force” that exists within the world and thus within me. The enemy uses this force as his primary weapon and, in turn, this force uses our habits, strongholds, etc. That is why it seems we are at war with ourselves when in truth we are not. It is as scripture tells us: we struggle against powers and principalities – spiritual forces and this sin force is one of the primary powers.
One might say, more accurately, that the battle is actually between the Holy Spirit and the sin force. I am just the battle ground.
Some will claim this is “just semantics,” but that isn’t the case at all. This is a real and subtle spiritual principle that, once understood, helps us to better understand exactly what we are fighting with when we do battle with our continued sin.
What we have to do in order to make this understanding a practical reality in our lives is, first of all, to take this revelation in context of the fact that we have been liberated from the power of sin. We are at war with the sin force, yes, be we are no longer yoked to it, as we were before our spiritual regeneration “in Christ.” If you doubt you were freed from the power of sin, consider the following scripture from the pen of Paul:
We know that our old self was crucified with him [ Christ] so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7 NRSV)
As stated before, what we are dealing with here is far more than semantic subtleties. Instead, we are dealing with an existential transformation that frees us from bondage and removes the yoke of sin from around our necks. We are, indeed, new beings in Christ, no longer carrying around what some call our “sin nature.” This is a misunderstanding. Our sin nature died with our old self. We are truly freed from our former status as automatons and slaves to sin. We are now free agents from a spiritual standpoint.
Paul describes this transformational process as continues his letter to the Roman Christians:
But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:7-11 NRSV).
Although this particular insight is still fresh with me, at the same time, my previous understanding of related themes at least provides some degree of “seasoning.” What I find most significant here is the fact that I am not dealing with some flawed, inadequate, and unrepentant part of myself when, like Paul, I continue to behave in ways contrary to my sincere will. Also, I am aware now that my ongoing tendencies to fall far short of the mark Christ has set for me has little to do with my “weak character”
The reality that I am dealing with a “sin force” is no great comfort by any means. Still, by now being able to accurately identify the nature of what causes me to behave in ways contrary to my conscious wishes helps in ways both subtle and obvious.
To be continued…
(c) L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved
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