Thursday, February 26, 2009

God Had a Plan, 'Sinless' and 'Sinning Less'

There was a woman who was brought before Jesus by the religious leaders of the day. She was dragged before Him as one who, by law, must be stoned because she had been caught in the act of adultery. They were not motivated by obedience to God however; rather they sought to catch Jesus in error so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. In wisdom, He spoke, “Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone.” They all gradually dropped their stones and wandered away, heads hung in shame. You can read the story in John, chapter 8.

The part of the story I am going to focus on here is what happened next, that Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go your way and sin no more.”

What a wonderful thing, the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God. But did Jesus actually expect that the woman would go her way and NEVER SIN AGAIN? Is that what He was saying? If you read your bible, you will know that just can’t be right. He Himself knows what is in the heart of man. He knows all about our natural inclinations and stubbornness, even more than we ourselves know. He knows our struggles with our own human nature. Surely He knew she would not now be “sinless.”

The Bible very clearly states that there was only One who was “sinless,” the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If He had sin, He could not have been God’s plan for our redemption, because He would have merely been one of us. But God did have a plan, reaching out to His own creation with love and forgiveness. The cross accomplished what we could not do for ourselves, bringing us back into God’s favor, reconciling us to Him – into relationship with the living God! What a truly amazing and wonderful thing! Now, having been reconciled through His death, we live in relationship with our heavenly Father who loves us.

If only our fleshly body had actually died the moment we received this glorious salvation, then we would indeed be “sinless,” but that is not (usually if ever) the truth of the matter. The new man, the inner man, the new creation that we are in Christ – is still found in flesh, living in the natural world, and hence, the struggle. As the apostle Paul stated, “The good that I would I do not, but rather the evil I hate.”

So, we are not “sinless” but do we “sin less?” Yes, we do, truthfully speaking. If you have been a Christian for any time at all, you know there are things you used to do, ways you used to be that simply are no more. You know that God Himself is at work within you.

However, “sinning less” in and of itself is not our goal, exactly. Jesus didn’t die on the cross just so that we would “sin less.” Rather, it was to cancel out the very debt our sin against God caused us to owe Him, and to bring us back into God’s favor which we had lost due to our sin. Now we have His favor and live our lives in relationship with Him, our loving Father, trusting Him to CONTINUE to forgive our fault, our sin.

Well now, just because we know He loves us and will forgive us, do we just give up and give in to the sin? As the apostle Paul said, “MAY IT NEVER BE!” There’s a word for that kind of attitude, and it is licentiousness!

I don’t believe the forgiven woman continued on in her lifestyle of adultery. There is a huge difference between continuing on in a life of sin, and being a forgiven sinner who repents and chooses daily to follow Jesus.

Putting this on a personal level, one of the things I struggle with now is finding a healthy food balance. I am not really overweight, and I realize it is not truly a huge issue for me. Still, I do have to make choices, and right now I am not at the weight I feel I should be. Maybe you also struggle to keep a healthy eating balance, and find yourself giving up and giving in way too often. First, remember that God loves you SO MUCH, no matter what your weight. But He does desire to help His children succeed in ALL areas of temptation, and food is just an example.

So, how do we succeed? First and foremost is prayer. Often we don’t bring difficulties to Him because we are afraid we won’t like His method for helping us deal with the situation. It is a choice, isn’t it? Do I want to keep my comfort, or let Him be my comfort? Or maybe eating is something we consider too inconsequential to bother God with. Fact is, we can’t do anything on our own and need His help in everything, even something as simple as the food that does or doesn’t find its way into our mouths.

Next, recognize that trials will come, and we need to plan ahead for them. Planning ahead means simple things like shopping for healthy foods, staying out of the candy aisle, and taking the time to prepare healthy foods. I like to fix the salad first and have it ready in the frig before I start on the rest of the meal – because the rest of the meal-fixing is a bit hectic, and when it’s done I will not stop to fix a salad too. Make sense?

The other part of planning ahead is remembering the scripture that tells us that with the temptation, He will provide the way of escape that we will be able to endure the temptation. The temptation is easy to see, but we have to deliberately look for the way of escape God has provided with it. If the problem is food, often times the way of escaping it is activity – reading, writing, walking, even housework while listening to praise music.

And here is perhaps the most important point – shifting one’s focus. Dieting actually keeps people focused on food. We become preoccupied with the food that we are allowed on the diet, thus we are still focused on FOOD, which is the problem. Focusing on the temptation itself is what causes us to eventually give in to it, because we dangle it in front of ourselves until we give up and give in. Sigh.

The good news is that no matter what the temptation is, God loves us and wants us to succeed. If we stop focusing on what we can’t have and start focusing on HIM, life changes. I’m going to repeat that with the word ‘when’ rather that ‘if’. When we stop focusing on what we can’t have and start focusing on HIM, life changes.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is the song I sang over and over at a time in my life when giving up a certain sin (okay, it was daydreaming) was overwhelming to me. Unlike food, daydreaming was something I was very addicted to. It made me feel as though I didn’t care what happened in life because I had IT to turn to. But IT was actually controlling me, and in truth IT was the enemy. The change didn’t happen overnight, and it was far from easy, but as I kept walking with Him and trusting Him, my life did change and now I am free from that addiction.

Now if I could only get my mouth (speaking even more than eating!) under control! Sigh. Well, as long I am still here on Planet Earth, I am not “sinless” but I am “sinning less.” I’m also not giving up, and I’m not receiving the condemnation of the enemy when I do stumble. I much prefer receiving God’s forgiveness. Most of all, I’m thankful for God’s presence in my life, and for His love.

God bless you and help you today to succeed in whatever area you struggle with.

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

1 Peter 2:21-25 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Romans 7:18-20 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Job 42:1-2Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

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