Friday, June 03, 2011

Overcoming Sin

(Here's a terrific post about overcoming sin from Steve McVey. Click the following link to go to his post and web site, or just take a gander below.

When I was a young boy, I loved to play marbles. I would often go out into the back yard and draw a circle in the dirt, put a handful of marbles “in the pot” and shoot marbles for hours. I often played with my friends, with each of us putting ten marbles in the circle and taking turns shooting. Did I play for keeps? Well, I’ll just say that I had a big bag of marbles! I couldn’t imagine a day ever coming when I gave up that hobby. I knew that one day I would grow old enough that I would look pretty silly on the ground with my favorite shooter, but I tried not to think about those days. I wanted to play forever.

One day while I was outside practicing, I heard someone call my name. I looked over toward the backyard of my friend, Phillip, and saw him there with Ricky and Danny. They were standing under a basketball goal which hadn’t been there the day before. “We’re gonna play a game. We need a fourth man. Want to play?” they asked. I left my marbles in the dirt that day and never looked back. I had found a new passion. I loved to play basketball. Every single day I couldn’t wait to get home from school so that I could rush out into the back yard to play ball. We would play until dark every day. Fridays were especially exciting because we didn’t have school the next day. Our parents would often allow us to stay out really late, shooting baskets when we could hardly even see the goal. It was an adolescent boy’s paradise.

“Now this is something I can do all my life!”, I reasoned. “Mr. Lambert across the street still plays basketball and he’s a grown man!” In those days I was convinced that there would never be a Friday night of my life when I didn’t shoot basketball. I was addicted to it.

One Sunday when I was barely sixteen years old our family went to church. While sitting in the Sunday School class that morning, I noticed a new girl who walked into the class. I had never seen her before. I had never been on a date up to that time. When this girl walked past me, I checked her out — I mean, I discerned that this might be a good place to begin my dating life. I went home and asked my dad the big question. “Dad, if I get a date some Friday night, will you let me use your car to go out?” “Do you have a date?” my dad asked, probably glad to see his only son moving toward manhood. “Not yet, but there’s a girl I want to go out with if you’ll let me have the car,” I answered. “Who is she?” he asked. “Just a girl I met at church last week,” I answered. “Okay,” he said. “You can use the car if you get a date.”

I couldn’t wait until the next Sunday. As soon as church was over I made a bee line for this new, good looking girl. After nervous small talk, I took the plunge. “Are you doing anything this Friday night?” I nervously asked. “No,” she answered, “why?” “Well, there’s a new Barbara Streisand movie coming out this weekend. I thought we would go see it and then go over to Pizza Villa after the movie, if you want to,” I said. “Sure, that sounds like fun,” she answered.

The following Friday night I picked her up and went out on my first date. It went really well. The next day my buddies all rushed over to my house bright and early. “Man, where were you?” they demanded to know. “We waited for you to come out. We play basketball every Friday!” they continued with obvious irritation over my reckless disregard for our sacred appointed game. “What were you doing?” Holding my shoulders back and with my head held high, I answered, “Boys, I was with a chick!”

To their dismay, I called the girl and asked her to go out with me the following Friday. She accepted. In fact, I went out with her every Friday for the next three years, then I married her. We’ve been married since 1973. (Her high school senior picture is the one attached to this blog.) Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I played basketball on Friday night. I’ve found something better!

When a person finds himself entangled with a sin, it is often difficult to imagine a time when he won’t be connected to that sin. How does one find freedom over habitual sins in his life? Certainly it won’t happen by applying religious rules to our behavior. We have already seen how that sins are actually aroused by laws. The idea that a Christian should protect himself from sins by a strict adherence to rules is sin’s secret weapon against the believer. Laws always stimulate sin.

I hate to compare wholesome activities like marbles and basketball to sin, but I want to use my experience with these as an analogy. If someone had told me when I was a young child that I would have to give up marbles, I would have resisted the idea. If someone had suggested that at age sixteen I would be required to give up Friday night basketball, I would have rebelled against the very thought of such a thing. I didn’t focus on giving up either. I simply became obsessed with something that I wanted more than those things. One might say that Melanie delivered me from basketball. It wasn’t a struggle for me. I just set my mind on her and basketball sort of faded away.

That’s how Jesus can deliver us from our sins! When we come to know who Jesus is in us and who we are in Him, we discover that sins we once couldn’t imagine living without lose their appeal to us. We don’t experience victory by struggling against sins, but by setting our mind on Jesus. The Apostle Paul said it succinctly in Colossians 3:1-3:

If you then have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

We will never overcome sin through sheer determination and self discipline. That kind of negative motivation keeps our eyes off Jesus and on our sins. We are to focus on Him, not sin! As we fall more and more in love with Jesus, those sins which we have so tightly caressed will become increasingly unattractive to us until we want to let them go.

When I was a child, we sometimes sang an old song which clearly teaches God’s method for overcoming sin. It says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” The repellent for sin is not self effort. The remedy for sin will always be nothing other than Jesus.

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