If you have been following me for any length of time, you know that I talk a lot about the nature of sin. It’s a topic worth studying, not so that we might sin better or more often, but from a preventative perspective. What is sin, and why do I desire it so even though I know it causes me such harm?
I’m finding out that the more I understand sin, the better I am to appreciate the work Jesus did for us on the cross. You see, sin is a far bigger problem than we like to admit. Certainly, we have more sin than we are willing to give up. It’s when we get serious about getting rid of a particular sin that we find just how big of a problem it really is.
My besetting sin is gluttony. By that, I mean gluttony is the sin I have the most trouble with and the most trouble getting rid of. You have a besetting sin. We all do. I’ve been fighting this battle hard for a long, long time. To see me you might not think I have a problem, but I do. My first problem was alcohol which is simply a subset of gluttony. God delivered me of that in a moment of time on June 13, 2007, the day of my salvation. I have not desired booze one bit since.
Immediate relief from sin like that is rare. It’s more common to have longer-term recovery. I’m finding that to be true with the food aspect of my gluttony. While I am a reasonable weight in comparison to others, I have been heavier; and, I could be significantly lighter than I am. I would like to honor God with my body and be at a healthy weight. I would like to be satisfied with the amount of food my body requires, not that which my sin desires.
I’ve made many, many attempts at this. I’ve tried many diets and exercise programs. I’ve carefully tracked my caloric intake and activity. Other times, I’ve ignored the calorie counting and focused on “healthy” foods. All of these produced results for a time, but I was not able to maintain the enthusiasm to keep it going. As soon as I relaxed the regimen, things quickly went back to…normal.
Frankly, it is very discouraging. Lately, I have mentioned a book by Puritan writer John Owen entitled, “The Mortification of Sin” written in 1656 or thereabouts. My particular copy was abridged by Richard Rushing and published by Banner of Truth Trust. I have been greatly encouraged by it.
Mind you, none of this is really new information to me. The main point is that only Jesus has conquered sin through his work on the cross, and the Holy Spirit is the active (and only) force behind sin’s mortification. Mortification is to kill.
Anything short of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and we’ll find ourselves stuck in our sin. In all fairness, my efforts have failed for two reasons. One, I didn’t really want to give it up. I still wanted to pig out when I wanted to pig out. Well, sin doesn’t respect my occasional desires to indulge. Occasional turns to regular. Two, I desired to take credit for conquering my sin. I wanted to do it my way and have people praise me for the results. “You look great! How did you do it?” These types of things stroke my ego.
You see, I was taking credit for the work of God.
Isaiah 42:8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
God isn’t going to bless my efforts that are to my own glory. He’ll let sin do it’s job rather than let me steal his glory. Not only that, but I sin in the simple disregard of the power that I KNOW is in Jesus. Why would I even bother using my own efforts when I know that Jesus is the one who frees me from sin? I need not go any other place. In fact, I know there is no other place TO go.
In the meantime, I have been frustrated and discouraged to the point of despair. Perhaps you can relate. If so, you can relate to what John Owens wrote about this:
“I might here bewail the endless, foolish labour of poor souls, who are convinced of sin, and yet not able to stand against its power. They try many perplexing ways and duties, to keep down sin, but, being strangers to the Spirit of God, they find it is all in vain. They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days. They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which does not profit.
“This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but he has no strength for the battle. He must fight, but he can never conquer. He is like a man who thrusts himself on the sword of the enemy on purpose to be slain. The law drives him on, and then sin beats him back. Sometimes he thinks he has foiled sin, but he has only raised a dust that he cannot see the sin. He stirs up his natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, and this makes him believe that sin is conquered when it is not even touched. He soon must be at the battle again, and the lust which he thought to be slain is seen to be not even wounded.” p. 19-20.
These were very discouraging words to read. Owens described my state, quite honestly, in “the endless, foolish labour of poor souls.” If fact, I wanted to stop reading the book altogether, but I forced myself to finish. I’m glad I did. It was rough because it wasn’t until the very end that great hope was revealed in the working of the Holy Spirit. Up until then, it took a lot of ink to hammer it into my head just how devious sin is and how much I cooperate with it.
I confess to God and to you, today, that I have sinned in my lack of trust in God to solve my problems, my desire to steal his glory, and my desire for the praise people. I don’t know as yet that I am in a genuine place of Godly sorrow, like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7:10. I’m headed that way. Repentance is a process. It’s not easy to break the pride of a guy like me. I know what will.
Jeremiah 23:29 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
This is a daily, maybe even hourly, process I need to do. Let God’s word hammer away at my heart until he gets me to the point of genuine, Godly repentance. It is then that the Holy Spirit will step in and do his stuff. That’s when God will genuinely “mortify” this besetting sin of mine. It will be then that I will praise God – and him alone – for his deliverance from my evil.
Romans 11:33-36 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Father, I pray for all this to happen, the deliverance from my gluttony. I look forward to singing your praises and sharing all that you have done for me. Forgive me, Lord, for my stubborn behavior. I’m but dust, yet I act like I’m quite powerful. I’m not. Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers