CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
The Frustration of Sin
By JCR Goode
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Are you having trouble with addiction? You try and try to change, but you always seem to come back to the same old sin? Therapy, consequences, trying harder — nothing seems to work. You wonder if you'll always be this way — and if Jesus can ever forgive you.
As someone with a similar addictive personality (ex. lying, video games, food), I fully understand where you're coming from. That said, conquering addictions is not about trying the "next best thing" to keep you motivated. Specifically, there are three layers toward life-change.
Inspiration: You're struggling with compulsive lying or sloth or gluttony or lust and you hear this really great sermon, or the perfect quote at the perfect time. Everything starts to make sense for a time! You see your struggle in a whole new way, and you're so thankful for it. Your perception has shifted to understand your sin in an appropriate context. Buuuuut...a few days/weeks later, the novelty of the idea wears off and you're back in your old rut.
Motivation: You're sick and tired of the same old rut. Even these inspiring things you're hearing and seeing aren't doing the trick. So, eventually you take those words to heart and finally say, "I'm going to do it — for real this time!" And you do. You continue filling your head with these inspiring thoughts and images and messages of all kinds. They're great! And you feel like you're finally making progress. The struggle is still there, but through perseverance and endurance, you're starting to build your character to a degree that Paul references in Romans 5. Or at least that's what you thought. Then you get burned out. One relapse and you feel like you're right back where you started. The addiction never went away.
Transformation: You've tried everything and you just can't do it. Nothing works! Accountability groups, putting a lock on your fridge, setting alarms to tell you to get off the games, inspiring/motivating quotes all over your wall and monitor that you don't even notice anymore. You may even have thought about getting a tattoo on your "special hand" that would sanctify it with a holy symbol so that the immense guilt of degrading that symbol with such villainy could hopefully be a deterrent. But then you realize that it's silly to assume that guilt could save you from...becoming guilty.
But aren't these all good things? Of course they are! Why should I stop trying? And then you remember Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." All of your religious practices, high moral values, and good, practical ideas to guide you toward godly living aren't going to conquer your sin. If only there were something that could help! It sounds like the Gospel all over again! But I'm already a Christian...I've accepted the Gospel, so I'm done with that part now. Right?
And as you continue pursuing Christ, you come across 1 Corinthians 6:12. You realize, "I'm always going to be a sinner. Nothing can stop me from that but God alone. And yet I'm under grace and not the law — so I don't need to worry about being condemned for my sin." And you decide to accept who you are before God. You don't stop trying to rid yourself of sin, but you acknowledge that you can't quit unless God stops you. So, you confess it to Christ and don't let it bother you anymore.
And then you keep studying and come across 2 Corinthians 3:17-18: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." There it is.
You realize that you fail in your sin because no amount of inspiration or motivation will ever solve your problem. Every other religion out there uses inspiration and motivation to try to conquer our sin problem — to make us better people. But that's why they fail. Because we can never make ourselves better. You — at your core — are always going to be a filthy wretch. So, you think, "If my core being is always going to be this sinful mess that can't stop the addiction...maybe the problem isn't trying to improve myself, but to get a new self altogether." And so, as the verse says, you ask the Spirit to transform you.
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Published on 3-14-16