Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Duck & the Devil: Are You Freed from Sin or a Slave to Sin?

In his excellent teachings on Romans, Michael Pearl tells the story of a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm.  He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods.  He practiced in the woods, but could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma's pet duck.  Just out of impulse he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it.  He was shocked and grieved.  In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to see his sister watching!  Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch the next day Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen."   Then she whispered to him, 
"Remember the duck?" So Johnny did the dishes.

Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, "I'm sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally just smiled and said,"Well that's all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help."  She whispered again, "Remember the duck?"  So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's he finally couldn't stand it any longer.  He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck.  Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, "Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you.  I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you."

Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done, the devil is watching and he keeps throwing it up in your face. We need to know that God is standing at the window and He sees everything; for He has seen our whole life before we have ever lived it. God is not only watching, but He also has already provided the remedy and pardon for our sins before we even committed them. God sent His only Son Jesus, to die on a cross in 30 A.D. so that our sins might be forgiven, and that we may “walk in Newness of Life” { Romans 6:4} because we are indeed “dead to sin, freed from sin and alive in Christ Jesus!” {Romans 6}.

God does stand at the window of our lives and sees all that we do: the good, the bad and the ugly. I think He is often shaking His head at most Christians because we keep living in the bondage of sin by a lack of faith in what God has done for us. Satan keeps whispering in our ears, “You don’t measure up, you sinner. You aren’t really freed from sin, because look what you did today, yesterday and what you want to do tomorrow. You are nothing more than a slave to sin, walking in the flesh, and that is about all you will ever amount to. Just keep trying harder to please God, because He’s pretty upset with you right now. You are such a loser when it comes to walking in righteousness because you love your flesh. That is your reality.”

Once Satan and our own experiences plant these lies in our minds, they begin to play like a broken record over and over again sending us further and further into sin and despair. Listen to the apostle Paul as he despairs over his own sin ~

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me… O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Romans 7:14-20 & 24

Our loving and gracious heavenly Father watches us no longer as sinners, but as saints, translated into His family by the work of Christ on the cross. We are the adopted children of a God whose love and generosity is endless for those who are “in Christ Jesus.” But for those who will not accept the atoning work of Christ in their lives, God has no choice but to deal with them in the flesh. Each and every action is judged and must have its own penalty for sin. It is not that the judging God of the Old Testament became a loving God of the New Testament. Far from it as God never changes. What changed is that both OT saints and NT saints had provision for their sins based on looking at the cross, the former looking forward to the cross, and now we look back at the cross. The big difference is that until Christ died on the cross, sin had to be dealt with under the law and in the flesh.

We are given by the apostle Paul the answer as to how we can say “NO” to sin in our lives, and it is by understanding that since Christ died for sin, we are no longer under the law, nor are we any longer in the flesh!

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

 Romans 7:4-6

Look! It is right there in black and white. God is telling us that we “were in the flesh” {past tense} and we “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” {past tense}. There is no NIV "old nature" we battle any more, but a body of flesh that when in Christ takes on His identity as being dead, buried and now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. WOW!  Do you get this? Do you see why it is so important to die with Christ and rise with Him? Do you understand why it is so important to now “reckon yourself indeed to be dead unto sin and alive to God?” {Romans 6:11}.

Until we grasp these great truths believers, we will have Satan, our experiences, our childhood guilt and bad thinking, all screaming in our ear, “I saw you kill that duck! You don’t measure up; You’re not a good Christian; and no matter what God tells you, you know you still walk in the flesh and not the Spirit!”

Worse yet, we often have fellow believers and even our pastors telling us the same thing every week. The constant focus seems to be on our not measuring up. I regularly spend time with my best friend in another state and went to a very prominent church with him on Sundays. Finally, we just gave up on  the church because the poor pastor could only focus on his own unworthiness and need for grace. Every sermon came back around to how “we are all sinners and so desperately need the grace of God. Woe is me and thank God the apostle Paul had the same struggles as I do. Feel better Christian, because all humble Christians know how sinful we really are.”

Is that comforting to you at all?  Sure it’s nice to know that you are not the only Christian who struggles with sin, but really, if our focus is always on sin, and not sinning, when will we ever focus on pleasing God and walking in the Spirit with righteousness?  Think of all the times this poor pastor stands up each and every Sunday and calls God a liar. God’s Word is filled with hundreds of promises that we are indeed no longer under bondage as slaves to sin, but instead we are saints who have become “slaves of “the righteousness of God!” {Romans 6: 18,19, 20}.

Furthermore we have become the righteousness of God!
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” {2 Corinthians 5:21}.

Don’t take my word for it, but search the promises of God. And certainly stop listening to any pastor who focuses on sin instead of our New Lives, alive in Christ Jesus. Who needs to go get beat up each Sunday about our failures when God has already looked out of the window and instead of seeing our sins He sees us as His very own perfect child in Christ Jesus. Our sins are all on a cross before we even confess them. They are dead, gone and buried in Christ the moment we believe in Him. Unfortunately, we only get the benefits of being freed from sin in this life when we walk by faith in the Spirit, believing God at His Word. We can always choose as New Creatures in Christ to go back to our old life and wallow in sin and despair. And we far too often do, the moment we take our eyes off of Jesus and place them onto our own willful attempts at obedience.

Is this not what happened to Peter as he walked on the water? So long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he stayed walking, but the moment he started looking around to his own experience and what he was doing in the flesh, he began to sink.

Here is the message the apostle Paul wants us to know from Romans 7. That the Christian life is impossible both “under the law” and in our own flesh, or willpower. The failed experiment of the Old Testament was that no matter how hard the OT saint tried to keep the law in their own power, the flesh was far too weak to keep up with what the law demands, perfection. “No man can come to the Father except through me” says Jesus, precisely because the flesh is too weak to please God on its own. No matter how many good deeds one might do, the failures will overwhelm the good. And beyond this, no one who does not have their sin covered and removed from their lives by the work of Christ can never stand in the presence of God and live. If we want eternity with God, we must be made perfect in Christ Jesus, the man-God who walked perfectly in sinless harmony with His Father precisely because He had the Spirit of God fully in His being.

So where are you at today? Is some nagging sin whispering in your ear, “You don’t measure up and God is not happy with you.” Are going to allow your experiences to be your window to reality, or are you going to adopt God’s window where when He sees you He sees Jesus?

Here is the only thing that will make the Christian life possible and that is when we give up trying to walk in holiness under our own power and instead reach out by faith and grab the complete grace of God for all sins: past, present and future. No longer walking in my own fleshly will and ways, but instead walking in the Spirit of God.  For it is when we hand our lives over to the Lordship of Christ, and tell Jesus who lives in us that He can have complete control, it is then that start saying “NO” to sin, not because we are trying harder, but because we believe God that we no longer are slaves to sin, we are indeed completely free. No sin, except the unpardonable sin of unbelief can ever be held against us. So do you believe God? Great! Now go walk in the Newness of Life He has promised: dead to sin, freed from sin and alive to Christ.

Always remember that dead things no longer care about the circumstances of life for this world is passing by quickly, and only those things we do under the power of the Spirit, and by faith, can please God. So your efforts aren't worth much unless God is in there giving you the faith to say “no” to sin, not today or tomorrow. Maybe never because I do not have to sin, nor do I have to believe the lie that I am still a sinner. I was a sinner, but now God calls me His righteous, loved and precious child. Which one should I believe?

His-story tells us that God wants to make a family of His own. A people who will walk with Him and talk with Him, whom He can enjoy and who will enjoy their Creator. This purpose of God has never changed as He wants to come live in and through us, to fellowship with us, so that He might be our God, we might be His people. Will you this day allow God to have His rightful place in your life? Will you stop trying to be His child and instead begin to enjoy being His child by “letting go and letting God” do as He wills with you? If “perfect love cast our fear” we must stop believing the lie that what God wants to give us is not enough. For He has made known what is best for our lives, and that begins by allowing Him to finish the work He began when He sanctified us and made us complete in Christ Jesus. All we have to do now is grow up into Christ by allowing God to grow our faith in Him and His promises.

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 
2 Peter 1:3-4