When I look back over the last twenty or twenty-five years of my life, I see myself fighting a lot of the same battles over and over again. That can be pretty discouraging.
Where’s the victory in Jesus?
I mean, I’ve definitely experienced it sometimes. In some areas. And in other areas for some seasons, some moments. I know it exists. But there are other areas, other times… I’ve been so discouraged, I’ve given up completely.
The thing is, my life didn’t get any easier when I stopped fighting. It got worse.
I may have dropped my sword, discarded my armor, turned my back on the fighting. But I was still on the battlefield – like it or not. Arrows whizzing past my head. Bodies falling left and right. Only now I was defenseless.
So eventually I’d get back into gear and keep fighting. I’d tell myself — and others – that NOT fighting isn’t a viable option. And it isn’t.
I’d tell myself it’s all I can do.
But is it?
Lately I’ve been wondering … again… if there’s something I can be learning, something I can be doing, some truth I can be applying to fight some of these battles more effectively.
I’d really like to win a few more. And by a few, I mean a LOT.
This week I was listening to a 1989 sermon by Tim Keller on battling sin by “Removing Idols From Your Heart” recommended by Dee Brestin. (You can listen here or read a transcript here.)
Keller quotes Puritan preacher Stephen Charnock, who pointed out that too many of us try to battle sin in our hearts by taking it to Mount Sinai instead of Mount Calvary.
Mount Sinai was where Moses received the Law. When we take our sin to Mount Sinai, we focus on the injustice of it, the immorality of it, the danger of it. We focus on the consequences of it in our own lives and the lives of those around us.
We feel sorry for our sin because it’s so wrong, so damaging or destructive, so costly.
When we concentrate on the evil of our sin and its consequences, we’re often trying to create within ourselves a disgust or distaste for our sin. We may be trying to shame ourselves, punish ourselves, or make ourselves feel the full weight of what we’ve done in the hopes that it will keep us from committing this sin again.
What we end up with instead is self-pity and self-loathing.
Which has never set anyone free from the power of sin.
But when we take our sin to Mount Calvary, we look up at Jesus – Whom we love. And we remember how much He has loved us.
We remember what our sin cost Him.
We realize that holding on to this sin is spitting in His face. It’s pressing the thorns into His brow. It’s driving the nails into His hands and feet.
And we don’t want it.
We don’t want anything to do with it. We don’t want anything to do with anything that comes between us and Him. We’re eager to let go of it – throw it away.
This is the repentance – the renunciation of sin – that leads to forgiveness and freedom.
When we look to Jesus, we don’t wallow in self-pity or guilt or shame. We revel in His love for us. We experience His peace, His joy. His victory.
My sin — oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin — not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
~ Horatio Spafford, It Is Well
So this week, from time to time, I’m going to be taking a few moments to check my bearings and make sure I’m headed up the right mountain…
Because there are some battles I’m determined to win!