Category Archives: Dan’s Blog

Sold into Bondage to Sin

I doubt that Paul had huge personal problems with sin. Still, he had the wisdom to realize what lived on in his flesh—this “bondage to sin,” as he describes it. He knew that pride—the underlying root of all sin—remained a powerful enemy which could resurface at any moment. Even though he had become that new creature in Christ, Paul makes it very clear that he carried his old man—his flesh—into his new life in the Lord.

It’s a problem for us, isn’t it. Regardless, Paul totally understood the issue: “It’s not really me doing it, “but sin which dwells in me (Romans 7:17, 20).” Instead of finding fault with who we have now become in Christ, Paul lays the blame for this weakness at sin’s door. It’s not “the devil made me do it” syndrome. It’s simply me: “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (Romans 7:14).

The Challenge of Besetting Sin

Besetting sin is one our most daunting challenges. It’s the kind of sin that doesn’t happen once or twice, but a recurring problem you just can’t seem to conquer. When I received Christ, much of my sinful behavior simply seemed to drop off. I just didn’t have a problem with certain things anymore. But other weaknesses persisted, causing me to fall into the same old sin time and again. “Well, you had the choice,” you might say. I sure did! But because the temptations seemed so overwhelming, I kept making the wrong choice.

Why would God give me instant relief from some weaknesses, while allowing others to remain? It’s because of choice. The weakness of our flesh presents us with choices to make. It’s simply a part of God’s plan. We have a rocky road to travel. And our choices along the way reveal a lot about our faith.

From Free from the Power of Sin: the Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

The Secret to Moving Forward

Jesus wants us to be constantly moving forward with Him. Discovering God’s purpose for our life is kind of like driving a car. It’s impossible to steer a car that’s standing still, but easy to maneuver once you give it the gas. Yet being in motion isn’t the only issue; reliable steering is also vital to our progress. We must not only step out, but be willing to be steered if we are ever to get where we need to go.

It’s like a ship on the open sea. If its rudder is broken, it doesn’t matter if the engine is pushing it forward.  It will drift wherever the wind carries it. Thus shipwreck is unavoidable. But if the ship can be steered while under power, its direction can be changed at key navigation points, bringing it safely to harbor—even if it starts out heading in the wrong direction.

Finally Fed Up with Failure

Can we bear fruit without being personally transformed? Yes, if we’re willing to settle for a skimpy crop. But we won’t be successful in producing what Jesus wants—“much fruit.” God wants to see us radically changed. And since we know we can’t transform ourselves, He must have a method to bring it about. God has His part in the process, and we’ve got ours.

If transformation is ever to happen, we must cooperate with God as He goes about working in our life. For us, it’s all about choice! But we often have to come to the end of ourselves—finally fed up with failure—before we are able to make that commitment. You may be at that point in your life right now! If so, unconditionally give yourself over to God, and then take action by walking in obedience. Remember, this is a choice we make day by day.

Immersing Yourself in God

A fruitful relationship with Jesus can never be built only by attempting to obey God. Though obedience certainly has its place, relationship based on it alone will never succeed. Genuine fruitfulness can be achieved only one way: immersing ourselves in the very life of His Spirit—communing with God. Jesus wants us to “abide in Him.”

But how do we do this? First and foremost, personal time spent with God is indispensable. On a human level, have you ever heard of a strong relationship being built without the investment of time spent together? Genuine friendship is impossible without such a commitment. Just like in any human relationship, our bond with God depends on personal interaction. And it needs to be a two-way street—not only speaking to God, but also listening with the expectation that He intends to speak back. It often happens as we meditate in Scripture.

Having Become Acceptable to God

Is holiness something we are in Christ or something we need to become? Though a foundation of holiness has been laid in us by virtue of the fact that we now are God’s possession, Scripture makes it clear that something is still missing. Time and again we are exhorted to live a holy life. And that means that the sins of the flesh must be forsaken.

There’s no question that living a holy life is expected. And if expected, it must be attainable (not the impossibility of being sin-free, but definitely that of being self-controlled). It’s the whole point of living a godly life. Attempting to please God by walking out our faith in a manner worthy of Him is not easy. It’s takes effort. But we need to remember that God has accepted us. Pleasing God is a whole lot different from trying to become acceptable to Him.

Free from Sin; Enslaved to God

God knows our limitations and has dealt with the nagging sin that plagues our selfish nature. But He will not tolerate slavery to sin. We’ve been freed from sin and enslaved to God Himself (Romans 6:22). The fruit of this relationship is holiness. God only asks that we commit ourselves to be led by His Spirit. He has promised that we no longer need to suffer under a spirit of slavery. Quite the opposite, we have received a spirit of adoption as sons and now are fellow heirs with Christ.

Our natural course of behavior once we’re saved is to move forward in our relationship with Christ instead of against Him. This penchant to pursue Him is a spiritual law—“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” by which we have been “set free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). This is what it means to be “in Christ.”

We’ll Always have Shortcomings

What does my sin say about my faith? It can be pretty ugly! But let’s be realistic; no matter how good we ultimately become we’ll always have shortcomings. Still, we must not be naïve about the influence sin has on our life—that is, how it affects both faith and obedience. Sin weakens our ability to make right choices. It hardens us. Like a snowball—growing in size and gaining momentum—sin and unbelief feed on each other, sometimes even leading to total alienation from God.

To prevent this from happening, we must guard our heart—even from sins that may seem insignificant. At the very least, disobedience stalls our growth. At worst, it hardens our heart to the point where we simply cease to believe. Sure, we’ll never be perfect in this life. But walking in Christ’s provision is what’s really important. God loves watching us work out our faith this way.

What’s My Purpose, Anyway?

God has created each of us with purpose—a personal calling. We all share this inward tug. So moving forward without any real sense of direction in life can’t help but be frustrating. “What am I doing for God? I just don’t know what my purpose is.” Take heart! It’s not an uncommon problem. Christians often find themselves stuck in the disappointing position of not understanding God’s intent for their life. I often sense it myself.

At times even those who have been used by God in some powerful way share this frustration. We apparently can’t just sit back and rest on our laurels. Why God doesn’t just paint us a clear picture, I can’t say. It must have something to do with that old faith thing. But though it’s clearly not easy, finding God’s purpose for our life actually isn’t out of reach. Intimacy with God holds the key.

Preparing the Soil of Our Heart

Jesus expects us to grow spiritually. Our job is to prepare the soil of our heart to receive that growth. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from pressing forward—trying to live in a manner pleasing to Him. It’s all about “presenting our bodies as a holy and living sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). Making godly choices sets us on that road. Early in the process there are lots of opportunities to slip back under the spell of the old self. That’s why we must always be vigilant.

Over time, as we experience degrees of transformation, the likelihood of backsliding keeps diminishing. Be encouraged! Somewhere along the line it’s virtually impossible to get mired once again in the pit of that old self. Why? Because our character has been forever altered—who we are has changed. Once our character is transformed, we truly are no longer our former selves.