Friday, March 19, 2010

Ridding Oneself of Sin Versus Restraining It

In an earlier post I mentioned I have been doing some research on the topic of sin. It was and still is my intention to systematically determine what the most concise, and root biblical definition of sin is. This topic has long been of great interest to me as I have perceived, I think accurately, that most people's definitions of sin are neither comprehensively biblical nor serious enough and therefore most people take their sin far too lightly. In doing some of that research I ran across this passage in one of C.H. Spurgeon's sermons that addresses ones attitude towards sin:

“In the next place, you will find it extremely useful if, in order to get rid of sin, you are not content with merely restraining it, but always seeking to have it taken clean away by the Holy Spirit. You know, mere moralists retrain their sins, like a river that has locks and dykes: the water is kept from flowing, but then it gradually swells upward, till by-and-bye it overflows with terrible fury. Now, don’t be content with mere restraining grace; that will never purge you, for the sin may be there though it break not out. Pray to God that your sin may be taken away, and that though the remnant and the root thereof remain, through the channel be there, yet the stream may be dried up like the stream of the Euphrates before the presence of the Lord your God.”

-C.H. Spurgeon; New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 4, Righteous Hatred, 347-348.

Perhaps you are now thinking "Joe, I have prayed that God would take a particular sin away and it is still there." To that I would respond by wondering what you would mean by the phrase "have prayed?" Perhaps that is the real problem, yes? Perhaps we do not pray enough and so find ourselves in reactive prayer versus proactive, perpetual prayer. But first we must believe that God does, in fact, respond to these sorts of prayers; we must believe that He desires to free us from particular sins, not just restrain it. It is true that temptation will never disappear this side of eternity, but that does not mean that God cannot rid us of a sinful desire that enslaves us day in and day out.

"He who did not spare his own, but gave him up for us all, how will not also with him graciously give us all good things?" (Romans 8:32)

What more "good" thing could we ask for then to be free from sin so that we would more glorify God? Let us pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) that God would rid us of the sins that keep us from glorifying God, being full of inexplicable joy and from loving others.


Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 12:08 PM  

Let me ask you this. Why is spiritual change sometimes so difficult and show? How is it that a believer can know so much truth & desire the good and yet so deeply struggle with sin, with being loving, with obedience etc?

Joseph Mancuso June 17, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

I am sorry I have taken aeons to answer this question. I am not one to give excuses, but I do like to give reasons, which I think are very different. Let's just say then that I have been quite busy with a new job and a growing family.

On to your question then, if you are still paying any attention to my site. If you are not; I quite understand.

The first part of my answer would be to say that we struggle with sin largely because we still have comparative value problems. One may desire the good, but not yet as much or more than they desire the bad. We all struggle with different sins based on the values we attribute to things. I, for example, do not struggle with stealing or coveting because objects have no real value to me. Yet I may struggle, at times, with acceptance from others because I value peoples opinions.

Another major problem I see that has worked wonders in my life is desiring "the good." What is "the good?" Though I deeply want to be pleasing to God, I more want to know Him so that my vision of Him will cause me to be obsessed with Him and see everything else as trivial compared to Him. My prayers are more often "God show me your glory" and less "make me do what's right." This leads to my third observation about my life and the lives of others regarding struggling with sin.

We are not willing to pluck out our eyes to deal with sin. We still make excuses like "well it is permissable" instead of asking "It is permissable, but is it beneficial?" Is the TV show really worth it when I could be reading my bible? Is hanging out with friends doing godless things really worth it when we could be ministering together to the poor, widows and the lost? Is buying the latest iPhone worth it when we could be spending the money helping others?

All of the biographies I have read about some of the greats of Christendom were sacrificial and disciplined. Truth and desire are like a car filled with gas but nothing/ no one to drive it. When discipline gets behind the wheel things really get moving.

Consider this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:4-8 ESV)

What's the point? We need to stop making excuses for our lack of discipline (which slowly results in sin) and start letting go of our "permissables" and start laying down our lives for God and the gospel.

The more I let go of permissables and give myself to discipline in prayer, fasting, reading and sharing the gospel the less I see myself wrestling with sin. Shoot me an email if you have anymore questions.