And we’ve had so many go-arounds with this particular enemy – some weakness, some vice, some habit seemingly iron-wrought or seemingly genetically hard-coded – that it’s turned the idea of victory into distant foolishness…even though you know that victory is God’s will, and that with his commands comes the power to obey.
Perhaps victory seems attainable during moments when we’re in the clear, when temptation is at bay. Or at church, or after the prayer of repentance, when you’re bowled over by God’s grace and power.
But once the bell rings again, and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator or the computer or that person at work who needs your patience rather than your anger, the optimism fades fast. A deeper layer of doubt is revealed in your heart. I can’t do it. If we succeed for a little while, it switches to, I can’t possibly keep this up forever. Or the urgency fades after a week and our treacherous minds convince us that one surrender won’t hurt and…it ends up being more than one surrender.
Don’t you sometimes just wake up and want to be free of all that? For good?
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
These are the words Jesus quotes about himself when he first launches his ministry in Israel. Along with his gospel of salvation come his ministries of freedom, healing, and sanctification.
In a world where we rarely know whether our prayers are lining up with God’s will, it’s a relief to know that one prayer has his backing for sure: that we be sanctified. It is part and parcel of our salvation, the impartation of Christ’s righteousness into our lives.
But just because God promises something doesn’t mean we possess it. It must often be fought for, in Jesus’ name.
And I don’t know about you, but my mind is not always my ally in this campaign.
Look at the self-deprecating Facebook pictures we commonly post, like this gem of a shirt:
Har har. I identify. A joke of the “yep, we’re all in the same boat” persuasion.
But really, this is terrible.
I have to ask: does this look like the handiwork of someone who’s determined and passionate about actually beating this sin? Does it suggest that all it’s wearer’s resources are focused on securing Jesus’ promises of holiness? Or do they really just reveal a wry resignation to our sin? (And yes, procrastination is a sin.)
Even if the person does want to win, this sort of message seems likely to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anything less than wholehearted will probably not do.
Some sins are easier to beat than others; some bear truly formidable chains. I know this well. Sanctification is a process, and some addictions take time to finish off. I’ve seen people delivered instantly, and I’ve seen it take years.
But I wonder sometimes if we have any idea how much power is being made available to us for our transformation. Scripture does not tell us that we are stuck at this level.
Our addictions like to disguise themselves as progress, too. “Someday you’ll beat me,” they whisper. “But it’ll be a while until you’re strong enough.”
And while this miiiight be true, have you noticed that the fruit is…another sin?
“You’ll improve in stages. For now, just fall.”
That’s an instant red flag. It is never God’s will that we sin. Even if deliverance is a process. Yet our minds may go, “Rome wasn’t built in a day. For now…” And we shuffle our feet and get led around by the nose yet again, never questioning whether freedom might actually be available just around the corner!
So only one policy makes sense: let us treat every day as if it could be the last day of our self-imposed sentence, the final tally mark on the wall of our cell.
If the idea of a V-S Day (Victory over Sin) seems ridiculous after so much failure, consider this: if such a day ever happens, it will look exactly like today – the tail end of years of failure. So why not make it today? I cannot say enough about the hope and victory this thought has given me. Yesterday’s failure needn’t be a sentence for today; this really could be the last day you fall in this particular arena.
“How long shall I go on saying ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?” – St. Augustine
I’m rooting for you. Jesus is rooting for you.
Why not now?
Image credit: Dafne Cholet