Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ever Doubt the Sin Nature?

     Here we are once again at the most wonderful time of the year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Warm feelings abound, good will seems to be observed in extra measure and there is a kinder, gentler attitude among our fellow men or is there?
     During the long holiday weekend following Thanksgiving, our daughter and her husband went shopping for bargains during the "early" Black Friday sales.  In one store while they were looking at several items, they heard a fight break out over some video games that were on special.  It was at this point our daughter told us she did not feel safe.  Of course, it could have been worse.  She could have been at the store where a woman pepper sprayed her competition in order to get what she wanted.  At another location, someone was shot.  The newspaper reported a customer saying she witnessed two women fighting over towels which cost $1.28.  I find this all hard to imagine, but the Bible tells us that we should not be surprised since "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  If ever there is evidence of our sin nature, this is one occasion we can see it clearly.
     When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden, not only were they cast out of this paradise but they also brought sin and death to all mankind.  As Paul goes on to write in Romans 5, he notes:  "Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death, through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...."(verse 12).  Because sin has permeated every part of our being (our thoughts, our will, our soul), we are slaves to sin and dead to righteousness.  It is not until the Lord awakens us by regenerating our soul that we can come to faith in Christ who alone liberates us from sin and death.  His atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection has broken the curse for us.  He carried our sin, and by His blood, we are made whole and clean.  However, it does not stop there.  Our life is a journey as we grow in our faith through prayer, study of God's Word and fellowship with other believers. Nevertheless, we would be foolish to think we will not fall into sin again.  As long as the "old flesh" still clings to us (though its power is broken), we can succumb to old besetting sins once more.  This is why it is so important for us to daily walk by God's Spirit, and be aware of what the Bible calls sin.
     In the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, he enumerates the sins of the flesh and why it is important to lean upon the Holy Spirit.  He writes:  "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (verses 17-21).  We need to remember that Paul was writing to believers here.  He knew the frailty of our flesh, and made clear how we must walk by the Spirit.  In fact, verse 16 says:  "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."  Paul's opening verse of this chapter starts out with a call to take a stand:  "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).  The only way we can over come our tendency to return to the sins of the flesh is to rely upon the Holy Spirit who gives us the strength to stand.
     If ever we have doubted the sin nature, Black Friday incidents certainly point to man's selfishness.  However, it isn't limited to this one day out of the year, and unfortunately, there are times when we see Christians also demonstrate sin in their lives.  The Good News is that the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem came to set us free.  He bought our pardon with His blood.  As believers, we need to meditate on this and live it out day by day as we prepare for this holy celebration.  We do not have to live according to the flesh.  Paul concludes chapter 5 to Galatian believers with these words of encouragement:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against  such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Galatians 5:22-26).  Putting into practice this walk in the Spirit will bring glory to God and bless our fellow man.  Take time this Advent season to think on these things and be the example to others of Christ's love.  This is what our world needs much more than a Play Station game or some other bargain on the shelf.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments here.  Please feel free to leave a word of encouragement.

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