The Struggle Against Sin; the Resistance Training of Faith

“[L]et us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely….” (Hebrews 12:1)

In my slow walk through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, I am now in Hebrews. Before I was a believer, Hebrews was a book that had a profound impact on me. When read, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), I felt the truth of that verse, though I had yet committed myself to the Word, which is Jesus.

Many years later, now, I still labor under the weight of sin that clings so closely. It can be hard reading these words, so many years after making that commitment, having to acknowledge the weight that remains, the sin that still clings so closely.

When I first read those words, and many others like them, I was convicted. I felt the sting of indictment on my life, and attitudes and condition. There was a harsh reality to them, a sharp edge. Reality can be like that.

It’s hard to read, to accept the indictment against me. It’s tempting to turn away, to ignore it. Like the person who fears he has cancer but pushes that nagging thought aside because it’s easier not to dwell on it. Even though we know that we should get a diagnosis, we find it easier, psychologically to ignore it.

But we might as well turn away from truth, from reality – from our very selves.

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The Choices God Gives Us

Depositphotos Image ID: 7103912 Copyright: kohy81

“But to all[1] who did receive[2] Him, to those who believed[3] in His name, He gave the right[4] to become[5] children[6] of God— children born[7] not of blood, nor of the will[8] of the flesh[9], nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Johns packs a lot into these short verses, tucked into the first chapter of his Gospel that is profoundly full of other significant meaning:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him….In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light…. was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”[10]

These are some of the most profound and remarkable verses in all of Scripture. God became flesh, and He lived among the people He chose as His own, but they didn’t even recognize who He was. But those who received – who believed Him – He gave the right to become children of God.

I see two choices here: the choice of receiving Christ and the choice God gives us after receiving Christ – the right to become children of God. My Reformed friends might be tempted to overlook the import of this power-packed passage.  I am little unnerved by it myself, truth be told. I don’t trust my own heart to make the right choices!

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As the Ground Receives the Rain

10385505_10152886368058339_812974149266040553_nGod’s Work Within You

“For it is God who works[i] in you….” (Phil. 2:13)

When we think in terms of being obedient to God and living for God, we tend to think about results. Results are achievement oriented. Our whole world in Western society is ordered that way so it is no wonder that we think in those terms about our spiritual lives. But God’s work in us is different than what we often think.

The results we recall tend to be the accomplishments we have achieved. Consider for a moment, however, that God’s economy is quite different than ours. He does not consider what we have accomplished, but what HE has been allowed to accomplish in us. We are participants in that accomplishment, but only as the ground receives the rain that falls upon it.

We could be rocky and hard, yielding nothing to God. We could be shallow, only allowing the roots of God’s seed so far. We could be choked with weeds, crowding out whatever seed we allow to take root. We could be fertile, deep soil that allows God’s seed to send it roots down deep and wide that will sustain strong growth.

The seed is God’s, and the growth is His work in us. We are just the recipients of God’s seed. We must be born again. (John 3: 3) Being born again means being born once for all time. The verb tense for “born[ii]” again in John’s Gospel is the Greek aorist tense – meaning accomplished at the first attainment, at once. It is a finished work when it occurs.

When we are born in the flesh, we can take no credit for it. We are the result of other’s actions. When we are born again, we are likewise the result of God’s actions in us. Of that, we have nothing to boast.

At any given moment, we might look at our lives and be proud of what we have accomplished. In being proud of what we have accomplished, we may miss the mark and fail to see the things yet to be accomplished, the sin yet to be rooted out of our lives, the knowledge and understanding of God yet to be gained.

At the same time, we may look at our lives at any given moment and be discouraged by the lack of fruit that we see, the lack of achievement (especially in human terms). We might miss what God is going in us because we are focused on the wrong results.

God, however, sees us as finished products. In fact, He chose us from before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and predestined us “according to His purpose, who works all things” according to His will. (Eph. 1:11).God chose us and sees us outside of time and space. From our perspective, we are working[iii] out our salvation (Php. 2:12) as God works within us. (Php. 2:13) But, we can have confidence that God who gave spiritual birth to us will perfect His love in us (1 John 4:7) because He has ordained it.

Therefore, we should not be overly concerned about our accomplishments or the results of our efforts in the ways that we measure them. God’s economy is different than ours. He is looking for fruit, to be sure, but it is the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), not the trophies of human effort.  

God, please forgive my striving and my desire to boast in my own accomplishments. Everything I have and everything I have done is from you and the result of your work in me. Let me find rest in you. Let me take your yolk and give you mine. Do your perfect work in me. 


[i] Energeo/1754 comes from 1722/en, meaning “engaged in” which intensifies ergon/20141, meaning “work”) – properly, energeo means energize (work) in a situation to bring it from the previous stage (point) to the next (like an electriical current energizing a wire, bringing it to a shining light bulb). The English word “energy” comes from energeo; it means, literally, “at work”. Energeo generally refers to believers as divinely energized by the Lord. God works within us (energizes us) “both to will and to work [be energized] for His good pleasure.” (Php. 2:13) The focus is on the internal transformation of the believer, i.e. God’s energy at work in the inner person.

[ii] Gennao/1080 means properly, “born, birthed”. Gennnao is used for God’s inbirthing faith in a believer. (1 Jn. 5:4)

[iii] Katergázomai/2716 from 2596/kata (meaning “down, exactly according to”) which intensifies 2038/ergazomai (meaning “work, accomplish”) literally means “work down to what is precise” or “exactly work”. Katergazomai means carrying through, like extending a premise (belief) to its detailed expressions (necessary applications). Every believer must take the faith God births in them to its required (Spirit led) conclusions. Getting to the end of the matter is key, but god judges (rewards) our faithfulness in the exact process involved to get there. Our sanctification and glorification then is more in the journey than in any earthly outcomes.


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