Many people often think that when someone becomes a Christian, life becomes a whole lot easier and a period of relatively unchanged living takes place until we push up those daisies and settle into our dirt nap. They think we have bought our one-way ticket to the pearly gates by simply praying a "prayer of salvation."
As idealistic as this may be, real Christians know that this is not the case in the slightest. We understand that we do have the gift of eternal life through the profession of our mouths that Christ is our Savior, and that He took our place on the cross and died for our sins. We believe that three days later He rose from the dead, defeating death and conquering the grave.
So easy a child at Vacation Bible School could understand it (I only say this because that's where I was this past week). The children know it as their "ABC's", also known as "Admit. Believe. Confess." But in looking at that very simplistic model of salvation, I think one aspect of Christian living is missing from the "ABC's." I wrote about this sometime last week, but here is where I can clearly show its application.
Followers of Christ are to change their entire lives. They are charged to cast away every aspect of their old sinful selves and put on the blood-soaked robe of the lamb that was slain. We are told to "divert" our paths (ABCD's) from the path of unrighteousness to a path of righteousness. It's much more than just saying you "admit, believe, and confess" that Jesus is Lord. There must be a change.
As I have continued to mature in my own faith, as well as meeting many more believers, I've come to understand that many Christians struggle with a lot of the same things. Those things that we struggle with are all the ramifications of sin and the fallen nature of humanity. I've compiled a list of five items that I think every Christian battles almost every day. This list is in no form exhaustive, as sin is such a large part of our lives and identifying each and every sin would be more tedious than beneficial. In an attempt to encourage and educate my readers, I hope you are able to understand the gift of grace with greater depth and clarity, continuing to realize how broken and in need of a Savior we are.
1. Sexual Sin
I make this the first item I address on purpose because of the very destructive force behind sexual sin. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." When we fall to sexual sin we are not only hurting the people around us. We are destroying ourselves from the inside out. Every sin begins with a thought, and every second-glance, every late-night hangout, and every minute spent in front of the television or computer alone leads us to those thoughts. One passage I read from the book Wild at Heart by Jonathan Eldridge has cut me to the very core of my own struggle with this aspect of sin. Every time you sin sexually against yourself or with another, understand that you are sinning against someones future husband or wife. With every action or memory, we are essentially giving a piece of ourselves to another to hold forever. Even after a breakup occurs and people part ways, that memory will always be on the back of their mind. You will also carry that sin into your own marriage. Do you want your spouse, the one you have chosen to spend your life with, to have to deal with that?
I don't think the phrase "Pride comes before the fall" could be more appropriate when talking of sin and how many Christians, as well as non-believers struggle with pride. We live in a culture that is so ingrained with the "only the strong survive" mentality that to lay down one's pride is almost unheard of. I know how difficult it is to let go of my own pride simply because of how much I have had to deal with it. It's an almost daily occurrence. We must realize as Christians that nothing we do apart from Christ is worth anything. No matter how many lives we may affect, no matter how many people hear the truth of the gospel, and no matter how many good deeds we do, if it is all for self-glorification, it is of nothing to our God. The submission of pride involves complete surrender of our selves. Surrender is often seen as weakness but look how Christ surrendered Himself unto the cross. I see no weakness in His actions. Letting go of pride, coming from someone that revels in the thought of people respecting and liking me, is a very difficult step that should not be taken lightly.
3. Our Own Wretchedness
I'm not really sure if this is a struggle for many people but when I think about my own brokenness I tend to get a little discouraged. I mean seriously just sit and think about it for a little while...we as sinners do that which we don't want to do, and don't do that which we know we should do. We sin, we miss the mark, we lose control. Why would the perfect Savior of the world want anything to do with me, a lowly and wretched sinner? We all know what we struggle with. We know where we continue to fall into temptation. The awesome thing about it though is that Christ knows where we struggle and where we fail. He knows where we need the strength to overcome temptation and the strength needed to drop our pride and ask for forgiveness when we do fail.
We as sinners, are going to continue to mess up and fail until the day that we die. In the mean time, when we do sin and repent of that sin, Christ is quick to forgive us. But how quick are we to forgive those that wrong and hurt us? Do we instantly forgive and forget or do we continue to hold on to that resentment or bitterness found before we forgave the one that wronged us? In looking at my own personal battle with forgiveness I am able to say that this is easily the biggest struggle I have in my own sinful nature. It has been a constant war with my own heart to forgive those that have wronged me and let all resentment, bitterness, awkwardness, anger, indignation, and enmity fall at the wayside. But like many things in life, it is easier said than done. When I find myself acting stupid and hard-hearted, I think of how Christ died for me, even when I was still a sinner, and took all of my sins upon His shoulders. With that line of thinking, how could forgiveness not be an aspect of Christian living?
This is anything that takes priority over our relationships with Christ. This includes, but it not limited to, social media, television, drugs and alcohol, the Internet, boyf
riends or girlfriends, lust, money or wealth, material items, sports, etc. Before I speak on modern day idolatry, understand that most of these things are not sinful within themselves. In fact, most of these can be used to glorify God in some way. In order to give God the glory, these things must never take priority over our relationship with Christ. In Romans 14:8 we are told, "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." We must understand that our relationship with Christ must hold all importance and everything else will result from that relationship with Christ. If we are completely content in our relationship with Christ, a relationship with another person will reflect that contentment in Christ, not giving any opportunity for that person to "become our everything".
It goes the same way with money. If we make money the focus of our existence and daily toil, we will significantly miss the truth that God will provide for those that He loves. We feel that to better "prepare" ourselves for life we must make as much money as possible. That my friends, is deceitful above all else.
Sin will always be an aspect of our lives because we are inherently born with the curse of Adam. Romans 5:18-19 says, "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." We are justified by the blood of Christ and through that justification we can be made new.
Flee from these sins. Let Christ cleanse you of these shortcomings and relieve you of the weight these sins carry. Only He can remove this burden from your shoulders and let you be free.