My wife recently pointed out an article on Preacher’s Files (http://preachersfiles.com/help-in-overcoming-sin/) about overcoming sin. It took me back to all those sermons that I carefully listened to and followed to the T that did not–I repeat NOT–help me to conquer my sins. Why? First a short summary of the article:
The first item in the article sums up the Church of Christ theology that I grew up with on conquering sin: The proper use of our Bibles will help us to overcome sin. The Churches of Christ, a product of post Renaissance modernism, have always relied on knowledge to conquer anything emotional or volitional in one’s life. (I am referring here to the Restoration Movement, which continues to grow and evolve, about 20% of Churches of Christ are still rigid and sectarian.) So it is natural that they would turn to biblical knowledge. But what biblical knowledge are they talking about? The author of the article emphasizes God’s truth. And what truth you might ask? The truth that sin is sin (as defined in the Bible) and that sin is not pleasing to God, and God will punish sinners.
Whew! Well then let’s skim down and see if there is anything else in this article to help us–oh wait, nope! Nothing else. That is the sum total of how we are to conquer sin: Sin is evil, God will punish us. (Though in his next sermon outline he talks about forgiveness.)
The interesting thing is that this principle is not even biblical. Of course sin is evil and we could come up with all kinds of examples of things that are evil, and on about half of them we might even agree that they are evil items. And we might even agree that God is angry at the hurting and discouraging of people. But if we were to say that that is the sum total of the equipment we are to use to conquer sin, we would actually be counter to New Testament theology.
Let’s start with Jesus: In John 8 they dragged a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and asked him if they should obey the Law of Moses and stone her for adultery. Jesus understood their devious treachery (the Romans would not allow them to stone anyone, and the Law of Moses said to stone both the man and the woman). They were just trying to trap Jesus into making a mistake: either speaking against the Law of Moses (don’t stone her) or speaking against the Romans (stone her). Either way he was toast.
But Jesus was more concerned about the woman and how they had shamed her. He drew the attention away from the woman and wrote on the ground. Finally he said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” (The Law of Moses required the actual witnesses of the crime to throw the first stones.) They all left. Finally he said to the woman: “Does no-one condemn you?” “No-one, Lord,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
It is the character of Jesus and his compassion that actually helps us conquer sin. It is looking into his eyes and seeing him not condemn us.
The apostle Paul had met Jesus’ forgiveness head on. In Romans chapter 6 he says: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Grace is a gift of forgiveness. What conquers sin for us is the promise of forgiveness.
The Guilt Cycle: In literature about alcoholism there is often mention of the Guilt Cycle: First I feel lonely, then I go to my addiction (alcohol) for comfort, then I feel guilty, then I feel even more lonely, so I go to more alcohol, etc. But forgiveness breaks the cycle of Guilt.
It is the forgiveness of Christ that conquers sin.