Sin and Solutions
Transformation is God’s work.
Have you considered the fact that much of what we do that we label as “spiritual,” could be accomplished by an unbeliever who set his mind to it. This is called performance-based spirituality and is often confused with transformation. However, transformation is is not accomplished through our performance, but rather, is the work of God alone and never the result of human effort. Nonetheless, much energy is expended in our trying to act like Jesus, as opposed to our being transformed by God into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
The expected outcome of genuine transformation is the fruit of the Spirit. Our best efforts in performance cannot produce fruit. We can bear fruit, but we cannot produce it. However, we can produce deeds, but not deeds of the Spirit. Our deeds (even the “good” ones) are accomplished by our flesh. We produce deeds, God produces fruit. Deeds we can do, fruit we cannot.
There is a listing of our not-so-noble deeds (of the flesh) just before the listing of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians chapter five. They are as follows: “the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” But thanks be to God we can be freed from sinful deeds of the flesh and experience the free-flowing fruit of the Spirit which consist of “… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:19-23).
However, this fruit does not come about by exerting fleshly efforts of trying harder, self discipline, ardent obedience, or trying to act like and mimic the life of Jesus. The fruit is God’s fruit and therefore, God produced. We can “bear” the fruit, but we cannot produce it.
Managing sin is not transformation.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jo. 15:5) Bearing fruit is a work of God as an outcome of our abiding in Christ who is the vine. Did you notice how much we can accomplish apart from abiding in Christ? Nothing! This leaves little room for something. Nevertheless, many believers would describe their Christian life as much toil and effort, with trying to overcome sin (or at least trying to sin) often being the primary focus.
Sinful behavior in our lives cannot be “managed” or overcome by our own doing, but rather should be an outcome of “Christ living His life in and through us. When Christ is free to live His life through us we will experience the fruit of His Spirit. It is impossible to bear His fruit and do our “deeds” at the same time. We will always experience one of the other.
The Apostle Paul declared, “… How shall we who died to sin still live in it? …knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Excerpts from Rom. 6:1-7) “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Conformity is not Transformation
Sometimes people view sin management–that is, trying not to sin and trying to do good–as a form of transformation. Conversely, trying to conform one’s behavior to the truth through self-effort is the flip side of trying to overcome sin. This effort in self-achievement is encouraged in many church communities as basically “stop doing one thing (sin) and start doing another (good deeds).” This was also the practice of the committed follower of the Law in the Old Testament and is still the foundation stone for all other world religions today. The problem was (and is) it doesn’t work.
The Call To Be
The teachings of the New Testament reveal the New Covenant between God and us. The New Covenant is not a call “to do,” but rather it is a call “to be.” This state of “being” is not attained by our works and effort and can only be attained by faith. This faith is not trying harder to believe, but rather knowing and believing the truth with the heart. To the degree that we know the truth with our heart we will experience the reality of the truth. This is the difference between trying to do the truth, an walking in it.
Because of the finished work of Christ, we are “holy” in His sight and are made perfect and complete in Him. This is the truth whether we believe it in our hearts or not. The Greek word used to identify the believer is hagios and means holy ones. This word is poorly translated as “saint.” According to the Scriptures, all believers in Christ are saints in Christ. Some denominations ascribe this title to certain members who have attained some measure of spiritual status. But the “saints” in Corinth were “babes in Christ,” still carnal, yet still addressed as the “The Saints or Holy Ones…” (1 Cor. 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 3:1). This is because their righteousness and holy standing was not based upon their ability to do it. It was all about faith.
Biblical faith is not trying hard to believe or to do something. This faith is a place of rest (Heb. 4:11) that is brought about by knowing and believing the truth with the heart with absolute certainty. This faith is not a task to accomplish or something to do, but a state of being that produces the doing (the fruit). This form of believing is not self-achieved, but rather the persuasion of God convincing us of the truth.
When God convinces us of the truth and persuades us of it, we believe. We don’t believe simply because we decide to, rather, we believe because we are persuaded of the truth by His Spirit. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) God shines the light of truth persuading us of its validity and then we believe.
Sin as a Solution to Pain.
All that has been said up to this point is to lay a foundation for why we struggle with trying to overcome sin. Most of us have struggled with the problem of sin and find ourselves caught up in the cycle of confessing it, repenting of it, adjust our lifestyle to do better, and then trying harder not to sin in an attempt to overcome it.
However, for those of us who will be honest, this strategy for overcoming the problem has not worked consistently. We all have some measure of success in our “victory” areas where we are not tempted too much anyway, but the secret places supply perpetual failure.
In all your effort and struggle, consider the possibility that the sin you are fighting against and trying to overcome may not be your “problem.” The sin may actually be a “solution” to your lie-based emotional pain. If indeed sin is a solution to something, then this explains one of the reasons it is so hard to overcome. If you take away your solution then you are only left with the problem. If sinning is “solving” your pain problem, then overcoming trying to overcome the “solution” will not likely succeed since this would be counter intuitive and non-productive.
How can we know if our sin issue is actually our problem solver? The next time you think about sinning, slow down and look inside and see what you are feeling. You may discover some underlying anxiety, fear, worry, loneliness, feelings of rejection, or anger, etc. If you discover a negative feeling present, see if the sin you are considering is not an attempt to distract yourself from what you are feeling. I think you will be surprised with what you will discover.
If there is a negative emotion present, it is very important that you not remain too long considering the sin. If, in the moment of temptation, you give the “solution” to much consideration you will likely move in the direction of sinning. Once this occurs, it is very difficult to change course. Not impossible, but rarely accomplished. When Eve considered what the Serpent had suggested and saw for herself that the fruit was a “delight to her eyes, good for food and could make her wise” (move in sin’s direction), there was little chance she would not eat it. The same is true for us.
The best strategy is to become very aware of your emotional status. When you feel your emotion triggered, attend to the pain as soon as possible. Seek ministry to identify the lie that you believe and receive the truth from the Spirit. The longer you wait the more likely you will try and solve it with your sinful solution.
The best time to deal with sin and apply the “full stop” is as soon as the negative emotion is stirred up and before the “solution” comes to mind. Focus on the pain and identify the lie behind it, seek the Lord for truth, and return to peace. We are rarely tempted when we are walking in peace.
The only real solution to lie-based pain is the truth. Genuine freedom cannot be experienced unless we choose to acknowledge our pain, take responsibility for it, and identify the beliefs that produce it. In this place we are positioned to offer those beliefs to God in order to receive His truth.