Last week we saw how we are all afflicted with a sin nature and that the laws of the Old Testament and the expectations of the New are realized through love; of God and our fellowmen. (See Matthew 22:37-40; Ephesians 5:1) We must never forget however, that we were all once dead in our transgressions in which we used to live when we followed the ways of the world; gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature – making us potential objects of God’s wrath rather than recipients of His love. But God, being rich in mercy, made us acceptable and alive through, with and because of Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7) “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:1,12

However if we do good because we feel we have to or in an attempt to gain something in return, our “acts” of obedience actually gain us nothing. (Matthew 6:1-18) For even sinners do good to those from whom they expect good in return. (Matthew 5:43-48 & Luke 6:27-36) Without love, our words are but pointless noise; without love, our faith motivates us to do very little; without love, much of what we actually do accomplishes less than it could; without love, we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) However, through love we find the patience to be kind, the resolve to avoid envy, boastfulness and pride. We develop humility, courtesy, control of our emotions and an ability to forgive. Love develops truthfulness in our lives and the desire to shun evil; avoiding its many consequences. With love guiding our thoughts, emotions and activity, we become protective of others, trusting in others, hopeful for others, always persevering for the benefit of others; even when they let us down. As such – we cannot fail!

What freedom that gives us! Freedom to choose who we are, who we become; whose way we will follow or avoid. As Paul rhetorically asks, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Romans 6:15 “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Or as the KJ says, “God forbid!”) “We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead… we too may live a new life… For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:1-7 (See also 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Last week’s identification of sin and its solution may have sounded a bit simplistic, but identifying sin usually is – refraining from it is what we find difficult. That’s why Paul was able to assert that, “There is none righteous, not even one; ..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:10 & 23Which confirms Isaiah’s proclamation that, compared to God, even “…our righteous acts are like filthy rags;…” Is. 64:6 John insisting that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 Jesus’ compassionate manner in dealing with people is often stressed today, his restraint in not accusing or “brow-beating” sinners into submission praised. Yet he could and did deal strongly and at times severely with sin and those committing it. (Especially hypocrisy – see Matthew 7:5 & 23; Mark 11:15-18) With others, he more matter-of-factly instructed them to “Stop sinning”, warning that, “Something worse may happen to you.”, if they didn’t. (John 5:14 & 8:11 – see also Matthew 10:26-31)

The influence of the world and our own cravings for what we don’t have and shouldn’t want tempt us to conform to the standards and value system of this world. (1 John 2:6) But it is up to us how we respond to that temptation, no matter how strong or appealing it may seem. (The Devil being unable to make you do anything!) When we fall to temptation – when we sin – it is because at that moment we wanted to more than we wanted not to; we can blame no one but ourselves. We must realize as well that, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (Notice here that God is not the cause of your temptation and failure. He is your way out!) Because, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (Note the natural progression from temptation – to sin – to consequences.) Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 Our inclination to sin is in conflict with the will of God and endangers our souls. (1 Peter 2:11) One key to refraining from sin being to remove ourselves from situations we know we will be tempted by; guarding our minds and souls from the snares of sinfulness. Proverbs 22:5 assuring us that, “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.”

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24 As such, they do not get treated as their sins deserve nor are they repaid according to their iniquities. (Psalm 103:10) The Psalmist also noting that those seeking God’s blessing do, “…not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”; removing themselves from temptation’s influence as much as possible, thereby placing themselves in a position to be blessed. “Therefore, …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,… (by) fix(ing) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith,…” Hebrews 12:1,2