When Your Sin Doesn’t Go Away

Whenever I get sick — cough, allergies, fever, etc. — I think it’s never going to go away.

I sink into it. I’m of the mindset that I will be sick for the rest of my life and nothing will ever change. I’m always going to have this cough, this nausea, etc. I don’t know how I got this way. Maybe it’s the cynic in me coming out. But that’s how it works.

I feel that way all the time with my sin. Whatever it is — lust, pride, laziness, jealousy — I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.

Well, and this is the bad part, it never will, this side of heaven.

My greatest desire in life is to be perfect, to not mess up, to not do anything that would be an offense to God, to my wife, to my friends, to my family, to anyone. I long for the day in heaven when I will be free of the sin nature that cloaks me every day. “What a day of rejoicing that will be,” as the hymn goes. My imperfections are the things that keep me up at night, that cause the most depression.

Sin is a nasty beast, lurking around every corner. You can feel as confident and comfortable in your pursuit of righteousness, I believe, that you can forget that sin is even possible. I know I feel that way sometimes. But it’s in those moments in particular that I am most susceptible.

It makes me wonder, “Will I ever stop sinning?” Or even, “Can I quit this one sin?”

The answer to the first question is a flat out no, at least here on earth. The answer to the second question is a little different.

Throughout the Bible, we see stories of men who have their obedience and righteousness worked out, only to lose it later. David is a strong and mighty warrior of God, faithful to trust Him enough to not kill his enemy when he’s a knife slash away. But he pursues the body of a woman not his own, and it leads to murder. One of my favorite Bible stories is in 2 Chronicles 14-16, where a king named Asa trusts God so intensely, but gives it up in the face of one army mounting up against him. Paul wrote half the New Testament, but still admitted he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

So maybe the besetting sins in our life, the ones that seem to haunt us, will never go away on earth. Maybe it’s a battle we’ll continue to fight.

It’s comforting, to me at least, to know that grace is there whenever we fall. Always. It’s a cliché to write that, sure, but it’s true. The Gospel comforts us in our repeated weaknesses.

But ask yourself this, as I am right now: Do you really truly desire God more than that besetting sin? It may be that way 90 percent of the time, but beg the Lord to make it 100 percent. If we’re pursuing righteousness, if we’re pursuing obedience, that in itself is glorifying to God, and honoring the Father.

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Jesus Died Knowing Something About Us We Don’t Like to Think About

Traffic can be terrible. Especially when it’s raining. It’s so easy to get distracted by the rain, by the cars, by the lights, everything. According to the DOT, 17% of vehicle crashes are due to wet pavement and 11% are due to rain. It’s those kind of distractions that can make driving difficult.

In my life, in the traffic jam that my life can be, one of the most distracting things can be the fact that I sin.

I used to hate thinking that I’m a sinner. I couldn’t stand it. I don’t want to be a sinner. But I’ve grown more and more comfortable with it. I’m growing to understand that it’s just a part of who I am, part of my life, a result of the sin nature in me at conception. Like David, “in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

There are some days when, everywhere I look, I see sin. Not just in the world, but in me. And it can be really discouraging sometimes. It sucks thinking about it.

But my awesome girlfriend (must give credit where it’s due) told me something this weekend that blew my mind.

Jesus died knowing we would continue to sin. God chose to save us knowing we would continue to disobey Him. We were forgiven of all that sin while our Father in heaven knew we’d never fully be the reflection of Christ we’re called to be.

We’d be foolish to sit here and say we will ever be without sin. I doubt that 1 John 1:8 ever becomes false – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” I dare you name someone on earth who ever been without sin other than Jesus. To ever think we will go a day on this earth without sinning in someone is a fool’s errand.

Not only did Jesus come to die while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), He continues to love us while we are still sinners. He continues to give grace upon grace upon grace from an abundant overflow.

See, we don’t stop sinning when we accept Jesus. We try to sin less, yes. But we see our sin even greater, as even more of an offense, even more of an attack on God and His commands. It’s rebellion. But we don’t stop. It’s a fact. Brennan Manning, in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel:

Often I have been asked, “Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?” It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure, because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

We get our eyes removed from the cross, from Jesus, and when that happens we lose our foundation and then we fall, just like a house built on sand and not on stone. When we quit focusing on Jesus, we uproot the foundation we have on the Rock of Ages and put it on shaky sand. Our lives are filled with continual foundational uproots, trying to find something that will hold us for the moment.

And Jesus loves us through it all. God saves us knowing that will happen.

Being saved doesn’t make us perfect in our obedience. All it does is make us perfect in our standing before God. And that’s HUGE! That means everything. That means I don’t have to be continually regretful of my sinful decisions, of my sinful actions. It means God looks past it, and will continue to look past it. I, and all believers, can rejoice in that.

In the hectic traffic that is life as a Christian, trying to cope with that fact that most of the time we’re terrible at following Jesus, we can hold onto that truth and keep going straight. Eyes on the road, hands at 10 and 2, trusting those wheels to get us to the end.

Racism Doesn’t End Here. It Ends at the End of Days.

I know my title sets me apart from a lot of Christian voices who have spent tons of time over the last few months calling for racial reconciliation and interracial conversation over the multiple shootings involving African Americans.

This thought struck me over the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag hoisted above the state capitol building in Charleston, S.C., the location of the most recent tragedy. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up over the last few days with lots of articles, quotes, opinions, pictures, etc. It reached its height yesterday with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and other leaders calling for it to be lowered. Confederate flags are becoming an endangered species here in America.

With everything that happened with the shooting in South Carolina, it has become a symbol of the racism all across America. And now that Wal-Mart, Amazon and a number of other retailers are removing them from their stores, there’s a shortage of that symbol available for purchase.

Even if every Confederate flag is burned/incinerated/thrown away/never seen again, it won’t change a thing. It may be a symbol of the “old South,” but, unlike the swastika of Nazi Germany, it has rarely been used, to my knowledge at least, as a symbol of racism. I could be wrong. I’m more than happy to be wrong if I am wrong. But…

Taking away the Confederate flag is akin to removing provocative billboards with scantily-dressed women on highways. If you take out the billboards, that won’t kill the lust in people’s hearts. It will simply take away a reminder. And while those things can be helpful, they won’t solve the issue. Honestly, in my opinion, it’s not even a step in the right direction.

Thinking politically/socially for a second: any kind of removal of a cultural symbol is a difficult thing to completely justify. Imagine if the government wanted to remove crosses because it offended people. There would be a serious uproar. Imagine if the government wanted to remove gay pride flags because it offended people. There would be a serious uproar. This is one of those classic cases of you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Honestly, in my opinion, I’d be OK with the flag being taken down. Personally, I wonder why it’s not the South Carolina state flag or United States flag flying over their Capitol building anyways.

So what’s the solution to the flag problem? Do you take it down or do you leave it? I don’t know the answer to that. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about the sanctifying work of Christ that heals human hearts. This is about the Holy Spirit cleansing a man from the inside out. Racism will never be killed on this side of heaven. Dylann Roof’s primary heart sin may have been racism. But we all have our own racism. Maybe it’s lust. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s greed. Maybe it’s (insert sin here). We can get rid of things on the outside to try to help us kill the things on the inside, but it won’t be the silver bullet.

The silver bullet comes at the end of all days.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5, ESV)

We can do all the work we can this side of heaven to kill racism, but the work must be focused in the human heart. I’m not saying we should ignore people’s complaints and concerns. We should listen to the under-represented and under-heard. Good gracious, we should listen to them and do whatever we can to comfort them and show them the love of Christ.

But taking down flags, passing laws and even removing words from the vocabulary will not change the human heart. Only by meeting Jesus can individual hearts be changed. Only by the world meeting Jesus can racism be killed. That comes at the end. That comes when Jesus returns and sin is put away forever.

I can’t wait for that day.

But until then, let’s have the conversation, let’s engage the community, let’s be a part of society. Not just our personal society, but all of society.

Remember: the only step in the right direction is a step towards the cross, a step towards surrender to the Gospel, to the Christ behind the Gospel.