The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1 Corinthians 15:56
I’d like to believe that by reading my story you would flee from sin – that you’d never want to wind up in a moral train-wreck like me, however I know better. Fear is never a good motivator for change, although if it’s enough to get you to think then I’ve accomplished my goal. As I struggled with my sin for the past ten years, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what motivates a person to leave a life of sin and where sin’s power comes from. I Cor. 15:56 says the power of sin comes from the law. This raises a question. Why does something good, set in place by God to protect us and give life, give power to sin?
Listening to Steve Brown this week teach on Romans I was reminded of what Paul said in Romans 7:5:
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
There is something about the law that brings to life that desire in our flesh to sin.
Again Paul hits this truth home in Romans 7-8:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Ever since the fall of humanity we’ve wanted to do things our own way. Adam and Eve would have lived forever had they obeyed. Obedience to God brings life. But disobedience brought to all of humanity a deadly parasite called sin. A parasite that desired more disobedience from it’s host in order to survive. A parasite that requires disobedience to the law to live.
Romans 7:10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
At the worst of my sin, I felt it’s insatiable hunger inside of me. When I gave into it it grew and consumed more of my soul. At times I just forgot who I was. It was a horrible and lifeless place to be. And the only thing that calmed the hunger was more sin. Were it not for the sheer mercy of God, I know that sin would have not stopped until it killed me.
The evidence of God’s mercy in our lives is that He doesn’t let sin consume us.
My pastor’s abuse was a very serious thing that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, the more time that has passed the more I recognize the same driving force to sin that was in me was present in him. He was the pastor, I get it. He should have known better. I get that, too. But the truth is pastor’s often carry an expectation from us that they should perform better than we do.
I read this great article by John W. Kennedy on PE News about pastors who are trapped in sexual sin.
The pastor is typically the most isolated guy in the church, extraordinarily vulnerable to the seductive power of pornography,” says Nate Larkin, founder of the Samson Society, a nationwide fellowship of Christian men gathering in authentic meetings in more than 400 locations. “Confession for him is most dangerous. In most denominational structures, it’s vocational suicide. – See more at: http://penews.org/Article/Ministry-Leaders-Find-Help-for-Sex,-Porn-Addiction#sthash.QoPEQ65V.dpuf
Though my pastor’s bad counsel encouraged me to take a very self-destructive path, I was also able to see first hand the kind of pressure he was under. It was revealed in our conversations when he told me if I ever told what we had done that he would lose everything. When I think of those conversations it feels like there is a knife in my stomach. I feel no pleasure at all he has lost. Rather, I feel tremendous sorrow. I’d give anything to change things. To go back and spare everyone the pain. But I can’t. But maybe we can learn from the truth that putting people under pressure to perform well never accomplishes good.
Romans 7:11-13 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
Because the desire to sin feeds off of the law, the more I thought about what I was doing was wrong and tried to stop it, the more I gave in. I cannot tell you the times I thought if I hadn’t done this, said that or thought that I would not have sinned. Honestly, we both tried to put boundaries in place to prevent sexual sin from ever happening again, but it seemed as long as we were trying to figure out ways not to sin, the pressure to sin was ever more present.
One thing was clearly obvious to me, there was no strength within my human flesh to overcome my sin.
I understand the battle Paul talked about in Romans 7:14-21:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
I saw the damage that sin was doing to my life. Satan had a foothold in my family’s life. I watched my husband almost suffer from a mental breakdown. Some of that was due to things in his own past he needed healing from, but I know some was also from the sin I was keeping from him, and Satan was pounding me to death with guilt. I wanted to escape. I knew what I was doing was wrong.
So what finally motivated the change and caused sin to lose it’s power? Though there are many circumstances that brought me to this conclusion, it can all be summed up in one sentence.
The underserved kindness and grace of God to a sinner like me. Once I started to grasp this and the truth of who He said I was sin’s power began to diminish.
A day that stands out so clear in my mind was the day I was walking around inside the church sanctuary picking up bulletins from the previous Sunday’s service. I was listening to Tullian Tvidijian on my Bluetooth like I’d been doing all week. I was at a place where I was sick of the shame I was feeling from all that I had done. Sick of all the secrets I’d kept from my family and my friends. I just couldn’t let it all go and I was bombarding my mind with the truth in an effort to find peace. Then Tullian started to talk about the gospel and how it didn’t matter what we had done Christ fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. We didn’t need to do more try harder. It was finished. In this sermon he was also talking about how God called us to love our neighbors. I thought of the neighbors I’d hurt and I realized God had forgiven me. In those moments I grasped a higher law God was calling me to… The law of love motivated by the love of God.
The power of sin is the law. God took away the power of sin when He told us we were free from the requirements of the law. Knowing God met the requirements of the law through Christ, knowing that I’m not under law but under grace relieves the pressure to perform and keep the law perfectly that causes sin to rise up in me and want to rebel. Rather it causes me to want to love, and that’s the point.
Recognizing this truth causes me to ask this question. Why don’t we as Christians ease up on one another, love more and require less? If God has removed the pressure to keep the law, then why do we think we need to keep adding pressure? If we truly want to remove the power of sin, then we need to go to it’s source – and it’s removing the pressure of the law, not adding more rules! I had to learn this the hard way. I hope you don’t, but if you do just know God’s gonna love you anyway.
It’s like Steve Brown says, “The only ones who get better are the ones who know that God will love them even if they don’t get better.”
I know the war is far from over. Sin still lives in me. I’m going to battle it for the rest of my life. But I’m thankful to know despite my sin I have a Savior who always welcomes me with open arms.
And He says:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”