Chapter five in The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges talks about the change that is made in us and being made in us when we come to believe in Christ. He calls it a change of kingdoms. We die to sin (Romans 6) and that is true whether we realize it or not. Then we are called to live as if it is true (because it is). Christ died for our sins and we then are enabled to pursue holiness. We do have to work to overcome the habit of sin (and overcoming our sinful nature can make stopping smoking and drinking and drugs look simple).
The struggle, of course, is that we still have our sin natures and Satan does a good job of confusing us about what God has done for us and what we need to do. The next chapter goes into more detail about the indwelling sin and what we must keep in mind to overcome it.
First – sin dwells in the heart and the heart is unsearchable and deceitful. We do not always understand our own motives so we are fighting “with an enemy we cannot fully search out.”
The heart is also deceitful. It excuses, rationalizes, and justifies our actions. It blinds us to entire areas of sin in our lives. It causes us to deal with sin using only halfway measures, or to think that mental assent to the Word of God is the same as obedience. (p 64)
In the discussion of why we must let the Holy Spirit search our heart and expose our sins to us, I recognize myself in both traps of morbid introspection (the Accuser loves this one) and missing the real issues. The first trap is where I can become obsessed with what I’ve done and never accept God’s forgiveness. As I was talking about this with Alison tonight I explained that I am punitive when I look at my own sins. My need is to punish (and not always just when looking at my own sins). But God is restorative – and that means I need to trust Him when He says I am forgiven and then move on to grow and improve, not stay stuck in my little mud-hole picking open my wounds again.
The second trap is just as likely, and I think they often go hand in hand. If I’m down in my mud-hole worrying the same sin over and over, I am less likely to notice something different that God is ready for me to work on. It’s almost easier to bemoan the sin I’m familiar with than to actually wrestle with some sin I’m not ready to get rid of yet.
Second – indwelling sin works largely through our desires and those desires can be insatiable. When our desires overcome our reason we sin.
Third – indwelling sin deceives our understanding and reasoning. This begins with drawing away from watchfulness, and then from obedience. We become overconfident. We abuse grace by sinning knowing we’ll be forgiven, and when we ask for forgiveness we focus more on the mercy than on the holiness and judgment of God. We begin to doubt God’s Word – why obey it if it isn’t true.
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom. (Song of Solomon 2:15)
I must stay watchful, open to the leading of the Holy Spirit for where I need to work and where I need to accept forgiveness and move on. If I let down my guard, my sinful nature will jump at the advantage. The fall into sin can take months or years, but it will happen. I am to pursue holiness, that means I must work at it, every day.
I believe the Word of God, and that Word tells me to pursue holiness – to be holy because God is holy. Some days (and months) I’m better at this than others.
Because I believe the Word of God, I also care about family and friends and their spiritual walk. I am naturally not a meddler and am not likely to judge someone else’s decisions or choices unless it is obviously sinful. But I struggle with that because I’m watching the devastation caused by my not noticing the past few years of Dave and of Alison’s struggles. I believe that Dave began wandering away – letting down his guard, becoming overconfident in certain areas, ignoring “little” sins, and then even doubting the very Word he cherished at one time. The little foxes got into his vineyard and I never noticed. Well, maybe I noticed one or two, but I always thought there was time to deal with it and I assumed David was dealing with it correctly. I don’t know if Anthony or I could have done anything to really stop this from happening, but perhaps some conversations should have been deeper with more prayer for discernment.