Clean House: Surrender

Clean House: Surrender

Spring has arrived!  Most of us begin to feel the need this time of the year to clean house.  We gather up sticks in the yard that fell through the winter to prepare to mow.  We throw out stuff that we don’t use anymore.  We organize the clutter found throughout our homes.  We throw open the windows and do some serious deep cleaning.

It’s a lot of work, but it feels so good once that work is finished!

It’s so easy for that clutter and dirt to build back up again gradually over time, though…  Things that we don’t even notice in our day-to-day routines or we’re just too busy to take care of them.  It’s no different in our spiritual lives.  Thankfully, we have an incredible helper when it comes to cleaning house spiritually; the Holy Spirit!  He’s ready to get to work to do some spring cleaning in our lives and man do we need it!

Today, we’re tackling a tough topic that our flesh loves, but the Spirit hates.  Anyone want to take a guess at what that might be?  Our flesh loves it, but the Spirit hates it? 

Sin!  To sin is to literally miss the mark. 

God created us on purpose and for a purpose, but also with the free will to choose how we live out our lives.  We are stewards of God’s gift of life.  God’s purpose is the bullseye on our life’s target.  When we choose to live outside of that purpose, we miss the bullseye; we sin. 

Our choice to sin does not only affect ourselves, but it also affects all of those around us.

Now we typically think of sin as intentionally doing something that we’re told not to do.  God tells us to speak the truth, but we lie.  God tells us not to covet, but we lust after what belongs to others.  God tells us to work hard for six days and to take the seventh day off, but we either work on the one day of rest or we’re lazy and don’t work on the other six days.

Yes, sin is doing what God says not to do, but it is also not doing the things that God says to do.

James 4:17

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

There are some black-and-white topics that are sin for everyone at all times.  Things that are never beneficial and never acceptable.  However, since we were each were created for different purposes, there are some things that are sin for you and not for me and also sin for me and not for you.

I was not created to be an NFL linebacker.  I just wasn’t.  If I committed and dedicated my life to pursuing this purpose, not only would I live a life of failure, but also one of misery and discontentment and probably one filled with a whole lot of pain.  I would be living a life of sin; completely missing my purpose!

There are also things that can be sin for us just in certain seasons of life.  As we grow and mature in our faith, we are often granted freedom to do things that our conscience once forbade us to do beforehand.  Paul teaches all about these arguable matters and uses meat sacrificed to idols as an illustration of this.  It was a very hot topic at that time in the church in Corinth!

In fact in Acts 15, the church leadership all got together in Jerusalem to seek after God and figure out which of the Jewish laws and traditions carry over to non-Jew Christians and which did not.  What was sin for a Jew, but not a Gentile?  They came up with an extremely short list covered in just a few sentences.

Under the New Covenant, now with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we can go even a step further from mere “doing and not doing” straight to the heart motive of our behaviors to define sin.

Romans 14:23

…everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Yes, even when we do the good things that we know we ought to do, but we do not do them because of our faith in obeying God, then it is still sin.  If we do things to look good before others or to selfishly receive blessings from God for ourselves, then even doing good is sin.

Are we beginning to see our desperate need for a relationship with God and the value of the infilling of the Holy Spirit?  He guides us away from sin and into righteousness.  He helps us to make good choices and to avoid bad ones.  He is the voice behind us that says, “This is the way, walk in it.”

Sin.  It’s everywhere!  It’s so easy to fall into!  It’s also so embraced and accepted by the lost culture around us!  It so grieves the Spirit of God within us!  There is a better way to live life, though!

Now what we have a tendency to do is to justify away our sin or to downplay or to minimize it.  We think things like, “Well, it’s not like it’s hurting anyone.” or “At least I’m not a murderer…”  Some even go so far as to redefine sin or reinterpret what the Bible says so that some things are not considered to be sin any longer. 

However, to put it poetically, if you call a rose by any other name, still a rose it will remain.  There is only One who decides what sin is for us and that’s God alone, the judge of us all.

Sin was a problem right at the beginning of creation with Adam and Eve and it has been a problem for us ever since.  In fact, if you start to feel bad for yourself and start thinking that you’ll never be able to live this life right because you just can’t seem to shake yourself free from sin, remember all of the incredible things that the apostle Paul did and listen to what he wrote here:

Romans 7:13-25

13…In order that sin might be recognized as sin, the law used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. … I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

God takes sin very seriously.  The penalty for sin, any and all sin, is death.  The death of animals served as our substitutes under the Old Covenant to cover our sin by faith and the atoning death of Jesus under the New Covenant.  The only reason that the gospel is such incredibly good news is because of just how bad our condition is without it.

I deserve to die and to go straight to hell and be separated from God for all eternity!  I’m a wretched person!  Until we realize just how lost we are and just how bound by sin we are, then the gospel isn’t good news at all.

The good news is that I deserve all of that and worse, but Jesus chose to instead die in my place and take upon Himself the fullness of the punishment that I deserve.  This is salvation.  We have been saved from our sin.  If we forget about this aspect of our salvation, then we’re belittling the work of God and all that Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection!

God didn’t sugar coat or redefine or overlook sin.  He chose to reveal our sin and to deal with it head-on and entirely!  God isn’t afraid of sin and doesn’t avoid us when we’re living in it.  Consider the Genesis 3 account.  God went to Adam and Eve after they sinned and called them to come to Himself so that He could cover their sin and shame.  It was Adam and Eve that ran and hid from God’s Presence, not vice-versa.

Now here is a common question and debate today, though I’m not sure why.  Once we receive God’s free gift of salvation, is it OK to continue to sin?  If we have been saved from our sin, then can we continue to live in it?  Of course not!  That would make no sense whatsoever!

Consider this analogy.  Your house is on fire.  You passed out from the smoke while on your recliner watching TV and are going to die.  A firefighter rushes in, picks you up, and takes you to safety.  The firefighter saves you. 

Should you then run back in and kick back in your recliner and start watching TV as soon as the fireman sets you down on the ground?  Of course not!  But you’re saved now, so it’s OK right?  NO!  Why would we rush back in to the very thing that we were saved from?  Sin kills us, the Spirit gives us life. 

Why would we choose to die again after we’ve been saved?  That is to intentionally and purposefully choose death over life; curses over blessing!  This is to choose sin over obedience!  God is very black-and-white clear about this topic so that there is no confusion for us!

Hebrews 10:26-31

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,

Now to clarify, we will all stumble and fall into sin.  In fact, the more that we learn and grow, the more that we will be aware of our own sin.  However, there is a HUGE difference between unintentionally falling into sin and deliberately and intentionally continuing to sin when we know what we are doing is sin!  If we keep on deliberately sinning after we are saved, what should we expect?

27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and have God’s very Presence dwelling within us.  Why would we and how can we carry His Presence into sin?  How can we deliberately and intentionally choose to do such a thing?  Trampling Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross underfoot as if though it means nothing to us?  Insulting the Holy Spirit of grace!

These scriptures should break the death-soaked attitude running rampant among believers that we can just keep on living our lives however we want to and keep on sinning because Jesus will forgive us anyways.  To do so is to be completely unaware of the high cost of our sin and ignorant of how sin impacts us even after it is forgiven!

Samuel said this to Saul when God had rejected him as king over this very attitude.  Saul lost his position because he only obeyed God most of the way.  Partial obedience is disobedience!  Partial obedience is sin!

1 Samuel 15:22

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

    as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

God delights in obedience and is grieved by sin.  Yes, He is faithful to forgive.  God is faithful to forgive!  However, God’s desire is to bless us, not just to forgive us.  God can bless obedience, but will not bless sin; even forgiven sin.  Even though sin is forgiven, there are still consequences for it and they are never good! 

God did all that He could to equip and empower us by His grace to overcome sin, not only to forgive sin!

Today, God speaks to us what He spoke to Cain so long ago:

Genesis 4:6-7

6 “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin desires to have you, but you must rule over it!  AND, you CAN rule over it!  You have authority and dominion over it because Jesus won it back and freely gives that authority to you!

1 John 3:4-10

4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

Now what John is stating here and what Paul wrote in Hebrews does not mean that we will never sin again and that we are the devil’s children if we do.  We will all stumble and fall into temptation from time to time.  In fact, John started out this letter by stating:

1 John 1:8-10

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

What John is writing about is that to intentionally and purposefully continue to live a life of sin is to deny our place as a child of God.  To know that something is sin for us and then to choose to continue sinning is choosing to walk away from God just like Adam and Eve did in the beginning.  If we live this way, then we are deceiving ourselves if we think we are in right standing with Him!

If we are living this way, then we need to confess our sin to Jesus.  It’s not going to surprise Him because He already knows all about it anyways!  Confessing it means that we are choosing to speak in agreement with Him.  We call our behavior what God calls it; sin.  Then, we need to repent of it.

To repent is to change the way that we think about something and, as a result, our behavior does a 180* and turns away from it.  Repentance is getting back on track and beginning to hit the mark that we had been missing.  It’s choosing to live our lives to their fullest potential by living out God’s purposes for which we were created.  Peace and contentment and joy can be found in no other place!

It’s not choosing to deny ourselves of life’s pleasures.  It’s choosing to instead fill ourselves with life’s greatest pleasures!

To be saved and Spirit-filled is to be equipped and empowered to choose how we live.  Without Christ’s salvation and without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we’re enslaved to the devil and have no choice but to serve our flesh.  With salvation, we can rise above the temptation to sin and gain victory and destroy the devil’s work in our lives!

We get to choose!  We can either indulge in the flesh and be controlled by whatever it desires or we can walk in the Spirit and experience the things that God desires for us.

Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh

I’ve read this verse so many times.  I thought that I knew what indulging the flesh meant.  I figured it was just doing whatever I felt like doing.  Submitting to my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions and not denying anything that seems right to me.

Eat the whole box of thin mints.  Punch that person in the face if they mouth off to you again.  Drink until you don’t have a care in the world and even forget your own name.  Have sex with whoever, wherever, however you want.  Step on whoever you have to in order to climb your way to the top.  Indulgence of the flesh, right?  Well, sort of.

Some translations use the word indulge or satisfy in this verse.  Others translate the word to opportunity or occasion.  The Passion Translation actually has one of the better translations that states:

Galatians 5:13 (TPT)

Beloved ones, God has called us to live a life of freedom. But don’t view this wonderful freedom as an excuse to set up a base of operations in the natural realm.

The Greek word that we translate to the English word “indulge” is the word aphormē.  It is defined as “a place from which a movement or attack is made, a base of operations.”  The Vine’s Expository Dictionary further defines this word as “a base of operations in war.”  To indulge in or to satisfy the flesh is to do far way more than to give in to a guilty pleasure.  It is to provide the devil with a base of operations in our lives to wage war against us.

If you thought that giving the devil a foothold in your life was bad idea and that giving the devil a stronghold in your life was worse one, you are correct.  However, realize that to indulge in our flesh is to give the devil a base of operations for him to war against us.  Strategizing and resourcing and gaining intelligence and scheming against us from within us!

I will now never, ever, ever read this simple verse the same way again!  Oh what understanding has been lost in translation!

This same word is translated to “opportunity” in this verse as Paul is training up Timothy to lead the church:

1 Timothy 5:14

So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.

Paul also uses this same word in Romans 7 verses 8 and 11 when he explains how sin seized the opportunity afforded by God’s commandments turning God’s good and holy and pure law into a weapon of death to kill us simply by defining what sin is.

The same word is also used when Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11 about not giving false apostles an opportunity to pretend that they are equals in order to attack him.  He says that we should not be surprised that they go around pretending to be righteous because Satan, himself, masquerades as an angel of light.

Don’t give the devil a foothold, don’t give him a stronghold, and certainly do not setup for him a base of operations for warfare in your life!

Whether we want to believe it or not, whether we want to accept it or not, there is a war raging for our souls!  To sit idly by and continue to live by our flesh is not to avoid the war, but to lose the war.  The battle is not easy, but the victory is worth it!

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to learn together how to rule over sin just as God told Cain to.  We’re going to learn how to eliminate the base of operations in our lives that the devil leverages against us and to instead dwell in the safe refuge of the Lord.

We begin today with surrender.  No longer surrendering to our flesh, but surrendering to Jesus.  Surrendering our all to Jesus so that He can forgive all our sin and continue the good work that He started in our lives.  Surrendering so that we might truly live and live this life to its fullest!