Sometimes, I wish I was much older. Old enough to realize that my best, most influential, and productive days are behind me so that I could speak completely and openly about my life, my triumphs, and most of all, my struggles. Having a sense that the end is nearer seems to allow for an open honesty that can be extremely therapeutic personally, as well be full of lessons for others to learn from it, if done right and applied correctly. Most would say as you get older, you lose your filter. Maybe that's true. God certainly knows every hidden corner of my life. As a result, the most brutal aspects of my life, past, present, and future are laid bare before God. I hold nothing back from Him, as if I could. Even the things I "strategically forget", He knows in horrifying detail.
it's not a secret that my favorite topic is sin, which can sometimes make for a difficult discussion. Again, if I were pushing 65 (maybe 85), I might speak with a little more candor about all of it, but you'll have to trust that my struggles are real, and at times they truly suck. I have a great deal of respect for those that can honestly and openly say, "this is my jones." In other words, my struggle, addiction, or sin. I don't revel in the topic of sin, and probably more than ever, know how much God has forgiven me, and continues to forgive me. I could never express the gratitude deserved, whether in words, or in actions. There are people who know my struggles. People I am extremely grateful for. People I can be raw with. I couldn't encourage that for you more. Ultimately though, it all comes down to me and God.
I guess it's a constant topic for me because I'm actually thankful for the struggle with my sin. I am thankful that I don't leap blindly into my sin. My internal struggles leaves me weak and humbled. To know that some part of me still desires to go and do the worst, is like a dagger rending my heart apart. How could I love this good and gracious God, and still want to rebel against him? How could I be so quick to betray all I understand and believe as true, for even the thought of momentary sin and pleasure, however it may manifest itself in my life? I will forever identify with Paul because of this:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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. 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. Romans 7:14-20
No excuses in this passage, just a raw description of the Christian's ongoing struggle. We don't take seriously the truth of this when we claim we are not sinners. Like peeling back layers of an onion, each new layer reveals new tears for the sins we sometimes think we no longer struggle with, and maybe for some sins we never knew was a struggle for us. We fight this fight, and we lose sometimes. When we do, we might actually see more of the heart of God, who is most present in our weakness and suffering. It's never a, "do our best, so God could do the rest." It's, "God gave us His best(in Christ), so in Him, we can rest." We have that hope in our struggle, not for the struggle to be removed, but for the hope in the midst of our struggle:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 7:24 - 8:4
Jesus Christ, our Lord, delivers us from our sinful cravings. It doesn't mean we don't still have them, but we are delivered from the requirement of death deserved for our sin. Even as we struggle, we rest in the hope that Christ is our offering for our sinful nature, as well as meeting all the requirements for righteousness which he graciously gives us. Living our life according to the Spirit, includes a daily repentance for all our sins, including the ones regulated to our minds, which Jesus called no better than actions. We are strengthened for the battle by the Spirit of God, and find victories over some of our sinful cravings, but we also understand that in our repentance, we have victory over all our sinful cravings, including for the battles that we at times, lose. Christ has won all the battles for us, the ones we stand firm on, and the ones we give in to. That is so important, because we all lose sometimes, heck, many times, and even in those losses, there is now no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus.
Win or lose, in Christ, we are not condemned.
Win or lose, in Christ, we have the final victory over sin and death.
Win or lose, in Christ, our hope remains.
You are His, dear Christian, uncondemned and victorious, with hope in this life, and the one to come.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?