“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race which is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1
King Saul could not keep from trying to kill David, one he once allegedly loved as his own son, though he apparently regretted trying to end his life. David was close enough in private to kill Saul, out of pure self-defense, but he would not lift his hand to take the life of one he considered God’s anointed. He cut off a corner of Saul’s garment unbeknown to Saul, and another time presented him with a spear and bowl he took from right next to Saul’s head while he slept. When David revealed to Saul he had spared his life one time after another, Saul always voiced his impassioned sorrow, only to pursue David’s death again when the immediate regret wore off. To his eventual death by his own sword, Saul pursued the killing of David out of persistent jealousy.
The Old Testament story of Israel the nation is replete with God’s saving them out of destruction one time after another, only to see Israel go whoring after other gods and idols time and time again. They begged for God’s deliverance when in a terrible pickle, swearing total obedience to his commands only to return to their adulterous sin over and over. Such is the story of God’s people throughout history. God should have washed his hands of man and his rebellion long ago, except He is so thoroughly long-suffering and ever merciful. It is no different today for any of us. Sanctification is a long embattled process. Sin has an energy which makes it incredibly persevering in raising its ugly head again and again.
Final eradication of your sinful nature happens only when you are glorified in eternity. Perfection belongs, in this life, only to the Son of God. Nevertheless, you are commanded to be perfect in Matthew 5 as your Heavenly Father is perfect. It is an always pursued goal which calls for even more energy from your soul than what sin stirs up in seeking a permanent place in your life. Frustratingly wearying and never totally victorious, your fight calls for unflagging perseverance and hope in Jesus. It is never a completely lost cause, nor should you ever see it as such. To do so is to claim Jesus a liar.
There is progress in sanctification when you die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness, though it may appear to be a losing cause. The fact is, if you are truly fighting sin in Christ’s strength you are more aware of sin in your own life than ever before, having a more holy awareness and sensitivity of it. The closer you grow to Jesus, just as the Apostle Paul, you are more conscious of sin’s power and presence than ever. Your heightened sensitivity is no sign of a losing cause; in fact, if you feel you are winning the battle, it is not a good sign of genuine victory.
Ironically enough, sanctification is growing in you as you become more and more aware of sin’s subtlety and insidiousness, especially in you. This is why late in his ministry Paul saw himself as the worst of sinners. You will truly make Paul’s claim yours when you grow closer to Jesus and his likeness; not to outdo Paul’s humility, but because you truly believe you ARE the worst of sinners.
Such recognition and humility will cause you to not allow sin to repeat in your life. You will steal its energy and put it to work in obedience. You will successfully fight the good fight, as is your calling as a follower of Christ. Rather than a Saul, you will become a David; a man or woman after God’s own heart.
“Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued; but take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God. Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul; take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole.”
(2nd verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise,” 1749)
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