Have you ever had one of those moments when something becomes so clear it’s like you were blind before you saw it? I had one of those revelations recently.
For 60 years or so, I’ve struggled with sin. Selfishness. Pride. Lust. Envy. (Just to name a few of the seven mortal sins, but there are many more.)
Of course, my sin nature has never surprised me, so realizing my flawed humanity was not the “aha” moment I’m referring to here. In fact, what I’m about to state might sound a bit heretical, but here it is: I don’t have a sin problem; I have a love problem.
Of course, I sin, and yes, sin is a problem. Mine took Jesus to the cross. However, as a Christ-follower, there are some other truths in play.
To begin with, when you and I surrender our lives to Jesus, the power of sin is broken (Romans 6:1-11). That doesn’t mean we never sin again, but it does mean we are no longer under the dominion of sin. Our helpless state of being under the control of sin and death was overcome the instant we surrendered to the cross.
What’s more, because we are “in Christ,” we are no longer under any condemnation (Romans 8:1-17). We need never fear the wrath or punishment of God. Our debt was paid in full by Jesus, and we can live forever free from guilt and shame.
Additionally, and this is amazing, all our failures, including all our past, present, and even future sins, are covered by the blood of Jesus, and we are clothed in His robes of righteousness (Galatians 3:26-27; Isaiah 61:10).
When God looks at us, He sees perfection.
I know, unbelievable, right?
About now you’re thinking, “Okay, Bubna, thanks for the theology lesson, BUT I STILL SIN, AND IT’S STILL A MAJOR PROBLEM IN MY LIFE!”
Yeah, me too.
But that’s not the true problem.
Seriously, your sin is not the real issue.
We don’t have a sin problem; we have a love problem.
Hang in there for a bit and let me explain.
To begin with, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me” (John 14:15). Note here, He didn’t say, “If you obey me better, you’ll love me better.” Just the opposite, in fact. Jesus said it starts and ends with love. “Love Me more, and you’ll obey Me more.” We obey because of love.
By the way, John wrote, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In other words, love begets love. You see, our ability to love God doesn’t grow in a vacuum. We have the capacity to love Him because we are loved. Love starts with Him, not with you or me.
Therefore, being loved, we love. Our love is a response to God’s love. Consequently, the more I know I am loved—deeply, passionately, and unconditionally—the more my heart resolves to love Him back.
So, the more I love, the less I sin.
The more I love Him, the more I obey.
The more I see I am deeply loved, the deeper I love I Am.
For far too many years, I have struggled with my faults. So I try harder. I work more. I try to practice spiritual disciplines better. I read the Bible. I pray. I fast (maybe not so much).
Unfortunately, I have viewed the “mortification of my flesh” as a difficult endeavor primarily based on my efforts and my ability to discipline my mind and body.
And I fail.
Miserably, at times.
And I get discouraged.
Dismally, at times.
I live in the land of “ought-tos” and “should-haves” cycling through seasons of success and failure on a regular basis.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
And then I remember the rest of what Paul said. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
It’s Him. It’s through Him. It’s by Him. He delivers me. I can never deliver myself.
Jesus is the answer.
And our Savior said the secret to your success and mine is to “remain in His love” (John 15:9-10).
Someone is thinking, “Yeah, but Jesus also said that if we keep His commands we remain in His love, so doesn’t it just come back to what we do? And isn’t the New Testament full of do’s and don’ts and lots of commandments from God?”
Of course, but let me ask you, “What was the greatest command of Jesus?”
To love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). The most important thing, the main thing, perhaps the only thing when compared to everything else is love! All the directives of the Bible are subservient to this one thing: love.
Without love, nothing else matters.
With love, everything else becomes possible.
One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, wrote in her book, The Broken Way, "It's His beautiful, relentless love that makes our lives relentlessly beautiful, not any striving to measure up or work to follow any commandments. God gives grace and acceptance before we break our sin. Because it's His grace and acceptance that enable you to break sin."
So the key to our victory over sin and the old nature is to know we are loved, to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight regarding God’s love, and to love in response to this unfathomable love of Christ.
Love changes everything.
Now, I pray more, I read the Bible more, I do more . . . but it is because I know in my knower how loved I am, and that knowledge helps me want to sin far less.
Love begets love. In fact, as someone once said, “We become what we behold, so focus on love not sin.”
When I see the love of the Father, when I experience it, and when I remember it, no sin or earthly indulgence captivates me more than His love does. All else pales by comparison.
That’s why you and I must brawl with sin less, and love the Lover more.
Struggle less, love more, because love changes you and me.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7 (NIV)