When we understand how much God loves us, we no longer want to sin

When we understand how much God loves us, we no longer want to sin

The battle against sin

The Battle Against Sin Part 3

By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross

Last time around, I said verse 4 in Ephesians 2 gives us the answer as to why we should fight sin: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”

I’m going to focus here on the part “because of His great love for us,” or God loving us by saving us from our sins (which is to say, God saving us from the World, the Flesh, and the Devil). Author and teacher, Matt Chandler, when he preached on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, made the point that “the love of Christ compels us,” so God’s love for us should be the Christian’s primary motivation for obedience (i.e. fighting sin). This is the same love we see in Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God loved us so much that even when we were sinners, (i.e. traitors, haters of God), Christ died for us. If God loved us that much, shouldn’t we love Him in return?.

Think about the people you love or care about: your spouse, family members, the crew you work with, or your traveling partners. How do you treat them? Do you purposefully hurt them or disrespect them? Do you ignore them when they ask you to do something? If we are called to love God over everything else, do we treat Him like these others (when we should treat Him better than anyone else)? Or does the way we live our daily lives show that we don’t really love God and therefore don’t fight sin – we just act like my heeler when he gets disciplined, rolling onto our backs and letting sin run all over us? If you hear someone say they really love getting on broncs but you’ve never seen them on one and don’t even know if they own a saddle, you’d question the truthfulness of that statement. Well, if we say we love God but never attempt to show it or fight the sin we know He hates, it makes those words pretty hollow. John 14:15 gets straight to the point: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Before becoming a Christian, I saw things like the Ten Commandments or commands in the New Testament as expectations I could never live up to. After God saved me, I now see these commands as ways God loves me – like a father instructing his son on how to handle life or the cow boss helping out the new hire on the ranch. Those commands are for our good.

In that sermon I mentioned above, Chandler says that we don’t always love God the way we should. Sometimes we struggle or doubt in those seasons of life. That’s when secondary motivations come in. Two that I think are important are knowing the cost of sin and noticing our drift toward sin.

The cost of sin

As Christians, we know the punishment for sin is the death of the sinner. We know that punishment should be against us, for our rebellion against God – but praise Him for the grace He extends on His people! In the Old Testament, God used the death of animals to atone for sin in the sacrificial system as a foreshadowing of Christ’s death.

Imagine for a moment having to watch something die because of the sin you committed. I don’t know about you, but for me one of the most nerve-wracking things about calving time is if you have to tube a fresh calf to give it milk to keep it alive. Even with plenty of experience there’s always the chance that if you screw up, that calf will have to pay for your mistake by drowning in the milk you’re trying to give it . In ranching or rodeo, we know death is a part of life. When you have a sick cow or an old horse that’s been your work partner for years but won’t survive the winter, sometimes the best option is a bullet. It’s a tough but necessary part of the job. Most of the world doesn’t see that side of ranching. Instead, they just see some nice clean packaged steaks by the time their meat arrives in the store.

Just like the people in the store, I think most of us miss what sin actually costs. This cost wasn’t just any death though. It was bloody and gruesome. Just go look at the sacrificial system in the Old Testament or the crucifixion of Christ in the New.

1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.”

I think we cheapen the price God paid for us in our salvation. We need to remember, especially in moments of temptation, to think of how bloody and awful it must have been for Christ on the day of His crucifixion. Remember how much pain He endured to save us when it was pain we deserved. That should make us think twice when we are ready to roll over to sin’s demands.

Our natural drift toward sin

If you’ve dealt with cattle in steep country, you know that if left on their own for very long they will eventually drift down to the flattest spot or along a waterway. Much like cattle, if God would leave us alone we would just drift down further and further. Cows don’t just appear at the bottom of the draw and we don’t just “happen” to go deeper and deeper into sin. We make decisions that don’t seem that bad at first but will eventually trap us in our old sinful way of life. If we don’t fight our sin it will just keep growing, kind of like my horse’s feet. If I don’t trim them up or put shoes on him, they’re just going to get worse and worse. As John Owen put it, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

While as Christians, we have a new heart and a new nature, our old nature and old habits are still with us.

In Romans 7:21-25 Paul is talks about his flesh or the sin that is in him and how it wages war against his new nature in Christ. “So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Praise God we have been rescued, and don’t have to drift towards sin. God gives us the ability as Christians to fight our sin and honor God with our daily lives.

I pray that on the days when we are really in a knock-down, drag-out fight against our sin – or heck, any day – we’ll remember how much God loves us and that His love will compel us to keep up the good fight. I’ve heard it said that practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. So in the next and final part of this series we’ll get into the “how to” in this fight against sin.

Sin creeps into our life through all kinds of ways

Sin creeps into our life through all kinds of ways

Spiritual warfare is real and can throw all kinds of sin in your path

The Battle Against Sin Part 2

By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross

I mentioned earlier that it’s a good idea to know who you are up against in any fight, this week we are going to dive into detail on what has been identified as the three main sources of sin.

The Flesh 

This describes us, our self-centeredness, our thoughts and motivations. One of the old timers of the faith once said, “We aren’t sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.”

My heeler isn’t a cow dog because he bites cows; he’s a cow dog, and therefore he bites cows. It’s in his nature. But unlike my heeler biting cows, sin is never a good or right thing for us as Christians. Sadly, it is our nature (Romans 3:23: …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) I think one of the most important things for us to see is the sin in ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:18-19,But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” He points to the heart of the issue, and it’s our hearts.

It’s a very popular theme on Facebook and everywhere else nowadays to follow our hearts. In a way, I can see how that sounds good. Some might mean it as, “God has given you certain passions in life that aren’t sinful and you should pursue those for His glory, not your own,” and yeah, that’s okay. Unfortunately, most (if not all) people mean it as, “do whatever you want to make you happy and don’t let anyone tell you no.” In response to that, let me just bring up Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Or as one wise pard of faith put it, “The heart is an idol factory”.

The World

“When we are told to not love the world, the Bible is referring to the world’s corrupt value system,” says GotQuestions.org. There are a lot of things that fit into the category of the world’s corrupt value systems: basically take anything except God and put it as the ultimate “thing” in this life. The world tells us that having that gold buckle is all that matters, or that shiny new stock trailer, or that nice, fully-tooled saddle with all that silver on it, or even the family ranch (yeah, listing some of these things hurts me a little also). But Matthew 16:26 asks, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Jesus is talking about the cost of following Him.

The promises of this world don’t last. “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Does this mean we just throw everything away and become a hermit with a Bible? As Paul would say, by no means! (Or by a looser translation, heck no!) We are called to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-19). There are a lot of good gifts God has made – horses, cattle, and blue heeler dogs being some of my favorites, and the occasional shiny silver bit or two – but I need to be watching to make sure I don’t make those things the ultimate part of my life where only God should be.

The Devil

Depending on who you talk to, the Devil either doesn’t exist or is responsible for everything including that last cold, your recent buck off, and those yearlings breaking out (and now you have to sort out three different feed lot pens this morning!). I’m here to tell you, neither one of the above views is accurate.

As Christians, we know that there is a spiritual realm. God Himself is a spiritual being (John 4:24). We also know that God created spiritual beings that we call angels and demons (including the Devil). While it’s a good idea not to obsess about these created spiritual beings, the Bible teaches about them and about spiritual warfare so it is something we should have a grasp on. Jesus also had many encounters with demons during His earthly ministry which looked more like them begging to not be destroyed compared to a fair fight.

So who is the Devil? He is a demonic spiritual being. He is the serpent in Genesis 3, and in John 8:44 he is called the father of lies. 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls him the god of this world and his purpose is stated there: to blind the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the good news of the Gospel. The Devil and his demons do this blinding in a number of ways. Two examples would be getting people to believe God doesn’t exist or getting people to believe in a false god or spiritual force. Even things we might think are harmless, like yoga, visualization or meditation can be used to blind us. Before I go further I want to note that I’m not talking about stretching and exercise, picturing something in your head like the right moves to ride a bull and how to swing that perfect heel shot, or filling your mind with Scripture; I’m talking about the “New Age” practices that are far from harmless with their emphasis on going around God to attempt to influence our life and the world around it.

If you say, “If I visualize it in my mind I will achieve it” (visualization), you have basically made yourself God, which God calls idolatry (Exodus 20:3). If you get into the idea of meditation to “empty your mind” or to get to a sub conscious or unconscious part of your mind to be on the same brain wave as that bronc or bull, or ask for a spiritual guide, you just might get one in the demonic sense. If you get into yoga and start believing you need to find your “center” and that everything has a good or bad “aura” – or, heck, we’ve all heard someone mention the idea of karma – you’re embracing pagan ideas that come to us from Eastern mysticism. All of these and more are wrapped up in the New Age movement, what God would call witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18 :10-12 tells us: Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…”

Now these three enemies in the fight against sin might have you thinking, “How am I going to do this, even if I think I’m John Wayne?” The answer is found in Ephesians 2:4-10: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

We have been saved from these enemies and we are empowered by God himself to wage this daily fight. Verse 4 shows us the answer to our next question, the “why” in the battle against sin – which we’ll answer in a couple of weeks. #keepupthefight

Feel free to comment below how we can be praying for you in your fight.

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