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Allowing Others to Sin Boldly

I tend to just want to fix people, as if it is up to my eyes to see their problems and my solutions to make them perfect. If I spend more than a few hours with just about anyone, I am going to discover something about that person I would like to change.  Maybe it is something trivial, like conversational interests and patterns or maybe it is more significant like addictions or abuses.  And biblically, we are called to live in community, to encourage one another and to confront one another in the face of sin.  Yet I take this mandate, if you want to call it that, and assume the responsibility and the ability of the Holy Spirit to effect change in others.  This also means I assume the accurate ways in which they need to change, and you know what they say about you when you ass-u-me.  And one more obvious truth about my focus on fixing people – it usually means I want to make them into my image more than anything else.  I get stuck on the externals and forget that permanent change only occurs at the heart level.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7

As a kid at the doctor’s office, each time they would hit my knee with that little rubber triangular mallet to check my reflexes, I would be sure to give them an impressive 10.0 kick.  I wanted to pass with flying colors.  I don’t know why none of the nurses or doctors over the years laughed or in any way gave indication that my timing was absurdly off not to mention way over played.  But, presumably, they knew what they were looking for and my attempts at convincing them I had reflexes didn’t get in the way of that.  I think my efforts to prove I’m a follower of God are quite similar, honestly.  When the Holy Spirit reaches my heart, I don’t have to fake anything and if I think I can resist His work, I haven’t been hit precisely in the nerve with a rubber mallet.  The regeneration and renewal will come by the power and efforts of the Holy Spirit, not by my trying to force it or fake it.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Rom. 6:1-4 (but read the rest of the passage, always)

I don’t “sin boldly” or give up my high kicking attempts at righteous living because I reject the command to “be holy as He is holy”.  Rather, because I have been baptized into His death and resurrection, I see how my only means for being holy as He is holy is because He was holy in the flesh and credits that to me!  He will put to death my sinful inclinations so it won’t just be that I flagrantly continue on as if nothing had happened.  He will raise up His life in me so that the second Adam will reign in and through me just as the first Adam’s trespasses have been put on the cross and then buried.  Like Bryan Chapell’s wonderful corn cobb analogy, I have been plucked from the stalk so that the leaves and silk of my sinful nature are dying, cut off from their life source, but the corn inside (the life of Jesus) is full of life and being revealed with each slow removal of husk.  The husk that remains is only drying up even if it hasn’t been fully removed yet.

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.  Matt 18:7-9

It isn’t that the Christian is invited to take sin less seriously, but to finally take it extremely more seriously.  Before Jesus, my only choice was to minimize the grievousness of my offenses, blame them on misinterpretation or just someone or something outside of myself or simply deny them altogether.  Because He has taken every breath, hair and nano-second of my sin upon Himself, I can now face it honestly.  I can now see that the Law isn’t something that with a bit more effort and energy I can accomplish.  I can finally admit that there is no possible way I can meet it’s demands.  I don’t sin boldly as if shooting God the bird, I sin boldly simply in admitting that even my best efforts at imitation are but filthy rags and that apart from Him I can produce no other.

The person and work of Jesus on behalf therefore silences my judgments of others.  As long as I assume that his or her or their “bad choices” are simply due to ignorance, weak wills or wimsy, I am also assuming that their most fundamental need for change is education, strengthening resolve or intentionality.  When I begin to believe that they are helpless to change or act in any way differently from their unhealthy, destructive, and self-serving ways apart from the disruption of the Holy Spirit, I can love them with the mercy and kindness I have been shown in the person and work of Jesus.  I begin to love as one who shares their same position rather than one whom they ought to emulate.  Do I speak up about visible immorality, infidelity or illegal behaviors?  Sure.  But now I remove from my shoulders the anxiety that change is in my hands or even in theirs.  His rescue of me or my beloved friends and family isn’t waiting upon me to say just the right thing or come in with the rubber mallet.  It isn’t about endorsing sin or ignoring it.  The person and work of Jesus finally allows me to see sin for the Goliath that it is, impossible to conquer apart from faith, and not faith as something I muster up in myself, but faith that HE is faithful and He will do it.  Now, instead of coming is as the fixer, I am compelled to pray without ceasing and look to Him for the change we all need as He determines.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Cor. 4:11-18

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