Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Power of Sin

     If we are  honest with ourselves (and we usually are not), we would admit that, even well into our Christian lives, sin has a strong attraction, and even, dare I say, has a certain power over us. If you are one of those fortunate souls who are never tempted, you are lying to yourself; you may not be tempted by the outward vices, but you have already fallen into the first sin: pride. But if you are a normal Christian, you are tempted regularly, and from time to time you fall. I have no interest in condemning the honest believer who makes mistakes ( if, however, you are gleefully living in sin, I will certainly not make you comfortable in it), but I do want to take a look at the power of sin in our lives, and the best method, in my opinion, of combatting it. In keeping with my theme as of late, I will be speaking mostly from recent experience, so think of this as a report from the trenches, so to speak, rather than the ramblings of an armchair philosopher. I have been bloodied, figuratively speaking, in the battle against sin, and I share this as intelligence from behind enemy lines, in the hopes that you, dear reader, can avoid the land mines Satan has placed in your path.
    Before we can discuss our tactics in opposing Satan, we must first examine wherein, exactly, lies sin's power. In contemplating this, I have determined that sin's power is like a pyramid; it is founded upon a single premise, and builds upward. I believe there are four levels to sin's power: enjoyment, shame, fear, and condemnation. This "pyramid" has been carefully constructed by Satan; he is not omniscient, so he has developed his methods of temptation over the course of history, yet all temptation is founded upon this pyramid. His first temptation is the best example of his work, because he had nothing to oppose him; mankind was ignorant of sin, and so his temptation was simple. Yet, though millennia have passed, and his means of temptation have increases a hundredfold, all temptation is still modeled after the basic approach which he used in the Garden of Eden. It is imperative to note at this point that this is not an essay on temptation, but on sin. The two must be kept distinct, because with Eve, Satan had to tempt, but now sin already lies within our hearts; we have already tasted the forbidden fruit, and so it already has a pull on us. Satan's efforts at temptation are an order of magnitude easier.
     Let us now consider the individual attributes of sin's power layer by layer. Remember, pyramids are built from the ground up, so I listed the levels of the "pyramid" from foundation to crown. The base layer is so powerful for a variety of reasons, not least of which is our sanctimonious denial of its truth. That truth which forms the pyramid's foundation is this: we enjoy sinning. Don't bother denying it; any sinner will tell you that sin is fun, sin feels good, and sin is gratifying (at least, in the moment). This is sin's foundational (and, I would dare say it's strongest) power. Even though Eve did not know that sin was enjoyable to the flesh, Satan still reeled her in with that temptation; Scripture says she saw that the fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Those are all words describing pleasure. And today, thousands of years later, we have become even more driven by desire for pleasure than she was. It is this awareness that sin is enjoyable that pulls us back to it; it is the essential power of sin because if sin is not pleasant, if it does not feel good (at least temporarily), we will not want to commit sin. Do not underestimate your desire for enjoyment, for pleasure; that desire is the basis for all sin.
    The second level of our "pyramid" is shame. This is the effect of sin that we always think will help us resist "next time", but it has just as much power over us as enjoyment. This is the part Satan relishes, this under the surface consequence of sin that gives us the false hope that now we will be able to resist, next time all I have to do is remember that I felt (take special note of that word, we will come back to it) so ashamed of my actions, and I will never do it again. This is the enemy's great ruse, the false deliverance of shame. Shame is a smokescreen to hide from us the fact that deliverance is out of our hands, and in the hands of God. Satan wants you to think that shame is the great motivator out of sin, but that is a lie, for when you are facing the pleasure of sin in the eye, that shame will be quickly forgotten. There is no power in shame to deliver; Christ never told the sinner,"Go and be ashamed, so that you will sin no more." This deception of the enemy seeks to prey upon our consciences, and so manipulate us into self reliance. Putting trust in shame is an affront to the power of Christ; it, in essence says,"I don't need Your help, I have shame to drive me." What a disgusting lie! Do not fall into that trap as I have so often. Shame is a ball and chain, not a key; your self reliance will get you nowhere, and Satan will sit back and watch in uproarious laughter as you try to free yourself from the power of sin while chained to a source of that power.
     Thirdly and fourthly , the power of sin builds upon the previous levels to the most powerful tools of all: fear and condemnation. Fear and condemnation are Satan's favorite tools, his special tools, because we humans respond to them most easily. The fear of which I am speaking, as far as I can see, is threefold: fear of discovery, fear of judgement and fear of rejection. At the most basic level, this fear is directed at God ("And he said,'I  heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.'" Genesis 3:10). Adam knew that discovery meant judgement, and judgement meant rejection, and so he hid himself from God. Now, in this day and age, our threefold fear is now directed both vertically and horizontally; meaning, we hide our sins from God and from our fellow Christian. How do we seek to hide our sin? Under the cloak of religious behavior. We can't confess our faults one to another, we will be judged as a dirty hypocrite, and we may even be removed from our precious church offices, (part of the reason we fear this is that, in condemnation, we already believe it to be true). What rubbish!! If this is truly the case, then I must question the spiritual maturity of your judge. I am not saying that there are not consequences to sin, and even to confession, but if you are rejected by your fellow believer because of your flaws, then it is high time you found a new church. God has never rejected a penitent sinner, and, as the body of Christ, if we reject one of our members then we have sullied the name and image of Christ.
       Little children, let us love one another. To show love for a believer who wants restoration is not tolerating sin, it is showing the love we have been shown in Christ. These fears, though basically directed toward God, have now been exacerbated beyond belief by the judgement of the self-righteous, of whom I have been the chief culprit. Let us confront these fears, and confess our sins to one another so that we find strength in numbers. There is no reason to face temptation alone when all we have to do is confess and ask for help. Do not be a fool, as I have been, and think you can break free on your own. Do not be fear driven, be grace driven. The way to overcome sin is to desert your island in the sea of humanity and open yourself to others. Transparency is the key to overcoming sin; we need the strength of one another, it is the only successful tactic. It took me far too long to understand and believe this, but when once you prove it to be true, the liberation is instantaneous. Do not fight alone when you have a band of brothers eager to fight alongside you!! United we stand is more than a feel-good slogan, it is a fact. We succeed or fail as a body, as one. Let us not seek to separate ourselves from the body, for alone we will die. To the fallen, I plead with you, I implore you, don't walk alone, don't try to win alone, don't separate yourself from your only hope!! To the strong, bear the burdens of the weak; put away your gavel and open your arms to receive those who want so desperately to be free, who wish in every waking moment that they could confess to someone, and ask for their help. We are our brother's keeper, so keep him well, for one day, he may be fighting for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment