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Dying To Live
Dr. Michael Cochran
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God shows His love by correcting us and/or using discipline to bring us to where He wants us to be. What does a good father do when he sees his child straying away from the right path to go his own way? He brings him back by means of discipline. Now discipline can come in many forms, depending on the seriousness of the offense. If a child is never disciplined or never suffers the consequences for his wrong action, he will never learn what is right.
Therefore, out of love God disciplines those who are His. If you never suffered the consequence of your sin, how would you know when you are doing right or wrong? The psalmist says, "Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread; they wouldn’t think of praying to God" (Psalm 53:4). See also Psalm 10:11, "The wicked say to themselves, 'God isn’t watching! He will never notice!'” If God did not bring about consequences, we would not learn from our mistakes and change our ways. God only disciplines those who are His, and He does this out of love for us, not to harm us or tear us down. It is God's way of saying, "My child, you are going the wrong way, and it is time to turn around and do what is right." If we are not corrected when we do wrong, then we will keep doing wrong.
Many want to believe that God is so “loving” that He will overlook our “little faults,” “lapses” and “indiscretions.” Little white lies, cheating on the tax return, taking that pen when no one is looking, or secretly viewing pornography—these are peccadillos, not worthy of death, right? The problem is, sin is sin, big or small. Though God loves us, His holiness is such that He cannot live with evil. The prophet Habakkuk describes God this way: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). God does not ignore our sin. On the contrary, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Even those secret sins we hide in the recesses of our hearts will one day be brought to light: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
Paul made it abundantly clear that sin has consequences: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). Paul then describes the end of those who indulge in sinful behavior: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:8). The phrase “sinful nature” refers to one’s unregenerate, shameless self. Though the sin nature may promise fulfillment, it can result in nothing but “destruction.”
Discipline is not to be confused with cold-hearted punishment. The Lord's discipline is a response of His love for us and His desire for each of us to be holy. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12. God will use testing, trials, and various predicaments to bring us back to Himself in repentance. The result of His discipline is a stronger faith and a renewed relationship with God (James 1:2-4), not to mention destroying the hold that particular sin had over us.
The Lord's discipline works for our own good, that He might be glorified with our lives. He wants us to exhibit lives of holiness, lives that reflect the new nature that God has given us: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be victorious in Christian living. God contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. In that passage we are called upon to walk in the Spirit. All believers already possess the Holy Spirit, but this passage tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit, yielding to His control. This means choosing to consistently follow the Holy Spirit's prompting in our lives rather than following the flesh.
God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It teaches us how to live and what to believe, it reveals to us when we have chosen wrong paths, it helps us get back on the right path, and it helps us to stay on that path. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. The psalmist talks about its life-changing power in-depth in Psalm 119. Joshua was told that the key to success in overcoming his enemies was not to forget the Word of God but instead to meditate on it day and night and obey it. This he did, even when what God commanded did not make sense militarily, and this was the key to his victory in his battles for the Promised Land.
We have Christ's words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Peter's denial. As Jesus prays, Peter is sleeping. Jesus wakes him and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We, like Peter, want to do what is right but are not finding the strength. We need to follow God's admonition to keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking—and He will give us the strength that we need (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer is simply acknowledging our own limitations and God's inexhaustible power and turning to Him for that strength to do what He wants us to do, not what we want to do (1 John 5:14-15).
Many Christians find that having an accountability partner can be a huge benefit in overcoming stubborn sins. Having another person who can talk with you, pray with you, encourage you, and even rebuke you is of great value. Temptation is common to us all (1 Corinthians 10:13). Having an accountability partner or an accountability group can give us the final dose of encouragement and motivation we need to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.
A true Christian will war with Satan and his daily efforts to undermine us. The devil is the ruler of this world, and we are living “behind enemy lines” (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12; John 12:31). With our focus on Christ, however, we will be able to cultivate a mindset that proclaims we’d rather die than do anything to hurt God. When we give ourselves to Christ totally (Matthew 16:24), Satan will flee from us. When we draw near to God, He, in turn, will draw near to us (James 4:7-8).
Our key to victory in our struggle with sin lies in the very promise of God Himself: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
As true believers in Christ, even when we “face trials far beyond our ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1:8), we can echo the reassuring words of Paul, who declares, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Finally, the psalmist gives us these words of encouragement: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act” (Psalm 37:3-5).
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