The Sin That Doth So Easily Beset Us
Almost 4 years ago I had a revelation of the Lord’s righteousness that was so profound it changed my life around to such an extent that almost everything I had personally perceived about the Lord previously was radically altered.
From that day on I sought to walk with Him in such a way that I could truly say I walked in the spirit and not in the flesh. I wanted nothing to come between the Lord and myself. No fleshly desires, hidden agendas, a marvellous ministry; just a pure, selfless walk. And as time went on I was convinced God had dealt with all my known and habitual sins forever.
I remained in that state for 18 months. Until ‘the sin that had so easily beset me’ in times past was back on my doorstep begging to be let in. I struggled for months to fight it; sometimes succeeding, other times not, but eventually giving in until I could not longer say I was victorious in any way.
I love to read about righteous, godly men and women of the past, but have always found it frustrating when they are never specific when testifying about sin in their lives. ‘What sin?’ I mentally ask. ‘What did you do or go through that caused you such pain and anguish of spirit?’ One comforting thing about the Word of God is that it never pulls any punches. It tells it like it is. And so will I.
When I was 11 or 12, I was badly bullied at school. As time went on I discovered that the only way I could deal with this was to hide in my imagination. I made up stories in my head where I was the hero; always brave, always victorious. They were fantastic stories that I worked on and expanded and fuelled until I found that, despite my painful circumstances, whenever I was left alone I could live in my head and be happy.
The years passed. I got wonderfully saved. I’m married to a man I love as much today as I did when I first fell in love with him, I have 4 healthy grownup children, nice home, etc. and the Lord has led us through some truly miraculous and marvellous times. Yet through all this, when there has been no need for escapism, I have never lost, or desired to lose, the ability to slip into my imagination and live another life. And I’m not conveying daydreams here; I’m talking epic masterpieces that could rival War & Peace and Gone With The Wind (Stephen Spielberg would be thrilled to have me on his payroll). But I never saw it as sin. Until the day the Lord revealed His righteousness to me.
When this sin came flooding back into my life after living so victoriously without it, I was so stunned and ashamed I found it hard to go to the Lord to seek His face. Yet I knew that God hadn’t forsaken me or let me down. God never tempts with sin and I never blamed Him for my own weakness.
“ Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (James 1:13,14)
My flesh struggled with my spirit and my spirit struggled with my flesh and I could only weep before the Lord, and say nothing, for I had no excuse.
The Scripture on sin, as always, put me into confusion. There are the Soft Chair encouragements and the Hard Bench discouragements that I had never been able to triumphantly reconcile:
Three examples of ‘Soft Chair Encouragements’:
“If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.” (1 John 3:20)
“The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:7,8)
“There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Four examples of ‘Hard Bench Discouragements’:
“Awake to righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:34)
“If we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:26)
“Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee … cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify our hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:7,8)
“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” (Gal 2:18)
Slowly, the Lord began to remind me of things He had taught me in that wonderful 18-month period. Things I now had to start living, not just knowing.
Many months before, I had been drifting off to sleep one night and it was as if the Lord prompted me to ask the question: ‘What hurts You most about your people?’
The answer was immediate and clear: ‘When they shut Me out or they’re not real with Me.’
Those words came back to me now in my dilemma. I can genuinely say I don’t think I’m ever not real with Him. What’s the point? He knows every thought I think, every desire and intent of my heart even before it’s properly formed in my consciousness. I know I can’t lie to, or hide anything from, Him. So why bother trying? But shut him out? Oh, yes! When I’m so ashamed because of my sin; when I know I’ve willingly and blatantly chosen the path of the flesh instead of the spirit; I run like the wind and shut my heart’s door on Him.
Into this situation the Lord spoke to me and showed me something else:
On my knees, crying because of my sin, knowing He’d forgive me the moment I asked (but knowing that wasn’t the problem, for the problem was feeling a hypocrite because I was enjoying my sin. Asking Him to forgive me so I could pray and have His ear, knowing that after I got up from me knees I would probably go right back to my sin, was the wickedest, most devilish thing I could think of and I was truly afraid of my behaviour. But countermanding that was the knowledge that I’d never get anywhere at all if I continued to resist Him) I heard a question that came out of nowhere and apropos of nothing: ‘What do you think righteousness is?’
I knew it was the Lord and so I quieted myself and prepared to listen. What follows is paraphrased of course, because the Lord most often speaks to the heart in ‘heart language’.
‘You’re not righteous when you feel spiritual and blessed.
Neither are you righteous when you’ve failed miserably, you’ve come to the end of yourself and you’re ready to repent and get yourself right with Me.
The true test of a righteous man working his way in righteousness is when he’s in the middle of his fight, he knows it’s not over, but he gets before me anyway because he knows I know his heart. And I know your heart.’
Martin Luther felt he could never entirely enjoy his life, his family or his friends, because of sin. He was ever aware and conscious of it and he daily, even hourly at times, struggled to live a life in the spirit while being constantly bombarded by the demands of the flesh.
But therein lay the secret. He never stopped throwing himself on the Lord and His mercy. He never shut God out. I don’t want to either, no matter how difficult I find it. My constant petition is to love Him like the best of them have loved Him, and that whatever it takes, for Him to get me there. To live as close to Him as it is possible to live whilst in this body. And now I believe, no matter what I feel or how I fail, that He has taken my words (Daniel) and is acting on them.
I fail Him every day, but I love Him more than I have ever loved Him in the whole of my born-again life, and the most amazing and rewarding thing is; He knows that!