Overcoming Sin

What a timely lesson this week. Each day the headlines report the despicable news of another person of influence or power indulging in deviant behavior. We read stories of men who risk everything to satisfy their lusts and passions. We wonder how such things can be. The answer is really quite simple – they are under the dominion of sin.

This week as we examine Romans 6, we read Paul’s words of certainty that “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” In general, it’s too bad we really don’t believe this (you may be an exception). While we are rightfully shocked at the terrible abuses reported, if we’re honest with ourselves, we often have sinful practices that still bear sway over us, even though we’ve been Christians for years. To excuse our behavior we quote this familiar text discussed in next week’s lesson:

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Romans 7:19 (Next week we will discuss this in more detail)

We don’t believe we can stop sinning. Perfection in Christ frightens us. We have only to look at our track record of broken promises made to ourselves and we shrink from even believing that we can overcome our sins. But is God limited in His power to save that He cannot deliver us from any and all besetting sins?

Perhaps our issue is that our vision of who God is and what He provides for us is too limited. We can learn a lesson from Elisha as recorded in Second Kings 6.

Elisha was being hunted for a righteous cause. Unbeknownst to him and his servant, while they slept one night, enemies bent on their capture had come to take them away. They were surrounded and didn’t even know it. A huge army had methodically formed a ring around their prey, affording no way out. Those hardened soldiers were poised to fight and ready to spill blood. It would not be much longer before their target would be taken out. The outcome was inevitable – or so it seemed.

Early that morning Elisha’s servant went outside. To his dismay, as he looked around, he saw that there was a mighty army surrounding them. Weapons of war in every direction were signaling that this was the end of the road. In his panic, he shouted to Elisha.

“Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17.

Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

The story of Elisha and the besiegement of Dothan cover much of our Christian experience in dealing with our quest to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Many of us (if not all of us) have been like that young servant of Elisha. The forces of sin appear all around us. Our demise seems inevitable.

Can we truly have victory over sin? What about lifelong bad habits that have been passed down generation to generation? What about tendencies to sin that are always on the surface and looking for the right time at the wrong place?  What about the wave of temptation that greets us every day on our jobs, at school, at home and even at church? The army of evil appears to have us surrounded.

Oh, but thanks be to God if we hold on a little while longer we can have the experience of Elisha. Because of his closeness to God, Elisha could see divine help on every side where others only saw defeat.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Psalms 91:12

Of all of the subjects covered in the Word of God, none is clearer than the truth that with God all things are possible; and that includes victory over sin.

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark 9:23

“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27

“And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27

“Put your trust in God. Pray much, and believe that in his good work the Lord will guide you step by step. Trusting, hoping, believing in the Lord, holding fast the hand of Infinite Power, you will be more than conquerors. In God you will have victory and success. You will see the salvation of the Lord.” Ellen White, AUGleaner August 20, 1902

Today, let us ask for and expect victory over every besetting sin. Then let us act according to our prayers.

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “dominion” mean to you?
  • What does it mean to be under the dominion of sin?
  • Is it expected that believers to never be under the dominion of sin? Explain your answer.
  • How is it possible to live a life not under the dominion of sin?
  • Explain what faith in Christ means and how it works.
  • What does the life of a believer not under the dominion of sin look like?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: Instead of focusing on overcoming sin we should just focus on having a relationship with Christ. Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson on Overcoming Sin with a prayer from Paul that our eyes would be opened to see Who it is we serve and what power is available to us.

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”  Ephesians 1:17-21

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

Justification by Faith

WHERE’S THE BEEF?!  I remember the popular fast food restaurant commercial where three senior ladies were staring at a less-than-adequate hamburger. As one lady peered at the sandwich she asked: “Where’s the beef?” Her question was a statement that, regardless of all of the trappings and accompaniments, the bottom line was that a hamburger should have some meat to it.

I know you must be wondering what this has to do with this week’s Sabbath school topic on Justification by Faith. It would seem more logical to talk about the powerful truth that a man, lost in sin and destined for eternal destruction, can have his past blotted away by the simple act of faith in Jesus. Continue reading

The Human Condition

This was false advertisement. They were presenting a lie that had to be exposed for the good of the church. The lie? That as circumcised and keepers of the ceremonial laws, they were righteous. Their point? In order to be righteous like them, they, the Gentile converts, must be circumcised and keep the laws of Moses.

That lie – salvation by works – had the potential to neutralize the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. For if a man could attain righteousness by the things he observed, why then would he need faith in a Savior?

For us who look back on this time, we must remember how different things were for the new converts to the church. The doctrinal resources that are at our fingertips did not exist for them. Books about righteousness by faith, sermons, and seminars on faith in Christ, lesson study guides to break down each aspect of growing in grace were unheard of then. And these aggressive men of the circumcision were a force to be reckoned with. Continue reading

The Controversy

Who controls the church? That is a question that is as relevant today as it was during the time of the early church. This week as we discuss The Controversy, in addition to examining what, we will also look at why. Why was there a controversy that was threatening to split the early church?

In Acts 15 we get a clear picture of what the controversy was.

“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1

The argument being proposed was not based out of a scriptural dispute, but rather out of a narrow-mindedness that was seeking for control and influence over the church. Continue reading

The Gospel and the Church

I’m writing this week’s post from Rome, the ancient city whose past intersects with the life of Paul. It was from Rome that Paul penned the letter to the church in Galatia. Unlike myself and my wife, Paul was not in Rome by his own choice. His presence there was due to the conflicts he endured as a faithful follower and promoter of Jesus Christ.

Yet, even in the midst of his own life-threatening predicament, Paul’s concern was for the members of the churches scattered about. This week’s lesson, The Gospel and the Church, focuses on Paul’s words of wisdom on how to deal with fellow members who have succumbed to sin.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

Rather than isolating Paul’s instructions as a go-to guide for church conduct, I find it more helpful to understand the bigger picture. Paul was writing to a church in crisis. The dissension caused by those of the circumcision was leading to a loss of compassion and love. This had to be addressed. Continue reading

Living By The Spirit

He was an innocent man condemned to die. To ensure his execution, on his last night of life he was locked deep within prison walls, chained between two guards. His crime? He was an ardent disciple of Christ. His name? Peter. His reaction to his impending death the next morning? He was sleeping like a baby.

Acts 12 records the story of Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Although guarded by 12 guards, two chained to either side of him, Peter was about to be set free and there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it. Continue reading