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How Can You Keep On Sinning?

“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?” Romans 6:1-2

Christians struggle with sin.  There is no denying that the flesh, the fallen world, and the schemes of the devil all draw us back to our old selves, our old nature.

Yet the Bible gives us a clear picture as to how we are to think about and deal with sin. These principles are supposed to keep our minds away from sin, but sometimes it takes the horror of the cross for us to even consider their value.

  • We died to sin. Our sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus. (Romans 6, , 2nd Corinthians 5: 17, Galatians 2:19-20, Ephesians 2:1, 2:5-6, 2:12-13, 4:22, Colossians 1:21, 2:11-14, 2nd Timothy 2:11, 1st Peter 4:1-3)
  • Do not let sin reign in your bodies. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 6:12, 1st Corinthians, 6:19-20, 9:27, 2nd Corinthians 6:16)
  • Be kept blameless. (1st Corinthians 1:8, 2nd Corinthians 5:20, 13:5, Philippians 1:9, 1:27, 2:15, Colossians 1:10, 3:2-3, 1st Thessalonians 2:10-12, 3:13 1st Timothy 6:14, James 1:4, 2nd Peter 1:5-8, Jude 20-21)
  • Flee from sin. (Acts 15:29, Romans 13:13, 1st Corinthians 15:34, 6:18 Galatians 5:13, Galatians 5:16-21, 6:1, Ephesians 4:25-31, 5:3, Colossians 3:5-9, 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8, 5:5-8, 1st Timothy 6:11, 2nd Timothy 2:22, Titus 2:12, Hebrews 12:1, 12:16, James 4:7-8, 1st Peter 2:11, 1st John 2:1, 5:18)
  • Be holy. (Romans 12:2, 1st Corinthians 5:9, 15:33, 2nd Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:24, Philippians 4:8-9, Colossians 2:6-7, 1st Thessalonians 4:3, 2nd Timothy 4:14, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 10:29, 12:14, 1st Peter 1:13-16, 1st John 5:3)
  • Repentance, faith, and grace do not come from our own efforts. (Acts 11:18, Romans 5:15, 9:16, 1st Corinthians 10:13, 12:3, 2nd Corinthians 5:5, Galatians 3:11, Ephesians 1:13-14, 2:8-9, Philippians 1:6, 3:9, 2nd Timothy 1:9, 2:25, 1st John 4:10)

As the Holy Spirit enables us to remember and implement all of these things, we are confronted by a sad reality.  Humans are still evil.

John MacArthur describes this by discussing Lazarus. Jesus raised him from the dead, “but he stinketh.” He had been made new, but the foul odor of death was still upon him.  Likewise, we died with Christ and have been made alive in Him, but we are still human and still connected to our sinful nature.  This is why we must struggle. We don’t give up, thinking that it is God’s fault that we are still sinful, but rather we remember that God is working in us to bring our faith to completion when Christ returns.

So then why is it that all of that truth from scripture goes in one ear and out the other?  How can we view so many commands to flee from sin, to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ, and still keep on sinning? 

I suspect it has something to do with our view of the cross. There are several dangers here.

  • One, modern Christianity presents an amorphous Gospel about how Jesus died to save us without getting into why we needed saving or what salvation entails.
  • Two, postmodern Christianity is so focused on the life of Jesus and “living in the way of Jesus” that the cross is dismissed as “cosmic child abuse.”
  • Three, those of us who have grown up in the church have a hard time living by faith.  We accept events in the Bible as historical fact and the Bible loses its greater meaning, one that should be a result of faith. Jesus dying on the cross is just something that happened.

What does it mean to preach Christ crucified? What does it mean, as Oswald Chambers has put it, to be so identified with the death of Christ? What does it mean to have died to sin and made alive with Christ?

We all need to renew our view of the cross.

A doctor writing for CBN says,

I realized that I had for years taken the Crucifixion more or less for granted — that I had grown callous to its horror by a too easy familiarity with the grim details and a too distant friendship with our Lord. It finally occurred to me that, though a physician, I didn’t even know the actual immediate cause of death. The Gospel writers don’t help us much on this point, because crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetime that they apparently considered a detailed description unnecessary. So we have only the concise words of the Evangelists: “Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified — and they crucified Him.”

Similarly, songs cannot fully describe the crucifixion. 

“Behold the Man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulders, ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers, it was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished, His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.”

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

“In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe, this gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save, til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin, on Him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live.”

In Christ Alone

“Oh to see the pain, written on Your face, bearing the awesome weight of sin, every bitter thought, every evil deed, crowning Your blood stained brow. This the power, of the cross, Christ became sin for us, took the blame, bore the wrath, we stand forgiven at the cross.”

The Power of the Cross

“I am the thorn in Your crown, but You love me anyway, I am the sweat from Your brow, but You love me anyway, I am the nail in Your wrist, but You love me anyway, I am Judas’ kiss, but You love me anyway,  see now I am the man who yelled out from the crowd for Your blood to be spilled on this earth-shaking ground, yes then I turned away with a smile on my face, with this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace, and then alone in the night I still call out for You, so ashamed of my life, my life, my life…but You love me anyway.”

You Love Me Anyway

While those lyrics are certainly moving, I wonder if there is something in us that keeps us from looking at the horror of the cross.  Paul says the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Perhaps there is something that lingers, something that wants us to turn away from seeing the fury of God’s wrath poured out on His own Son even after we have been saved.

I want to share with you what breaks me down, what sends me running to Christ, what makes me scream “unworthy,” as Christ calls me justified.

Could you enjoy your sin while you are physically present with the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?  How could you continue sinning as you see your Savior so consumed by stress and the wrath that is to come that He is literally sweating blood? Will you partake in sinful activities and thoughts as your Savior is betrayed by a friend and handed over to Romans and the Sanhedrin? Do you keep on sinning as Jesus is repeatedly punched and severely beaten by the Sanhedrin?  Are you okay with your sin as Jesus’ friend Peter disowns Him?

But the worst is yet to come, and you still have no problem with your sin. How can you continue?

Now, as you continue sinning, you see Jesus before Pilate.  Pilate, seeking to placate the Jews, ordered Jesus to be flogged.  The Jews were more merciful than the Romans, limiting the scourging to thirty-nine lashes. The flog consisted of leather straps with pieces of metal, bone, pottery and any other type of shrapnel designed to tear flesh. How dare you continue in your sin now? The flog is brought down across your Savior’s back.  Flesh is torn away from bone.  The back is reduced to ribbons of bloody skin, muscle, and tissue. Thirty-nine times, the flog strikes your Savior’s back.  Scream in horror as you see your Savior covered in blood, blood squirting from arteries, blood splattering from each strike. How can you not scream in horror as just one strap of the flog embeds itself in flesh, stuck, only to be pulled violently by the Roman soldier, dragging flesh along with it? Now, try to justify your sin, you know you don’t want to give it up.  The soldiers mock Jesus after scourging Him.  Watch as they press a crown of thorns into His head.  Do you keep on sinning as blood pours from His forehead? A robe is thrown onto His back and He is beaten with sticks as the Romans pretend to bow before the King of the Jews. Are you reduced to tears as the robe is ripped from His back, reopening all the wounds that clotted?

The horror is not over and yet you are waiting to go back to your sin. 

Christ is given His cross to carry, it proves too much. As you walk along, He looks your way. Will you give up your sin in order to carry the cross for Him? Of course not! Simon helps our Lord reach the place of the skull.  Jesus’ bloodied and shredded back is thrown onto a rugged piece of wood.  His wrists and ankles are nailed to that wood.  Do you even understand what pain that entails? The nerves in each limb are overwhelmed by signals, this produces the sensation of being struck by lightning.  Yet you sit there, happy in your sin, laughing as the cross is positioned into the ground, slamming the weight of your Savior’s body onto three nails and a mutilated back. The pain in each limb continues for hours.  With arms stretched out, breathing is difficult for the Lord Jesus. He must push Himself up with His legs, weight on the nail in His ankles, He must pull Himself up with His arms, weight on the nails in His wrists, just to breathe. Each time, His back is shredded again up against the cross. How can you continue in your sin as this process continues for hours? His heart is failing.  The weight of blood, fluid, and your sin overwhelms His heart. And as He cries “it is finished,” find a rock to hide under as the dead are raised, the mountains split, the sun turns black, and as the veil in the temple is split in two.  Peak out of whatever crevice you crawled into and see the Roman Soldier pierce the side of your Savior, fluid pours out confirming His death.  Surely this was the Son of God!

Several days later, Christ will rise again, confirming His victory over sin and death.  You now understand that the horror of the cross was endured to bring you into a right relationship with God.  It should have been you up on that cross. Instead, God poured out all of His wrath on His son.  Christ’s life fulfilled all righteousness and His blood covered all unrighteousness.  As Jesus rose from the dead, Christ now takes your sin and applies it to the cross and in exchange, He gives us His righteousness.  Now, we can enter the presence of God free from sin and death, not only are we forgiven, but God now sees in us all of the good from His son.  But it’s only by faith in Jesus Christ, which is a gift from God.

Be horrified by what your sin did to Jesus. Then rejoice! Because of the cross, we can spend eternity with Him. Live with gratitude toward your Savior.  Live to honor the One who took the cross in your place. Remember, with Jesus you died to sin.  Do not continue in it. He paid too high a price.

If you are in Christ, we must live in light of the horror and the magnificence of the cross. 

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