The Forgotten Weapon in the Fight Against SinBy Jamie Maxim
December 10, 2020
Hebrews 12:1b “… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, …”
I am a church planter. That is really not that significant. It just means I am a little crazy. I am probably more apt to run through a wall to solve a problem rather than go through a door. Unfortunately, I have taken on that practice too often when trying to overcome sin. After all, we are supposed to put off and put on, right?
I work hard, so I try to work hard at the putting off and the putting on. I have the internet screening software. My wife has access to all my electronics. I have countless men I can call. I know the right questions to ask myself because it’s my job to ask those questions of the flock I care for. I work hard to put on.
I memorize scripture because Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”Being intentional to steer towards righteousness. So why has it been so hard in my battle to fight sin? Why do I feel like I am so much more prone to have the sin cling so closely rather than laying aside every weight and sin? Why do I keep picking up the weights and throwing them in my backpack? Because I am a terrible “gardener”.
It’s not unimportant that we use the term church planter. Church planters often learn all kinds of pruning techniques. We learn how much water to use, what kind of fertilizer to use, and even how to use that weed killer if you absolutely have to, which is really helpful. But we often neglect a crucial aspect of gardening: the soil.
Fighting Sin with a Grateful Heart
How do we fight sin? Though pruning techniques have their value, they are futile if you plant in the wrong soil. The soil we need to plant in and cultivate is the soil of gratefulness. In Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul says, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” The absence of gratitude allows sin to come in. Gratitude is the water and nourishment our souls need to bear good fruit. Fires spread when there is no moisture and the plant life is dry. The fires of lust grow in the dryness of the lack of gratitude.
Think about it. When I believe I deserve something (more respect, more income, more sex, etc…) and I do not get it, I become angry or I excuse indulgence in the many pleasures this world has to offer. I begin to believe that I deserve an escape. I have earned it. I work hard caring for God’s people. Here is the truth: I deserve far worse than I have ever received. When I pursue sin I have exchanged the image of the immortal God to worship myself. (Romans 1:23) I deserve death and hell for my actions.
BUT GOD. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5). When I truly believe I have received that which I did not deserve, it changes my soil. I become grateful. When I bask in the glory of his grace, I grow in gratefulness. When I recount the many specific ways my God has extended blessing and mercy to me, I become more grateful.
Practically a faithful friend challenged me a year ago to write down something I am thankful for every day. There was one catch. I can’t ever repeat anything (which means I can only put down my wife’s name once). Once I moved past all the obvious blessings I really had to slow down and press into this practice. How has God blessed me? If I am honest, each day it became harder to write down only one item. I write them down in this little black notebook which I have come to affectionately call “my little black book of thankfulness”.
As a church planter, I do not need to work harder. What I need is to stop trying to run through walls. I need to stop believing the lie that I am the overcomer and remember that He is the overcomer. What God has done is give me what I do not deserve. The evidence of his amazing handiwork is all around me.