Monday, October 01, 2007

Damn! Why Can’t I Stop?

Damn! Did it again!
Damn! Why can’t I stop?

Perhaps you consider yourself too pious to use the word that God uses regarding this situation, but in our hearts, we all know it to be true. Damn is the only word that can be applied to our sin. At least that is the only word that we, according our own reason and strength, have the power or authority to apply.

God, however, authorizes another word: Absolved!

We, however, have trouble hearing Him say this and believing it to be true. Oh, we accept the reality of His absolution for most sins, but certain ones seem to be bigger than others. Certain sins we find ourselves addressing with words like, “Why do I keep doing this?”

These thoughts can lead to despairing of God’s grace. These thoughts can lead to doubting whether or not a person is truly saved and truly a child of God.

The real issue that we face, however, is not the sin that we count as big and insurmountable. The real issue is the sin that we think that we have defeated, the sin that we do not count as damning, the sin that we do not feel troubled by in our conscience.

The “big” sin is actually a blessing in disguise. It is the sin that we cannot pretend does not matter. It is the sin that brings us to our knees and strikes terror into our hearts. It is the sin of which we cannot help but to respond to with the exclamation of: Damn! This is the sin that we find inescapable by anything that we try to do. This is the sin that leaves us with no alternative except to admit how truly and hopelessly wicked, evil, and far from God that we are.

We eagerly ignore and forget that the wages of sin is death. This is not just the sin that we choose to count as truly bad, but all sin. We turn aside from the awareness that we are born sinful. Sin-Full. All of our actions, all of our thoughts, all of our words, according to the fact that they came from us, are Sin Full. There is no level at which what we do according to our own efforts is ever acceptable to God. They are Sin Full and cannot be received by the One who is absolutely perfect and holy.

This is why Christ died for all. This is why Christ was made to be Sin for us. Our salvation demands that He take the sin of the world, all of it. In order for us to be free, He had to receive what God cannot receive. He had to receive our flesh in order to do it. “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” He took a fleshly tent and into His own body He received the sin of the entire world and suffered its power to destroy and kill and damn.

This is what we need to remember in connection with our Sin Fullness. It was not just the big sins that filled up Jesus so that he was made to be sin for us, but every sin.

The Big Sin that makes us feel cursed, is the sin that really benefits us. It is the sin that causes us to realize that the Law is right in declaring sin to be absolutely insurmountable at every level. We don’t stand a chance against sin. God must conquer it for us.

St. Paul says:

For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:13)

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
(Romans 7:7-13)

Without the Law of God, without the commandment not to lust or covet, who would consider coveting to be sin? Who would realize what coveting really is? The Law comes to us and kills us. Without the Law, we are alive, thinking ourselves to be living good lives. The Law comes to us and says, “You shall not covet.” Suddenly we hear:

How dare you accuse God of being unfair on account of His gracious dealings with your neighbor? You wicked idolater! You evil blasphemer! How dare you imagine that what God has given to you is not sufficient for you so that you imagine that you need what someone else has? You stand condemned as pure wickedness, you vile creature! You are not worthy of receiving anything good whatsoever, only damnation and everlasting death!

Suddenly, because of the Law, we see ourselves as we really are. The Law says, “You shall not covet” and suddenly we are full of coveting that we did not even recognize. Suddenly we see that our entire being is one of coveting. Suddenly we know that we truly are Sin Full.

No wonder St. Paul speaks of the Law as spiritual and good. What a blessing it is for us to know our Sin Fullness and hopelessness. For then we stop trying to overcome sin, and turn to the One who has accomplished this for us even from eternity.

This is what Jesus preached throughout His ministry among the Jews, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

This is why God commands that we “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” He has provided us with a safe haven where we may flee for the assurance of His salvation. He has established the communion of the saints, the holy catholic Church. Within this holy communion He provides the Gospel in its purity and the Sacraments which He has filled with His grace. He has provided us these because He knows that we cannot conquer our Sin Fullness. He must bring us to Himself so that He may take our Sin from us and pronounce us to be clean, that is, sanctified. We cannot do this for ourselves. Thank God that we do not have to, for He does it for us.

So the next time that you feel the weight of a recurring sin that seems too big for you to conquer, rather than continuing in your Sin Fullness, rather than continuing to turn to your own reason and strength, hear the call of your God and Savior, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Remember that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever, and turn away from your own efforts, turning to Him, through the means in which He has promised to come with blessing for all whom He calls.

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