I am reading a lot currently. Reading for different groups that I am a part of and reading to know Christ more intimately. All of the books I am reading are different- for different purposes, chosen by different people- and yet, as I am reading them, I find myself confronted by the same truths. It's gotten my attention.
I am reading through the book of Romans right now and discussing it with two college girls who I've been in a discipleship relationship with for 3 years now.
I am reading Jerry Bridges' book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate with those same girls plus two other college girls.
Our BCM leadership team is reading Follow Me by David Platt.
And I am reading Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman for a Mom's Book Club.
Clearly, very different books for very different purposes. And yet, I feel God speaking to me in each of them the same thing: Fight, Carrie.
I think I tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to my own sinfulness: self-loathing or apathy. I either get really down about my sin and beat myself up. Or I justify it or ignore it completely. And over and over lately, God has been convicting me and speaking to me.
The truth is- I AM a wretch. My sin is abhorrent. It is, as Jerry Bridges puts it, "cosmic treason" and a "despising of God himself." But, because of Christ, I am no longer bound by this sin! I am no longer a slave to it. When I wallow in my sin, it feels so powerful, like I cannot overcome it. And when I am apathetic towards it, I am just handing myself over to my flesh and surrendering.
The thing is- over and over the Bible tells us that we are at war with our flesh. We must fight! But we don't fight in our own strength or power, because we could never win. We fight, filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered by the grace of God and believing the Gospel is true! Jerry Bridges uses the analogy of an appliance- like a refrigerator. It is the motor that does the work in the refrigerator, but the only reason the motor can work is because it is plugged into the electricity. It is the electricity that powers the motor to do the work. We are the motor, we do the work- the Holy Spirit is our power source.
So, how do we fight?
- Gloria Furman spends a whole chapter of her book clarifying the truth of the Gospel and reminding us to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. "If God's matchless power is available to us, why would we prefer to rely on our inferior strength for personal growth in holiness?" p. 47
- We fight believing the Gospel is true- knowing that our sin has been completely atoned for, knowing that the victory has already been won, knowing that whatever sin we struggle with- the grace of God is greater and more powerful (Paul talks about this in Romans 5:20-21 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded ALL THE MORE, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.) And knowing that we have already received the perfect righteousness of Christ. In Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges really breaks down this righteousness for us. He applies it to specific sins. Struggling with anxiety? Christ was never anxious. He perfectly trusted God. And THAT righteousness belongs to you. Struggling with gossip? Bitterness? Discontentment? Jesus was not a gossip, he was never bitter and he was content all of his days. THAT righteousness is yours in Christ's death.
What does it look like, practically, to fight with the Gospel?
- Prayer- I've been encouraged to pray over my day before it begins- and not just the "day" but specifically pray for each event I have planned- even the mundane and ordinary ones. Pray for the loads of laundry I will do, the homeschool lessons, the meal preparation- specifically pray for the things that will lay ahead, the things I have planned- that God would empower me to fight, to wage war, in those moments, against my sinful nature, knowing that God is already using those moments to make me more like Jesus and has already gone before me in battle. And then, I've been convicted to utter small, desperate prayers as those moments arrive- as I can see that I am getting angry, or impatient, or as I see that this next task is going to really push me- to utter pleas in those moments.
- Remember of the Gospel throughout my day- The thing is, I don't want to compartmentalize God. I don't want Him to be something I think about only when I have my Bible out. If I do that, I'll never be able to fight. God is there all day with me. He is concerned about my thoughts and my activities- even the ones no one sees. And I am responsible to Him and dependent on Him in every moment. I can't forget that. So, I am putting up reminders to myself- like notes on my mirror, or refrigerator. I am scheduling texts to myself that say "God is with you right now," or "Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God," or "You have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith" or "There is more grace in Him than sin in me." Just reminders that will buzz on my phone throughout the day keeping my thoughts on Him.
- Music- a soundtrack to my day. A soundtrack filled with truth and Gospel words- filling my head and my home and my heart with the powerful words of God.
- Memorizing scripture- when it's right there in my mind, I can meditate on it no matter what I am doing. Right now I am memorizing Romans 1. So far, I have memorize Romans 1:1-12, and I find myself whispering it throughout the day, thinking about it because I am trying so desperately to get my mommy-brain to memorize it!"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, we we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" According to Scripture, the minds, hearts and lives of Christians revolve entirely around the words of Christ. Follow Me p. 78.
And lastly, remember the WHY of our fight. We are not fighting our sin because we want our home to be a happier place, or our marriage to be better, or our stress levels to go down (although I think all of those things will happen). We don't live and fight in the Gospel because this life will be better for us if we do. The reality of the Gospel is that our salvation is not about us. It's about Jesus. We fight for righteousness because a sinless Savior died to give us that righteousness so that every nation, tribe and tongue will know, and bow down, and proclaim that He is Lord.
According to Jesus' own words, he died so that "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations." Far beyond just dying for you and me, Jesus was dying to purchase people "for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Disciples of Jesus know that he is not merely a personal Lord and Savior, worthy of someone's individual approval. Disciples of Jesus know that he is the cosmic Lord and Savior worthy of everyone's eternal praise. Follow Me p. 90
I desire that all my activities of an ordinary day will honor God before other people. Jesus said, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Respectable Sins p. 57
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning His Son who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations. Romans 1:1-5
Jesus' work on the cross means more for you that an example for good living. The Bible is God's story of how he redeems a people he has chosen to worship him for all eternity. Glimpses of Grace p. 45
For His name, for His glory, for His fame- I fight. And because the battle is His, I win.