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How Serious is Sin?
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. - Mark 9:42-43, ESV
A popular misunderstanding of Jesus and the Pharisees is that Jesus was softer and more lax on issues of sin and obedience than the Pharisees. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!
An external legalism, such as the Pharisees taught and practiced, is based on a very light and trivial view of sin. To think that we can arrange and manage the details of our lives and get our sin under control by a long list of rules is to be deluded and to fail to see sin for the deadly and persistent enemy it really is. Jesus' view of sin was much more serious and His call to holiness much more radical.
The real Jesus we find in the Gospels is not a Jesus of cheap grace and easy living. His voice is closer to the call echoed in John Owen: "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you!" Jesus calls for a radical, all-out war against sin. His saving grace gives us the power to kill sin by the indwelling Holy Spirit, not to manage, control, limit or play with it.
Salvation given by Jesus Christ brings a grace into our lives which is powerful and life-changing, not cheap and sin-coddling. We do remain subject to the influence of remaining indwelling sin in our lives until we reach glory and are made like Jesus. But we do not remain unchanged and powerless against sin. We can - we must - cut it out, throw it away, put it to death. No sacrifice will be too great, no loss too costly when we are fighting and killing sin.
But let's make sure we understand something: We cannot do this on our own. We are powerless against sin. The truth is, we love it too much! Only Christ in us can kill sin. He overcame every temptation and defeated sin utterly and completely. We must abide in Him and have His words abide in us, so that He can kill sin in us.
We have His promise that He will never abandon us in this fight. We also have His promise that one day the fight will be over and we will be victorious in Him!
Prayer Based on Psalm 84:
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house,
ever singing your praise!
Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion
As they go through a desolate, barren time in life
Your grace makes the valley into a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
And so, by Your grace, we go from strength to strength;
each one of us appears before You, our God, in Your heavenly Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of Your anointed, Your Christ!
Look upon us, Your people, as those who belong to Christ, Your Son.
For a day in Your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing do You withhold
from those who walk uprightly,
from those who are made upright in Christ.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in You!
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