“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.” C.S. Lewis
I always tell Bible students and others I try to help that things in the Bible often come in three’s:
Proverbs 22:19-21: “Have I not written to thee EXCELLENT things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee” (KJV).
The word excellent, as it is used here, is “shalish” in Hebrew, which means THREE-FOLD or weighty. It is not usual, then that we find the Word of God continually making reference to objects, situations, places and persons in 3’s.
For example, salvation is a three-fold process:
We are saved in our spirits (justified), being saved in our souls (mind, emotions and wills – sanctification) and we will experience complete and total salvation in our bodies (glorification) at Christ’s return.
I could spend way too much time on this, so I want to focus on the “Three P’s”:
1) Penalty of sins
2) Power of sin
3) Presence of sin
List of Sins
Usually, Christians have a good handle on the first and last Ps, the penalty and presence of SINS since so much has been preached on this. Some churches major in preaching against sins – even to the saved. I found a website that listed every sin mentioned in the Bible, and there are 667 verses that identify specific sins – http://www.wogim.org/sinlist.htm. Have you ever focused on your own sins? You won’t get over them! You know why? Because what you focus on gets bigger!
So, Christians who stay focused on the first “P” live defeated and usually legalistic lives, even acting as “ sin sheriffs” for everyone else. Every time they judge someone for their sins, they end up committing the same ones! (Romans 2:1-2). The last “P” is preached because heaven has no sins in it, but if we dwell on this fact too much, we can’t celebrate victory now on a consistent basis. We’ll be singing “Over There” all the time. I had a pastor who used to say, “Sinners would never enjoy heaven because they would be out of their element.” If you’re like me, every time I hear a person who has no concept of what heaven’s like sing about it, it makes my skin crawl!
The main ‘P” people miss is the second one, or the Power of sin. If you do a study on this, you’ll find that SIN (not sins) is generally referred to as singular in nature. That’s because it’s about the SIN or the Adamic nature, sometimes referred to as the flesh or the old man. Here is something Christians need to understand: the Blood didn’t defeat the old man – it took away our sins, but it was the power of the death of Christ that killed the SIN of Adam (his DNA) in us! That DNA has in it everything we hate about ourselves if the fear of the Lord is working in us, and we want to grow up into spiritual Christians (Gal. 5:19-21, I Cor. 3:1-3).
The born again self has a new DNA, that of Jesus Himself, but which one rules in us? If we find ourselves hating, boasting, lusting, resenting, condemning others, backbiting, and playing around with occult things, etc., what DNA is having the upper hand? Face it, if this is our consistent behavior, we either don’t know Him at all, or the flesh and not the spirit, is in charge:
People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test (1 John 3:9 – The Message).
My guess is Christians who really want to walk the walk but find themselves in the above scenario on a consistent basis simply don’t understand what really happened at the cross.
Most Still Don’t Get It
We’ve received most of the theological revelation in the New Testament through Paul’s letters. He spends an entire chapter (Romans 6) on how the SIN nature was dealt with on the cross, but to his chagrin, his Christian audience had essentially no understanding of this (Romans 6:1-2)! I think Paul would be surprised that after more than 2,000 years, many believers still don’t get it!
Think of this way. Trees have several parts, but the main ones are the roots, the trunk, the branches and the leaves. If you were to attempt to kill a tree, how would you do it? Well, I don’t know much about forestry, but you don’t do it by cutting off the branches or the leaves! Sometimes even cutting the trunk down won’t kill it! The roots, which bring nourishment to the tree, have to be cut to pieces and destroyed.
The roots are synonymous to the self life (Rom. 6:6), or the totally self-focused life that gives life to the SIN nature or the trunk of the tree. From the trunk spring the branches and from those the leaves (sins) come forth. This is why John the Baptist cried, “The ax is laid at the root of the tree” (Luke 3:9). If you want to kill “the old tree of your life,“ you have to lay an ax to your roots! What’s the ax? It’s a declaration and agreement that Jesus has already killed that tree! If you deeply believe this, you will find new freedom from old longstanding habits. Incidentally, most deeply rooted behavior can be traced to childhood, where the roots are formed in the first six years.
Yep, Little Billy Bob Brat and Susie Selfishness’ roots started to grow at conception, and if they weren’t disciplined and nurtured, according to the Bible (Eph. 6:1-3- KJV), by the time they reach puberty or before, they’ll be a sinful little handful. Their world will be – you guessed it – all about them!
Can you see now that trying to quit sinning is basically useless without killing the old self life? We have been forgiven for all our sins, and have passed out of death to eternal life (John 5:24, and God said that keeping that slate clean is handled through repentance and confession (1 John 1:9). For some believers, the sin cycle is marked by endless and self-berating confessions and trips to the altar of their church. In other words, living an up and down (mostly down) experience is the norm. Been there, done that and have a warehouse full of t-shirts!
“Killing” the Self Life
But how does a believer “kill the self life” since Jesus already accomplished it for us? Paul said it is done so by “reckoning” it so (Rom. 6:11). It means first that we agree with God that Jesus accomplished this death of the old self and SIN for us on the cross but that we died also (Gal. 2:20, 5:24). And, second, knowing this, then, we are to apply that death to the “structures” in the SIN nature. The structures are those persistently intransigent or stubborn practices of sin that “refuse” to go, no matter how much we confess, pray, stand or hate ourselves for them! All this is handled as an act of faith in what Jesus has done, and not by beating ourselves up! I’d call this Good News.
This is not an easy task for several reasons. We don’t want to admit we can’t defeat SIN. We try ignoring it; we consistently employ worship and praise, thinking this is the thing to do it to escape it. And although this is wonderful – as soon as we get out of this atmosphere – we fail again; we constantly confess verses, stay positive, and of course, there’s the always handy tool of DENIAL — that we really don’t have the problem/s in the first place! Yeah, right. Remember: Denial is a river in Egypt.
“Old Joe Beckham” (insert your name) was nailed to the cross of Jesus to die the death to SIN and the self life, and a brand new Joe (your name) was made available to me/you, but I/you had to accept this. This is called “newness of life.” But here’s the problem – old Joe/you won’t to stay dead! Theologically, speaking, though this is all true concerning our co-death with Christ, until we experience the last “P,” this sin nature will attempt to reassert itself! The Bible’s answer to this dilemma is, as I mentioned earlier, by reckoning this reality as true, but also in “dying daily” (1 Cor. 15:31) to ourselves. This is done by putting Jesus first and others second in our relationships. Congratulations, we get to be third – Oh, happy day – LOL!
“Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4 – Amplified).
In our society in which we are trained and skilled in taking care of me first, or “my four and no more,” this is indeed a challenge but not impossible. God expects a higher level of living from His folks.
It’s true that we live in trying to times in which life has become expendable in the eyes of many, especially to the ungodly and those who simply live for themselves. The economy will push some over the brink into greater and greater lawlessness, and some will lie, cheat, steal and kill for self-preservation. God wants His people to live higher by “going lower” into humility. Much can be learned and lived by putting the self life to death. This is simply the way of God and not some outrageous request. It’s our choice.
At the end of his life, Bro. Paul, the great apostle, declared, “I am the worst of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). (Of course, he never met me!) His understanding of himself was quite clear. He was saved by grace, sanctified by grace and going to heaven only because of grace. Paul was so keenly aware of the glorious holiness of God that in that incomparable light, he could only say, “I am the worst sinner whoever lived.” I’ve heard people ridiculously preach that we shouldn’t any longer say we’re sinners (what Bible were they using?). As we get hold of the deeper understanding of the Power of the cross, we will all say, as Paul did, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, my flesh” (Rom. 7:18).