Thursday, July 25, 2013

Expect a Hard Long Bloody Fight

"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." - Hebrews 12:3-4

In the fight against sin, what do you expect? This is a vitally important question to answer, because our expectations influence our attitude and response in the midst of the fight.

It's common in the Christian life to expect our fight against sin to be easy. We can think, "Great! All I need to do is repent once in a big display of vulnerability and contrition, have God wave His magic wand over my struggles with porn, drugs, cutting, food, depression, anger, impatience, selfishness, and BOOM... healed! Just quick, easy, clean, once-and-done healing. Sweet deal!"

When this is our expectation, it sets up a very dangerous scenario. As soon as the fight takes longer than we expect, or is harder, or we fail, our world crumbles. We lash out at God. "What the heck God!? I thought you were a good Savior? I thought you were going to help me? WHERE ARE YOU? Why do I feel even WORSE than I did before?" And as the fight drags on, and more failures happen, we begin to grow radically bitter, jaded, and cynical. We begin to forget the gospel, we mistrust God, we become discouraged, and we eventually stop fighting altogether.

What if we had a different expectation? Expect the fight to be:
  • HARD, Not Easy: The fight will be hard. Up until this point in your life, you've just coddled and nurtured and aided your sin. But when the Holy Spirit stepped in, your heart was transformed. You were given NEW desires, because you became a NEW creation in Christ. For the first time, you truly FOUGHT against your sin. You went from peacetime to a state of war. This makes life harder than it was before. It means the fight has STARTED for the first time. It's going to be HARD with many painful decisions to cut off your hand, gouge out your eye, repent in radical painful ways. It will cost something. To make it, you will need to be strengthened, and properly equipped for the battle. You will need to train yourself, develop strategies, and enlist help from others. Sober up!! This is brutal. It is no cake walk. John Owen said it well of constant violence, "Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."
  • LONG, Not Short: The fight will be long. In God's sovereign wisdom, most of the time He allows you to wrestle with a besetting sin for longer than you would prefer. When you realize this difficult truth, you will have a decision to make, if you are going to scrap it and ditch God, or choose to rest in HIS forgiveness amidst your horrible performance. This is radically humbling. The fight will not be over in a few weeks after some 30-day Bible study program. Don't expect change overnight, or even over a year. Growth is best measured in decades, not days. It could take the rest of your life. How will you survive?? You will need the perseverance and endurance that only the Gospel can bring. That is the larger war that you're fighting, to remember and believe the gospel. Only the Cross of Christ provides the kind of empowerment that you need to make it long-term. 
  • BLOODY, Not Clean: The fight will be bloody. There will be failures. There will be compromises, betrayals, times when everything in you screams for your sinful idol to be gratified, AND YOU WILL CAVE. Expect this. Expect failure. If you expect it, you won't freak out when you find yourself slurping up the broken cistern toilet water that you vowed never to drink from again. This is pretty normal. Newsflash: You're a sinner, and you can't save yourself. That's the whole point of why Christ HAD to come to save sinners. We could NOT save ourselves. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much self-discipline you muster up, no matter how much you HATE failing, you WILL sin, you will fall, and it'll be YOUR blood on the ground. How can we make it?? You will need the encouragement of the gospel RIGHT AFTER the failure. You will need to stop going it alone, and gather brothers and sisters around you who can point you to Jesus. 
We MUST expect the fight to be hard, long, and bloody. If you have the wrong expectations, you will wind up dead, real quick. Have the proper expectations, and even when things get hard you will be even MORE encouraged. When someone tells you an experience will be hard before you get into it, somehow it becomes easier, because it's helpful to have a proper expectation. It validates your feelings of frustration and difficulty, and it assures you that you’re not crazy. It centers you and gives you a balanced mind. And it sobers you up to get hunkered down for a long-term fight. Get serious! Get sober! This is not gonna be a cake-walk to fight against your sin. Change your expectations!!

Consider three short applications out of this changed expectation:
  • Be Encouraged!: Is the fight hard? GOOD, that means you're fighting! Take that as a GOOD sign that you are nearing the enemy stronghold, you are gaining ground.True growth means a harder fight. The ONLY kind of growth is filled with bloodshed and pain. Victory is costly. You will strive and struggle for every INCH of gained ground in the fight of the Spirit vs. the Flesh. When it's hard, that means you're winning. 
  • Remember the Gospel: What is the gospel? Hard, long, and bloody. So be encouraged! Your Savior Warrior King is fighting alongside you. This is the kind of fight that HE is best at, the kind of fight that He knows. Dig in for a long term fight. Remember that the Cross is for failures, and it all depends on Christ, who has already won. When you remember the gospel, that means you're winning. 
  • Get Back in the Fight: You know what to do. What is just ONE next step you can take to deliver a shocking blow to the enemy? Take a deep breath, call on The God of Angel Armies, and keep fighting until He calls you home. Keep fighting. You're winning. 
Expecting Victory,
The Relentless Fight