By Brooke Stacia Demott
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is to master you, but you must rule over it.” — Genesis 4:7
Every day, I choose to fight.
I don’t mean for political freedom or professional advancement. Rather, I fight to guard my heart from discontent, apathy and greed. I don’t want to be mastered by my impulses; I want to be free, driven by neither desire nor compulsion. I want my motivation for action to be love. And yet, I find that over and over again, I fail.
While we might earnestly desire to walk that narrow road which leads to a life of peace, our restless hearts often succumb to the veiled stranger who beckons us toward the wide path of destruction.
Our natures are bent toward the negative; we are quick to lay blame, criticize, complain, and play the victim because sin has snaked through every arena of this once-perfect world, coiling around our very hearts and strangling the life out of them.
It is powerful and pervasive. It is cunning and relentless. Sin will silence us with fear, doubt, or despair; it will bury us in suffocating riches; it will persuade us to forgo virtue in search of pleasure; it will promise to satisfy every longing, bandage every wound, and wipe away every tear, while quietly bleeding our souls dry.
Worst of all, sin has the upper hand on us. We are born into it, we are captivated by it, and we are on the wrong side of a deep chasm separating us eternally from God because of it.
We cannot win this battle alone.
What power on earth could possibly intercept sin’s inevitable victory? Even the apostle Paul cried out in desperation, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who can save me from this body which is subject to death?”
“This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” — 2 Chronicles 20:15b
Though our invisible enemies levy crushing blows that we cannot withstand in our own strength, this battle belongs to the Lord. Our creator and provider, our refuge and strength, our friend and our King is also the commander of heaven’s armies and fights on our behalf. If we live in outward rebellion to such a God, we truly are lost. But if we bow the knee to this benevolent king, who loves us with such abandon that he died for us to bring us victory over death itself. We need never be afraid that we will be overcome.
“For if our God is for us, then who can (succeed) against us?” (Romans 8:21) The answer is, no one.
Living a life that is pleasing to God is the surest way to remain strong and unencumbered, but when we fail, his vast love has made provision even for this.
“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice, the payment for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1b-2)
Jesus as savior
We have an advocate — an ally — in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It isn’t our righteousness that God weighs against his own when Jesus comes to our defense; it is the righteousness of Jesus himself. When we confess our sin, he covers us in his own perfect righteousness, and walks us back into loving relationship with his father, who receives us as his very own children, for Jesus’ sake.
How can one man die for the sins of the whole world? Jesus is no ordinary man — he is God made manifest.
Jesus clothed his divinity in human flesh and lived a perfect life in our place, since we aren’t capable of it. His spirit is eternal; as such, his spotless record could be applied to an unlimited amount of people. By his death, he paid the penalty for an infinite number of sinners and when he was raised from death, he demonstrated that this same God can raise from death an infinite number of believers.
Any damage done by wicked forces prowling the earth — or the recesses of our own hearts — pales in comparison to the camaraderie of Christ. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory that is to come.” (Romans 8:18)
Not only does the Lord stand with us in battle, he even furnishes us with armor: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness, sure-footed with shoes fashioned by the gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:13-16)
There are hundreds of promises that the Lord makes to those who fight alongside him. He comforts the afflicted and strengthens the weak; he supplies our needs and gives us power to walk in righteousness; he provides a way out of temptation and offers us joy in our trials; he gives us wisdom for living and boldness to live with purpose; he directs our steps and makes a way for his will to be done in our lives.
Finally, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to abide in the heart of every believer; to guide us in the truth, to remind us of all that Christ has done on our behalf, and to comfort us when we become weary or discouraged.
We are the recipients of a very curious offer. The most powerful king in the universe comes to the weak, vulnerable nation of man, and petitions for an alliance. He has nothing to gain; we can offer nothing in return but our loyalty. He will win this battle regardless of our participation, but he desires to share his victory with us. He is a king by title, and a savior by nature. How fortunate are we to be the object of his great affection!