The Two Sides of Sin: Overcoming with Christ
We can’t overemphasize the power of sin. It’s a ubiquitous monarch, reigning and ruling over humanity.
Yet sin is utterly inferior to God.
As Christians, we do not believe in Eastern dualism – the idea that good and evil reign together as equals. God, the Supreme Good, is Lord over all, and it will come about that “all things [will be] in subjection under Him,” not just in a mystical sense, but in material reality (1 Corinthians 15:28). Sin will be disposed in the pit of annihilation, and we will live with God in the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness alone will dwell (2 Peter 3:13).
However, while we’re still on earth, we must deal with the reality of sin. This is a field of study called hamartiology – the study of sin.
Sin has two tendencies: It either has a way of perpetuating its hiddenness or finding glory in exposure. As C. S. Lewis said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight” (The Screwtape Letters, IX).
Like the Serpent, sin is craftier than every creature (Genesis 3:1). The first craft of sin is its hiddenness. It hides in the shadows, unwilling to come to the light – until Christ has exposed it by the light of His glory. Because of this, sin functions like an animal; the more it is nourished, the more it begs. If given the chance, it will consume us.
We must be vigilant in regards to sin, always aware of the presence of sin in us. No matter how trivial the activity, sin has a way of ruling over us if we do not acknowledge its existence. Sin shows no partiality. It wants us to nourish it in every way possible; whether we are aware we’re nourishing it or not, as subtle as this nourishment may be.
However, we cannot scapegoat sin. Sin only has reality through our activity. If we did not choose sin, sin would not exist; but sin does exist, by virtue of our volition. Yet it’s not the case that we are practitioners of sin each moment; we are sinners each moment. As the saying goes, “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners.”
Sin has so deluded us that at one time, although we were enslaved to sin in every way, we were unaware of it entirely. We had the audacity to believe that we were in control of our own life, our own destiny, our own decisions. We were instead led along by “the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).
Sin is embedded in our very nature. It was only Christ who could pierce the division of sin-marred creation and His “good” creation. Because of Him, we can now choose between the will of the flesh and the will of the Spirit.
Once exposed, however, sin will call upon a different craft: condemnation.
It will call to itself more light than deserved. It will over-expose and glorify itself, causing spiritual death in our moments, as it takes the place of God. It will coax you into its ways, and afterward will deceptively inform you that God has removed Himself from you. This is legalism: the belief that one’s own works predicate God’s grace.
Do not be deceived: God does not function this way. God is “merciful and gracious,” not because we function righteously, but because it’s in God’s nature to be merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6).
Sin will remain a part of us until we experience glorification on the last day, but we can deprive sin of the nourishment of glorification and idolization, neglecting it to a state of dormancy. We must heed the commandment of God to Cain: “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
We must “rule over” sin in this way: by putting it in its proper place. We confirm its existence as the inferior of Christ, and more importantly, we subject ourselves under Christ, too. “Nothing good dwells in [us], that is, in [our] flesh” (Romans 7:18).
The defeat of sin is not accomplished through the strength of our volition. As the Apostle Paul made evident, to walk by the Spirit is to walk in contradiction to the flesh (Galatians 5:16). We have been called to a relationship with God. Because of Christ, we can now live and move and breathe in God.
And as we relate with Him in love, opening ourselves up to Him in each moment – because we have been granted the privilege to do so – we will inevitably close ourselves off to sin.
Director of Youth & Discipleship
Riviera Baptist Church