Thanks for the kind words, guys!
Anyone may share anything I write here at any time. You don't need to credit me--I probably got it from somebody somewhere anyhow (even though I usually can't remember where).
I've met people who claim to be free from sin, and who have encouraged me also to become free from sin. At the time, this confused me. John said, "If anyone says he has no sin, he is a liar and abides not in the truth." However he may have expressed himself elsewhere, I think this statement may shed a little light to the effect that he may have been pointing to a goal rather than to a freedom we could expect to exercise fully whilst still in the flesh. Anyway, I was young when I last encountered this doctrine and many temptations are certainly more trying for the young. Now that I'm old, those temptations honestly don't trouble me at all. Others, milder and more socially acceptable, have taken their place.
We descendants of the "Age of Reason" have this problem: we feel the Bible ought to be interpreted like a chemistry textbook. It was written by passionate, loud, enthusiastic and imaginative Middle Easterners. The guys who tell you "If you resist, you will face the MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES!!!" Do they really believe this? Eh, I don't know. Probably not. They know they're angry and they're heated up and they intend to do all they can to, shall we say, discommode you. This is just the way they talk. The Russians are also famous for their quick tempered passion. Guess who they're descended from? The Bible is not a product of staid and stable professorial types. It's full of exaggeration, metaphor, hyperbole, and any other literary device you can think of. We somehow expect the writers of the various books and letters to be similar to the intellectual giants we admire in Western culture. Sure, many of them ARE giants, but I promise they're nothing like CS Lewis. That doesn't make the Bible untrue; it makes the Bible thoroughly Oriental. Oriental it IS, and that is the way it must be read if we are to understand it at all. If you offered the sort of staid and stable arguments we admire to a Middle Eastern crowd, they would find you utterly lacking in sincerity and conclude you not only didn't mean it, but you didn't care whether you even made a credible presentation of your points. This is not first-hand knowledge, BTW, but it's the testimony that I've read of a number of people who've made a study of (or grown up in) Middle Eastern culture.
Yes, when we miss the bull's eye, we ought to make an adjustment, aim more carefully, regulate our breathing, maybe look with both eyes instead of just one, wear sunglasses if necessary, etc. in an effort to get closer to our goal with the next shot. That's not to say that we can have complete control of our development. Our Father, who encourages, coaches, enables through His Holy Spirit, will ultimately conform us to the image of our Elder Brother, and not we ourselves. IMO, feeling blindly and sometimes pridefully that we've already arrived, is not helpful.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped me with besetting sins:
1. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. I'm not saying I've done this in all cases, and I think it needs to be done very circumspectly (people have been hurt), but even when I've balked, just the terror of the idea of needing to make confession has often made the sin far, far less attractive.
2. Realize that sooner or later, sin WILL be dealt with. I don't believe these things simply vanish when we die, especially if we've been willfully clinging to them. Maybe they do vanish if we have hated and fought them; I don't know. Maybe the destruction and eventual rebirth of our bodies into spiritual bodies negates at least those sins we are eager to let go of. At any rate, the idea of having to continue fighting this stuff in the age to come, where possibly others will see what I am ashamed of, whether or not I choose to confess has been a marvelously freeing thought experiment. Makes the sins much less compelling.
3. Realize that the person against whom we've sinned will probably eventually know what we've done. Even though I fully expect us all to have things like this, and to be wonderfully forgiving of one another, I'd just as soon have as few such things as possible.
You might have noticed all the above have to do with the avoidance of shame. I'm not sure how I feel about shame as a motivator, but it does have an effect on me. The OT at least, also uses shame as a motivator. One example is Ezekiel warning Judah how ashamed she will be when God eventually reconciles her.
That said, here is what Paul had to say about sins we hate but keep committing:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
You might justly say, "Yes, but that's what Paul was like before
he died in Christ, and that is an important point. I think that the idea of the already/not yet nature of our salvation explains this. Spiritually we are sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, fully victorious over sin through His victory. In the physical, we do still struggle against the law of our flesh and against the law of our minds. With our minds, we have some sway. We keep feeding them good things, the law of sin becomes weaker. With our flesh, our only hope is to overpower it and make it our slave--make it subordinate to our Spirit-led minds. That comes of feeding the mind on spiritual food and on spiritual communion with our Father and with one another. (Whatsoever things are good . . .)
Hope that helps a little, Robert.
You make excellent discussions.