To Live or Die

May 3, 2017


The choice is simpleWe either do what we want or what God wants.

The result will not be the same.  Those who do what they want will die.  But those who do what God wants will live.  Put simply, it is a life or death choice.

That is what Paul taught.  Inspired by God, he imparted that fact to people in Roman (Romans 8.13).  He did some-thing similar to people in Colossae.  I say similar because to them he gave an instruction (Colossians 3.5).  He calls them to put to death all that is contrary to God’s will.

That raises two important questions.  Why do you do wrong?  And, what can you do to keep yourself from doing wrong?

Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3.4).  It is a breaking of God’s law.  Naturally speaking that is what all people are inclined to do.  We cannot help it.  No matter how hard we try to keep God’s commands we fail to love and serve him as we should.  Although made new by God, Christians can still sin.  And they often do.First, I would like to explore with you some reasons why Christians sin.  I shall mention three.

(1) We are inclined to neglect our duty.  What is our duty?  Paul provides a neat summary.  We are to put to death all that displeases God and we are to put on all that pleases him (Colossians 3.5-17).  These are not optional extras.  They are commands.  Commands, that is, that we are under an obligation to keep just as the early Christians were.  For, what God inspired Paul to say to believers in that ancient Greek city, God says to you and me today.

But, if we are not watchful, we will grow cold.  Our responsibility is to take care to do our duty.  We are to do it with due diligence.  Faint or weak effort in the doing of our duty invariably leads to spiritual decline.  We backslide.

(2) We are inclined not to keep watch.  The task of a sentry is to keep guard.  He is to watch out for the enemy.  His aim is to provide protection.  That is what you are to do.  You are to be careful to protect yourself from sin.  You are to keep watch for the temptations that will surprise you.

You will only do that if you know how serious and subtle sin is.  It is serious because any and every sin is an offence against God.  And for the Christian especially, it is an offence against God who has in love provided the perfect Saviour.

(3) We are inclined to give in too easily.  We fail to persist.  Our duty is to resist both the Evil One and sin.  Both are relentless in enticing us to neglect God’s will.

We can learn from the way Adam and Eve sinned.  A tactic used by the devil was to suggest that God has not said what he has said.  It was to cast doubt on God’s Word.  It was to encourage doubt.  And it was to get our first parents to imagine that they would not be worse off if they gave in to the temptation.  And thus it was that they failed to obey God.  They failed to remain true to him.  They failed to do his will.Secondly, I ask you carefully to note what you can and should do when tempted.  I do not suggest that you will prove victorious over temptation by your own effort.  Without Christ you can do nothing.  You certainly cannot resist the enticements of sin without him.  However, the Christ who indwells believers and who, by his Spirit, gives them victory over the world, the flesh and the devil, calls them to do the right thing in the face of temptation.  What can you do?

What can you do to encourage yourself not to give in to the deception of sin?  You should do the following.

(1) Remember who God is.  He is the Sovereign Lord by whom and for whom you were created.  His will for you is that you do not sin.  Thus if you succumb to temptation you offend him.

Joseph remembered that when the wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him.  “How then,” he said, “can I do this great wickedness and sin against God” (Genesis 39.9).  His thinking is commendable.  His response was right.  His thoughts focused on God and his will.  When temptation struck he reminded himself that God says adultery is sinful.  Being mindful of that fact he knew that what he needed to do was to get away from the situation in which he was being tempted to indulge in sensual pleasure.  Most people see such pleasures as enjoyable and therefore worth having.  Joseph saw them for what they are: dangerous and deadly.  For the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18.4).

(2) Remember the punishment appointed by God.  Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that those who know God’s commands yet choose to sin deserve to die.  He informs us that those who sin also approve of those who do the same (Romans 1.32).  Later he adds, “if you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8.13).  You should be under no illusion.  God sees what we do.  And he will call us to give an account on the last day.(3) Remember what God has promised.  “I take you to be my people, and I will be your God” is what he promised the people of Israel in the days of Moses (Exodus 6.7; Leviticus 26.12).  What he said to them he says to all believers in every generation.  Consideration of the fact that God will be a father to his people for evermore (2 Corinthians 6.18) will help you resist temptation.

John Owen says that, “If the mind is attentive to this consideration, there can be no prevailing attempt made upon it by the power of sin.”  He reminds us that it is important to have right thoughts.  We are to store away in our minds the promises of God.  We are to be mindful of the purposes of Almighty God.  And we are to deploy such thoughts when the world, the flesh and the devil press in upon us to entice us to sin.

(4) Remember what Jesus has done for you.  He came to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21).  How did he do that?  By living a perfect life on their behalf and by dying the death they deserve to die.  On the cross he accepted the guilt of the sins committed by those whom he represented.  And he shed his blood and died so that all who believe that he did that in their place and for their benefit will know forgiveness for their sins.

God is a just God.  He does not punish sins twice.  If Christ has borne full punishment for them, he will not punish those who believe that he did so on their behalf.

Forgiveness is not the only benefit a Christian enjoys.  He also receives the Holy Spirit of God who enables him to desire the things of God.  Moreover the Spirit strengthens a believer to resist sin.  The Spirit also teaches him not to grieve, quench or resist the promptings and leadings of the Spirit.

Those who remember who God is, the punishment sin deserves, God’s promises, and what Christ did are able to say no to sin.

EPC  30 April 2017