WHY Do We Constantly Battle Sin?

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

First Sunday in Lent
February 26, 2023

Scripture readings: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19     Matthew 4:1-11

During each Sunday in Lent, the sermons will each focus on a different WHY question that is drawn from the Scripture readings.  Today’s message asks:

WHY do we constantly battle sin?

Let’s see if we can come up with an answer that will suffice.

Let’s begin with three different answers.  

First, we constantly battle sin because God never wanted mindless robots who did his bidding without question or complaint; he wanted free human beings who loved him in return for the love he gives to each of us.

When God set up Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it was an ideal life for both of them.  Anyone examining this story has to wonder why they would both misbehave and go against God’s direct instruction.  But when we do this, we immediately forget that their ideal life included the choice to obey or to disobey.  The original story was about trust and obedience, but it became one of crime and punishment. 

The founding pastor of our church, the Rev. Ozzie Lutz, wrote in the margins of the Genesis commentary I used this week and noted, “The sole result was disobedience.”

You may notice that I am ignoring the whole concept of original sin as part of the answer to today’s question.  I don’t hold to the concept of “original sin” being in our lives because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve; I also don’t think I’m culpable because of the sin of slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, or the subjugation of women in the workplace in America.  Although I haven’t done any of these things, I will not ignore the truth that they happened in our country and perhaps with my own ancestors – and that it affects me and how I treat everyone today.

Perhaps some of that original sin stuff trickles down to us after all…

Our next answer: we constantly battle sin because we cannot seem to avoid the temptation to fix our own sins by ourselves.  Paul tells us that Christ got us out of the mess Adam got us into.  

  • What Adam did…Christ undid.
  • Where Adam failed…Christ succeeded.

Paul goes on to tell us that through Christ, we have a new – and probably more possible – goal: 

  • Life because of grace, instead of death because of sin.

However, the battle against sin continues because we are constantly trying to be “like God.”  What does this mean?

It means that when we try to deliver ourselves through our own actions and our thinking “I’ll just try even harder next time” we completely ignore the grace that is involved in forgiveness.  It says that with the right effort and the right actions, we will make it all right.

  • In other words, we will somehow earn our own forgiveness.
  • If this true, then why would we need God?

It is by God’s grace – and nothing else – that we are truly forgiven.

Our third answer is that we constantly battle sin because the nature of temptation is best illustrated by a fork in a road; the leading of the Spirit – or the opportunity of the devil.

  • We must choose. We cannot avoid the choice.
  • But also, we can rarely handle only two choices.

Each of the three temptations Jesus faces from the devil involved a VERY clear choice:

  • No other choices can be discerned;
  • No “what-if” scenarios;
  • No remaining neutral and not choosing;
  • We must choose – just as Jesus had to choose.

Here, it is always tempting to tell ourselves, “Well, I’m not Jesus.  I could never stand up to those temptations if I had been in his shoes.”  True…

But ask yourself this: where did Jesus get the confidence, the resolve, the power to face those three temptations the devil put before him – especially after fasting in the wilderness for 40 days???

Jesus got that ability to resist those temptations from the same place that each of us gets our own ability to resist temptation:

  • From God, of course.

We may not be tempted to turn stones into bread – or the other temptations Jesus faced – but we are constantly tempted to mistrust God’s readiness to empower us to face our own trials and temptations…even when we are beaten down and weak whenever we wander in the wilderness of our own lives.

Finally…do you like receiving gifts?  I sure do!  I love receiving gifts because they represent the love and affection the giver has for me.  

Forgiveness through Jesus Christ is our salvation and our gift from God.  

To refuse it, to turn away from it, to ignore it, to convince ourselves that somehow we don’t deserve it…is to go against the love, grace, and constant tender care that God represents.

He loves us.

He understands us.

Sin is our burden; forgiveness is our gift.