It would seem that cycles rule over our life. If we study history, there would appear that there is a pattern through which events tend to repeat themselves. In our own personal lives, we may also go through cycles. So many of us struggle with sin, always vowing that this would be the last time and yet repeating those very sin in time to come.
The great apostle, Paul, recognized this, when he wrote his letter to the Romans. In Romans 7:15-20, we find him confessing his toil in understanding himself. He understood that the commandments of God are good and right, yet he wrestled in following them. That which he knew that will result in misery and that he did not want to do, he did.
One of the great things of the Bible and its writers is that they recognize that they’re standing before a living and Almighty God. And it gives them a total realization of their accountability for the things they recorded. Because of this, unlike many other written or spoken words, the Bible is full of radical honesty. This is one sense in which we know that the content of the Bible is truly inspired by God.
Paul, when he was writing this letter to the Romans, was brutally honest with himself. But within this passage, there are also echoes and insights into the character of sin and its cyclic nature. How do we break out of such cycles? Many men wrestle with this issue secretly, partly because of ego, but also partly because they carry a sense that they need to be strong and it would be unmanly to share their problems with anyone else.
However, in order to overcome problems such as these, we need help and a sense of accountability. Last Saturday, Men Alive at DUMC looked into the issue and much fruitful lessons resulted from the discussions.
Brother Nathan Sam led the fellowship into looking at the issues connected to the cycle of sin. First of all, in order to begin overcoming sin, we must recognize that sin is bondage. What is bondage? The dictionary defines it strongly as a state of being bound. In other words, it is slavery. Furthermore, this form of slavery is a universal one.
In Romans 3:10, Paul recognizes that not one person throughout history had been or is exempt from blemishes in their life. This was true during his time and it is still true during ours. Many of us have our own idols in our life, and these idols have the ominous tendency to become addictions.
Nathan explained that the nature of sin is like toxoplasma, the causative agent of toxoplasmosis. To put it simply, toxoplasmosis is a highly contagious disease spread by food that has been contaminated by diseased rats or cats. In pregnant women, it may damage the fetuses.
There is a cause and effect for every sin. Uncontrolled greed will very often lead to lives being buried alive by unhealthy compulsions. Uncontrolled anger will lead to temporary madness in which people do crazy things, sometimes even murder. Uncontrolled gluttony will lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled sloth will lead to stagnancy and a loss of will and spirit. Sin is serious business and it grows to become obstacles in God’s plan for our lives.
How do we break out of such a cycle? Paul, thousands of years ago, had been aware of the total impossibility of human strength in transcending it. Yet, ultimately he knew that Jesus had already given us the solution. In 1 John 4:18, Scripture states that perfect love has no fear for it casts them all out. Like the Prodigal Son, we need to trust in the love of Christ and turn back to Him.
The process of breaking out of such overshadowing bondages as these takes time and is a step-by-step process, but there are important points that we need to identify. Firstly, we need to acknowledge our complete dependency on Christ and His redeeming work. However, there also need to be initiative on our part. We need to be intentional in identifying our bad habits and sin and take responsibility for them.
Having identified our problems, we need to go beyond our egos as men, repent before God, and ask Him to take control in our lives. We need to be consistent and patient during the remolding process. Bro Nathan illustrated this by using an analogy of a string being cut into half.
Resorting to our own wills is like cutting a string in such a way. It would result in a situation very much like one of Zeno’s Paradoxes. No matter how much string we cut away, the string would always be there. Only Jesus has the power to remove the string completely.
Pastor Chris Kam also shared during the session and he spoke about being focused on Christ. In everything that we do, be aware that though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. As men, we must take responsibility not just for the lives of others, but also for our own lives. We must ensure that we are not mastered by damaging habits, tendencies, or addiction.
An example of a lesson we can gain from the Bible is one from the life of King David. David is known today as a man after God’s heart. Even so, one day as he was walking on the rooftop, he happened to saw Bathsheba as she was bathing, and he fell right into sin. Furthermore, his sin of adultery led to other sins, to the point even of murder.
It is interesting how sin comes into people’s lives, Pastor Chris shared. David wasn’t sinning when he went to the rooftop. He was probably taking a rest after a hard day’s work. He wasn’t sinning even when he first looked at Bathsheba. The sin came with the second look. The Bible states that David saw that the woman was very beautiful (2 Samuel 11:2); it meant that David was intentional in observing the woman bathe. Furthermore, he sent men to find out more about her. This is the beauty of the Bible. Everything recorded within it is purposeful.
The carelessness of David caused even a man after God’s heart to fall into sin. There is a lesson here for us to remain humble. Do not think that we are so righteous that we are exempted from falling into sin. Always remain humble, Pastor Chris counseled, and practice carefully considered boundaries and watchfulness in our lives.
In today’s world we can be assured that everything about money, sex, and power will be placed at our eye level. That is the way it is. Companies will do their best and in whatever means they can to catch our attention to their products. It is our role to take care of our own lives. Entertaining the first look may not be sinful but it has a danger of leading to the second look. Pastor Chris counseled that it is wise to heed the principle: “Don’t go to the rooftop”.
What makes the difference between the Garden of Eden and the New Earth? In the Garden of Eden, God visited Adam daily. In the New Earth, God will be living among us and there is a high probability that sin will become a problem of the past. Until the New Earth comes, the Holy Spirit is in us, guiding us daily in our every daily decision. As Christian men, we need to learn how to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
NOTE: This article is a personal reflection, guided extensively and written through the lens of the value and understanding the writer has gained since attendance in the Men Alive fellowship at DUMC. Men Alive meet one Saturday per month. The next sessions are as follows:
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– Jason Law