Lent: An Internal Conflict

The other day I was listening to a sermon (a sermon is a talk based upon a Bible passage usually given at a church service) by John Piper while I was exercising.  He asked the question: “How do you know if you are a saved child of God?” (A saved person is someone who has had their relationship with God restored.) He then began to expound upon Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  He went on to say: “As a Christian, you have an internal conflict between the Spirit and your sinful nature.  You have received God’s Spirit.  You identify your sin and put it to death!  As a Christian you hate your sin. You don’t like it. You don’t want it.  Your attitude towards sin is that way: get it out of my life.”

I was a little bit bothered by what he was saying.  I wanted to go and pause the sermon so I could think about it while I was exercising.  But then, my daughter Layla came down to exercise with me!  What was she doing down here right now!?  I need to think about this!  This is my relationship with God!  I have to get this resolved!  She stayed and exercised for a few minutes. But, then she got tired and went back upstairs. Thanks be to God! (I didn’t express any of this to her)  So, I asked: “Am I serious enough about putting to death sin in my life?  Is he saying I’m not saved if I’m not making progress?”  But, then I thought about it more.  He was not talking about progress but attitude.  He said: as Christians our attitudes towards sin is that way: We don’t like it.  And then he went to say: “The Spirit inside of you is bearing witness that you are a child of God. The very fact that you have this internal conflict going on is evidence that you are God’s child!”  I was encouraged.  He was right.  The Spirit lives inside of me. This same Spirit will raise me up again on the last day when Jesus comes again. A very challenging thing in my life turned into the best news I could have ever imagined hearing!

While we can look inside of ourselves to see if the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, we can also look outside of ourselves to God’s promises.  Christ died for all (Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians 5:14).  You and me included.  He offers forgiveness from the cross to all.  That forgiveness comes to you as you hear or read about it (Romans 10:14-17).  Then you confess that Jesus is your Lord.  God promises you will be saved (Romans 10:9).  In Baptism, God promises to save you (Mark 16:16; Baptism is the rite Jesus instituted to initiate people into God’s family). In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus says: “This is my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins” (Matt. 26:28; the Lord’s Supper is a meal Jesus gave to His followers to commune with and remember Him).  By faith we believe these promises are ours.  God doesn’t go back on His promises.  They are true. They are for you.

I thought all of this through.  But, I still didn’t feel totally at peace with myself.  I still wasn’t getting serious about putting some sins in my life to death.  I identified three things.

We are at the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a season of repentance and renewal in the Christian Church. Choose some things that you want to work on in your spiritual life. Pick someone you trust as your accountability partner.  Tell them what you want to work on and ask them to check in with you once/week to see how things are going.  Lent is 40 days (about 6 weeks).  Jesus fasted for 40 days prior to His public ministry.  He was getting ready for His ministry.  We’re getting ready for Good Friday when we meditate upon the cross where Jesus died.  We’re getting ready for Easter when Jesus rose from the dead and triumphed over death.

Before Jesus went to the cross, Jesus said to His disciples: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Gospel of John 14:2-3).