Summary: Part 1 in series Getting Free, a series that looks at growth in the Christian life, this message shows that for a while the struggle with sin continues to play a part in the life of a person even after coming to faith in Christ.
Sermon One: Living in Sin for Jesus
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
February 17, 2008
I’m so excited about starting this series today! As most of you know by now I went to Indianapolis for a couple of weeks in January to take some classes. While I was there, I had the most powerful, the most incredible, the most substantive spiritual experience of my life. In the next five weeks, beginning today, I’m going to be sharing bits and pieces of that experience with you. See, this experience I had completely renovated my understanding of God and how I am to serve him for the rest of my life. It brought hope to me, and brought me a kind of power I never knew I could have. Today I want each of you to have that some hope, that same kind of power for living as followers of Christ.
If you are not a follower of Christ this morning, I invite you to come ready to observe in the next few weeks. I’d love an opportunity to show you what it means for our lives not to be centered around a set of religious rules, but around a relationship with a God who is living, and who wants to give us the power to live the life he has called us to live!
My life has been the story of religious struggle. I became a Christian at a very young age – so young I barely remember. All I really know is I instantly began trying to figure out how God would want me to live, and trying hard to live that way.
As I grew older I struggled harder and harder for spiritual perfection. I tried to do every single thing I thought I should do, and avoid everything I thought I shouldn’t do. Heck at one point in my early 20’s, I had set a personal record of well over 400 days in a row that I had prayed and read the Bible. Can any of you say that? Have any of you ever read the Bible 400 days in a row without missing a single day? Have any of you ever been so rigid and legalistic that you have actually kept track?
Then, in 1990, I lost a friend in a car accident and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, within a one month period. Suddenly my perfect Christian world began to crumble around me. What difference did praying and reading the Bible make now? It all seemed to irrelevant in the face of what I was experiencing. Suddenly God seemed – too small. So I rebelled and stopped believing for a few years. I stopped going to church. I even tried to stop praying, but I couldn’t! I claimed to no longer believe in God, but I kept praying if he was real he would show himself to me.
After a few years I began to see God again around the edges of my life. And I don’t want to go into this long story but when I moved back toward God, I just started doing more of what I had always done before. I read Thomas a Kempis and Brother Lawrence and Teresa of Avila and tried to emulate their lives. I failed. Then I beat myself up for being weak and undisciplined. Then I’d read a book about God’s grace and how we don’t have to perform, so I’d stop performing and then beat myself up for enjoying it too much. In the meantime I’m dealing with sin in my life – pride and ego and self-obsessions of various kinds and different kinds of addictions. And this is while I was a young pastor!
Do you hear what I’m saying? I’m saying not only was I in slavery to sin after I became a Christian, but even after I became a pastor. My heart was in the right place. Kind of. I didn’t WANT to sin anymore. I mean, I USUALLY didn’t want to sin anymore. But sometimes I still DID want to, and that’s when the struggle got brutal. And one day I created a church for other struggling Christian sinners and many of us have been struggling together ever since!
Because I know there are tons of you out there right now who are like I was. You are trying hard to do what you believe God would want you to do, trying hard to learn and follow Jesus’ commands, but just struggling brutally.
I know there are Christian men in this congregation right now who struggle – day after day, month after month, year after year, with pornography. You have given your life to Christ, you probably even were able to stay away from it for a while – but it has since then reared its ugly head again and again. And you’re either beat down by the constant struggle of staying away from it, or you’re beat down by the guilt of giving in. The problem is that even though you are a Christian, sin still has a hold on you.