Was 2019 a good year? For you personally, I mean. Did you hit all of your goals? Were you able to shed the last 10 pounds or continue the workout regimen you committed yourself to at the beginning of the year? Did you get the pay increase, find the job of your dreams, or did you finally gather up the courage to ask her for a date…and she said yes?! Did your team win the championship? Maybe you played a starring role, which made the year even better! A good year!
What about your relationship with your parents? Did you exhibit a submissive, humble spirit in your interactions with them? Or did you often talk back and speak to them in a demeaning, dishonoring way? How about with your siblings? Are they just cretins that get in your way and get under your skin? Or did you deal with them in love? Whether your parents, friends, or anyone else you came across, did you esteem them higher than yourself? (Phil. 2:3).
Did you keep yourself from evil in 2019? Or are you glad your parents have blinders on and don’t check your phone’s internet history or social media feeds? What kind of things would come to light if they did?
Maybe 2019 wasn’t that great a year after all. At least not in the eyes of the One who sees everything you tried to hide, and the one who examines the heart.
Here is what you have to understand. You carry within you every single moment of your life, someone who is bent on your destruction. He knows what makes you happy, and what puts you in a rage. He knows who you like and who you slander. He knows your strengths but is happy to prey on your weaknesses. He is your old man of sin. He is as wicked today as he was 15 years ago, and he will be just as wicked when you lie on your deathbed. He wants one thing and one thing alone, and that one thing is sin.
He is the one who tempted you to take that first sip or that first puff. He tempted you to move your fingers over the screen so that finally, that image appeared. And he is not just interested in extreme, shameful things. He loves private sins too, what some have called acceptable sins. Like when you envy someone else so that it begins to consume you. Or maybe you have just one small wicked thought about someone else because they always seem to end up on top. Or maybe you are the one on top. And you know it. So your heart swells with pride when you get the attention and the praise.
What should you do with that old man of sin? There is only one response—kill him (Col. 3:5).
One way you go about this destroying act day after day is by engaging in the spiritual disciplines.
Are you growing in holiness of life? Or do you still laugh at the same filthy jokes, abuse the good gifts of God, and run with your friends to the same “excess of riot” (1 Pet. 4:4) that you did years ago? Instead of killing your old man of sin, are you feeding him?
J.C Ryle spoke to the high cost of living a sin-soaked life when he wrote this in his book Holiness: “When people talk of having received “such a blessing,” and of having found “the higher life,”…while their families and friends see no improvement and no increased sanctity in their daily tempers and behavior, immense harm is done to the cause of Christ” (intro).
You say you love Jesus Christ. I believe you. Live, then, a life of gratitude to God. A life devoted to him where you are determined to show your thankfulness to him in a life abounding in good works.
The spiritual disciplines can help you in your determination. They can be that sword that you need daily to kill that old man of sin. Be in God’s word. Read it every day, meditating on it, praying that God would reveal your sins through your reading of it, even the sins that your old man has so far successfully hidden even from yourself. Finally, pray that God would increase your faith in Jesus Christ, because it is only in being united to Christ by a true and living faith that you are able to resist sin, the devil, and the increasingly evil world.
Apply the swords of fasting, prayer, and scripture reading to help you in your daily walk as you manage your time wisely (and don’t waste it), give of your gifts generously (and don’t squander them), and as you serve in the church and witness to others of the great salvation that you have in Jesus Christ.
May this issue of Beacon Lights be used by God to help you in your battle against your mortal, indwelling foe, and live a life of increasing obedience to him, which life pleases your heavenly Father (1 Thess. 4:1).
Originally published January 2020, Vol 79 No. 1