by J. David Branon & Christopher C. Warren
"Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness" (James 1:21, KJV)
People who are trying to become free from an addiction to drugs or alcohol understand an important concept. They know they will always be "recovering".
The lure of those substances is so insidious that former abusers who are wise know how susceptible they are to being sucked in again. They must always be on guard. Time and time again we've seen people in the public spotlight who seem to be cured, but who then have a relapse.
That principle is true not only of drug abusers but of all sinners. Those of us who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross are not recovered sinners, but recovering ones. We are just one sin away from falling back into a self-destructive pattern of behaviour. That's why we must be so careful to avoid any activity or relationship that will re-introduce us to the sin we hate.
We are tempted when we are drawn toward a sin. It doesn't become a sin until "desire has conceived" (Jas.1:15). And the more we deliberately expose ourselves to temptation, the less our resistance will be.
I have watched Christians return to smoking or drinking alcohol at the wink of an eye. Their rationalisations are many, sometimes even "scriptural". The fact of the matter is that our spiritual sanctification is a long process of little victories over sin. Give way on one, and all the others begin to fall away.
We wonder as we watch former New Covenant Christians return to their former sinful ways. It's a bit like going down a mountain. The further you go down, the further away the peak seems to be, until it seems so remote that we wonder if we were ever really at the top.
But that is the very illusion of sin. Once you begin to sin often enough you soon cease to believe it is a sin any longer. In fact, if you walk away from the mountain altogether, the peak will soon disappear from view. And you will wonder if your journey to the top had all just been a dream.
It is a serious mistake to believe that we can safely compromise in one single area of the Gospel. Jesus underlines the fallacy of such thinking by reminding His disciples that to break one point of the Law is to break it all. Every commandment and principle of the Good News of Christ is an essential building block in the spiritual life. Remove one here or there and your spiritual life immediately becomes weakened. Remove enough and it will collapse altogether.
It is no accident that scripture always likens Zion, or the Kingdom of God, to a mountain. Climbing a mountain is not like wandering in a plain: it requires considerable effort and risk. Men have built fortresses on mountains for good reason because it gives them protection. Every sin and temptation overcome lifts the pilgrim one step higher up the Mountain of the Lord; each one he yields to knocks him down several.
But this is not a doctrine modern Christians want to hear. They want an instant, MacDonalds-type salvation. It's pure fantasy, a terrible illusion of the modern "get-rich-quick" mentality. For them salvation is simply a question of passive belief and a little partying. But such a "disciple" is in truth merely following his own lusts. He remains in the valley, gazing up at the mountain in awe, but will not move his foot one step upwards.
Salvation is not instant. We are all "recovering sinners" and we need to leave plenty of room between us and sin. If we do, we will be less likely to stumble again. As one man wisely said: Being proud of overcoming sin is the first step to repeating it.
This page was created on 10 April 1998
Last updated on 10 April 1998
Reproduced with Thanks