I have been using YouTube recently to engage a number of sound Christian teachers to increase my biblical knowledge and understanding. However, when it comes to discipleship, it seems they all do not touch on the area of that discipline that I wanted to learn about the most, that is being discipled into a mature Christian by dealing with the sin in my life. They do cover the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:1-2) and growing in my understanding and proper use of scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). However, I have been trying to find those whom I can trust who will cover growing in righteousness, dealing with the sin in my life through self examination and repentance. It is the exploration of this particular focus in the arena of discipleship that I find so lacking, but it is the one I struggle with the most and need the most help.

Scripturally, Paul is a good role model for this concern. In Romans 7:7-24, the Apostle laments over his struggle with sin. He knows it is sin because the law has shown him clearly the sin in his life. It has schooled him in the knowledge of sin. It is true that in Romans 8:1-17 Paul deals with Christ rescuing us from the condemnation of sin, but that rescue does not remove the struggle. Note how Paul describes his actions in verses 15-20. He uses the present tense. He says over and over, “I do, I do, I do.” Right now, today, “I do.” He has not gotten past this issue.

Yes, I understand I am a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yes, it says, “the old has passed away”, meaning the old man, the old nature has been displaced from its preeminent position in my life, and the new born again creation in Christ Jesus is now the central guiding force in my life. I know this is due to the Holy Spirit setting me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, looking back to Romans 8:1-17. However, I still have to deal with the old man. I still sin. And no matter how hard I try to prevent it, sinning continues. It seems that as I deal with one area of sin in my life, two others are identified. I am constantly struggling, since God continually opens my eyes to see more clearly another sphere of besetting sin. To be honest, sometimes this gets me discouraged, but like Paul my struggles with sin bring me back to repentance and the reliance on the Holy Spirit who continues to rescue me from this predicament.

The temptation to discouragement comes from this continual battle. This also happened to Paul. Later in his life, as the Apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, God gave him a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to remind his old man how weak he was, and to remind his new creation of his dependence on God for any strength that he had. Sin was crouched at his door and the thorn in his flesh reminded him of this explicitly. I can see how God does a similar thing with me, to keep me humble and dependent on Him, but this is so hard. Living out discipleship is not for the weak of heart.

So, in closing out these initial thoughts, there are a number of observations I have about this struggle:

  1. As long as I am alive, the old man in me lives, so sin is always close at hand and temptation will never leave me alone.
  2. As I fight to release the grip the old man has on my life in one area, nailing that sin to the cross, God shows me other areas where he still has a stronghold on my life.
  3. While I do see progress in my sanctification (the outworking of discipleship), the closer I seem to get to God, the dirtier my life seems to me. As the light of God’s holiness gets brighter it illuminates every fault within me, uncovering things previously unseen.
  4. I cannot do this in my own strength. I am reminded that it is by the agency of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that I progress at all in this effort. Paul’s statement in Hebrews 12:2a, I like the NKJ here, ” looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. He gave us our faith (author) and it is he who brings it home (finisher). In addition, we already looked at Romans 8:1-17 where the Holy Spirit participates in finishing this effort. Finally, in the well known passage from John 3:16-17 we see the Father’s loving hand in this work in His giving of His Son as the foundation of everything that happens.

I hope this little discourse has helped to clarify some of the issues where discipleship intersects with our efforts at repentance and the ongoing struggle to overcome sin and the old man. I pray it has given you hope to sustain your efforts so that you might persevere to the end to receive the promised crown of life. (James 1:12) Amen! God bless you, God keep you, and may His grace be upon you.

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