“Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Psalm 119:129-136)
I was dreaming. I knew it. I was in a room of people and they were laughing—it was a party. The details have faded to a blur, like watercolor stretched across canvas, but I remember two men. One in shadow who gave me a box to open. The other man, who glowed in the light, stood looking at me as I opened the box. Inside was a beautiful silver necklace: delicate strands of silver weaving together in an ornate chain. Eagerly I put it on and was surprised at how heavy it felt around my neck. I stumbled as it dragged me to the floor. The man in shadow disappeared into the darkness, leaving me to struggle with the silver chain I couldn’t remove because of the weight. Even as I floundered, I wasn’t sure I wanted to remove it because it was so beautiful. The other man, the one standing in light, looked at me with such love and sadness and stretched out his hand to take the necklace from me. “You must choose,” he said.
And I sat up in a panic. My husband slept peacefully next to me. My hands went immediately to my neck—there was no necklace.
That dream has come to mind more than once since that night so many years ago. I am not one to look to dreams and visions for guidance in life—I’m too practical for that. But I’m not foolish enough to disregard truth, whatever form it takes. The truth in that dream seems clear.
Sin can appear so beautiful and right and acceptable to our human eyes. It can seem so natural that we end up questioning, as the serpent in the Garden once questioned, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1) Disbelieving God’s Word, we turn to human sources who will whole-heartedly agree with us and rubberstamp our skewed version of what ought to be as correct. “Surely a loving God wouldn’t really call _____ sin.”
The serpent, Satan, was beautiful as he hissed his questions that were intended to spur doubt. His ways haven’t changed. His lies are slippery and don’t sound so bad. Yet, whenever I read the story of Adam and Eve in the first few chapters of Genesis, I find myself wondering how they could have been fooled by a talking snake. But the truth is, we are all easily fooled. The writer of Hebrews cautions us, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” So easily entangles. Our human nature, our skin inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, longs for pleasure and ease. It longs to be right. We rationalize, putting ourselves in the place of God. We weave and spin and entangle ourselves in sin that drags us to the ground…and we don’t even realize it because in our humanness it somehow doesn’t seem so bad.
The psalmist knew this struggle. We all do. He writes: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (v. 133). It is easy to point at those with obvious sin struggles while ignoring our small closet sins. Yet this struggle with sin is a reality for every believer. Every woman, man, child who trusts in Jesus is faced with the reality that sin is easy and following Jesus is hard. It goes against our natural desires. The struggle is real, yet we do not struggle alone. Through His work on the cross, Jesus forgave the pasts of those who believe. More than that, He freed us from the chains of sin and gave us His Holy Spirit who empowers us to live free.
On my own, I will fail 100% of the time. When I submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to direct my steps, He will lead me right. Every. Time. He will not fail. Yet I must choose to follow His ways. I cannot hold on to my own ways—however I rational, however enticing, however good they seem to me. I must choose. There is no in-between.
Read Galatians 4:4–7
According to verses four and five, why was Jesus born?
Let that sink in a moment: Jesus, Son of God, laid aside his rights as God (Phil 2:6–8), took on the hardships of being a human and living under the law, in order to redeem humankind. You and me. AND to make it possible for us to receive the full rights of children of God. How does that hit your heart?
When we trust in Christ, we become children of God. What happens then, according to verses six and seven?
You have been given the Spirit of Christ to live in your heart, you are called a son or a daughter, you are no longer a slave—you are an heir. What are the differences between a slave and an heir?
Read Galatians 5:16–26.
How many people have a sinful nature?
What does the sinful nature want, according to verses 17–21?
Will the sin nature and the Holy Spirit ever get along? Why not?
It is so easy for us to rationalize sin and excuse it and essentially try to play peace-maker between our sin nature and the Holy Spirit, but this is impossible. The sin nature wants to be in charge; it will never willingly bow to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cannot stand in agreement with sin.
What is the last item in the list of the acts of the sinful nature?
I read an article a long time ago that stuck with me. “And the like” covers all the other sins that aren’t mentioned in this list. It would be easy for me to say, “Well, I’m better than those other people because I don’t have fits of rage and I’m not sexually immoral or a drunk.” But the end of that list covers all the rest…the less obvious sins of lying, spiritual pride, bigotry, legalism, etc. Everyone born with a sin nature is on the list.
BUT! Write down verse 22–23:
What action has taken place for those who belong to Christ in verse 24?
I’ve heard it said that the problem with a living sacrifice—us—is that it can get back up again. Daily we must remember to leave our old selves on the cross and live by the Spirit, praying with the Psalmist: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (v. 133).