So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. -- James 4: 7-10 (NLT)
In the previous devotional we took a long look at the nature of sin and how insidiously it can infect our lives. The devil has gone to great lengths to weaken Christianity in these last days by downplaying the importance of being concerned about sin. Using the victory at the cross, well intended preachers seemingly ignore the dire significance of daily sin and how it continues to damage our walk and debilitate the church. Christ's work on the cross deals with our sin condition when we stand before God -- not when we wake up today and have to navigate this treacherous world. We ignore sin at our own peril because it always costs us more than we were willing to pay and keeps us longer than we intended.
When we looked at the nature of sin we focused on David's sin with Bathsheba and the sin of Ananias and Sapphira from the Book of Acts. To focus on victory over sin, we turn to Joseph. He was the 11th of 12 children that Jacob fathered. He was the most favored however, which drove the first ten children mad with jealousy. So jealous were they that they decided one day to kill him. Reason intervened briefly and instead of killing Joseph they merely sold him into Egyptian slavery and told Jacob that a wild animal had killed him! Remember that the next time you think you have family problems! Joseph found himself in the service of the Captain of the Guard, Potiphar, who made Joseph his personal attendant and put him in charge of his entire household. Even in his deep valley -- God prospered Joseph. No matter where we find ourselves though, sin will always come knocking at our door:
So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn't worry about a thing--except what kind of food to eat! Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar's wife soon began to look at him lustfully. "Come and sleep with me," she demanded. -- Genesis 39: 6-7 (NLT)
Sin doesn't care if you are a king like David or a slave like Joseph. This is quite tough spot for Joseph to be in. He cannot tell Potiphar for fear that he will not be believed. Turning down the boss's wife may lead to other unintended consequences, as Joseph would discover. In the initial response of Joseph we see some of the first keys for gaining victory over sin:
But Joseph refused. "Look," he told her, "my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God." -- Genesis 39: 8-9 (NLT)
There are two keys here. The first is to appreciate what you have. Joseph assesses his life and even though he is in slavery -- he sees all that he has to lose. He sees how well he is trusted. He sees how Potiphar has held nothing back from him. He has free reign within his house. He sees his blessings even within his wilderness. We can have trouble seeing the blessings we have been afforded and we are not in literal slavery! That is the damage of the bless me theology in this country. When we are constantly expecting blessings from God we lose sight of what we have already been given. The reality we need to grasp today is that blessing should be defined by what God has already done for us, not what we think we deserve. When you downplay sin, the blood and the cross you are left with needing to offer something else to entice people to come to church. That is how the seeker friendly nonsense began. There is nothing more seeker friendly than the Gospel -- uncompromised and not watered down.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. -- 1Corinthians 2: 1-2 (NIV)
What we have today are theories of church growth that are oozing with eloquence and superior wisdom but they shove Christ into the background. Sure there is lip service paid to Him but when you are trying to sell something, you end up compromising to make the sale. The Gospel does not need to be sold. It does not need to be made friendly. It needs to be preached. Because sin is real beloved and it is crouching at our door every single day. The first key to victory over it is to assess all that you have to lose. If David had seen the death of two of his children and the loss of his kingdom I do not think he would have sinned with Bathsheba. If Ananias and Sapphira had seen themselves struck dead -- I am confident they would not have sinned by lying to the Apostles.