How is it possible, that it is harder to follow Jesus, than to sin? I really want to follow Jesus, and I'm trying to. But every day again I fail again, because short term desires which withdraw me from God and Jesus. How is it possible, that the devil can still catch my attention and make me sin? I pray each day again, and ask for Jesus to lead my way, the Holy Spirit to live in me, and the devil to leave my life.
Pious Christians tend to overlook a very simple truth about sin. In the short term, it is fun.
And why is it fun? Because as Jesus said (John 3:19):
And why do men love darkness rather than light? Solomon noted (Proverbs 14:12):
- It is fun to be the one in charge.
- It is fun to get your own way.
- It is fun to experience sensations that are new - even if they are not what God intended.
But in the end, it's not worth it.
Ultimately, all sin comes down to one question - Will you trust God or yourself? And tell me - who wouldn't naturally - absent God's direct intervention - choose one's self?
The very first temptation that the Serpent told Eve was that the apple was good.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
In this, and this may be shocking - the Serpent did not lie. He merely omitted the long term consequences. In the short term, all sin seems to have a positive reinforcement.
Ecclesiastes 8 says it well:
11When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
Finally, it should be understood that sin is not a defect of will - it is a defect of love. John 14 15 says:
If you love me, keep my comamndments.
This is a universal problem among Christians.
Paul said, in Romans 7:15, "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet states that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Truly, the Bible doesn't have good things to say about people, and anyone who says it does, is either lying or trying to sell you something.
Ultimately, it comes down to the human condition. This is a universal, and necessary part of the Christian Gospel. Christ came to die to pay the penalty owed by sinners, so that the God, who loves us, can have a relationship with us that he would not have been able to have otherwise. Without the sin, and without the depravity, there is no need for Christ, and thus, there's no need for the Gospel. This is why Paul starts out Romans with a vast exposition of the quandary we're in. Romans 3:10-18 says:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now, there's a thought that gets passed around that says that once we become Christians, we have some new power to resist sin. Almost like we've been endowed with special superpowers after we become believers. Suddenly, since God has given us his Holy Spirit, we're supposed to more and more consistently prefer God to man. In other words, we'll get better and better over our lifetime, until we get to the point that we're perfect. I disagree, and I don't think there's much support for that in the Bible. We never outgrow the need for God's grace.
Remember, it was the older men who walked away from stoning the adulteress first. It was they who, after years of living, recognized more clearly than the younger men the evil that lies within their hearts. Would they have thus said that they are more perfect because they're older? I don't think so. I believe they would have said they were less perfect.
So what is Christian growth then? Put simply, it's growing in your appreciation and thankfulness for all that Christ has done for you. As you realize more and more the depth of your own depravity, you can, at the same time, recognize more and more the mercy in Christ's sacrifice. We, who can be so utterly hateful towards God, he still chooses to save us and love us, not out of our goodness, but out of his grace. You become less, and He becomes greater.
I also want to point out one thing here that I think you've hit on in your question. Never think that temptation is always from the devil. The depravity lies within your own heart as well. James puts it well:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
We're not innocent pawns caught between God and the devil. We're depraved, guilty sinners in need of a Savior. When we see our own depravity and realize that it's not simply that we commit sins, but that we are sinful, it helps us up to recognize the great value of the cross of Christ.
As Steve Brown says, "Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined."
So what to do now? Rejoice. Be thankful. Praise God for the gift of Christ's sacrifice, which pays for each and every one of those sins you're committing. It's cleared out. Over with. As Jesus says, "It is finished". The verdict has been rendered, you are guilty, but your penalty has been paid already, and you are free to go.
What are you still doing in the courtroom?
There are two principles that must be joined to specifically answer your question about the 'easiness' of sin.
The first principle First, the notion of spiritual slavery. A sinner is a slave to sin and free from righteousness. That is to say a sinner can only sin and has no real struggle with a desire to be righteous. A sinner is quite free - to sin only. On the other hand a regenerate believer is actually no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness. Their inner desire is not satisfied but by living righteousness. All we desire is to be holy and we have no choice in the matter. We are slaves to righteousness.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:20-22, NIV)
Your groaning over you sin is one of the trustworthy evidences that you are no longer a slave to sin. If you were satisfied with you level of righteousness it would be good evidence that your were still enslaved to sin.
The second principle Regeneration only makes your inner man alive but you outer man is still in Adam, causing a Christian to be very unique in this world. A Christian is strange because he has two natures within himslef, warring against each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:16-17, NIV)
This dual nature, not comprehended by sinners, means that even when we do good there is always some sin staining the good. We therefore never for a moment have a 100% pure heart, but sin like a shadow clothes all our goodness. There is no such thing as a motive that is not mixed. This horrible wrestling between two natures causes us great grief and mourning. It is making us cry out to be rescued:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:24)
Now we can answer the question under these two principles. What you seem to describe is an 'easiness' in sin, whereas walking according to the Spirit requires 'effort' and 'discipline' is a 'struggle' that never ceases. This is one of the hallmarks of the Christian experience. Why is it easy to sin? I think part of the answer lies in the different roles that each side of the struggle plays.
The struggle of sin is supported by the world under the power of the Devil and it invades our lives without any pause or relief. Thankfully the struggle of righteousness is supported by a stronger principle, the Holy Spirit producing the effects of Christ's death in our lives to the glory of the Father. The world is destined to loose and is loosing. However, when we fall into sin, our experience of the Spirit weakens, but when we commit ourselves to God afresh, the flesh does not necessarily 'weaken'. It weakens in it's influence but does not weaken in the intensity of its resistance. It actually becomes even more lively in its lusts against God's will. What I mean is; We actually loose consciousness of God, his will, his love, his enjoyable supreme goodness, when we given ourselves over to temptation. When we give ourselves over to God we do not looses our consciousness of our desire to fornicate, murder, steel, etc. On the contrary often our evil desires flares up more violently into our conscious when we become more aware of God. This makes sin easy but holiness something that requires discipline and effort.The result is that there is a 'lazy easiness' to sin dictated by a desire for pleasure and things visible to our senses.
But to warp up. This easiness for a real believer is even used by God to fashion our faith into greater faith and righteousness. Actually we are slaves to God and he is greater than our temptations. It sounds contradictory but actually it is easier for us to follow God, it just does not feel easier due to the struggle involved. The reason is that since our inner man desires nothing but God and will not be satisfied until its weakens the influence of the flesh as much as possible, our struggle with sin is actually making us hate it more. God may even hand us over to our sins, a bit, for a time, in order to expose them lurking within us, and to make us hate them so very much! Over time we become more and more holy and more desirous to enter the comforting shadow that lays behind the physical grave - our eternal glory.
We are actually like superman but are exhausted in killing sin. We are being propelled into ever increasing glory and victory yet we are weak and we mourn with an ever growing consciousness of sin. We are like aliens slowly ripping our flesh off from our person. It confuses us. The enemies about us, especially the religious without faith, have no idea about who we are. We are considered fools speaking meaningless things yet we have the words of eternal life and the wisdom of God deposited in weak earthen vessels. We are not from this earth and there is nothing here that really has a hold on us. Its just not a clean picture. Its very messy. Its full of blood, snot and sweat. Its very deceptive.
The question is why is it so much easier to follow sin than to follow Jesus.
The short answer is because your flesh is not redeemed and it wants to run amok. Romans 7:14-20 says:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
I think it may be a matter of faith as to whether a person can comprehend the message of Romans chapter 7. In this passage Paul shows us the distinction between our flesh and our spirit. Sin still lives in our flesh. Sin is at home in our flesh, very comfortable there. Sin has had this home for a shorter time for some and a longer time for others but no matter who you are or what your background, sin lives in your flesh.
Romans 7:21 says: So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
If you want to talk about NT laws, you can put the Law of Sin in the Flesh at the top of the list. The LOSITF was not defeated or changed at the cross. That Law says "Adam let me in, I have every right to be here until your body dies, and there is precious little you can do about it."
I think that the wording in the section of scripture is very important. The LOSITF must be obeyed. It's not a law like the Law of Moses, where the people said "Every thing that the Lord has said, we will do" and then they promptly failed to do it.
The LOSITF is more like the law of gravity. If you have enough power, you can defy the law of gravity...for a while. Eventually, the plane will run out of fuel and crash.
You can also defy LOSITF...for a while...if you're flying high on your own power with a bit of the Holy Spirit thrown in. This is where "being a good Christian" is worked out by the faithful every day as we try to defy the LOSITF out of our love for God. But eventually we're going to run out of gas, and we're going to fall back to earth again, and then we'll curse ourselves for being a weak Christian. And then we'll try again...and again...and, well, you get it.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
What does this mean? Does God mean to tell us that we'll always be a slave to the LOSITF? That we actually have two masters both Sin and God? Yes, I think that is exactly what God is telling us. I think that is exactly the conclusion that Paul comes to. I...am...wretched...but only in the flesh, not in the spirit.
I think this is why Paul went to great lengths to confirm to us previously in Romans 6 what the solution was to this dilemma.
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
The solution to the dilemma of having two natures in one body is to reckon yourself dead, and resurrected. First the dead part...stop beating a dead horse about sin. Many of us flog ourselves daily because this dead body won't do what we want it to do. Stop it! Your body is dead. Stop looking at the putrefaction. Stop trying to make deals with it. Stop trying to make it look like a Christian.
Instead, look at your resurrected self. This is what Paul means by "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
We have already been raised from the dead. Turn your back on the dead body and turn your face toward the resurrected self. That self is sinless, holy, spotless, unable to be tempted. Sin itself loves this dead body. It is its natural habitat, so that "if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Again in verse 25 "...So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."
Then, you really need to read Romans 8. I will not quote the whole chapter, but suffice it to say that God knows what we are and doesn't condemn us for it.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
You are in Christ Jesus. Stop looking at the dead body you left behind. Look only to Jesus. Look only to His Spirit. Don't fight the flesh because all that does is give it power. Don't even look at it. Instead of fighting the flesh and losing, allow your resurrected self to be yoked with Him.
It's a leap of faith to believe that you can stop thinking about sin, and not only that, but be comfortable with who you are. To confess who you are, as Paul does.
So when I pray, I don't ask God to take my sin away. I just confess that I am a sinner. Then I do the important thing...I offer myself. If you take the approach to Christian growth that you must stop sinning, you're going to remain a baby in Christ forever. You're forever going to be living in the flesh instead of the Spirit. Christians think that living in the flesh is what the unbeliever does, but I say it's what Christians who fight their flesh are doing.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
Paul is talking to Christians here, not to unbelievers. He says Christians can have their minds so set on what the flesh is doing that they become hostile to God and they do not please God. They are always "struggling" with some sin or other.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
You've heard it over and over...walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Put another way, keep your eyes focused on the Spirit and sin will fall away. You don't have to "struggle" with sin, you have to acknowledge it, confess it, then ignore it, keeping your attention on the Spirit within you.
This, I believe, is walking in the Spirit. I know this is rather long, but it's an important concept and hard to understand. Sin, my friend, is no longer an issue. Sin was dealt with on the cross. You are dead. You are alive again, but as a different sort of creature, a sinful shell and a holy interior. Pay much more attention the the holy interior than you do to the sinful shell and you will not have questions like this.