Many believers have been taught, and therefore believe, that the goal of the Christian life is to quit sinning. We are obsessed with trying to stop sinning. “If I could just stop sinning, I could move in the Spirit, and then I would experience more of God.”
Once again, we have misunderstood Galatians 5:16. Here is the way Galatians 5:16 is promoted far too many times. “If we will quit carrying out the desires of the flesh, then we will be walking in the Spirit.”
Wrong! Notice how spiritual it sounds to tell people that if they will quit the sins that plague their life, then, and only then, will they walk in the Spirit. Here is another “miss the mark” statement: “The reason I am not experiencing God more in my life is because I have sin in my life”. Or, “Because of sin, God is angry with me and has turned His back on me. If I could just stop this sin, I would be closer to God, and He would be happy with me.”
The closer we look at this approach we begin to see the need for performance. Remember, one of the reasons God gave the Law was to provoke sin in us. Paul boldly states:
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment [the Law], produced in me coveting of every kind; forapart from the Law sin is dead (Romans 7:8 NASB).
Every time we attempt to stop sinning, we end up doing the same sin over and over again, leading to frustration and shame. If we attempt to stop sinning via the law, we will lose and never fulfill the law, much less stop sinning. This is called “garbage-can living.” Let me explain garbage-can living with a story.
A STORY THAT SPEAKS TRUTH
Early one morning, the owner of a restaurant took the garbage out to the dumpster behind his restaurant. As he approached the dumpster, there was a homeless beggar digging through the garbage hoping to find morsels of food.
The owner of the restaurant said, “Hey, what are you doing in my garbage cans?”
The startled homeless beggar responded, “I am hungry. I was just looking for some food. I am out here looking for food most every day.”
The restaurateur stated, “ I don’t want you eating out of my restaurant garbage.”
The beggar became afraid as he thought the owner was mad at him for eating out of his garbage cans.
“I am sorry sir! I am so hungry that I can’t help myself,” the beggar exclaimed.
The restaurateur said, “Hold on! I am not mad at you. I don’t want you to eat from the garbage cans because I want you to eat inside my restaurant. I own this place, and I want you to eat here all the time.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” replied the beggar.
“No, I insist,” said the restaurateur. “Come inside with me, and I will have my best waiter come and serve you. All of your meals will be on the house every day and any time you are hungry.”
The beggar quickly stated, “But sir, I couldn’t eat here all the time and certainly not for free. I might be able to eat here this time, but I am used to eating out of the garbage cans.”
“Because I am the owner, I can invite you to eat here all the time,” said the owner.
So the two of them went inside the restaurant. The owner seated the man at the best seat in the house. He poured the homeless man a cool glass of water and said, “Now you wait here while I go get my waiter for you.”
The homeless man sat at the table thinking, “I don’t deserve to be here; this is much too fancy for me.” He gazed at the beautiful cutlery, the elaborate dishes, and the fragrant flowers that adorned the table. He was amazed at the splendor of the entire restaurant.
The beggar proclaimed, “This is much too nice for me. I don’t deserve this. I am not comfortable here. I think I will go back to where I am comfortable and where I am supposed to be.”
So he quickly left the restaurant and returned to the garbage cans to scavenge for food.
A few minutes later, the owner checked in with his new patron only to find him gone. He walked back to the garbage area and, just as he thought, found the homeless man rummaging through the garbage.
The restaurateur passionately exclaimed, “What are you doing? I told you that you could eat for free in my restaurant all of the time. Now please, leave the garbage cans and come with me. This is where I want you to always eat. This is where you deserve to eat. Now come on, let’s go. I know you are not used to eating for free, and certainly not in this kind of a beautiful restaurant, but this is all for you.”
So, once again the two of them walked into the restaurant and the owner sat the man down and left to go get the waiter.
Once again the man picked up the beautiful dishes with his dirty hands and stared at them. He looked out the back window at the garbage cans, and then to the beautiful glassware and silverware, and back to the garbage cans. Then finally he said, “The owner said I was destined to eat here all the time, that I deserve it. I am so used to eating out of the garbage cans that I did not think that I deserved to eat here. I was wrong. I think I will stay right here and get used to eating in his restaurant all the time.”
We are seated at the banqueting table of God. This is where we are and we are called to remember this truth.
Many Christians experience salvation, but only momentarily believe they deserve to sit at God’s banqueting table. They quickly return to the sinful lifestyle and habits that God rescued them from because they don’t truly believe that they deserve anything more. Like this homeless man, many believers look at their past misdeeds and failures and compare them with God’s grace and feel they are not worthy. But the truth is that we are not those people any more. We do not belong, metaphorically, digging through garbage cans in the alley. We belong at our King’s table, not because of anything we have done, but because He has chosen us. We find our identity in His love, not in our perfect deeds. We are sons and daughters of the King, and we are seated at an abundant table. Spiritually this is where we are, and we are called to remember this truth.
THE IMPOSSIBLE SEEMS POSSIBLE
The bridal paradigm message tells us that we were created to sit at His table and to gaze on His beautiful face. We are called to renew our mind regarding who God is and who He says we are to Him. You know that your mind has been renewed when the impossible seems possible and consistent with who you really are. God wants our minds renewed so that His will can be accomplished on earth just like it is in heaven.
When we promote the idea that we should attempt to stop sinning on our own, we are set up to fail.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:12-14 NASB).
All of us have had nagging sins and strongholds attempting to control us. None of us want to continue sinning; we love Jesus way too much to continue on that path. But, you will be haunted by sin if you attempt to stop sinning by following the requirements of the law. When we focus on the law, we are actually focusing on the sin we are trying to avoid, rather than on the One who took away our sins and has promoted us to life. So place all of your fascination on Jesus and watch Him move you from sin and death into life and victory.