Thorns in our Flesh: The Burden of Sin

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We live in a world where humanity is constantly battling a vast array of sorrows, trials and tribulations. Our world is falling apart and we have no idea when the next corporate or national emergency will be declared. The news confronts us with horrific events as they happen all over the world. The challenge is even more severe in the life of the believer. In addition to the trials facing the human race, she is fighting against and struggling with the burden of sin.

The Burden of Sin

Indwelling sin seeks to capture the soul of the believer. It fights tirelessly for my soul and it is fighting for yours too.

Paul agonised in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am, Who will deliver me from this body of death?”John Owen picked up on this in On Mortification. He warned Christians that there is no safety against sin but continual warfare. He went on to say that because sin is always acting we will be lost creatures unless we put it to death.

Sin seeks to capture the soul of the believer. It fights tirelessly for my soul and it is fighting for yours too

Thorns in my Flesh

There has not been a day recorded on God’s green earth, in retrospect, where I can claim to have successfully beaten sin without suffering its devastating blows. You know what? At times I questioned if I was truly saved, because the burden of sin gripped me strongly. Upon reflection I can see that my flesh is littered with thorns and thistles, corruption and vices—the burden of sin.

But my salvation is sealed eternally by and in Christ. So why do I feel inadequate? Why is the weight of sin so powerful? Why does my confidence wane as I wonder if I will continue for another day? How is it that Christ promised he will lose none from his hand yet I still contend with the burden of sin in my heart?

Christ Holds us to Himself

Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to remember that Christians do not grieve like the rest of mankind, for who have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). So let us look upon Christ in the midst our feebleness. Christ himself promised, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Christ’s love for us is as immutable as is his nature. Therefore nothing can separate us from His firm hands

Elsewhere in John’s Gospel he said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-30).

He will never let us slip away! Christ’s love for us is as immutable as is his nature. Therefore nothing can separate us from His firm hands. This is why Paul could ask rhetorically, “Who can separate us from us from the love of Christ? Shall Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35, 37).

Delight in Christ, Not Sin

Does this mean that we can live – and sin – however we please? Since we are redeemed and eternally secure are we now free to sin? Paul answered these sorts of questions in his own ministry, “Absolutely not! Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-3).

The Christian must train her affections to delight in Christ rather than sin. We must purify our souls and deepen our love and thirst for him

Instead of seeking to indulge our flesh and satisfy our sinful desires, the Christian will earnestly and continually seek the face of God. The Christian must train her affections to delight in Christ rather than sin. We must purify our souls and deepen our love and thirst for him. As John Owen prayed, “Get your heart, then, into a panting and breathing frame; long, sigh, cry out.” And do not choose sin over Christ.

We Battle with His Power

How will we do this? The first step in the struggle against sin is persevering faith in Christ. Thus he said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Similarly, the apostle John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19-20). Lay aside any concerns about sin if your overwhelming concern is not foremost to continue following after Christ.

The tension we must hold is what theologians call the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The doctrine states that a believer cannot lose his salvation since it was gifted to him by Christ—it is grounded in his work, both past and ongoing. Because our merit plays no role in salvation sin cannot dislodge us. But only those who preserve in faith to the end will be saved.

Stay in the Battle 

When we are weighed down daily by the burden of sin we quickly become weary. We put off our armour, retire our swords and throw off our helmets (Ephesians 6:10-20). The feeling is that we cannot continue in the fight. We know more defeats than victories. But I plead with you not to give up.

Because our merit plays no role in salvation sin cannot dislodge us

Be assured that we will not to be snatched by the evil one. So stay in the fight for our sanctification unto the very end, when we will be glorified with Christ. J. I. Packer wrote, “Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not as strong to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.”

Keep Fighting Sin

Do you remember Christian from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Have you faced the same degree of trials, temptations, pains, burdens, disappointments, groans and setbacks? After such trouble, Christian persevered. Charles Spurgeon quipped, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”

So why are you thinking of pulling out of the race? The apostles persevered under death. The early church stood through persecution. Bunyan’s Christian persevered under the staggering weight of sin and self-doubt. The snail reached the ark and avoided the flood. Why do you want to give up now?

Keep fighting sin. Keep growing in holiness. Don’t let the burden of sin discourage you. Don’t retire or resign but persevere. Keep going until Christ unites us to him for all eternity, sharing in his glory.

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