Hitting the Mark
Randy Kutz | October 19, 2015 | ATM International
Why can’t I get free from my sin nature? This question seems to come up frequently.
In looking at Isaiah 6:5 we can address how to identify our sin nature and how we can
assist others in our life that are seeking freedom from their sin nature. In Isaiah 6:5
we find the prophet making a bold statement, “Woe is me for I am undone! Because
I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of that have unclean
lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah saw the condition of
the culture that he lived in and his relationship to it. When we experience the presence
of the living God, our prayers need to be two-fold. First, Lord, show us where we are
lacking, or specifically where do we have sin. Secondly, Lord is there situations in my life in which I am dwelling that is keeping me bound. We must remember that our enemy, the devil, wants to keep us bound and chained, he wants us to miss the mark. It is necessary to remember that Christ has already hit the mark for us. Christ’s ability to find the center of the target every time has in fact made us complete. In fact, Christ hit the mark for us in the past at Calvary, so that our future perfection can be a present positional reality.
Remember, the world’s view on sin is different (Romans 1) from a Christian’s view. In his book The Foundations of Christian Doctrine, Kevin Connor points out several philosophical ways that the world views life, which lead to death. The first is an atheistic view; simply stated this is the belief that there is no God or Creator and therefore moral code is completely subjective to an individual’s choices, which are not governed by a supreme being. This leads us to a second faulty worldview which is an evolutionary outlook. Evolution is the ideal that, “man is getting better,” or “the increase of knowledge is getting us further away from the animal within us.” This leads to a third determinist view which says, “man determines his own moral code.” This is popular today with many believing that homosexuality, transgenderism and soon pedophilia and bestiality are things that man is born into and therefore cannot control. The final viewpoint is one of “hedonism.” This at its base level is simply “a person is free to do whatever pleases them.”
What does the Word say in regard to these false worldviews? Romans 2:14-15 says, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” A worldly mindset doesn’t excuse itself from its own faulty thinking. The world knows deep down that something is wrong, but they have allowed their circumstances to dictate how they choose to live and believe instead of listening to their own conscience.
Our response to the world must be biblical. First, we know that Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Since we needed Christ to come to us and reveal our sin nature, we must also deal graciously with the world. But let me be clear, we cannot adopt a sloppy grace message that excuses sin and allows people to believe that they can come to Christ as they are and can stay as they are. When we come to Christ we must embrace full repentance for our sin nature, and be willing to reject any false worldviews, which is a prerequisite for transformation (Romans 12:2).
James 4:1-4 makes clear what our relationship to each other and the world is what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Friendship with the world and its views makes us enemies of God. There is no way to escape our sinful nature if we try to hold onto any false worldviews. They must be completely surrendered to Christ. It seems as if many Christians have adopted a position that says, ‘we can and should accept a sinful worldview if we are to accept the sinner.’ This erroneous logic. Christ’s grace is meant to ‘empower’ us not to sin instead of making excuses for it. Therefore, His grace gives us the ability to continue following Him even when we fail.
Know How the Devil Deceives Us
Lucifer propagated a lie, which stated, “You’re ok, you don’t need Christ’s salvation, just be a good person and you’ll be alright. In fact if God won’t accept you as you are, then He is not a good or just God, and besides, you already know right from wrong, so you’re practically the same as God is anyway.” This is how he deceived Eve and is still deceiving us today. This lie is centered on self-will. Kevin Connor states, “Free-will turned against God’s will is self-will.” The power behind grace is for us to be transformed into His image. Therefore we must lay aside efforts to become righteous by ourselves and begin living the reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence. I John 3:8 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” Lucifer wanted God’s worship. Likewise when we want things for ourselves in an inordinate way, we have slipped into pride, and have therefore missed the mark. Lucifer wanted the right to make his own decisions. The Lord granted to him that desire, and as a result he will suffer the consequences involved with wanting his will over the Lord’s will. This fate will also be true of us, if we do not yield to the power of the Holy Spirit, and apply the empowerment of grace.
The devil wants us to be ‘ok’ with our sin nature, as such he has deceived many Christians with a false concept of grace, making grace nothing more than a ritualistic “I’m sorry” instead of using its full power, which is to set us free from our sin altogether. You see, all of us are guilty of missing the mark, which also implies missing the true scope for which we were created. One way to ensure us achieving our intended purpose is fellowship or communion with the Holy Spirit. The results of which can be nothing more than transformation into His image (and that is the goal). Communing with the Holy Spirit must become a habitual practice, one of which we will all fail at regularly. Therefore, learning to bring our flesh, and our mind into submission to the Holy Spirit must become our primary motive in our spiritual development. This seems an easy thing to do; except that the enemy is right there convincing us that whatever feels right to our flesh or mind must be from God. This is in fact false grace, because this concept feeds itself from one or all of the false worldviews discussed earlier. In reality we must flee from our own definitions of what it means to be happy, which deceives us into believing we are in God’s will.
Paul states that there are two laws in operation (Romans 8:2) “The law of sin and death or the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” We have a choice to make, ‘will I continue in Sin’ or ‘will I contend to be transformed into His image.’ The great thing here to realize is that Christ has already dealt with our sin. Paul clearly articulates this in Romans 7:19-25, “19 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. 20 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. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 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.” We would all like to believe this is an easy choice, and that we would and do choose God’s will, but then why do we constantly have wage a warfare against our sin nature? The answer is because of pride.
Pride is the foundation of missing the mark. Pride is an inordinate amount of self-esteem. The opposite of pride is humility. Christ came as the most humble of all, by giving up his seat at the right hand of the Father for a season, and submitting himself to life on the earth, and even a humiliating death on the cross. Isaiah had to turn against his pride to be able to say, ‘woe is me’ and we should desire to have our own “woe is me” revelation. Understanding that we need the Holy Spirit’s grace is a good thing, and thankfully we do not have to die in our sin, the Lord has made a way of escape for us! I Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” For example, we all at one time or another have attempted to ‘work out’ in an effort to get in better shape. The truth is, if we do not work out properly injuries occur. These injuries are like missing the mark, but because we got injured doesn’t mean we can never work out again or that working out is wrong. The proper response is to learn the correct way to work out so as to avoid injury. This is how we need to view our sin. When we miss the mark, we need to properly reflect on our actions and be resolute in getting back into the game wisely. II Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” Relative to exercise this could mean learning proper technique. Relative to our sin nature it means being more accountable to those around us as well as the Holy Spirit. Examining yourself and proper reflection is never fun and it doesn’t always sit well in our soul (mind, attitude, will, emotions); because it usually carries pain with it, but it is always well worth it in the end.
So, how can we overcome our sin nature, now that we understand where it comes from? First, we need to know that hitting the mark is not impossible, even though we may mess up from time-to-time. Too many times we let ourselves get into situations we do not understand. We do this by thinking too highly of ourselves or our gifting. Knowing what you can handle spiritually is one of the greatest treasures you could ever gain. Personally I have been privileged to have had able teachers in my life who have helped me in critical times to make the right decisions. Including some very testing times when my wife and I unexpectedly lost our daughter. The temptation to place myself in positions where I could fall into sin was an everyday battle for several months following her death. I truly believe by the Grace of God, my wife and I were spared much heartache by putting ourselves in the care of others during this time. I was encouraged to not try to accomplish more than I could handle spiritually. We cannot afford to let our guard down, we must be vigilant to be prepared for the tests which will certainly come and we must stay alert. Too many times we get ourselves into situations where we cannot handle the stress of those moments. In those times we are at a weakened state and the enemy will come in deceptively and convince us that we need to cut loose a little bit, which is the gateway to sin! Being prepared cuts off sin before it happens, and that is using God’s grace or supernatural empowerment the right way. Proverbs 24:9 says, “The devising of foolishness is sin.” To devise is to let our thought life be controlled by our emotions. This is almost always a recipe for disaster. Even if we have good intentions our emotions can get in the way of making sound judgments. Moses was wearing himself out day after day judging the people. Thankfully his father in law Jethro came to his aide and gave him the sound advice to “find able men” (Ex. 18:21) to help him judge. A little wisdom from godly mentors and peers and armed with an awareness of what distracts us will help us to hit the mark.
Taking Accurate Aim
We must also be conscientious about “taking aim” after we have been prepared. This means to be focused on our spiritual condition at all times. Hitting the mark takes a steady hand and an alert, fully-trained eye. This simply means having “the spiritual disciplines” in place in our life. By spiritual disciplines I mean the exercise of prayer, fasting, worship, study of the word, proper fellowship, serving and meditation. For further study in this vital area of our Christian life, I recommend Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.
The next key in hitting the mark is knowing when to ‘pull the trigger.’ This is an important step because it means being present with the Holy Spirit as He is leading and guiding us (John 16:13). The Word declares that Jesus never did or said anything that He did not first hear His father in heaven saying (John 12:49, John 5:19,30). After Jesus’ baptism it was said that He was “led by the Spirit” (Mathew 4:1). The Spirit never left him, as a result He always knew the right thing to say and do. How? Because he knew the ways of the Spirit. In target shooting there comes a moment when it is simply time to pull the trigger. This requires a certain level of confidence. If we have been disciplined then I believe that we will know when to pull the trigger. When the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and declared the mysteries of God to those assembled for Pentecost (Acts 2:14). Our yielding to His will enables us to hit the mark. As I said before, Christ has already hit the mark for us at Calvary, and if we are found in Him then we can also share in His triumph.
Be Aware of Distractions
The last thing we can do to aid ourselves in hitting the mark is to be alert to distractions. We must remember that our enemy is going around as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). We mustn’t let our enemy distract us with a bunch of noise. It is interesting to me that the Word doesn’t say he is quietly stalking us, but he is in fact roaring. Our Enemy is tipping his hand. If we get caught looking at the loud things all around us we could end up being eaten or overtaken by sin. But if we stay alert and vigilant our chances of survival increase. Remember without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If we are to be a people that are constantly hitting the mark then we must allow our faith to be expecting great things from God. Being still and knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10) will give us the sense of peace necessary for our faith to step in. Remember, Jesus was calm in the midst of the storm, and the disciples marveled at His faith (Mathew 8:23-27). No matter life’s circumstances if we stay calm and allow ourselves to be found in Him then our Faith will enable us to hit the mark every time (I John 4:4-9).