by Pastor Mike Stine
According to Greek myth, there was once a young woman named Pandora who was both beautiful and deceitful. She was taken into the household of Epimethus where stood a large box. Inside this box stood all of the evils of the world. Despite warnings, Epimethus left this woman into his household. The woman opened the box and left out all kinds of evils upon the world. Thus it was known as Pandora’s Box.
We know that there are all sorts of evils in the world today but they weren’t stored away in a box, hidden, waiting for someone to leave them out. The world is in its current state because of rebellion against God. Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden and the world hasn’t been the same since.
Obviously. This isn’t exactly news to anyone. Sure there are a thousand different ideas as to why the world is in the state that it’s in, but most Christians don’t believe it’s getting better. Some do believe that the world will continue to get better until bring about the Millennial reign of Christ, but I for one don’t see this happening.
I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but it doesn’t take too long to come up with a rather long list of things that are wrong in the world today. Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy living in such a world.
I was talking to a number of people on the Internet last week and everyone seemed to be having a rough week, including myself. The world can really drag you down. If you think about it too long, it can really start to become depressing.
What’s worse, these very things that we see all about the world, we struggle with doing ourselves. Perhaps we aren’t killing people or stealing things, I hope not at least, but if we hate somebody we do the same thing as kill them.
That’s not quite the point though. Whatever form it takes, we sin. One sin is just as bad as any other because they all separate us from God. We see the world around us wallowing in sin and on occasion it looks like they’re having a pretty good time with it. The guy next door is cheating on his wife but they have two nice new cars, a huge house, and you’re scraping by, hoping you have enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month.
It often seems unfair and you wonder if it’s worth it at all to grit your teeth and bear it when you know they laugh at you and your religion behind your back.
It’s no wonder we fall into temptation. And then there’s the sin nature within us as well. It’s as if we do things at times just because we know they’re wrong. Then eventually we feel guilty because our conscience pricks us and we know that we’ve broken God’s law once again.
It’s hard to live in such a rotten world. And it doesn’t help to know that things aren’t going to become any easier for Christians before Christ returns either. So what do we do? How do we live in a rotten world?
First of all, we take comfort in knowing that we’re not alone. You and I are not the first Christians to struggle with sin. The apostle Paul struggled with this as well.
In Romans 7:7-25 he tells us of his own struggle with sin. Verses 21-25 I believe we can all identify with.
|So I find this at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.|
Paul knew what was right, even more so than what we do probably. He had studied under Gamaliel, the premier Jewish teacher of the day, still admired by the Jews to this day. He knew all of the laws God had given inside and out and he kept them. But he still saw himself as struggling with sin.
Even when we know what is right, evil- the world, the flesh, and the Devil – tries to get us to do wrong. But there is an escape- God has rescued us from sin. We have been given a new nature.
This new nature liberates us from the law which only lead to death because it pointed out how sinful and unworthy we were. With this new nature we were given help. The Holy Spirit, causes us to see all of the sin around us and to yearn for a time when things are made perfect. Romans 8:22-26 describes this.
|We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.|
Not only do we look forward to a time when things are made perfect, but all of creation groans for it. Still, it is not here yet. But we have hope that it will come and we wait for it patiently.
In the story of Pandora’s Box, the world is filled with all kinds of evil things when the lid is opened. What I didn’t mention was that inside of the box still, after all the other bad things had flew out, lie hope. In the midst of all kinds of evil, hope is the only thing that we can cling to.
We place our hope in the fact that one day Jesus will return and will make all things perfect. Until that time, we must simply wait patiently, enduring all things because we have to.
So what do we do while we wait? First, we press on toward the goal. We must keep on keeping on as the old saying goes. Once again, Paul has something to say about this. In Philippians 3:12-14 he tells us of his striving toward the goal.
|Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called.|
And what is the goal? Paul describes it in 3:20-4:1
|But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies to that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!|
Our citizenship is in heaven and we ought not forget this. We still live on this world but we are not part of it. We are independent of it but are simply living here until we are called home. In the spirit of our nation’s 225th anniversary of its freedom, I wrote our own declaration of independence from the world, which plagues us, so often.
|When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to separate ourselves from humanity and the sinfulness that pervades it so, a God given conscience and the Holy Spirit call us to action.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that God in six days created the heavens and the earth and all that are in them, that all of nature bears witness to Him so that all are held accountable, that the fall of man sent the world into sin, that God sent His son to redeem his children, through Jesus Christ we may reestablish the relationship with God that was originally intended for man in the garden of Eden.
To secure these rights we need simply call upon the name of Jesus and ask forgiveness for our iniquities and transgressions. When we find the world bearing down upon us we are called to battle and to equip ourselves with the full armor of God. We are to place upon ourselves the belt of truth around our waist, the breastplate of righteousness, our feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and carry the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. It is right for us, as citizens not of this world, but of a heavenly kingdom, to do so.
Whenever the prince of this dark world becomes destructive, as he has already proven himself to be so, it is our duty to separate ourselves from him and declare ourselves an independent nation, a kingdom of priests, citizens of a heavenly kingdom.
Satan, the current ruler of this world, has shown many grievances against us and we do so list them that all may know why we leave this world behind. He has murdered our brethren in the nations of this world yearning for the light of the gospel and killed our missionaries. He has killed the unborn children, still in the womb, having not a chance at life. He has invaded governments across the world and kept godly men and women from public office. He has shut the door to prayer in schools and caused evolution to be taught in place of the truth. He has invaded our churches, leading many astray with ideas of a one world religion and more than one way to heaven. He has lied to us in all areas of life, always trying to get us to reject the truth. He has lead our children away in rebelliousness, seducing them with drugs and sex. He has destroyed our families, breaking up marriages pledged before God as a commitment that would allow no man to separate. He has filled our mind with philosophies that deny the existence of God. And he has mocked God and attempted to place himself in a higher position than God himself.
For these reasons, we declare ourselves independent from this world. We will fight Satan, knowing that he will not allow us to leave without a fight. We will call upon God for strength. We WILL be victorious for we know already who will win this battle. Satan’s time is short and his sole desire is to drag as many of us to hell as he can. We will not allow this. For we are blood bought and sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, we claim our independence and look forward to the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he has gone ahead of us to prepare.
So we are not a part of this world. We have our hope in heaven, which we are still hoping for. And we are waiting patiently. We press onward toward our goal. How do we do this? There are many things involved so I’ll just hit on a few of them.
The first I just mentioned. We must put on the full armor of God. If we are going to be forced to live in this world, we’re going to do combat against it instead of siding with it. Fully prepared for battle, we go out into the world. Then we must live holy lives.
Paul outlines rules for holy living in the book of Colossians. All of chapter three has rules to live by but I’ll concentrate on the first part, verses 1-10.
|Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.|
We are told to set our hearts on things above. Our concentration should be on the fact that this life that we now live is but a blink of the eye in comparison to eternity. We live for God while we are here on earth. We should be living as though we will be called home to be with God at any time.
But there are also things we are told to rid ourselves of.
|Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.|
These are all things of our old nature which we must rid ourselves of. To do so isn’t easy and there is no easy step by step process to do it. We must put on the new self. God is constantly renewing our new self in knowledge. This means that we are striving to learn more about God through Bible study and prayer. Romans 12:2 speaks of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is the same process here.
As we learn more about God and draw closer to him, we find that we don’t want to have to do with things of our old nature. There isn’t a day when you suddenly realize that, “Oh, I’ve decided to stop angry because the Bible says not to.” This is simply something that happens gradually over a period of time.
There are also things that we should do if we desire to live apart from the rotten world we are in. We must live by the spirit. Galatians, (yes, another book by Paul) 5:16-25 tells us how to live life by the Spirit of God.
|So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.|
This is more of the same of what we have looked at. We are no longer under the law but have been set free from it because we are led by the Holy Spirit. The sinful nature and the Spirit are in conflict with one another. We must surrender ourselves to one or the other. We struggle with this so much because we like to have control of ourselves. The truth of the matter is that we either are controlled by the sinful nature or we’re controlled by the Spirit. When we’re controlled by our sinful desires, we’re deceived into thinking that we are truly in control of ourselves. In reality, we’re slaves to sin or we’re slaves to righteousness.
|The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.|
This list is similar to the list in Colossians that we looked at. There are some new additions here but the strategy to defeat them is the same. We must renew our minds and draw closer to God. The closer to go to God, the further we are from these things.
Here’s what we need to do though. We must be full of the Spirit.
|But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.|
This is the way that we will draw closer to God. Once again, it’s a process that takes time. When we are filled with the fruits of the spirit, there is no room for the acts of the sinful nature. We can only go in one direction at once. Since the Spirit does what is contrary to what the sinful nature does, if we live by the Spirit, we won’t follow the sinful nature. This list of nine points is how to live by the Spirit.
So does Paul hold to this his entire life? We looked at how he struggled with sin earlier on. Since everything we’ve looked at has been by Paul, let’s see how all of this worked in his life.
In 2 Timothy, Paul is at the end of his life. He is sitting in a Roman prison after being released once before. He knows that his time is short and that the Lord is soon going to call him home. His writes to his young student Timothy. The beginning of chapter three describes godlessness in the last days; a description that sounds very much like that of today. Then in verses 11-15 he charges Timothy and tells him how to live a godly life.
|In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.|
Paul’s charge to Timothy is to hold to the scriptures, which he knows is truth. When we are grounded in the truth we won’t be able to be deceived by the lies the Devil throws at us. When he finds that we are new creatures, he will attack the truth that has set us free. When he finds that this doesn’t work either, ultimately there will be persecution. But we should actually rejoice in the persecution because it can be proof that we are living godly lives, just as Paul says that everyone who wants to live godly lives will be persecuted.
So how does Paul fare in his own battle with sin? He tells us in his own words.
2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul, like we, lived in a rotten world. There are new ways to sin today, but the problems are really the same. In the end, Paul lost his life to a rotten world that didn’t want to hear his message.
We have the same hope that Paul had. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and not of an earthly habitat. We have left this world and are simply aliens among its inhabitants. The old, sinful nature will try to hold us back as it is at war with our new nature. We must put to death the things of the old nature though. This can be done through the renewing of our minds and drawing close to God.
As the Spirit and the sinful nature are at war, if we fill ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit, there is no room for things of the sinful nature. When Satan finds that finds that we are new creatures he will attack the truth that made us new. We must be grounded in scripture to defend these attacks. And ultimately, when all else fails, Satan will persecute us. But we need not worry. This rotten world is not our home. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. One day we will be with Him in it.