When I finally decided to get serious about the business of personal holiness, I made gruesome discoveries.
If you haven’t yet decided to be a sin-slayer, all of this may seem foreign to you and strange. For me, it’s an image of how I live every day.
Whether it was the word of Christ dwelling richly in me, the Holy Spirit calling me to deeper obedience, a God-planted desire to be holy and righteous, or, most likely, a cocktail of all three, I’ve come to the point in my spiritual life where I despise my sin.
So I hunt it. But this hunt is no romanticized adventure. It often looks more like a slasher film than a hunter stalking prey in the Serengeti. I feel like that character in the zombie flick who is slowly making her way down dark hallways, knowing at any moment something terrible will lunge at her from around the next corner.
I creep carefully along, watchful, but there are thousands of them out there. Or in here. Now that I’ve woken up to the battle, I daily realize how infested I am. Before, when I wasn’t hunting them down, they didn’t look like sin — they looked like friends. They looked like “Self-esteem,” not Pride.
They looked like “Hormones,” not Lust. They looked like “Sharing Needs,” instead of Gossip. But those same “friends” wear different faces now. Each time God reveals one of them for what they really are, the mask of decency crumbles off of their disgusting faces, and I fall back in fear because the two of us were just holding hands a moment ago.
Guns Drawn, Safeties Off
I slip through the shadowy halls of my own heart, carefully listening at every doorway. I turn a corner I’ve turned before, and my body relaxes because I should be safe here. But suddenly there’s a whole pack of them! Red-eyed and growling, they back me into a corner. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cower. They’re strong, and they know my weaknesses.
They close in. Closer and closer.
I see their teeth. I smell their rancid breath. And then, before I’m overwhelmed, I remember it and I shout it hoarsely, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
The light of truth flashes in the dilated pupils of their red eyes, and they scatter. They turn and run.
I’m safe again.
Lust, Pride, Greed, Laziness, Hate — they are scattered. But they’ll regroup. My job is to keep hunting.
Often friends join the hunt, a Christian sister or my husband. They shine the light on some sin I still had a truce with, aiming their weapons at the sin that has a knife to my throat. Meanwhile, I try to explain how this enemy isn’t as dangerous as it seems; it’s done some good things for me; I like being around it. Safeties are off, sweaty fingers on the trigger. My friends will not relent until I surrender.
Finally, my sin drops the knife, defeated by honesty, humility — repentance does its sin-disarming work. It skulks away to wait for a better opportunity to destroy (Luke 4:13). Gone for now, but as always, never fully defeated.
Maybe this all sounds overwhelming to you. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “She was better off before! That sounds like torture. I’d rather not see all my faults.” I have thought these things myself. Or maybe this sounds like the meditations of someone overly obsessed with herself and her own internal cleaning, instead of the needs of the lost and the hurting.
It’s not meant to be either of these things. What I’m describing is an honest, bloody fight for life. “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). So the question is not whether I want to be more or less comfortable, more or less conscious of my sins. The question is whether I want to live or die.
And it is only when I put my sin to death that I can find the grace and victory to joyfully serve and love others. Unless I daily kill the sin of comfort-craving or self-protection or indifference, I have little hope of being a God-honoring help to those who are lost and hurting. But when I win those small victories over the tyranny of my sin, I hear Christ, the sovereign Victor, cheering for me as I fight the battle in the strength he provides (1 Peter 4:11).
His delight is worth far more than the ease that came with holding hands with masked enemies who only looked like friends.
When the War Is Won
Yes, I’m tired of it. Even in the bloodiest battles, never ever do I kill one dead. There’s never a moment where I’ve put down Pride for good. She is conquered by the truth, but not yet subject to death. Like a zombie-killer, I swing my machete, memorizing God’s word and meditating on it. But what would kill a normal man doesn’t phase her. Her teeth keep snapping at me even when I lop her head clean off with humble, Spirit-filled prayer.
I can kill her over and over again; and over and over again she’ll revive. I won’t be free of her menacing prowl until my Victor comes and stares into my eyes. His gaze is a silver-bullet head-shot. Then, finally then, Pride will die for good, never to be raised again. Then death itself will die, swallowed with my sin in final victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). Jesus Christ our Victor is Lord over all (Philippians 2:11). He’s the spotless, innocent Lamb that holds the keys to Death and Hades (1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 1:18). Sin’s time here on earth is running short.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). That’s a sobering sentence — the kind that makes me draw my sword and slide my helmet onto my head. I pick up the sword of the Spirit, even though my arms are tired (Ephesians 6:17). I shuffle back onto the battlefield, even though I have blisters on my feet. There is a prize at the end of this fight that is beyond my wildest imagination. And I fight for the One who paid my debt. This is a fight worth fighting, and the victory is assured.
I won’t grow weary in fighting this good fight.