A man in Texas nearly died when he was bitten by the severed head of a four-foot rattlesnake.
Jennifer Sutcliffe told a Corpus Christi news station that her husband had been clearing their yard over Memorial Day weekend when he saw and decapitated the snake. When he picked up the dead rattlesnake to dispose of it, the head bit him and released an almost fatal amount of venom.
He was flown to a hospital and treated with twenty-six doses of antivenom.
“When poisons become fashionable”
Like the dead rattlesnake, our crucified “old self” can still attack us.
Paul declared, “We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
And yet the apostle admitted, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20).
Is his dilemma familiar to you? It is to me.
Some sins in the news are beyond our comprehension. For instance, an Arkansas man admitted in court this week that he intentionally contracted HIV so he could expose others to the virus. He also pled guilty to several other heinous crimes.
A twenty-three-year-old driver in Boston allegedly struck and killed an eighty-year-old man on Wednesday. Following the fatal crash, he told reporters that he did not intend to hit the man. “People hit and run people all the time,” he said.
Other sins are more mundane. Lying, coveting, and refusing to forgive people seldom make the news, but they are nonetheless just as sinful as crimes that generate headlines. And just as deadly (Romans 6:23).
C. S. Lewis warned: “When poisons become fashionable, they do not cease to kill.”
“Sin will have no dominion over you”
How do we defeat the “old man” who has died in Christ but still kills?
First, define the problem.
Tim Keller: “The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”
Second, choose God’s solution.
Paul counseled: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12). How? “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (v. 13).
“Present” translates paristemi, meaning “to place at someone’s disposal.” “Members” translates melos, meaning “limbs” or “body parts.” Speaking metaphorically, Paul instructs us not to let any part of our lives be used for sinful purposes. Instead, we are to submit every dimension of our lives to God “as instruments for righteousness.”
When we do, “sin will have no dominion over you” (v. 14).
St. Augustine noted that “sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent and self-sustained.” Freedom from sin therefore comes from believing the truth that you are God-created, God-dependent, and God-sustained.
“What we need very badly in these days”
If you want your “old man” to “have no dominion over you,” you must surrender your life completely to your Lord. C. S. Lewis asks, ‘To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?”
The result of such submission is not begrudging servitude but joyful freedom.
Amy Carmichael: “Joy is simply perfect acquiescence in God’s will, because the soul delights itself in God himself. Rejoice in the will of God, and in nothing else. Bow your heads and your hearts before God, and let the will, the blessed will of God, be done.”
To this end, consider a perceptive insight from A. W. Tozer: “What we need very badly in these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.”
Which is it to you?