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Growing up in West Virginia meant my boyhood summers were spent exploring the woods. Rocks, rivers, and trails were our playground.
One afternoon a friend and I discovered what we hoped was a cave along a rocky mountainside. We pressed into the cold tunnel on our hands and knees with the aid of a flashlight. Our excitement grew as the tunnel opened into something resembling an underground cathedral. It was a dream world for young boys like us.
But our dream soon became a nightmare when the flashlight began to flicker. The chamber grew dim as we struggled to retrace our steps. The shadows thickened and terror made the air seem scarce. Darkness eclipsed our eyes and we grew certain that the cave would become our tomb.
Then, a dim sliver of light pierced the darkness. It shined long enough for us to stumble toward it and crawl through the tunnel. Once free from the dungeon, we stood in the sun’s light, weeping with joy and breathing freedom’s fresh air.
Sin’s ensnaring grasp is much like being trapped in a cave. Its smothering power can feel overwhelming and inescapable. Joy, peace, and hope can be fleeting in the darkness.
Though Christ has overthrown sin’s power, we can give into temptation and allow sin to overthrow us. Our liberty can at times feel questionable as we struggle with our abiding sin. All believers struggle with sin generally, but most can identify a “besetting sin.” I’m referring to a unique area of weakness in which we are particularly susceptible to give in when tempted. It may be anger that feels uncontrollable or lust that seems unquenchable.
The daunting power of these sins feels inescapable. Yet God shines a promise into the ensnaring darkness. He pledges that there is a “way of escape, that [we] may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). What is this way of escape? The author of Hebrews tells us:
Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:1–2)
Sin would have us do anything but look to Jesus. Our adversary lays alluring pleasures before our hearts. Along with them, he whispers accusations, followed by condemning shame and paralyzing guilt. These thoughts stir a disillusioning whirlwind in our flesh.
Yet a true glimpse of Jesus brings sobriety to our souls. His beauty awakens us from sinful slumber and empowers us to lay aside the sin that entangles and hinders us. So how do we look to Jesus and find His strengthening help? We look to Him in the Word of God.
Look to Jesus in the Word
Before we go further, I must be clear what I do not mean. I am not suggesting that simply opening the book and reading a few verses will magically empower you to kill sin. That’s nonsense. Instead, this sort of Jesus-seeing Bible reading is an act of faith. We open the Scriptures in desperation and plead with God to use His Word to show us Jesus.
As we prayerfully read, the Holy Spirit help us behold Christ in the Word. By the Spirit’s help we come “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, [and] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
See His Person in the Word
In the Word, we see Christ’s person. We witness the eternal Son lay aside His divine rights and humbly come among us. Amazingly, we see Him leave a world where angels cried: “Holy! Holy! Holy!” and enter a world where sinners cried: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We see His hands of compassion touch the untouchable leper. We observe tenderness toward the despised woman who washed His feet with her tears. We see love incarnate, full of grace and truth.
As we witness His love, lust becomes less lovely. Apathy turns to holy passion. Anger is eclipsed by patience. Jealousy is overtaken by contentment. This transformation from one degree of glory to another is not instant. It is slow, yet certain. Painful, yet pleasurable. God uses His Word to cut out the cancer of abiding sin and make us more like Him.
Witness His Works in the Word
In the Word, we also witness His works. We see Him stoop to wash the feet of disciples He knew would desert Him. We watch sinners spit upon Him with mouths meant to praise Him. We behold the Son of glory hang upon a tree of shame. We run with Peter and peer into the empty crypt. We are lifted into heaven, where we find Him interceding for us before the throne of grace.
As we see Him saving and serving us, our trust for Him grows. His sufficient death deepens our desire to live for Him. His sacrifice moves us to thankful joy. His submission to the Father helps us trust the Father’s purifying discipline. His unceasing intercession gives us courage to fight. Beholding Jesus’ ministry warms our affections and helps us believe that the joy of obedience is better than sin’s fleeting pleasures.
Hear His Promises in the Word
In the Word, we also hear His promises. We are summoned to the hilltop where He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We are welcomed to bring our burdens when He invites, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” To those wearied with fighting sin, He assures, “Surely, I am coming soon!”
Setting our hope here gives us courage to pursue relationships in which we confess sins quickly, honestly, and regularly. It is the substance of our encouragement and helps guard us from the deceitfulness of sin.
So, struggling saint, look to the light of Jesus in the Word. Plead with God to open your eyes to behold His beauty. Humbly lock arms with your church and together set your eyes upon Jesus, who is coming soon to take us to that land where sin shall be dead and faith shall be sight. We are almost home; don’t lose heart.