Open Your Bible
1 John 5:14-21, Deuteronomy 29:29, Luke 18:1-8, John 3:16-17
BY Sharon Hodde Miller
About ten years ago, I was struggling with gossip, a sin I couldn’t seem to kick, no matter how hard I tried. I had become convicted about it after living with a friend who didn’t gossip at all. Like, at all. She held her tongue and guarded confidences with patience and incredible grace. She was a wonderful example to me, and her integrity highlighted the cracks in my own. So, I decided to change.
At first, I simply tried to gossip less. I’d made up my mind and thought that would be enough. It wasn’t. Then, I decided to “fast” from gossip. Now, I know that’s not how fasting works; we aren’t supposed to fast from things we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Even so, making the concerted effort really seemed to help. I limited the fast to forty days, cutting out gossip TV shows and magazines, and just trying to be more intentional. I took it one day at a time.
During those forty days, I was able to avoid gossip. And for the first time, I felt a sense of victory over this area of my life. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick. A decade later, I still fall prey to this sin. I still spread rumors under the guise of concern, I still ask for personal details I don’t need to hear, and I freely discuss the personal lives of famous people. I don’t like that I do it, but I do it nonetheless. I’ve come to realize I’ll struggle with it the rest of my life.
Ongoing struggles with sin are one of the great mysteries of the Christian life. On the one hand, following Christ means we put on our identity of Christ. In Him, we are set free from our sinful nature, and it no longer exercises unbridled power over us (Ephesians 4:22–24). On the other hand, we still sin. Even when we don’t want to sin, we do (Romans 7:15–16). In Christ we are victorious over our flesh, but we still do battle against it.
John alludes to this struggle, stating that we are victorious and should not continue to sin (1John 5:18), but he also encourages believers to pray for others while they’re in the midst of sinning. At first, it seems like John is contradicting himself. But what John is referring to is the tension between the “already, but not yet” of being a Christian. This concept means we have one foot in eternity and one foot here on earth. We already taste the victories of Christ’s resurrection, but we don’t yet possess them completely. We will continue to struggle with sin, but it will no longer define us.
This already-not-yet state of being can be frustrating, especially when you’re tired of struggling with sin. But even in that, God does not abandon us to struggle alone. We always have the help of prayer, which is why John encourages us to ask for anything “according to his will” (1John 5:14). When we ask God to deliver us from sin, He promises to hear us, and help us. He is the true God and our High Priest, and we can trust Him with our weaknesses (1John 5:20; Hebrews 4:15).
The struggle with our flesh is real, but take heart: God isn’t finished with us yet. We are already “in the true one—that is, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1John 5:20). He is the only way to eternal life, and we are only just beginning to taste the fullness that awaits (Philippians 3:20).
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