To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
Hitting the Mark?
The deep blue sky had a few puffy white clouds in it as the back door opened to Daniel Nomas’s house. Swat…the door sounded when a long metal spring pulled it shut. Cool moist air filled Daniel nostrils as he took a deep breath. It was still morning and there was a light mist hanging in his neighbor’s field.
Turning around he hollered though the screen door, “Jimmy, I’m heading out now.” Daniel looked out over the property. He had been living there for about 2 years now. He had lived in the city most of his life, but through an odd turn of events, he ended up buying this house about a mile outside of a small rural town and had made several close friends in the area.
A sound came from inside the door as Jimmy frantically grabbed his coat and wrestled to put on his boots. Jimmy Hamartia was a thirteen year old boy from the nearby town who Daniel found one day walking away from the general store with several bags of groceries. His father had died in a car accident several years back and his mother worked at “Danny’s Dinner” as a waitress to pay the bills. When Daniel saw Jimmy that day, he had stopped him and found out where he was going. After a brief conversation, Daniel came to see the potential in the young boy who was diligently helping his mother. In the following weeks, Daniel had gotten to know Jimmy and later his mother from simply seeing them in the small town and during his last visit to the diner he asked his mother if could take Jimmy out on his property to teach him how to shoot a bow and arrow. Jimmy’s mother thought it was a wonderful idea because she had come to see Daniel as a respectable man and greatly desired for her son to have some men in his life that he could looked up to.
Swat…the door shut behind Jimmy as he came out of Daniel’s house. His heart was pounding as he looked around at the thick woods to his left and an open field stretching out in front of him. Daniel was near by holding a beautiful wooden bow with a leather bag slung over his shoulder full of different colored arrows. The air was very still as Jimmy’s feet crushed some freshly fallen leaves while he dashed over to where Daniel was now standing. Removing the leather bag from his shoulder and kneeling down, Daniel set the arrows and bow on the grassy ground. Daniel’s front yard had several large oak trees that provided a lot of shade on hot days, but today their shadows simply added a little chill to the air.
“Where do we get started,” Jimmy asked with great excitement. Daniel smiled, he could remember the first time he used a bow and arrow with an old Oregon mountain man who was visiting someone his parents knew many years ago.
“Well, I have two targets on my property. One is toward the field over there and the other is to your left, back by the woods,” Daniel pointed as he talked. “We will be using the target by the field until you get good and then we will start to use the other one by the woods.” Jimmy’s mind raced, he could easily see the target in front of him by the field. It was on a large round bail of hay sitting about thirty feet in front of them. The center of the target had a 20 on it and then on the subsequent rings he could read: 10, 5, 1. Nevertheless, when he turned to look for the target back by the woods, it was out of site.
“What is different about the target by the woods?” Jimmy asked curiously.
“The target back by the woods is a moving target, but you don’t need to worry about that now. We will just practice here and maybe someday we can head back to the woods.” As Daniel began to get things ready, Jimmy tried to picture what the moving target must look like and how much more fun it must be than simply shooting at a stationary circle.
Nevertheless, Jimmy’s thoughts were interrupted as Daniel pulled the first arrow from the leather pouch and explained, “this leather bag is called a quiver, it is used to hold my arrows. Each time you get done shoot, I want you to count the arrows and put them back into the quiver. I presently have 12 arrows that you can use in this quiver, try not to loose them.” Then placing the arrow in the bow, he turned to face the target. The bow creaked as Daniel’s strong arms effortlessly pulled back the string. Slowly taking aim, he released the arrow into the air and with a soft thud it stuck into the bull’s eye of the target. Turning to Jimmy, he handed the bow and arrow to him. Jimmy held the bow with some reverence as he considered the opportunity he now had. He took a green arrow from the quiver and copying Daniel, he placed the arrow on the string of the bow. Then he raised the bow to aim and began to pull on the string. Yet to his great dismay, he could barely move the sting at all. Nevertheless, he pulled back the string as far as he could and let go it before his strength gave way. The arrow whizzed through the air and fell several feet short of the target, hitting a small clump of grass. Jimmy’s heart sunk. He had totally missed. Daniel watched as Jimmy’s shoulders slumped a little with disappointment, but turning to Jimmy he said, “Wait here.” Dashing back to the house he went inside and quickly returned with a smaller red bow. “Sorry bud, I should have thought about getting this one for you to use.”
The smaller red bow had a black string and a black handle. Its appearance was certainly nothing like that of the beauty bow that he was unable to use. Exchanging the bows, Jimmy took a deep breath and with a little glimmer of hope he reached for another arrow. Slowly he got the arrow in place and began to pull back the string. To his great delight, he pulled the arrow back with relatively little effort. Releasing the string, the arrow flew through the air and went right over the target.
Jimmy’s shoulders slumped down again, but Daniel said, “don’t worry about it, just aim lower next time.” Handing him another arrow, Daniel assured Jimmy that he would get it. Jimmy shot again and this time the arrow whizzed past the right side of the target barely brushing the hay bail.
Daniel smiled, “you all most got it, now just a little further to the left.” With renewed determination, Jimmy positioned another arrow in the bow and took aim. Jimmy squinted. Looking down the shaft of the arrow, he tried to focus on the target before him. He careful pointed the arrow a little lower and then to the left. Then releasing it, he watched as the arrow hit the target with a thud. Daniel’s eyes widened and his lips curled into a smile.
Jimmy leaped up and said, “I got it!” The arrow was stuck fast into the bull’s eye of the target.
“I guess it’s all or nothing with you”, Daniel said as he patted Jimmy on the back. “Now that you’re getting the hang of this, I am going to make a deal with you. I am going to let you use seven arrows at a time and if you can get all of them to hit the bulls eye in a row, I will give you a special prize. I don’t want you to get discouraged if you can’t do this right away. It will take you quite a bit of practice to be able to hit the center of target consistently.”
“What will the prize be?” Jimmy asked with great excitement and curiosity.
Daniel replied, “Let me put it this way, I will make it well worth it to you.” Jimmy’s eyes widened with joy and reaching for another arrow he got ready to take another shot.
Months slowly passed by as Jimmy came over to Daniel’s house on the weekends and worked toward consistently hitting the bull’s eye. Each time Jimmy got one more bull’s eye in a row, Daniel would take him out to get some ice cream. As time passed along, their friendship grew and Jimmy began to open up his heart to Daniel when they stood outside taking aim. Jimmy shared about how his father had died and the effect it had on his mother. How it forced her to find her confidence and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ instead of her circumstances. He also explained how God had been so faithful to provide for them when things had gotten tough and about the different people who came along side them to help. Daniel enjoyed listening to the boy and frequently shared with him the things that God was doing in his life.
One day, after Jimmy had gotten five bull’s eyes in a row for the first time and they had gotten some ice cream, Daniel dropped Jimmy off at the diner.
“Thanks for the ice cream!” Jimmy said putting another spoonful of peanuts, fudge, and chocolate ice cream into his mouth.
“Oh you deserve it,” Daniel assured him. “That fifth bull’s eye was great and now you only got two more to go. You’re all most there! Well, I guess I will see you next weekend.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait.” Jimmy replied as Daniel started up his old rusty truck. They both waved and Daniel headed down the road. The sun was out and it was warm. A gentle breeze wiggled the leaves of the small nearby tree as Jimmy turned to head into the small diner. As the door opened, the motion produced the familiar sound of bells jingling. Light streamed in through large widows illuminating the laid back setting of the diner. Brown leather booth seating wrapped around the exterior walls and square wooden tables dappled the rest of the polished tan colored floor. It was about seven thirty and only a handful of people were still lingering there as they finished the remains of their supper.
Jimmy came in and quickly spotted his mom cleaning off a nearby table. “Hey mom,” Jimmy called out. “You won’t believe it. I shot five bull’s eyes in a row today.” His mom looked up from her work, as she precariously balanced a few plates on one arm while simultaneously grabbing three cups in each hand. She had gotten quite used to carrying massive amounts of dishes in one trip back to the kitchen in order to save a little time when things got busy.
“Wow, that’s great honey.” she replied with excitement. Jimmy’s mom was quite pleased to see his relationship with Daniel growing over the last couple months. They both seem to hit it off really well together and were hanging out quite a bit on the weekends.
“I only have two more arrows to get in a row before I win Daniel’s prize,” Jimmy boasted to his mother.
She smiled and said, “Well, you are becoming quite the archer. Has Daniel alluded to what this prize may be?”
“Not quite, but I am sure it will be good!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Well, well, what do I hear over there?” a voice came from behind them. There was a man sitting at one of the booths wearing a jean jacket looking like he hadn’t shaved for about a week. His hair was all white and sitting half hunched over at the table he said, “Did I hear you say that you hit five bull’s eyes in a row?”
“Yes, I have been practicing for months now and I am starting to get pretty good,” Jimmy replied.
“Hmmm...--- is your target stationary or is it moving?” the older gentleman asked.
Jimmy was a bit puzzled, “it is stationary.” he replied.
The older man looked at him a little bit and tilted his head to the side asking, “So how many moving targets have you hit?”
“Well, I haven’t hit any yet, but I am sure I could if I wanted too,” Jimmy replied a little defensively.
“You think aye, well little boy you aren’t nothing until you can hit a moving target. If you ever go hunting you’ll want to be able to shoot something moving. Once you can do that, then you’ll be ‘pretty good’,” the man retorted back with a smirk. Jimmy was taken back as he considered this man’s opinion about hitting a moving target. Daniel had made him feel like he was doing well, but from what this man was saying, it seemed he was focusing his efforts in the wrong area. Perhaps all his work trying to hit something stationary was misdirected.
“Don’t listen to him,” Jimmy’s mom whispered, interrupting his thoughts, “he just had a bad day and he has been giving everyone here a hard time since he came in.” Jimmy nodded, but the man did seem to have a point.
The sun shone brightly by the familiar hay bail target that Jimmy had become so accustom to. It was a week later from when he had gotten the five bull’s eyes in a row and the thing that the old man in the diner had said plagued him ever since.
“Jimmy, I am going to head inside for a bit, but keep going, I just need to finish some cleaning in the kitchen. Nevertheless, I am trusting that you will be responsible here. I don‘t want you shooting at anything other than the target. We don’t want to loose any more arrows today.” Daniel said as he turned to head back toward the house. Jimmy agreed and then shot an arrow. It sunk into the middle of the target. He turned to watch Daniel head into the house and screen door swat shut behind him. Grabbing another arrow he placed it into the bow and released it again. Bull’s eye! Jimmy could almost always hit the bull’s eye about three times out of every five shots and it rarely surprised him when he hit the target dead center. The birds chirping and the occasional white puffy cloud in the deep blue sky made it perfect to be outside. Bull’s eye, Jimmy’s arrow sank into the target next to the previous one. His heart began to beat a little as he got ready for the next shot. He looked back toward the house to see if Daniel was watching, but he couldn’t see any sign of him inside the house. Taking aim again and letting go, the arrow slipped into the target next to the others. Jimmy’s heart began to beat faster. He had gotten to this place several times, but had only gotten the fifth arrow once. Getting another arrow and pulling back on the string, he tried to take extra care in aiming. The wind was blowing a little, moving his hair ever so slightly. Shifting his direction slightly, he let the string roll out of his fingers. Thud, the arrow stuck fast into the bull’s eye again. He did it again, five arrows in a row. Looking back to the house again, he tried to see if Daniel was anywhere in sight, but he was nowhere to be found. Turning to look back at the target, he thought about heading in to get Daniel before shooting anymore, but then something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Something was moving just behind the hay bail. Then it jumped out. It was a rabbit. Jimmy froze and watched as it slowly made its way to the front of the hay bail. Jimmy’s heart began to pound a little harder as the words echoed in his mind, “well, little boy you aren’t nothing until you can hit a moving target.” Jimmy reached for a silver colored arrow from the quiver as slowly as he could. The rabbit continued to hop around and smell the ground in front of the hay bail. Jimmy slowly set the arrow in the bow, but as he pulled back the string, the bow creaked and the rabbit froze. His heart began to race and he could hear it pounding in his ears. He quickly moved the bow up into position to aim and as he did so the rabbit made its move darting toward his right. Jimmy swung around trying to aim just in front of its path. The arrow flew out of the bow as the rabbit darted forward and then the rabbit rolled and tumbled as the arrow caught one of its back legs. Jimmy let out a yell of success, but the rabbit didn’t stop. It continued to run veering off behind the hay bail and going into the corn field. Jimmy couldn’t believe it. He got it and that was fun, much more fun than target practice, but the arrow was gone and Daniel just told him not to shoot at other things than the target. Swat, a door shut behind him. He turned to see Daniel headed his way. Fear swept over Jimmy, what would he say to Daniel.
“I thought I just heard you out here, how are you doing?” Daniel inquired.
“Ah...I am fine,” Jimmy replied sheepishly.
“Just fine? How many arrows did you get in the bull’s eye there,” asked Daniel as he got closer. “One, two, three, four, five, and one still in the quiver. How many did you get in a row?”
Jimmy snapped back into reality, he had forgotten that he was right on the brink of passing the next mark closer to his goal of consecutively getting all seven arrows into the bull’s eye. “I got five in, one right after another.”
Daniel smiled and said, “well, are you going to go for the next one?” Jimmy paused for a moment looking at the one remaining arrow in the quiver and then it clicked with Daniel that one of the arrows was missing. “What happened to the other arrow? Did you miss the target all together?” Daniel and Jimmy both knew that the last time Jimmy had completely missed the target was well over a month ago.
“Well see, a rabbit jumped out from behind the hay bail when I was getting ready to shoot and it startled me. As a result, I let go of the arrow too early and now it is way out in the corn field somewhere.” Jimmy knew his story was not completely true, nevertheless, it wasn’t technically false either.
Daniel looked at Jimmy, then looked at the ground. Jimmy’s heart started to beat a little harder. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to get some more arrows sometime,” Daniel said with a deep breath. Wait just a minute, I will be right back. Daniel ran off behind the house and came back with an old lawn chair. “Okay, I figured it would be nice to watch you, just in case you get six arrows in the bull’s eye today.” Jimmy, feeling a little uneasy, went to the target and retrieved the arrows. Returning back to their shooting location, he began firing at the target again. Nevertheless, pointing arrows at a target just didn’t seem very exciting anymore, it just didn’t inspire the same rush he experience when trying to shoot the rabbit. As the day progressed on, he never got five arrows in the bull’s eye again and by the time evening was settling in he was kind of bored. Things weren’t the same anymore after shooting at a moving target.
As the months passed by Jimmy was going over to Daniel’s less and less. He felt like he could only handle shooting at stationary things for so long and then it would get old. After all, he already knew he was pretty good because he had shot a moving target. As long as Daniel didn’t want to take him shooting at something real, he just wasn’t very excited about spending more time with him.
Then one day Daniel came into the diner. The bells on the door jingled as it shut behind him. Jimmy and his mom were sitting at a booth in the back and the place was basically empty. Daniel had guessed that only a few people would be there at three in the afternoon and he was right. Moseying his way around a few tables, he headed back to where Jimmy and his mother were sitting. Daniel had already talked to his mother on the phone the day before in hopes of understanding why Jimmy hadn’t come over the last two weekends. When he had found out that Jimmy had just hung out by himself both weekends, he knew something was wrong.
“Hi guys,” Daniel said as he approached the back of the dinner.
“Hi Daniel,” Jimmy’s mom answered. Then turning to Jimmy she said, “I need to head in the back to get some stuff done before people come in for dinner.” Getting up from the booth she winked at Daniel and went into the kitchen. Daniel bent down and slid onto the booth’s leather seat facing Jimmy. Jimmy was looking at the table, obviously a little uncomfortable. His demeanor had totally changed from a few months ago when they would stand outside sharing their hearts with each other.
“Is something wrong Jimmy?” Daniel inquired.
Jimmy was quiet for a while and then he said, “Well, I just don’t think shooting arrows at a hay bail is worth the time.” Daniel looked at the boy’s face: his lips were pressed tight together, his eyes were still focused on the empty table, and he would occasionally blink slowly. Something was obviously going on in his heart and Daniel wanted to get to the bottom of it.
“Was it ever about shooting a hay bail?” Daniel asked. The expression on Jimmy’s face changed and his head tilted to the side a little. Daniel knew he had got him thinking. “All I know is that you have never been the same since you shot that rabbit a couple months back.” Jimmy’s eyes opened wide and for the first time he looked up into Daniel’s eyes. Shock covered his face. He had no idea that Daniel knew anything about the rabbit. “I found the rabbit behind the hay bail with an arrow in its leg after you left that day,” Daniel continued. “And something didn’t seem right to me when I heard a triumphant shout and found that you had shot an arrow into oblivion.” Jimmy didn’t know what to say and part of him wanted to run, but there obviously was no place to go.
“I...well...someone here at the diner told me that I wasn’t any good unless I could shoot a moving target,” Jimmy blurted out almost ready to cry.
Daniel squeezed his lips together and then said, “Oh Jimmy, that’s not true. I don’t know who said that, but a lot of the time when you shoot your bow, your target will be relatively still. Nevertheless, it’s not about merely hitting the target that is moving or sitting still, it is about hitting it accurately. If you can hit the bull’s eye several times you are doing much better than most hunters. In fact, you would be among the elite. Is this what made you take your eyes off getting the prize?” The prize, Jimmy had almost forgotten about the prize. He had gotten so focused on the excitement that he had with the rabbit that he had forgotten why he was shooting at the hay bail in the first place.
Jimmy looked down at the table again and said, “I...well...I thought...” Then he let out a sigh. Daniel was right, and he knew it. “I’m sorry Daniel. Your right, I have gotten so focused on doing something that I haven’t been allowed to do that I have forgotten about the prize.” Jimmy looked up and met Daniel’s eyes. Both could see each others’ pain.
Daniel broke the short silence saying, “The prize is still available if you are ready to work for it again.”
Jimmy and Daniel both leaped into the air with a sound of triumph that now seemed to echo off in the distance. After their talk in the diner near two months ago, Jimmy started going over to Daniel’s house on the weekends again. It had taken a little while for Jimmy to get back to where he had been at hitting the bull’s eye before the rabbit incident. Nevertheless, after Jimmy had set aside his ambitions toward shooting moving targets, his relationship with Daniel was almost instantly restored.
“You got it, all seven in a row!” Daniel exclaimed. Jimmy’s heart was still beating quickly and he couldn’t decide if he should shout, laugh, or even cry. They had worked so hard together to achieve this goal and now it was finally here.
Jimmy looked at Daniel with excitement and said, “What is the prize?”
“Wait here,” Daniel replied as he turned and darted off toward the house. The screen door slapped shut behind him as he made his way inside. Turning to the right, he flipped on a light and zipped down the basement stairs. The basement was not finished and the ceiling was too low for Daniel to stand up all the way. Bending down, he dodged past a spider web and a protruding pipe that threatened to give him a big nasty bump. As he came to a dark part of the basement, he reached upward to feel for a hanging string. Grabbing it tightly, he pulled it down illuminating his path as he neared his destination.
Jimmy stood outside by the hay bail watching the house where Daniel had run off to and then all of a sudden he heard-- something behind him. Two fuzzy ears poked out from behind the hay bail. Jimmy’s eyes opened wide and his heart started to beat more quickly. He had already gotten his arrows from the target and they sat ready, right next to him. The rabbit slowly hopped out into the open, cautiously smelling the air and took a few more hops. Jimmy slowly repositioned himself and then froze. The rabbit looked toward him not moving for what seemed like an eternity, then it casually hopped to the front of the hay bail and started to smell the ground. Jimmy’s heart pounded, in one quick motion he could grab an arrow and launch it toward the oblivious creature. Yet something stopped him in that very moment. “What about the prize?” he thought to himself. Jimmy closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was not going to allow himself to miss out on the blessing that was so close. Daniel had promised that the prize would be well worth the effort and to miss out on it in the heat of the moment because of some strange impulse to satisfy a forbidden desire would be pointless. Letting his bow fall to the ground, he turned around toward the house and opened up his eyes.
“You did good, here you go,” Daniel exclaimed. Jimmy was a bit startled to find out that Daniel was standing directly behind him. In the midst of watching the rabbit he must not have heard him approaching. Nevertheless, Daniel was now standing in front of him with beautiful wooden bow and new quiver full of arrows. “And this isn’t it, I have a big hunting trip planned for next month. I have already talked to your mom and she said it was fine,” Daniel added.
“Oh, thank you,” Jimmy said with excitement, “I can’t wait.” Jimmy rushed over to Daniel and gave him a big hug. Then Jimmy took his new bow with the arrows and said, “Can we try them out now?”
“Of course,” Daniel replied. Jimmy got ready and took aim. Letting go of the string, the arrow shot through the air piercing the surface of the target on the center of the bull’s eye.
“Hey Jimmy, there is one other reward that you also gained from keeping your end of the bargain,” Daniel said.
“What?” Jimmy asked with some curiosity.
Daniel answered, “You can now consistently hit the bull’s eye!”
Teaching about overcoming sin has become a dividing line between doctrinal beliefs among Christians for a long time. Some people will say that it is inevitable that Christians will sin their whole life while others say that they haven’t sinned for the last twenty years and have no expectation of sinning for the next twenty as well. These extremes have either led people to live according to their evil natural desires, to possess condemning arrogance, or has simply produced needless misunderstandings. Nevertheless, both of these contain an element of truth because the Bible supports both positions. It seems that the confusion for this topic has taken root because of various opinions with regard to the definition of the word “sin”. Once a fuller definition has been seen, the details of overcoming sin naturally fall into place.
Defining the word “sin” is much more difficult than most people tend to admit. They either take it for granted that they already know what the word means, or they simply accept the definition of sin of those around them. Some people have limited the word to willful rebellion against God, while others have broadened it to include accidental error such as stubbing one’s toe. However, trying to rigorously apply these definitions to the entirety of the Scriptures can lead to confusion and even blatant contradictions. Difficulty in defining this word has largely come as a result of its broad meaning. Marvin R. Vincent defines the original meaning of the Greek word for “sin” saying, “to miss a mark; as a warrior who throws his spear and fails to strike his adversary, or as a traveler who misses his way...sin is conceived as a failing and missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God” (Vincent Word Studies, Mat. 1:21). Ultimately, the word “sin” is a broad term that boils down to not measuring up to a standard.
Though the word “sin” does have a broad meaning, there are only four primary ways it is used in the Bible. Two of these are fairly tangible while the others are a bit more abstract. Analogies of the two tangible ways in which the word “sin” is used can be seen in the story about Jimmy and Daniel. The first analogy was displayed when through weakness, lack of experience, and simple ignorance Jimmy was unable to hit the bull’s eye. The second-- was on account of Jimmy’s willful desire to aim somewhere else. Nevertheless, in both cases he missed the mark. Many times believers fall short of perfectly possessing the character of Jesus because they are simply ignorant about how to tap into the power that is available to them (Rom 14:23). Time and experience are often required for believers to grow up into a steadfast abiding rest that can sustain and empower them to possess the character of Christ Jesus in every circumstance of life (Philippians 3:13-14; 4:12-13). Though there is mercy available for the ignorant, there is no excuse for those who don’t care about God’s desire for them and take no heed to do his bidding. The Bible frequently warns that the fires of hell are reserved for such rebellion. Unless these rebellious people turn from their wickedness, they will face eternal judgment (Heb. 10:26).
One other way the word sin is used is to describe an offense that has damaged a relationship. Most of the time, the relationship that is damaged is between a person and God. Nevertheless, there are other times when it refers to a person against another human. For example, in Matthew 18:15 the bible says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault between you and him alone.” This type of sin can also be seen in the story when Jimmy had disobeyed Daniel’s instruction to only shoot at the target. Jimmy’s disobedience damaged his relationship with Daniel by betraying Daniel’s trust. Though this type of sin and the other two more tangible forms of sin encompass most of the ways the term is used in the Bible, there still remains one more primary usage of the word.
Another more abstract usage of the word “sin” is that of it being a thing capable of ruling in a person’s life. This can be seen from the beginning of the Bible and right on through toward the end. The first time the word “sin” appears in the Scriptures, it is used in this manner: “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:7). Later on in John 8:34, Jesus says, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” and Paul further expounds this in Romans 6:16 saying, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” In the same way, Paul exhorts the Romans saying, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey its desires” (Rom 6:12). Paul even goes on in Romans chapters seven and eight expounding on the same terminology for sin as a ruling member in the body: “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that is housed within me” (Rom 7:17). Such terminology bears striking resemblance to Romans 8:11 referring to the Holy Spirit: “...he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who is housed in you.” It is a widely accepted teaching that the Holy Spirit is housed in Christians, but rarely is it expressed that sin is housed in them in a similar manner. Nevertheless, even the Apostle John expresses this of himself when he says, “If we say we are not possessing sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1John 1:8). Therefore sin is not merely an action, but it is also a member housed within the body.
The “sin” that is housed within the members of human beings, probably originated from the very beginning when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-19). This “sin” could then be described as an inward corruption of the heart and mind (the experiential knowledge of good and EVIL itself) that was born out of Adam and Eve’s experience of selfish pride when they disobeyed. This knowledge of evil would then be the inward corruption that refocuses the natural tendency of human thinking to esteem self exaltation and personal pleasure over honoring God. Herein would lie the origin of all other sin: when man ceases to believe God’s word and says, “my OWN opinion and pleasure is supremely righteous.” If this “sin” were to reign in the body of someone, they would inevitably no longer esteem the needs of others over their own and would arrogantly assume that their selfish perspectives are more accurate than God’s. Just like Adam and Eve, it appears that people in this state would hide from the light which could expose their error and attempt to dwell in the darkness so that their deeds might not be exposed (Genesis 3:7-10; John 3:19-21).
An example of this “sin” can be seen in the story about Jimmy and Daniel. Jimmy initially had a proper focus about his archery practice, but later his focus became corrupted. At one point in the story he was introduced with a different perspective about what was considered good and pleasurable with regard to archery. Instead of rejecting this perspective, he allowed it to hang in the back of his mind. Then, when faced with the opportunity to shoot at the rabbit, he abandoned the goal set out by Daniel for him in order to pursue his own desires. After he shot the rabbit, the memory of his short hunting experience corrupted his focus on obtaining the prize. As a result, he eventually stopped pursuing the prize and arrogantly assumed that he had already achieved an acceptable level of skill. Here the indwelt “sin” that Jimmy possessed was his corrupted perspective of archery which hindered and kept him from winning Daniel’s prize.
What does “Overcoming Sin” or Saved from Sin” Mean?
Saved from sin can obviously mean a variety of things depending on the type of sin that one is referring to. Nevertheless, the victorious power that the Bible speaks of, does not only include forgiveness of offenses between God and people, but also includes the power to live a godly life which pleases the Lord. As a result, those who have fallen short in their wisdom of how to walk in perfect obedience to the will of God, can overcome by growing in spiritual maturity. Likewise, those who have been willfully rebellious, are able to find power to change their life style into a manner pleasing to the Lord. Even those who walked according to their inward corruption which compels them to practice evil desires can overcome so that their mind and heart are made pure and holy. Overall when people overcome sin, their lives are radically transformed so that they are changed from thinking and doing evil unto meditating and accomplishing good.
How do people overcome sin?
Each person in the world is faced with the reality of sin. Like it or not, its inward corruption has taken a deep root and subtly motivates each person to live offensively toward God. So Paul says to the Ephesians in chapter two verse three: “...we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Apart from God’s intervention, each person is hopelessly stuck in a cycle of bondage to the things that offend God.
Thankfully, God has intervened by sending Jesus Christ, His son. The Bible teaches that through spiritually dying with Jesus and being raised back to life with Him, people can be forgiven of their offenses against God and receive access to the power that can change their lives (Romans 6:4-7). This power that has been made available comes from knowing the only true God. As people come to personally know God’s love, greatness, and the reality of His judgment to come, sin will become a fading presence (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Though it is only through a relationship with God that sin can be eradicated out of one’s life, this does not mean that the removal of sin is a passive endeavor. Therefore, when it comes to sins of ignorance, weakness, and immaturity there are a number of things people must do in cooperation with God to be changed. If people continue to feed their passions to sin and fill their minds with wicked things, they can forget all hope of ever attaining to victory. For, only through throwing off things that hinder and filling their minds with good things can people grow up in their relationship with God and learn how to please to Him (Acts 3:14-21, Col 3:8-10, Eph 4:14-15, 1 Peter 2:1-3). In the same way, rebellious sinners who arrogantly assume God won’t punish them don’t have any hope of escaping hell fire unless they humble themselves and seek to please God (Heb 10:26-27, Jas 5:19-20, 2 Thes 1:5-10). Finally, with regard to indwelt sin, people must seek to die to themselves. If people don’t actively seek to get rid of their own thoughts and ambitions, they will hopelessly end up doing things that aren’t pleasing to God. People must learn to discern the voice of their own mind and only seek to obey God’s voice from heaven, then the control of indwelt sin will become idle and ineffective as they walk in the Spirit (Rom 6:6-10, 8:2-4; 10, Gal 5:16, Col 2:11).
The Lord has provided several tools for believers to have their minds renewed, hindrances removed, the fear of God instilled, and their ears focused on things above. Some of these tools include: other people who live life trusting Jesus, quiet time in prayer, and meditation on the truth written in the Bible. Though these things can all be very useful to help people live like Jesus, these tools themselves will be totally ineffective unless the one using these tools is Jesus. In other words, Jesus must be guiding and giving insight to people in order for them to effectively direct fellow believers in becoming mature and overcome sin. Likewise, when people spend time praying and meditating on the truth that is in the Bible, Jesus must be spiritually near, speaking to these people’s hearts and minds. Without Jesus having His hand on these tools, they will only become methods, principles, and laws that are incapable of bringing people to experientially know God. If people do not come to personally know God they will never find victory over sin.
In the story, Jimmy learned how to get victory over everything that he was falling short in. One example of something he got victory over was his inability to hit the bull’s eye on the target. As he got rid of other activities in his life that would keep him from practicing and diligently pursued obtaining the skill, he overcame his weakness and ignorance of how to aim the bow. This is much like a young believer who first starts to walk with Jesus. At the beginning they can see a picture of what they are to become, but they don’t experientially know how to lay hold of it. Only through consistent training and practice do young believers fully obtain the Character of Jesus. Another example of falling short that Jimmy faced was his rebellious shooting of the rabbit. As long as Jimmy remained proud, focusing on his own agenda, he went further and further down hill. This selfish pride was rooted in the inward corruption which drew his heart away from obtaining the prize. Nevertheless, he was able to overcome through humbling himself, asking for forgiveness, and rejecting the control of his inward corruption. Similarly, only those who humble themselves before God will come to possess the grace they need to overcome sin: For “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” As long as people are arrogantly doing their own thing, they are in danger of hell fire. Overall, when Jimmy faced an inward desire to do something other than win the prize, he was unable to be successful until his desire and pursuit changed. Just like Jimmy, believers must humbly reject their own desires and accept the supreme desire of obtaining the prize. However, Christians are not seeking a hunting trip, but rather, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.
Is Victory Required?
In the discussion of this topic, many people begin to examine their lives and realize that they are not overcoming all forms of sin. Then they start to ask questions like, “how much of this is required in order to escape going to hell?” Nevertheless, this is usually the wrong question to ask because as long as someone is trying to see how much they can get away with, they are probably hell bound. However, the Bible does teach how those who genuinely desire to please God can find assurance. In 2 Peter 1:5-11 it says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Great assurance comes from a wholehearted pursuit of Jesus Christ. As people pursue Him they get to personally know Him and in knowing Him their lives reflect a change in their heart that only God can accomplish. So, in 1 John 2:3-6 the Bible states, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’, but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” God calls all men to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ by coming to personally know Himself.
Some may still ask the question: “What if I am not fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ before I die? Can I still find assurance?” True assurance can’t come from a doctrine based upon performance or some kind of profession, it comes from knowing and trusting God. Therefore 1 John 4:16-18 says, “And we have known and trusted in the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this, love has been brought to maturity with us so that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. He who fears has not been perfected in love.” There is an unshakable assurance for those who have come to personally know God and His love for His people. Therefore those who fully trust in the goodness of God can rest assured in that, “...God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from sin’” (2 Timothy 2:19).