(all typos are the original work of the author and for the entertainment of others)
For years Uncle Ted owed and ran a grocery store in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. His was the sort of place where kids gathered on a hot day to enjoy cold bottles of soda. Vehicles wheeling past would kick up tendrils of dust devils in their wake, leaving the kids perched on the edge of the porch coated in a fine layer of red-clay dust. Later some of those kids would head out back of the store to the watering hole to rinse off and reflect on the joys of being young. At Uncle Ted’s the soda bottles were good and chilled and the rock candy free.
Uncle Ted had as sweet spot for kids. Uncle Ted also had a sweet spot for spirits.
His wife knew about his drinking–so did a few close friends: his hunting buddies, men he played cards with. At family gatherings his siblings would often whisper that he was embarrassing them, but Uncle Ted was always jovial and never violent. At his worst he would make his way to the truck, crawl in behind the wheel, roll down both windows, and nap on the front seat.
More than once his pastor tried to help Ted get sober for good. There would be stretches where Ted’s dry days stretched on like a summer drought. But then the storms would come and there’d be a patch of tough times and he’d pick up the bottle again. His wife’s prayers grew more desperate each time he took up drinking, again.
All the while, the kids at Uncle Ted’s store never had a clue of his dark secret. To them, he was the man who gave away free rock candy and kept the soda bottles chilled and the inner tubes down by the watering hole pumped up. It wasn’t until years later, long after Uncle Ted’s passing, that some of those kids learned that Uncle Ted had started a half-way house for alcoholics. Turns out Uncle Ted had been a charter member in their community’s Alcoholics Anonymous. They would hear story after story of how Uncle Ted would sit with a drunken friend while they fought the “demon of drink.” How he’d give those who had lost driving privileges a ride to AAA meetings. Uncle Ted understood that in his own power he would never be able to subdue that old demon, but he could fight back. And he did: right up to the very end.
The Uncle Ted some knew to be a drunk was the Uncle Ted others knew to be a kind, generous soul. But for him, one drink was one too many: a step down a dark and steep mountain road. Better to never take that step than try and claw his way back up.
There are a great many sins we can start, stop, and never repeat. These are sins of the will, sins of convenience. A lie for no other reason than to gain something you want is a sin of convenience. Gossip about a neighbor is a sin of convenience. You have power over such sins. You can take them up or leave them be.
But a sin of the soul has you from the get go. Soul-sins are intertwined among our spiritual DNA. Give in once and such a deep-seated sin will want more of you until it possesses your every thought and drives your every action. The Apostle Paul shared some of his battle with soul-sin in his letter to Christ’s disciples in Rome.
“I do not understand why I do what I do. What I want to do, I do not do. And what I hate, that is what I do. I know that God’s law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual. I am sold as a slave to sin. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. What a wretched man I am! But thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15-20
But here is the Good News: Christ conquered sin through righteous living and his sacrificial death and resurrection.
“We know that our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Because anyone who has died, has been set free from sin. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:6
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. Offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:12-13
God’s law was given in love. His law reflects the character of God and his aspirations for us: love, charity, kindness, holiness, and separation from sin. Grace in Christ was also given in love. When Christ lives within us, his Holy Spirit gives us the power to keep God’s commands.
Whatever wields the most power over you is the thing that shapes you the most. If you are living a life completely controlled by the spirit of Christ your thoughts and acts will be as natural as breathing. God not only expects us to do His will, but He empowers us to do so.
“You are not controlled by your sinful nature; you are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.” Romans 8:9
“It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
“Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” Galatians 3:19,24
The Apostle Paul could only say that we “no longer need the law as our guardian” if he knew with certainty that the Spirit of Christ had full control of his being and had witnessed the same in others.
At the watering hole out back of Uncle Ted’s store the older kids kept watch. If a young’un who couldn’t swim waded out too far and went under, one of the older kids would fetch him back to shore. The older kids also taught the younger boys and girls how to swim. This is what Christ means when he says we are saved from sin. He rescues us when we sin, but he also empowers us to live without sin. We only need to give his Spirit full control of our life and work with him to resist all temptations.
Uncle Ted did not fight the demon of drink alone. He had the help of Christ –the one and only “man” who lived without committing a sin–the prayers of others, and a community of fellow believers who fought with Ted against the demon of drink. Far as I know Uncle Ted finished the last years of his life without taking a drink. Was he cured? Depends on your perspective. If you judge him by his past slip-ups, maybe not. He was a “recovering alcoholic.” If you judge him by the way he lived after taking his last drink he was a transformed man.
A great many “Christians” toss down their weapons, surrendered to the enemy, and remain prisoners of war without ever putting up a fight. They keep asking Christ to forgive them of their sins but fail to ask for his transforming power. Christ died to set us free from sin. Ask that his Spirit fully possess you. Fight for your freedom and “The Truth” will set you free.
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