06 Mar Words of Grace – A Theology of Suffering to Fight Sin and Be Faithful to Jesus
We hold martyrs in high regard. Laying down one’s life for Jesus’ sake is in our minds the highest form of self-denial. But are there not other forms of suffering for Jesus’ sake? Does not Jesus’ call to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” (Luke 9:23) apply to all of us?
We need a theology of suffering that includes more than bodily death. Our theology of suffering must include living with the pain of deliberately chosen unfilled desires for the sake of fighting sin and being faithful to Jesus. When our desires are sinful, we are called to suffer the death of them.
In I Corinthians 5 we find a man who had a sinful desire to participate in sexually immoral behavior. This man claimed to be a Christian and was a member of the church in Corinth. He thought that acting on his sinful desire was consistent with his profession of faith in Jesus, and that having his sinful desire left unfulfilled was inconsistent with his view of God and grace. He could not imagine that God would call him to die to what he wanted even when what he wanted was contrary to God’s will. He did not have a theology of suffering that included death to his sinful desires for the sake of faithfulness to Jesus.
Would God really call us to live with unfulfilled desires? Certainly! He loves us enough to tell us to die to sinful desires because they are contrary to his will and will kill our souls.
Is there any good that can come from suffering the death of sinful desires? Absolutely! Jesus meets us in this kind of suffering. We come to know him and things about him that we would not know if we indulge our sinful desires. Suffering the death of sinful desires in submission to Jesus leads to fellowship with him that is so deep that those previously held desires are nothing in comparison. When we enter the joy of the kingdom of God we will not feel as if we have been deprived.
Brothers and sisters, we do not have to have everything we naturally want. We will not die if our sinful desires are put to death. We will not be less than whole people if we kill the part of us that is in rebellion against God. Quite the opposite: “If by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the body, we will live.” (Romans 8:13)
Some are called to die physical deaths for the sake of Jesus. All are called to die deaths to sinful desires for the sake of Jesus. There is no exception for anyone who would follow him. There is no greater joy than fellowship with Jesus in whatever kind of suffering we endure for his sake.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday.