The Mind Under Grace

Time Posted on March 07, 2010 User Andy

"Theology is not some intellectual option that makes us 'smart' Christians; it is the graced understanding that makes us faithful disciples"

- James K.A. Smith

This is a quote about the study of doctrine and theology; but it applies equally well to the discipline of memorization.

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2 responses to The Mind Under Grace

Arthur Rosh

An excerpt from a sermon by John MacArthur entitled "Breaking Free from Sin". He explains how the Apostles and other faithful disciples memorized Scripture:

It’s so easy to become tolerant of your sin. One of the things I fear for you as young people, in fact maybe I fear it more than anything else except for the fact that you might not really be saved is that during the years of your youth, you train yourself to sin. You can do that, you know, because the habits you’re forming now in your life will be very difficult to break. It is during these years in your life that you are developing what the writer of Hebrews calls “besetting sins.” Sins that become your friend, sins that become familiar to you, sins that in the future you’re going to find almost impossible to break, sins that will become so habitual that you may not even recognize them for what they are and they are the sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. They are the sins for which He died, for which He gave you forgiveness, and yet witlessly and ignorantly and maybe willfully, the sins in which we continue to live.

In Hebrews chapter 12, familiar words, the writer says in verse 1, “Let us lay aside every weight or encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.”

It isn’t difficult for sin to entangle us, to wrap us up, to find its way so deeply into our lives that it becomes habitual. It’s not difficult for sin to do that. It’s easy. And usually there are certain sins that we battle all our lifelong because we cultivated them in our youth. They are the sins that most easily entangle us, the ones that perhaps we find the most tolerable. And generally, the ones that aren’t our entangling or besetting sins are the ones we most easily condemn in other people. If you’re to live the Christian life and to run the race with endurance, you have to deal with your entangling sins.

Let me see if I can help you to understand why some sins entangle you so easily. First of all, sin has great power because your flesh is unredeemed. Your spirit has been redeemed. You are, on the inside, a new creation, your flesh has not been redeemed, and by flesh, I don’t just mean your physical body, I mean your humanness, both the way you act, the things you do physically, and the way you think and feel. All of that: will, mind, emotion, body is all still the flesh and sin has great power in your unredeemed flesh. It made Paul say, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” He saw it like a corpse, strapped to himself which was decaying him, a foul corpse at that. Galatians 5:17 says, “The flesh wars against the Spirit and they are in opposition to one another.”

Sin has great power in our emotions. It has great power in our will. It has great power in our affections, to command us to do what is wrong. And until our bodies are redeemed, you’ve got to understand that you are highly vulnerable. That’s why the Bible talks about staying as far away from sin as you possibly can because it’s so easily finds its way into our unredeemed flesh.

Secondly, I might add, it not only has great power in our flesh, but it is very close. As an enemy, we would like to believe it is far away and we can see it coming. But truthfully, sin is very close, it is actually in is in us. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Or the leopard change his spots?” And the obvious answer is no. The conclusion then, “You also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil. Sin is deep within you. The heart, says Jeremiah, is more deceitful than everything else and desperately wicked.

So sin has great power in your unredeemed flesh and it is very near, it is even within you. Paul says in Romans 7, “The sin that is in me...that is in me.” You never will be able to run away from it, whether you’re at home, or whether you’re isolated, whether you’re in the midst of a group of people like this in a service focused on the Lord, wherever you are sin is there. Having the right associations and the right environment will give you strength to deal with it, but it’s there.

A third thought, just kind deepening our understanding of why sin easily entangles us is that sin does not remain separate. That is to say, it is there but it is not easily identifiable. Somebody asked me some years back if I preached sermons with a pure motive. And my answer to the question was, “I don’t know, because I don’t know.” I would like to think that every time I stand up to preach the Word of God, I do it with an absolutely pure motive to glorify God and not with any motive to bring attention to myself, to gain a reputation, to gain respect, to be thought of as virtuous or holy, or gifted. I would like to think that every time I preach, I do so purely and singularly out of a motive to glorify God. And if you ask me if I do, my answer would be, “I don’t know,” because sin is so entangled in what I am that I cannot separate it out. It runs that deep and that pervasively.

I don’t know whether I’ve ever had an absolutely, totally, completely pure motive that lasted very long because sin is not separated from what I am. It infects all my duties. It infects all my ministries. It’s tangled up in all my motives. It retards and somehow wounds all my purposes and all my good intentions and it even crowds in on the very acts of obedience and worship that I endeavor to express to God. Even my best efforts are somehow tainted. Paul says, “I see this law, or this principle,” in Romans 7, “warring within me, waging war with the law or the principle of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”

Sin is strong then, we said first of all. Sin is near, second of all. And thirdly, it is entangling. It is co-mingled. We can’t separate ourselves from it. Yet the Bible tells us here that we must lay aside the sin which so easily entangles us. Ephesians 4:22 puts it this way, “Lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit.” Peter put it this way, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Paul in Romans 6 said, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lust.” So we’re commanded to disentangle ourselves with something that is powerful, that is present, that is pervasive.

How do we do that? Well it’s not an easy battle and I really believe that there are some of you who aren’t fighting it very well and you are allowing yourselves to be more deeply entangled with sin. Here you are in the right environment. Here you are with the right potential accountability, here you are sitting under the right kind of teaching and the right kind of truth, but you’re not making the proper application.

Now there are two things to recognize, if you’re going to deal with entangling sin. One, that the power and the strength to deal with it is the Holy Spirit’s. It is the Spirit’s power. Paul makes that very clear in Galatians chapter 5 when he talks about walking in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. It’s not just a negative thing. It doesn’t mean you sit around trying to discover sin and stamp it out. It means you preoccupy yourself with obeying the Spirit of God as His will is expressed in the Word of God and in the promptings of the Word of God and in positively being consumed with obedience, you will find that sin has a way of disappearing. It is the Spirit’s work. You walk in the Spirit, you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. Walking in the Spirit means allowing the Word of Christ to dominate your thinking and walking in harmony with that.

I guess I could simply say, “What it comes down to is the necessity to put the Word of God in your heart, to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Let me suggest to you that if you haven’t developed in your own life a commitment to Scripture memory, now is the time to do it. You need to begin to put the Word of God away. David said, “Thy Word have I treasured up, hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” How shall a young person cleanse his ways? Be taking heed to Thy Word. And as a result of that, verse 9 of Psalm 119, he says in verse in verse 11, “I’ve hid it in my heart that I might not sin.”

I mean, that’s what the great Christians have done. They’ve put the Word of God in their hearts so that they literally find themselves yielding to the Holy Spirit’s application of that Word. The Word is the stuff that separates us out from sin, that hedges us against temptation.

Paul memorized Scripture, the Apostle Paul. There wasn’t any magical trick. There wasn’t any sort of supernatural secret that he knew and nobody else did that made him a great Christian. He hid the Word of God in his heart. Listen to Acts 17:3, “Paul, as his custom was, went into the Sabbath,” now follow this, “explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead.” Literally when it says explaining and giving evidence, the Greek says, “Opening and placing before them the evidence.”

What does that mean? Well he was showing them the evidence. What evidence? Old Testament evidence that the Messiah had to die, He had to suffer, He had to be crucified. Where is that evidence in the Old Testament? Well for one thing, it’s in Isaiah 53, is it not? You might even find it all the way back in Genesis 3:15. You will find it in the sacrificial system where all the pictures of Christ are taken up in the lambs of sacrifice that were offered. You will find the suffering of Messiah in a number of places in the Psalms, such as Psalm 22 which describes His crucifixion. The point being this, the Apostle Paul stood there as his custom was in the Sabbath in front of the Jewish people and reasoned with them out of the Old Testament concerning the necessity of Christ’s death and he didn’t have a scroll in his hand. He had it in his heart.

Believe me, he wasn’t unrolling scrolls all over the place. He was reasoning with them out of Scripture which, no doubt, had been committed to his own memory. Believe me, Paul memorized Scripture and that was the strength of his ministry, it was a biblical ministry.

If you go back to Acts chapter 2 and listen to Peter preach the great sermon that he preached on the day of Pentecost, you will know that Peter memorized Scripture, too. Because he quotes great chunks of Scripture in that Pentecost sermon beginning in verse 14. If you look in your Bible and see the quotes that are there, taken directly out of the Old Testament, you will know the alacrity with which Peter could use the Scripture because he had committed it to memory. It’s not just for the sake of memorization, not just for the sake of proclamation, but for the sake of purity.

I believe also that Timothy and Titus and other Apostles and other men of God like Apollos who was mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures, and Barnabas the son of encouragement, and many others of the heroes of the New Testament were those who had memorized Scripture. If you go back in to the Old Testament, look at the book of Proverbs and the first few chapters of Proverbs...chapter 2, chapter 4, chapter 6, on in to chapter 7, there’s a constant cry for the memorization of God’s revealed truth and principle. Joshua chapter 1 verse 8 says that you need to meditate on the Word of God day and night, and if you do that, you’ll make your way prosperous and you’ll have good success. Deuteronomy chapter 6 says that you’re to talk about the things that have been revealed from God when you sit down, stand up, lie down and walk in the way. They should be the most familiar part of your conversation. James 1:21 says, “Receive the engrafted Word which is able to save your lives.”

It’s an absolute vital part of spiritual living if I’m going to deal with entangled sin, to put the Word of God to work in my life, it becomes the agency by which the Spirit of God gives me direction. Listen to Proverbs 22 verse 17, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you will keep them within you that they may be ready on your lips so that your trust may be in the Lord. I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things, of counsels and knowledge to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer to him who sent you?

In other words, that’s how you live your life. The truth is made available. Take it in, store it up that it might be a resource for you in the spiritual issues of life.

So we have to realize that if we’re going to deal with sin, first of all, that it’s going to be the work of the Spirit and the Spirit uses the Word. And if I am not involved in putting the Word of God to work in my life, learning it, memorizing it, understanding it and applying it, I am never going to deal with entangling sin. And I’m going to cultivate habits of unrighteousness that I will battle all my life long and thus I will forfeit potential power and ministry, as well as joy.

Kyle Brannen

wow thats a long comment