George Herbert constructed a story out of his poems. After you travel past the church porch, you reach the Altar made of a heart. Christ is the sacrifice. And how do you respond to that? See your sin, see Christ’s work in Good Friday, the cross, the grave, and risen!! Baptism, a cleansing. But then we come to Nature. To phrase it in modern terms, “why do I still do the sin-thing?” Why do I work so hard to get away from the one thing I know I should do and will help me? Why do I say no to that, and yes to everything else?
Ah Sin…that’s the next poem!
Even Paul had trouble with this! In his book on justice and our place before God, he writes about the sin-struggle,
“15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 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. 20 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.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7, NIV).
We seek to follow God, but at the same time do not. We are not dual people, but we are in constant battle throughout our lives. We take off the dirty clothes, and put on clean ones, by God’s help (Ephesians 4):
“22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Why keep fighting? Because Jesus has already conquered evil. Light is about to flood the whole world, and we are fighting off the last of the darkness. Satan has already lost, death is going to die, and there will be no sin in heaven. We will be free. In the meantime, God is on our side as we fight. And He is making us new!
Engrave thy rev’rend law and fear;
Or make a new one, since the old
Is sapless grown,
And a much fitter stone
To hide my dust, than thee to hold.”