Over the centuries, the theological debate has been, "Do we rule over sin, or does sin rule us?" Across the years of my ministry (35+), I have far too often been surprised by the secret sin that absolutely reigns over and oppresses many. Far too frequently, I have sat in my study as someone, respected in the church and/or the community, in a moment of desperation, revealed the dark, secret sin that was absolutely ruling over them.
On one occasion I experienced a kind of group revelation of this sort. I was addressing a church men's group of about 50, and I made a remark about how widespread the involvement in Internet pornography had become. I said that, if we knew the truth, there were probably men in this group who were being victimized by internet porn, that very day.
I was not prepared for the reaction that came that morning. Suddenly it became completely easy to read the faces and body language of those men like a newspaper. Instantly, you could see a flood of emotional change go across the group.
A significant percentage started changing positions in their chair, looking away, looking down, and slipping into blank stares. The group, as a whole, became aware of the change in "atmosphere." Then you could hear a pin drop as eyes began to dart around the room.
It was starkly obvious that long repressed guilt in some of those men instantly and involuntarily shot to the surface. I was, myself, totally taken back because I simply did not expect such an abrupt and visible reaction from this church group.
Does sin rule us? Sometimes it absolutely does, and in the harshest way. The prescription which the Bible gives us to overcome the rule sin in our lives is found in 1st John 1: 5 and following.
Those verses say this, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The simple remedy of "confession," (always to God, and sometimes to others) realigns us with God's moral will and initiates the cleansing process that ultimately leads to consistent victory over sin. But, it is one thing to recognize the evil of sin and wrestle your way free of its grip, with God's help. It is quite another thing to intentionally hide sin away in your life so that you can continue to practice it, covertly, without anyone knowing.
Protecting, and Planning for, and Pursuing the Reality of sin in one's life is not the "wrestling match for freedom." It is hypocrisy, and pretense, and delusion. And, such foolishness absolutely makes sin the ruler over us and over our personal destiny.
Over the years, the walls of my study have definitely heard many confessions of desperate people whose lives were deeply damaged and even destroyed by their secret sin. And this was not sin that they could not overcome. In Christ, there is no such thing.
Instead, this was cherished sin, sin they chose not to overcome. They protected and quietly embraced this sin, until they discovered they were not holding it, but rather, it actually had a death grip on them.
Usually, by the time I was hearing about this very private and protected sin, their marriage, their self respect, their reputation, their relationship to God, and/ or their hope for the future were mostly "down the tubes." Protected sin will always destroy one's quality of life, and very often, not just the quality of life of those who are harboring the darkness, but also that of the people around them.
Cherished sin is not God's idea of redemption . That is merely a delusion we fashion for ourselves. God's plan is to extricate people from the darkness of sin, first by the Cross of the Dying Christ, and then by the personal empowerment that flows through the Resurrection and the Living Christ.
Sin always rules in the absence of our Spiritual merger with the Living Christ. But, in the power of that oneness with Christ, the believer absolutely can rule over sin in the most real terms of everyday life. It is merely a matter of pursuing that liberation in good faith. Anything less, and sin wins.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." - The Apostle Paul