The Problem with Letting Sleeping Sins Lie

Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder follows the course of a young couple, with the help of Christie’s sleuth Miss Jane Marple, as they solve an eighteen year old mystery of the disappearance of young woman. They don’t know if she was murdered or ran off with a man, they don’t know who she would have run off with or who would have motive to murder her, and they don’t even know at first that one of them has a special connection with her.

Miss Marple, of course, has an unrelenting nature when it comes to solving mysteries. But she fears the young couple don’t realize their own danger. She counsels them to “let sleeping murder lie.” Waken a sleeping murder and you might also waken the murderer to strike again.

Sleeping Sin/Dead Sin

Miss Marple’s concerns remind me of how people deal with sin. Sleeping sins are those that seem to have stopped. You don’t feel the temptation, so you think it’s all in your past. Then it comes again, and you sin. It’s kind of like it sneaked up on you and took you down.

In fact, it’s exactly like that.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.(1 Peter 5:8.)

What does Peter advise his readers?

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9.)

  1. Be alert – don’t go to sleep in your relationship with God.
  2. Be sober minded – think rationally about the temptations you are prone to give in to.
  3. Resist Satan – his temptations are only that: temptations. It’s up to you to decide how to respond to them.
  4. Stand firm in your faith – you are grounded on the Solid Rock himself, Jesus. No one can take you off that firm foundation.
  5. Know you have company – your situation is not a unique or novel event to God, and not to the people in his family.

Can sin ever be dead, though, or must you always be fearing its power?

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

The thing is not to know how to kill sin dead, but to know that you have died to sin and it cannot rule over your destiny.

The death [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:10-11.)

Does being dead to sin and alive in Christ mean we have a responsibility to resist temptation? In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul went on to say we do:

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; and 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 6:12-14.)

Paul said it is grace that leads you away from sin, not rules or law. After all:

God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4.)

You can turn (the actual meaning of repent) to your Father in heaven without fear precisely because he is kind and full of grace, and not give in to temptation. This is what James described in a shorter version of Peter’s points about resisting temptation:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)

Satan flees at the sign of your resistance because you belong to God your Father. You are dead to sin and alive in Christ, and sin has no place in your eternal future. Sleeping sin may need you to remain sober minded and alert to resist it, but rest in the fact that your death to sin lasts forever in your life in Christ.

***

*Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 discuss putting to death your sinful actions and desires. The verses do not talk of putting sin itself to death, but rather are about resisting temptation and taking yourself out of those situations where you are prone to sin. Killing sin itself is up to Jesus, and he has already finished that work. Romans 8:13 says as much when it tells us “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” It is by the Spirit of Christ in you that you accomplish this, not by some power of your own will and strength.

***

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7 Responses to The Problem with Letting Sleeping Sins Lie

  1. Laura says:

    Tim, I was just asked to preach this Sunday as a substitute. The church follows the lectionary and there are several Scripture passage options, and one is 1 Peter 5:6-11, of which I had tentatively decided on. I think your post has confirmed it, and your points on verses 8-9 are great!

    • Tim says:

      I hope it goes great, Laura. Woo hoo for preaching! Will you blog on your passage later?

      • Laura says:

        Well, for the last sermon (my first) I posted an audio link to listen to it. If I get a quality recording this time, and I think the sermon goes okay, I will post an audio link again.

  2. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    It’s always so delightful when someone discovers your blog for the first time, isn’t it, Tim? 🙄 I like the way you’ve concisely summed up these principles from Scripture, especially the reminder that it is always God’s grace, not our own effort, that makes this defeat of our sinful actions possible.

  3. mindi silich says:

    Such a timely post for me Tim, thanks for sharing.
    Reminds me of a personal situation where I’ve realized that also leaving a wound to sit and lie unattended to, un-restored by God, will also leave you vulnerable to those very temptations of the enemy when you least expect it. I know my situation was and is not a rare one, and the act of letting it lie and never getting dealt with is also very common. I humbly have been learning from God that leaving an emotional wound gaping open without allowing it be stitched up and healed by our Creator invites infection. “Sin crouches at your door and its desire is for you…” All that’s needed is an open door or window to get in and if it does we can only rely on the strength we have in Christ as the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Sorry this seems like somewhat of a rambling! All that to say, great post as usual 😉

    • Tim says:

      Gaping emotional wounds truly need healing. That can come in a variety of ways but however it comes it’s best when the ultimate source is the Spirit of Christ.

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