As I’ve gone through my training to prepare for being a Chaplain in the Army I’ve had to consider the rules and regulations concerning being a prisoner of war. As far as the Geneva Conventions go, military Chaplains are actually not allowed to be taken as POWs but can opt to stay with their fellow troops to provide support. I honestly don’t know how I would react to such an offer but in my head I would have a large struggle.
Let me walk you through the ideas behind my struggle: if I leave I can not only selfishly be relieved from that imprisonment but I can also go back to my unit and help them to get my fellow Soldiers back from the enemy. But if I do choose to stay a prisoner I can benefit the Soldiers as I am able to minister to them and help them communicate with the outside world as well as those who hold them prisoner. Either choice has its positive and negative.
The problem with these options is that they are very optimistic. After all, who knows whether or not the enemy who captures me will allow me to fulfill my rights under the Geneva Conventions? I pessimistically think that if someone considers me an enemy they will not allow me to go free. I would not be surprised if they treated me the same way as the other POWs and will not give me any special treatment just because I was a Chaplain.
Somehow this is what most Christians do in their walk with Christ and their battle against sin. They choose to remain in the sin and justify it somehow in their lives. They feel that if they go to church enough times or do enough good deeds that they create a balance that works in their favor and God will see that there are more good deeds in their lives than bad. They use God’s grace to justify the way they live either openly or in secret. They think that they have “fire insurance” and that God will forgive them even if they choose to disobey on purpose.
Let me be clear, in my real life example of a Chaplain POW there are many great things that can be accomplished by staying as a prisoner and ministering to fellow captive Soldiers. But in the war against sin there is nothing good about remaining a prisoner. There is only death and destruction. The enemy both in this world (Satan) and inside us (our sin nature) will not allow any concession to any code that we may think we have bargained for.
Today I want us to consider the 6th Chapter of the book of Romans. Paul was writing to the Christian Church in Rome trying to give them sound doctrine and to get them to live lives that please God. Their problem was that some of them were using their forgiveness from God to continue to live in disobedience. Their belief was that God’s grace was made greater if their sin was greater. They thought they had found a loophole in God’s grace that allowed them to have their cake and eat it too.
Please take some time to read the entire chapter. Now that we have some context the specific passage I want us to chew on comes from verses 12 – 18:
Romans 6 (NLT):
12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
The truth is that we are held captive by something in our life. We are either held captive to sin (our disobedience to God) or we are held captive by our Lord Jesus. I have often found that the closer I draw to God the harder it is to disobey him. The more I am in awe of his great love towards me the less I can spit in his face by choosing to go my own way. And the great thing about being closer to our Creator is that we want to disobey less and less.
My question to you today is, “What holds you captive?” Are you captivated by the God of the Universe and his great love and mercy or are you held captive as a prisoner to your sin? I pray that we would choose to obey God and become a slave to living the way he wants us to. That will mean sacrifice. That will mean struggle. That will mean that you and I will lose friends and family members who do not understand why we live the way we do. But we will gain infinitely more by having God’s great favor in our lives.
Choose today to serve God and push disobedience out of your life. Take time today to specifically seek out an area of disobedience and make a plan to put that sin to death in your life. The word ‘repent’ means to turn away from something never to follow after it again. Let’s choose to turn away from our specific disobedience and put a guardrail in place to keep us from it.