Sanctification X - Power of Counteraction

Scripture: Matthew 14:25-33

Sermon preached at Gospel Light Christian Church, Singapore
on 18 March 2001 11 am English service

Introduction: Our Lord Jesus Christ's finished work at the Cross is God's complete solution to the problem of sin. When our Lord completed His mission to solve the problem of sin, He declared "It is finished" (JOH 19:30). Sin's penalty and power had been conquered. However, most Christians see in their own lives a paradox, namely, gross sins (eg,. smoking, gambling, fornication) have been conquered but "genteel" sins (eg. worry, worldliness, bitterness) have not been conquered. In fact, many Christians have struggled to overcome their "genteel" sins for prolonged periods, have failed repeatedly and are now content to accept that these sins cannot be conquered.

There are two reasons why these "genteel" sins remain unconquered. Firstly, many Christians mistakenly believe that they are "little" sins and that they may be left alone with little consequences. Secondly, many Christians think that these "little" sins can be conquered by self-effort, unlike their gross sins which they knew needed God's help to overcome. They believed that since they are born again, and are "new creatures" with a regenerated nature (2CO 5:17), they can conquer these sins by their own efforts. Instead they end up like the frustrated man in Romans 7 saying "O wretched man that I am!" (ROM 7:24). Today, we will study the power of the counteraction of the Holy Spirit in us that helps us to overcome our sinful old nature ("For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" ROM 8:2).

Peter's victory over drowning: In today's scripture passage, we are told how Peter walked on water. Since Peter's specific gravity was heavier than that of water, he would naturally sink. However, Jesus Christ miraculously exerted a counteracting force to overcome Peter's natural tendency to sink. As long as Peter trusted in Jesus' power to uphold him, he walked on water. However, when strong winds blew, Peter lost faith in Jesus' power to uphold him and began to sink. In other words, Peter's tendency to sink was ever-present and the moment he stopped trusting in Jesus' counteracting power to overcome his tendency to sink, he sank immediately.

We are told to "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (GAL 5:16,17). The moment we take our eyes off the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us (GAL. 2:20) and trust in our flesh to overcome our sins, we "cannot do the things that we would" (GAL 5:17). Many Christians pray for God to remove a sin from their lives and think that they are thereafter in a "state of safety" from that sin. They do not realize that the tendency to sin is present throughout their earthly life. So the next time when they are confronted with that temptation, they do not depend on the indwelling Christ to overcome it. They do not realize that they will only "stay afloat" moment by moment as they moment by moment depend on Christ's help.

When we have to keep a 100 kg ball of metal afloat in water, we know that we need a float. However, when we have to keep a 1 gm ball of the same metal afloat, we may be tempted to believe that we can do without a float! This is why our "little" sins remain unconquered.

Conclusion: Peter could have continued to walk on water indefinitely, as long as his "eyes of faith were on Christ. It did not matter how heavy he was because Christ's counteracting power is infinite. We can overcome sin, irrespective of the strength of that sin in our lives, as long as we depend on the indwelling Christ to help us.

In spite of the "boisterous" winds of storm that swept the Sea of Galilee (MAT 14:30), Peter could have continued to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on the Lord. Similarly, we too can conquer sin in our lives, through faith in Christ, irrespective of our circumstances.

A life of victory over sin is a Christian's rightful heritage (ROM 8:4). This victorious life should be the norm, not the exception. We must not be content with our failure to conquer sin, but shocked at it. Though Christ's power is infinite, our faith in Him is imperfect. Therefore, though we have limitless potential, through the indwelling Christ, to conquer sin, we do not do so because of our imperfect knowledge and faith. Let us, by God's grace, moment by moment, live that life of faith in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us (GAL 2:20). We do not have to fight for victory - we need simply to step into it by faith.

This sermon is part of a series on Sanctification.

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