Saturday 9 December 2017

Overcoming Sin

I said in the last post that evil and sin had to be eradicated from our nature to which the obvious question is how?

Well, first of all, there has to be an awareness of their presence within us. This may seem a self-evident thing to say but how often do we cover up our faults even to ourselves? We may give them a token acknowledgement but we usually don't want to go to deeply into the matter. So we need absolute honesty with ourselves and this is not easy.  No one likes to look too closely underneath the stone of their ego. All sorts of unpleasant things could be lurking there. But it may help if we accept that everyone with an ego is a sinner and that means everyone. absolutely everyone. It is just a natural part of being a human being in the world as it is. We all have egos and the sense of self-centredness. We are told there has only ever been one person born without sin, or maybe three but I'm not sure if the first two were technically born and they lost the sinless status anyway.

So the first thing to do is admit we are a sinner. Then must follow repentance. We must want, and really want, to overcome this sin. This must result in two things. One of them is falling on God's mercy, confessing our sin and recognising a higher being who we have sinned against.  This we have done because he is our creator and we are a created being who has gone wrong. 

The second thing is a determination to correct the problem and to go right to its roots.  The roots are the ego so we have to address that in ourselves. This means purification. There must be strenuous efforts to conquer sin within ourselves with, at the same time, the recognition that we cannot actually do this on our own. All we can do is get to the point where the grace of God can do it for us.  However to get to that point does need real and continuous effort on our part. Grace does not descend like sunshine on the wicked and just alike.  Or maybe it does but only the just can receive it fully.

Christ said that he would take away the burden of sin if we consigned ourselves to him. But this is not a one off thing. It is ongoing throughout life.  It  fact, it is ongoing every second of the day. But if you really can submit your sin to the light of Christ, you will find it is relieved. An important text in this respect is from Philippians chapter two. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that worketh in you." This means we have to make the effort to overcome sin but, ultimately it can only be the action of God within us that does it. But we have to let him which means give ourselves to him, holding nothing back. Few of us are able to do this. It probably takes a saint to do it properly but we can all make a start.

To sum up what is quite possibly the most important question in the spiritual life. How do we overcome sin in ourselves? There are various sins, traditionally seven, but all sin is rooted in the ego. So overcoming sin is giving up ego. But we are our ego. How can the self give up the self? Clearly it can't but if it turns itself over to God, in love and humility, he can do it for us. Practically this means a constant and concerted effort on our part. It means watchfulness and honesty. The ego will reassert itself time and time again in ever more insidious forms. So we have to be alert. But if we cultivate good habits and submit everything to God then eventually the work will be done. Sin will fall away and be as if it never was.

Those most conscious of sins within themselves are the nearest to God, both individually and collectively,  and the converse is also true. The past may have contained ages of great sin, as all ages do, but at least the predominating culture was conscious of the reality of sin. Now we aren't aware of it at all. Does this make us the most sinful age yet?


Aaron said...

Well said.

"We are our egos". Are we really?

You touch on a very important point - conscious effort is necessary, but often leads to a strengthening of ego.

At some point one must surrender conscious effort and rely on God - that is itself a kind of effort, but it is a "negative" effort.

William Wildblood said...

"We are our egos" Are we really?

No, we're not! But we think we are and usually do identify with them, our Aaron and William persona, until we learn that there is the higher nature which is our true self.

Aaron said...


And when we identify with our Aaron or William personality, we naturally make the mistake of building it up and developing it - a project that some see as cosmic, even. From this stems greed, hate, and ego.

We are originally Gods, but fell into our personalities. We must eliminate our personalities to return to our high former estate.

Those who don't realize this believe we must develop our personalities to become Gods, or must develop the earth, or colonize space, or maximize our personal or earthly power.

Because they identify with their earthly personalities.

But the spiritual life is essentialy negative - and modernity is essentially positive.