Giving into temptations is so easy. Some people have radical testimonies, and they tell of how all former lusts and sins and addictions and behaviors were completely removed the moment they accepted Christ. Others of us, however, don’t have the “I used to, but now I don’t” kind of claim. Sometimes our testimonies sound more like crock-pot sanctification stories rather than fast-food salvation stories. Our brains aren’t on a switch, and sometimes when temptation comes, victory over a moment isn’t as quick as a drive-through prayer for help. Sometimes victory over sin takes more of a Thanksgiving dinner type of battle—chaotic, slow, and multifaceted. Not sinning takes effort, and in all honesty, sometimes it’s simpler to just fall.
How much effort are we willing to exert to avoid sin, though? Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” In other words, you want to resist sin, but where’s the blood, sweat, and tears? Are you so opposed to the cravings of the flesh, that you actually wouldn’t mind if your flesh actually got hurt in the process of denying it?
This isn’t a call to self-harm by any means, but rather a check on priorities. This is Moses fasting far longer than the human body is meant to last without food—for the sake of hearing God’s instruction. This is Joseph violently tearing away from Potiphar’s wife and leaving his cloak in her hands—for the sake of staying pure. This is Jesus in the garden, about to face His death, stressing over not caving in to what wouldn’t hurt, and raising his blood pressure so high that the capillaries in his forehead burst—for the sake of bowing to the Father’s loving will to save the world.
The greatest example of flesh-denying bloodshed, though, is simply the cross. Jesus engaged in the greatest battle against sin in all of history, even to the point of undeserved death—and He won.
In all our efforts to obey the spirit rather than the flesh, Christ’s victory is vital to remember. Just one verse earlier, Hebrews 12:3 says to “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Not sinning takes effort, and it can be painful, but when we remember what Jesus already did for us, our perspective and our priorities straighten out. Because of Him, our blood, sweat, and tears are not shed out of fear of failure, but out of love and a desire to be like the One who saved us. Whenever we strive against sin, we obey not out of obligation, but out of immense gratitude, and that’s worth working up a sweat over.
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus...who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2).