D-Day and V-Day
James C. Denison
What’s wrong with me? My parents had every right to ask that question all the years I was in their home.
Not all my discipline problems were intentional. When I showed Lamar Daniels my Cub Scout fire-starting abilities in a nearby field, I didn’t know I was starting a two-alarm blaze. Or that the baseball I hit in the street would smash a neighbor’s car windshield.
But when I used my new Cub Scout pocketknife to dig holes in a neighbor’s hose, I knew that was wrong. When I melted crayons in my first grade teacher’s hair, I knew that was wrong. When I locked a girl in the coat locker over lunch in the fourth grade, and scattered chalk dust into the window air conditioner so that it coated the classroom, I knew that was wrong.
My parents were two of the most honest and moral people I’ve ever met. They raised me better than that. Why did I do these things?
Did the arsonists who started the California wildfires know what they did was wrong? Why did they do it?
Why did you do the last thing you knew you shouldn’t? Is there any hope for the human race? Any hope for people who call ourselves Christians? If the holy God of the universe lives in us, why aren’t we more holy? If we are really the children of a perfect Father, why do we do the things we do?
Can we do better? Can we live the kind of godly lives we all know we should? Can we ever find victory over temptation and weakness and sin? The promise of God’s word today is that we can. It is my privilege to show you how.
Admit your total depravity
As you know, D-Day in World War II came on June 6, 1944 at the Battle of Normandy. V-Day, Victory Day, came in Europe on May 8, 1945, and in Japan on August 15. Between D-Day and these V-Days, the war raged on, but victory was in sight. The enemy was on the road to defeat, but was not yet destroyed.
In spiritual terms, I’ve often heard that you and I live in the same period of time. D-Day came with the death and resurrection of Jesus. V-Day comes with his return. In the meanwhile, we must fight the enemy every day. We will win some battles and lose others, but the ultimate victory is certain. V-Day is on the way.
I no longer believe that. I now know that V-Day, like D-Day, has already come for Christ-followers. We can have total victory over sin and Satan today. We don’t have to do the things we do, ever. V-Day can be this day. How?
In theological terms, we’re dealing with the topic of “total depravity.” Theologians mean by this that every part of us is affected by sin. Your mind, your emotions, your attitudes and feelings as well as your action. Not just what you do, but who you are. You are not a good person who sometimes does bad things–you are by nature a bad person who often does good things. So am I. It is our nature to sin. Depravity has affected every dimension of our lives.
Romans 7 gives the most honest expression to this fact in all of Scripture.
Paul is writing as a believer when he says that he is “sold as a slave to sin.” He belongs completely to it. What he wants to do, he does not, “but what I hate I do” (v. 15)–this is “sin living in me” (v. 17). He wants to do what is good, “but I cannot carry it out” (v. 18). This is an ongoing problem: “the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (v. 19). More specifically, “it is sin living in me that does it” (v. 20).
In his “inner being,” Paul loves doing the word and will of God (v. 22), but there is “another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (v. 23).
The apostle is trapped between the two, caught in the spiritual crossfire with no way out. He can do well one day and sin another. He can step forward in faith but then backward in defeat. “What a wretched man I am!” he admits (v. 24a). “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” he cries (v. 24b). If this is true for the greatest apostle in Christian history, what of us?
Paul is simply stating what God’s word says of us all. All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
King David lamented, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:2-3).
The first step to winning the battle against sin is admitting that you cannot win it. You can fight temptation and sin for a while, but don’t you inevitably lose?
Preachers used to speak of “besetting sins,” those temptations to which we are especially and individually susceptible. Yours may not be mine, and mine may not be yours, but we all have them.
Charles Finney, in a famous sermon preached in 1845, made this list: temper, worry, coveting what we do not have, greed, dishonesty, falsehood, laziness, slander, gossip, envy, jealousy, prideful ambition, overeating, overdrinking, vanity of appearance, and sexual lust.
Are any of these living in your soul? What temptation continually plagues you? What sin do you find yourself struggling to defeat? Start there. Begin by admitting your total depravity, your absolute inability to gain total victory in this battle.
Claim your total victory