College football season is over. This means two things. Many people, such as me, have more free time for more constructive endeavors in life. It also means that many of us have regained some of the higher thinking skills that we had before the season began. Skills that help us know that an offensive line with no depth and consisting of mostly first year players really has no chance to carry a team to a national title. Skills that say it is irrational to pin my happiness to the performance of an 18-year-old running back. Skills that say yielding to the temptation to call a national sports radio program and berate said 18-year-old for not having the maturity of a 30-year-old is not the most rational conduct for grown men and women. Skills that say believing that there is a national conspiracy to keep my team down is, well, one the most moronic ideas hatched thus far in the 21st century.
College football is all about victory, and the meaning that we pin to the word victory. We believe that what they do on the field somehow makes us better. Somehow it means that our school, our state or our region of the country is better than the other school, state or region of the country. We take the actions and performance of people we probably don’t even know personally and make it all about “me.”
In the spiritual life, we do much the same thing with the idea of “victory over sin.” Among evangelicals, this is a common theme, although in some less orthodox circles it may now be called victory over bad thoughts and not so nice things. If we are going to call it anything, let’s call in “victory of sin”, but let’s get the right perspective about it.
Along with my Bible reading each day, I have been reading Holiness Day by Day by Jerry Bridges, who has been one of my favorite Christian authors for many years. Earlier this week, I read in that book about the problem with emphasizing victory over sin and why it is usually not productive. Victory is all about us. It is self-centered and success-oriented. Our concern is not to be personally defeated. I might add that it can be legalistic, emphasizing victory over just this one sin as opposed to another. Bridges wrote that rather than victory over sin we should seek a life of obedience to God. In such an emphasis, the central figures are not me and this sin. The central figure is God alone. We understand sin is horrible not because it defeats me personally but because it is an affront to the glory of God. Victory over sin will come as a by-product of obedience. It cannot serve as a worthy motive of obedience.