We have all heard of tug-of-war, and most of us have played it. It is a contest that pits two teams against each other in a test of physical strength and endurance. When I was in the Hollywood Fire Rescue Department, a group of my friends and I entered into a tug-of-War competition called the “Tug-a-Ton!” Each team was allowed up to but not exceeding 2000 pounds of total man weight on their side of the rope. You could have as many men as you wanted on your team as long as the total weight of all the men combined did not exceed a ton (2000 lbs).
I will never forget the team we lost to in the finals. After a long day of tugging on the rope, everyone’s hands and forearms were pretty well beat up with cuts and bruises. The team we were up against came out for the championship match wearing special “lobster” gloves for a better grip on the rope. The gloves were allowed, but we firefighters were too proud to wear our gloves. We fought hard for nearly ten minutes, but in the end we were pulled across the center line and into second place.
So the term “tug-of-war” can describe a demonstration of brute strength by two opposing teams, such as a rivalry between two departments of a company. Today I want to employ a metaphorical use “tug-of-war” to describe the battle going on daily inside the heart of every Christian believer—a-tug-of-war between the sinful nature and the Spirit of Christ. The apostle Paul described it perfectly in his letter to the church in Galatia.
The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:17)
Like two opposing teams straining at their side of the rope, the sinful nature is at war against the Spirit, and the Spirit is fighting against the sinful nature. The Bible makes this truth crystal clear. In The Gospel For Real Life, Jerry Bridges writes, “We must acknowledge this tension if we are to make progress in the Christian life. Indwelling sin is like a disease that we can’t begin to deal with until we acknowledge its presence. But in the case of sin, we must also count on the fact that, though it still resides in us, it no longer has dominion over us.”
Sin remains, but it no longer reigns. Jesus reigns, and the grace that He poured into your life when you were saved is the same grace that He continually pours into your life as He is sanctifying you. Sin is no longer our master (see Romans 6:14). Jesus is our Master, and it is His Holy Spirit that has power and control over us.
It is the grace of the Gospel that empowers us to keep on pulling, even when we have fallen into the dirt time and time again and feel like we have no strength left to pull. When we are weak, we are strong because of the One who is on our side. In knowing that Jesus will never take His hands off of our side of the rope, regardless of how often we slip or let go altogether, we find the strength to keep fighting the good fight.
You see, for the Christian, the One really pulling on our side of the rope is Jesus. It is His hands. It is His strength. It is His grace. And Jesus has never lost a match! He’ll pull us across the center line and into the winner’s circle!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!