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Column: The icy grip of second winter and your old self

Winter’s grip may seem unescapable, but it’s actually a great metaphor for the Christian life.

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Chad Werkhoven

Typical Midwest. Sunday, Monday and yesterday were gorgeous: mid- to upper 70s and lotsa sunshine. Today, however, reality is predicted to check back in, ushering in along with it clouds and temps back in the 50s for the next week.

I thought we were done with cold weather until a friend warned me of two additional seasons that, as a new resident of the Upper Midwest, I was heretofore unaware of: False Spring, which precedes Second Winter. I was informed that some of this area’s gnarliest snow and ice storms often come in April.

As I walked back in the house later that day, it seemed as if my snow shovel was taunting me, sneering through its curved steel blade, “You’ll never be able to really put me away .... even when summer does arrive, winter will always return.”

Winter’s grip may seem unescapable, but it’s actually a great metaphor for the Christian life. Just as soon as you think you’ve finally escaped that nagging temptation once and for all, it sneaks back up, trying to grab you with its cold, icy fingers.

Maybe you’re feeling really good spiritually after Easter. For many, going to church on Easter is sort of like getting your second COVID shot. You went on Christmas, return a few months later on Easter and you think you’re good for the year. You’ve been reminded that Jesus was born, and rose again, giving all who believe in Him new life and setting you free from sin. You’re immune from temptation now, right?

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But it will come back. Perhaps slowly at first: a subtle thought which over time morphs into a full fledged temptation until it just comes out and smacks you in the face like a cold north wind after a week of warmth. Like winter, your old sinful self always returns.

The New Testament warns of us this repeatedly, using violent language to grab our attention. It’s true that if you trust in Christ you’ve been made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), but until Christ returns, your old sinful self is waging war against you (Rom. 7:23), trying to pull you back into spiritual winter.

So you need to kill that old self (Rom. 8:13, Col. 3:5). Repeatedly. It’s like the winter in Minnesota. It just keeps coming back over and over.

This means you can’t put your spiritual snow shovel away. You can certainly rely on God’s sovereignty to preserve your faith until He returns, but He’s given you tools to apply His strength to the never-ending battle you face with your old self. One of the most important tools you’ve been given is regular gathered worship.

Gathering with other Christians who are fighting the same war you are strengthens and equips you to fend off your ever-returning old self. Just as you can’t go days in between meals and expect to be strong, you can’t go months in between hearing God’s Word and responding in praise and expect to win the battle. You need this weekly — every Sunday — and twice on Sunday if your church offers that.

Summer will come sooner or later, even in Minnesota. But even when life seems warm and breezy, remember that cold old self will always return. Keep yourself spiritually strong and ready.

Chad Werkhoven is pastor at Worthington Christian Reformed Church.

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