Fighting Against Sin Part 2

Are you someone who “fails” in their fight against sin far more than you wish? Fighting through our own contrived way does not work. Sheer will-power, mysticism, self-righteousness (legalism), and worldly philosophies are human attempts that are of no value nor do they glorify God.

God wants us to be fighting sin every hour of every day, but how do we do this biblically?

Thankfully, God never tells us to do something without telling us how to do it (2 Timothy 3:16–17) as well as giving us the ability to carry it out (Philippians 2:13).

God has already done his part

It is perplexing to hear someone express an understanding that all they need to do is pray for God to help them in their struggle against sin when in reality, he already has! Let’s be clear, lack of obedience is never God’s issue. We have an obligation:

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12–13

Our obligation is to the Spirit to live according to the Spirit’s direction and desires; it is a moral obligation against sinful impulses. We have no obligation to sin!

Let’s clarify with Scripture what God has done to help in the battle.

God has given us spiritual life and freed us from the bondage to sin

  • This means that sin does not and cannot dominate us unless we allow it to. It’s a choice. Every sin we commit is a sin of choice:

    • Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Romans 6:14

    • We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6

    • So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11

    • What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1

God has given us the Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength

  • This means that God has made it clear to us what we must do in order to defeat sin. He has given us every truth we need to fight our thoughts and temptations successfully and be renewed in our thinking, as well as given us the desire and ability to do what is right. He will use the truth of Scripture to guide and convict us.

  • This is not about perfection but about direction. A pursuit of Christ and holiness.

    • For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

    • I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11.

    • For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13.

    • But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16. (To walk by the Spirit simply means to be controlled and dependent upon him.)

NOTE: When we look at passages like Romans 6–8 and Galatians 5, the whole idea of winning this battle comes down to submission to God. We must be fully submitted to him if we ever hope to “not be pressed into the mold of the world” but rather to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”(Romans 12:1–2).

God will not give us more than we can bear

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Our part in the battle

Knowing what has been accomplished for us is only half the battle. A life that is consistently fighting the flesh will:

  • Be dominated by Christ. God must rule your life in every area. (Matthew 12:44; Hebrews 10:34)

  • Pursue and cultivate a love for God so that he comes to be first in all things. (Colossians 1:15–17) You can’t love him if you don’t know him.

  • Let the Word of God constantly renew and renovate your heart and motives (Hebrews 4:12) and then submit to and obey his Word (Colossians 3:16) in everything.

  • Think rightly about God. How we think affects every aspect of our lives. (Proverbs 4:23) Think Christlike. Be intentional with your thoughts. (Proverbs 23:7)

  • See sin as God does, through the lens of truth. The battle is fought first in the mind. (Mark 7:21; Romans 12:2,3) Sin separates. Sin deceives. Sin never satisfies.

  • Identify both sinful attitudes and actions and say “no.” (Romans 6; Titus 2:11–13) (Impatience, worldliness, worry, self-righteousness, control, perfectionism.)

  • Run hard (“chase after”) righteousness. (1 Timothy 6:11)

  • Run from and avoid situations that draw you to sin. Recognize factors that weaken your inner resolve and increase temptation to sin (idleness, physical weariness, suffering, prosperity…). (1 Timothy 6:11)

  • Grow to hate your sin as God does. (Psalm 26:5, 119:104; Proverbs 8:13)

  • PRAY!

    • That the Spirit will remind you of the truths you need to remember in times of temptation.

    • For wisdom to understand and clearly “preach” truth to yourself as you face temptations.

    • For God to be renewing your mind as you immerse in truth daily for the purpose of change.

    • For increased love of truth and hatred of sin.

    • As David did, asking God to reveal hidden sin if there is any. (WARNING: Don’t go on a sin hunt. God promises to convict us of sin and never commands us to go digging around for “just in case I missed it” sins.)

    • Like Paul in Colossians 1:9–11…that you would walk worthy, that you would be controlled by the knowledge of his will, that you would be fully pleasing to him, and be strengthened for endurance with joy.

Simply put

Because you are united with Christ and he has made you able by his indwelling Spirit…stop doing wrong…and resolve to honor God by choosing to obey. (Romans 6; Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:5–10)

Consider Action

  1. Examine yourself. What is the direction of your life? Do you see a growing hatred of sin? Do you see a growing desire to repent and change daily? Does sin really matter to you?

  2. Are you honest and sensitive to the “little” sins you do many times a day? It is easy to think sin is only those “big things.” But in God’s eyes, even a bad attitude or a rolling of the eyes is offensive to his holy character.

  3. Would those who know you best (spouse, children, co-workers, friends) say your life is characterized by godliness and Christlikeness, or by selfishness and sin?

  4. Do you choose to let your body do wrong, or do you chose to let your body obey God? (Romans 6)

  5. Is everything in your life driven by the desire to honor God, or please self?

About the author

Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota, serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Alliance, and is a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology Studies from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Minnesota and a MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana.

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