Battling Sin: A Lost Art
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” —John Owen
We don’t like to talk about sin. It’s not a topic of conversation that enters very many Christian circles. It makes us uncomfortable and vulnerable—two things that we often loathe. In order to escape truly dealing with sin, our tendency is to put on a smiling face, rehearse some “churchy” response in our minds as we shake hands with a fellow believer, and force out a prayer during small group as the claws of sin dig deeper into our hearts. We say that we follow Jesus and seek His Kingdom but we so often live as if we are debtors to our flesh yielding to its every craving. Now, we all know intellectually that the Christian life is much more than putting on a show all while our souls are weary and riddled with sin. Much, much more. There is much more joy to be had, more satisfaction to be found, more glory to be seen. And all of these are experienced as we treasure Jesus—in whom there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Why should we battle against sin?
This might seem like a silly question, but I believe we have to answer it. I would assume that if soldiers were not convinced as to why they were fighting an enemy, they would run at first sign of trouble. We will always give into the pressure of sin (greed, lust, fear, gossip, worry, you name it) if we don’t know why we’re fighting against it.
1. Because the Holy and Righteous God no longer condemns us. How is this even possible? We who wanted nothing less than to spit in the face of God and defame Him, for that is what our sin does, now are able to be called His sons and daughters! The only way that rotten, wicked sinners like me and you could be a part of His kingdom is if there was bloodshed. It would make logical sense if it was ours—if we could somehow atone for our wrongdoings. No. His Son, Jesus, in his perfection, became our substitute taking on our every sin to free us from what we most deserved! Not only did he take on our sin, but as our high priest, he intercedes for us to God presenting us blameless. Absolutely innocent. As if we had done nothing wrong. Let that sink in for a minute. Not only THAT, but He is now our Father who loves us, cares for us and sees us. He is with usin every painful moment, every suffering season, in victory, defeat, chaos, and calm. And one day we will literally see our Savior face to face spending eternity with Him. Our response to God is to fight sin. Our identity was once wicked sinner. Now we are children of the King.
2. Because it blinds us to our mission. Now that we are children of God, our mission is to proclaim His glory and make disciples of all nations. How humbling is it to know that God allows us to be on mission with Him? Even in our sin, He is gracious to use us to bring glory to Himself. When we think of what God has done for us in Jesus, we should be motivated to share this amazing news with our family, neighbors, and co-workers. However, we allow our hearts to be captivated by worldly pleasures because we have become disenchanted with the glory of God and the beauty of Jesus. We drink from broken cisterns when Jesus is the well that never runs dry. When we live in sin, our mission becomes to make ourselves comfortable instead of being intentional to share the gospel. The souls of men, women, boys and girls are at stake. We must be killing sin so that we can see the mission ahead of us and be prepared to act.
How do we battle against sin?
This is where the rubber meets the road—where faith is put into action. This is also where we get shy. We don’t want to be accused of being a legalist or a goodie-two-shoes. Satan would love for “fighting sin” to simply be a philosophical idea rather than a consistent practice. So, how do we aim to kill sin consistently?
Fight from, not for. It’s essential to understand that we fight from a position of grace versus fighting for grace. Through the death of Jesus, we have been justified—made right with God. He has shown us grace upon grace by making His children; therefore, we run from sin to treasure Jesus. It’s not that we battle sin in order for God to show us grace. We speak truth instead of lies, we seek contentment rather than greed, we seek purity rather than indulge in lust as we live in awe of the grace God has shown us.
Read the Word. God’s primary way of making us more like Jesus is through reading and knowing God’s Word. Before Jesus gave himself up in the garden to be taken away to die, he prayed to the Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Set aside time every day to read. Have a plan as to what and when you are going to read. Whether the plan is to read a chapter before you go to work, to read while the kids are down for a nap or read as you are about to go to bed. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the truths that you’re reading and to see the beauty of the gospel.
Pray. This is another practical way to battle sin. Sin is a matter of the heart and mind. It’s not merely something we do; it’s engrained in us. Therefore, we cannot wage war against sin in our own strength. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to align our hearts with the truth of God’s Word. Prayer is not merely asking God for things. It’s simply delighting in Jesus. In his book entitled “Prayer”, Tim Keller says, “[Paul] does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself.” May we truly treasure the fact that we can have communion with God knowing that fellowship with Him is better than the temporal pleasures that sin has to offer.
Talk to yourself. One of the most powerful ways to steer your heart away from sin is to remind yourself of the gospel. Remind your soul that you are God’s and He is yours. David does this often especially in Psalm 42.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
Talk to believers. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” God made us to live in community with other believers. And we’re all in the same boat. Satan wants us to think we’re all alone in our battle with sin. You are not alone and I am not alone. We need each other. We need to hear truth from each other. We need to be lovingly rebuked by each other. We need to bear each other’s burdens.
Thank God for His grace. You and I will fail. At times, we will neglect the beauty of the gospel to treasure something else. In those times, call the sin for what it is, repent from it, and thank god for his mercy grace that he continually shows. Praise God we are not saved by doing the right thing or refusing to do the wrong thing. We are saved by grace through faith alone. We are saved by Christ’s merit. May we battle sin tenaciously knowing that we are no longer condemned and our mission is urgent!