Love Christ, and you will hate that which caused His death. Love Him, and you will love to be made like Him – and hate that which is so contrary to Him.
[We must] pray constantly for His enabling grace to say no to temptation, of choosing to take all practical steps to avoid known areas of temptation and flee from those that surprise us.
Only as we reckon on these twin facts – that I am dead to sin and its reign over me and that I am alive to God, united to Him who strengthens me – can I keep sin from reigning in my mortal body.
We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.
Our reliance on the Spirit is not intended to foster an attitude of “I can’t do it,” but one of “I can do it through Him who strengthens me.” The Christian should never complain of want of ability and power. If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation.
God has defeated Satan through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through this overwhelming victory, God has also empowered you to overcome any temptation to sin and has provided sufficient resources for you to respond biblically to any problem of life. By relying on God’s power and being obedient to His Word, you can be an overcomer in any situation.
As an obedient believer, you are to stand firm in the strength of the Lord, to be sober in spirit, and to remain alert in order to resist the schemes of the devil. However, in all areas of your walk as a believer, you are incapable in your own strength and insufficient in your own resources to overcome the wiles and temptations of Satan. Therefore, you must put on the full armor of God to be an overwhelming conqueror in your continuing spiritual battle.
When you willingly or unknowingly are under the control of any power other than God’s Holy Spirit (e.g., drugs, alcohol, sex, another person, your peer group, a false religion, a self-centered habit such as gossip or laziness, or a self-oriented desire for power, food, or wealth), you are in bondage to sin. However, God has broken the power of sin through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you can overcome sinful habits by depending on His strength and being obedient to His Word.
Sin is not an option for the believer. How can you continue in sin when that sin was paid for in the torn flesh of Jesus? How can you look longingly upon Satan’s offerings when the cross of Christ is in front of your eyes? Christ’s love constrains our hearts to seek holiness. The fact that sin has no lasting benefits remains true, but it is not simply because sin doesn’t pay that you are to turn your back on the tempter. The fact that sin will not get you what you really want in life is not nearly a powerful enough defense to guard you against the attractiveness of Satan’s lies and the fickleness of your heart. Only a deep grasp of the gospel has the power to bring about deep change in your heart. It is knowing the terrible price that has already been paid for your sin that enables you to say no to sin.
The best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ… [They] conquer the lusts of this world with a higher passion: the moral beauty of Christ… The world’s allurements [can] not compete.
When the devil comes to [tempt], he is not in control or all-powerful. He can be resisted, and Christians have a far more powerful ally in the Holy Spirit to fend him off.
There is a glorious sequel to saving, justifying grace. The grace that justifies (declaring us holy in God’s sight) becomes the grace that sanctifies (making us ever more holy in daily life). It is a prevailing, unstoppable grace that doesn’t close up shop the day after the sinner’s prayer. It’s the power of God to help us overcome sin, and a potent weapon in the fierce struggles that accompany life after the honeymoon of conversion. Conversion, like a wedding, is hardly the end of the story – it’s just the beginning.
Contemplation of God brings reflection on sin, and reflection on sin brings contemplation of God.
There are two views which the Christian ought to cultivate with all that he has: the Devil’s back and the face of God [see James 4:7].
Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means.
Ways to fight the flesh:
1. Meditate on the cross to see the rottenness of your sin and the fullness of Christ’s love.
2. Keeping watch against sin’s deceit.
3. Filling your affections with heavenly things.
4. Applying your will to every means of God’s grace to fight temptation.
5. Renewing your first love for Jesus.
6. Hungering for a glimpse of God’s holy glory.
7. All these must be combined with FAITH.
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved to be steady… [It] is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point [of attack].
Faith…unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom. From such a marriage, as [the apostle] Paul says, it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or worse. This means that what Christ possesses belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul possesses belongs to Christ. Thus Christ possesses all good things and holiness; these now belong to the soul. The soul possesses lots of vices and sin; these now belong to Christ… Now is not this a happy business? Christ, the rich, noble and holy bridegroom, takes in marriage this poor, contemptible and sinful little prostitute, takes away all her evil and bestows all His goodness upon her! It is no longer possible for sin to overwhelm her, for she is now found in Christ.
Job’s story demolishes the notion that we can avoid Satan’s attacks if we’re sufficiently strong, or skilled enough, or trained in how to wage war against Satan. No one was more spiritually fit than Job. Yet God allowed Satan to ravage him anyway – and there was nothing Job could do about it. Job finally prevailed in the face of Satan’s merciless assault, not because he found some secret way to beat the devil, not because he rebuked him or ordered him to desist, but because God was in control all along. He knew how much Job could bear. And He would not permit Satan to cross that boundary (1 Cor. 10:13). When Satan reached that limit God stopped him and his attacks ended.
Abide in Jesus, the sinless One – which means, give up all of self and its life, and dwell in God’s will and rest in His strength. This is what brings the power that does not commit sin.
There is a great difference between realizing, “On that Cross He was crucified for me,” and “On that Cross I am crucified with Him.” The one aspect brings us deliverance from sin’s condemnation, the other from sin’s power (John Mantle).
There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in (fighting against sin without the Holy Spirit). A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the contest. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.
If my thirst for joy and meaning and passion are satisfied by the presence of the promises of Christ, the power of sin is broken. We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meat when we can see the sizzling steak on the grill… At first lust tricks me into feeling that I would really miss out on some great satisfaction if I followed the path of purity. But then I take up the sword of the Spirit and begin to fight… And as I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God’s life and peace, the sword of the Spirit carves the sugar coating off the poison of lust… And by the grace of God, (lust’s) alluring power is broken.
This is the great business of life – to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term, than to gain a distaste for it, because of a superior satisfaction in God.
The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms, and must be fought back daily. The only way to do it is by the Spirit, and that’s what it means to walk by the Spirit – so live that He gives victory over the dwindling resistance movement of the flesh.
The way to conquer sin is not by working hard to change our deeds, but by trusting Jesus to change our desires.
[Jesus] saves His people from their sins. This is His special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ’s people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved. But they are saved from sin for evermore.
Look to the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can.
Sure, people can counsel us on some strategies to overcome sin such as Bible memorization, prayer, accountability partners and providing no opportunity for the flesh, but our primary hope to be victorious is not faith in a technique but rather, 2 Corinthians 3:3, faith in a promise that we have power through “the Spirit of the living God.” Never shall a sin again, if we are truly saved, be able to dominate, enslave or defeat us. By God’s grace through the New Covenant provision of the Holy Spirit, we can rise out of the gutter of sin and stand joyously with the freedom we now have in Christ. We are as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17 completely new creatures!
The goal of our Christian life is to find so much beauty in Jesus Christ, happiness in Jesus Christ that the Sirens of sin don’t stand a chance. We are created for pleasure. Sin holds out for us a promise of pleasure. So we must fight its promise with a greater promise. We must understand the superior happiness that comes from doing it God’s way and not pursuing the temporary and toxic pleasures of sin.
If you want God’s empowering grace you must have a humble heart. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). First this means that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and second it means that you admit you have room to grow and need God’s strength, His help to succeed. Run to God for that grace to battle sin and not away from Him in your sin.
If Jesus needed prayer and the Holy Spirit to empower Him during temptation (Lk. 3:21-22; 4:1), what does it say about our abilities to be successful in the spiritual fight if we fail to have either?
The next time your heart is indifferent toward sin, think for a moment of what sin cost your Savior on the cross. Think about His lacerated back ripped open to the bone from the Roman scourge. Think how He suffered for a breath of air as He extended His bloody body up the vertical beam of the rugged cross. Think about the splinters that dug deeper into His freshly cut wounds with every movement. Think about the large spikes that pierced His hands and His feet penetrating deeply into nerve endings. Think of the slow suffocation as Jesus hung there in the nude, mocked by the onlookers. Jesus didn’t die for His own sin; He died for ours. “[He was] pierced through for our transgressions… [He was] crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Does the love of Christ compel you to turn from that which brought Him unspeakable anguish?
Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree. Look up to the cross, and you will kill sin, for the strength of Jesus’ love will make you strong to put down your tendencies to sin.
While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a tyrant; but when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard. I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon by breast that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.
Faith is the surest of all sin-killers.
Sin turns ugly and is subject to defeat only when seen in the light of Christ’s beauty.
The only way to liberate the heart from servitude to the passing pleasures of sin is by cultivating a passion for the joy and delight of beholding the beauty of God in the face of Jesus. What breaks the power of sin is faith in the promise that the pleasures of sin are temporary and toxic but at God’s right hand are pleasures evermore (see Psalm 16:11).
Volitional restraint and abstinence are only effective against sin when the soul embraces a pleasure superior to the one denied. There is little sanctifying value in depriving our souls of fleshly entertainment if steps are not taken to feast on all that God is for us in Jesus. Suppressed desire will always resurface, desperate for satisfaction. Finding fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure in God’s presence alone will serve to woo our wayward hearts from the power of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Therefore, falling in love with the Son of God is the key to holiness.
How do you fight the pleasure of sin? I’ll tell you: with another pleasure. Holiness is not attained, at least not in any lasting, life-changing way, merely through prohibitions, threats, fear, or shame-based appeals. Holiness is attained by believing in, trusting, banking on, resting in, savoring, and cherishing God’s promise of a superior happiness that comes only by falling in love with Jesus. The power that the pleasures of sin exert on the human soul will ultimately be overcome only by the superior power of the pleasures of knowing and being known, loving and being loved by God in Christ.
What will turn our hearts from the passing pleasures of sin? What can strengthen our wills to reject the temptations of the flesh? What will energize our souls to turn from world delusions? What has the power to transform our desires and reconfigure our longings and stir our emotional chemistry that we might love what God loves and hate what He hates? Only one thing. Not rules and threats and fear and punishment. Only one thing. Jesus, in all His beauty. Jesus, in all that He is for us now and will be tomorrow.
What elevates the human soul and empowers it to live in the fullness of its created purpose is not religious intimidation or new rules or an anxiety induced by spiritual scoldings. It is faith in the promise that the enjoyment sin brings is fleeting and futile, but at God’s right hand, and in the presence of His radiant glory, are pleasures evermore (Ps. 16:11).
Satan’s “fiery darts” do not easily penetrate a mind captivated by the beauty of Christ. When our hearts beat with perpetual fascination and our thoughts are filled with the beauty and splendor and adequacy of God, little room is left for the devil to gain a foothold (see Phil. 4:8).
The biblical motivation to (avoid sin) is that we are no longer sinners by nature, and that sin goes against the new nature that God has given us.
Whenever God pardons sin, He subdues it. Micah 7:19. Then is the condemning power of sin taken away, when the commanding power of it is taken away. If a malefactor be in prison, how shall he know that his prince hath pardoned him? If a jailer come and knock off his chains and fetters, and lets him out of prison, then he may know he is pardoned; so, how shall we know God hath pardoned us? If the fetters of sin be broken off, and we walk at liberty in the ways of God, this is a blessed sign we are pardoned.
The diagnosis of sin is never the last word. Instead, the last word is Jesus Christ. Sin should take us right to Jesus. The way out of addictions is to talk more about Jesus, the Redeemer and Liberator, than about sin… The biblical arithmetic is this: for every one look at your sin, take ten looks at Christ.
Since then Christ is praying for us, whom should we fear? And since He has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though an host of demons are lined up against us, let us not be afraid; though the hottest persecution should rise up against us, yet let us put our trust in God. Even though Satan, and the rest of his apostate spirits, are powerful, when compared with us; yet, if put in competition with the Almighty, they are as weak as the smallest worms. God has them all reserved in chains of darkness until the final judgment day. They shall only go as far as He permits them, and no farther.
Everyone is born a slave of sin. Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). We cannot free ourselves from this oppressive master, for no one can live without sinning against God. But the sinless Jesus – not for His own sake, but for others – came from Heaven to deliver His people. Jesus allowed godless men to nail Him to a Roman cross, and three days later rose from the dead so that “we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6). And all those who trust in His work (and not their own) as the way to freedom will find emancipation from sin. “Therefore,” declared Jesus, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).