Victory over Sin
The Christian Lifestyle - Victory Over Sin "Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Jesus came to save us from our sin. This is more than taking our guilt and its penalty. He came to free us from sinning. Yet you still sin! That should bother you, a lot. But do not give up. God has not given up on us. We can live in victory over sin. First, let us understand temptation. Listen to James 1, verses 2 and 12: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds ... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Being tested by any trial including temptation is a reason to rejoice. Maturity can only be developed through perseverance. Testing is necessary to give opportunity to persevere. Therefore, we should rejoice when trials come. I know that is not easy for us, but temptations and other difficulties give us a chance to grow in our faith. James said, "Blessed is the man who perseveres." He went on to say, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." We have three sources of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world entices me to sin. Satan encourages me to sin and discourages hope that I can resist. But it is my own flesh that I must overcome in perseverance. My biggest problem is me. Your biggest problem is you. How do we overcome ourselves? Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that this battle can be won in the Spirit. He begins, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Later he continues, "You ... were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve on another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Christians have been set free from the law. We must not go back. Yet we must not use this freedom to indulge our flesh, our sinful nature. Instead, we are to use our freedom to serve one another in love. As we allow God's love to motivate our lives, we will fulfill the Law without being under it. But we cannot live in love without a battle. Our flesh seeks to lead us into slavery and condemnation. However, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who leads us another way, if we live by faith in Jesus. There will be conflict within each Christian between our flesh and the Holy Spirit. If we live by the Spirit and let Him lead, we will bear good fruit, the character of Jesus which begins with love. So, how do we win this battle? Paul writes, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Crucify, put to death, your sinful nature, the flesh. Recognize your primary enemy is your flesh with its passions and desires. Put it to death: see yourself as dead to sin and alive in Christ. Do not rely on yourself. Since you only possess life by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, relying on Him for direction and power to overcome. The battle can be won as we live by and are led by the Holy Spirit. In war, there are setbacks, temporary defeats. Yet in Jesus, there is always hope when we fall. What do you do when you sin? John tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Confess your sin. That means to say the same thing that God says about it. I did wrong. There is no excuse. I am responsible. I cannot blame anyone else for what I did. I deserve punishment. My sin deserves everlasting punishment. There is nothing I can do to undo my sin. My only hope is God's grace through the work of Jesus Christ. That is confession. God is faithful and will forgive my sin when I confess with faith in Jesus. His faithfulness is sure. God will do more. He also cleanses me by His Spirit and through my confession. We need a balanced view of sinlessness. John continued, "I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." Our goal is always sinless perfection. Nothing else is good enough for God. There is no place for a lifestyle of continuing sin. As John later adds, "No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." You cannot continue in a lifestyle of sin and claim to be a Christian. Yet the Bible as God's word is realistic. The best of us sometimes sin. When we yield to our flesh and sin, we still have an advocate in Jesus to speak in our defense. God has provided the way for forgiveness for His children when we fail. Yet while there is hope when we fail, we want to minimize failure, and God makes that possible. God always provides a way to escape, so failure is not inevitable. In 1 Cor. 10:13, Paul assures us, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Paul had just used the Old Testament people of God as an example. They failed God and died in the wilderness. Those events stand as examples and warnings for us. The main danger facing us is spiritual pride: thinking that we are better than them, thinking that we can overcome sin on our own. Pride will bring a fall, so do not rely on yourself. However, God has given a promise we can rely on. Your trials and temptations are not unique. Others have faced them and have overcome. Yet be warned. Temptation seizes us unexpectedly. If you let down your guard in pride, you will fall. However, trust that God is in control at all times. Your temptation will never surprise Him. God is faithful. He will never allow a test you cannot pass. He knows your limits. And God always makes a way of escape. Victory is always possible through faith in Him. Find His way and take it. But note: the way goes through the temptation. God's way will require you to endure so that you will grow. Here are several concluding points as a summary: Our temptations come primarily from our own sinful nature. Temptation should be seen as an opportunity to overcome and grow. Always remember that the Holy Spirit who dwells in you is greater than your flesh. Be dead to your flesh and follow the Spirit to produce the fruit of Christlikeness. Our goal should always be to refrain from all sin. When you do sin, be quick to confess fully to receive both forgiveness and cleansing. Face each trial with assurance that God is with you and makes victory possible. Victory is ours for the taking. Endure and win by faith in Jesus and reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit dwell in you? He does if you are living by faith in Jesus Christ. If not, call on Jesus to save you from your sins and give you life in relationship with the Father.