When God looks at us, does He see us as pure, righteous sons and daughters, cleansed by Christ's blood? But how can an omniscient God not see our sin? God does see us as sinless in his eyes, in a forensic or legal manner. The Bible calls this concept Justification. Long before our judgment in heaven, God the great judge justifies us. It's as if the Great Judge's gavel drops, and he declares to the sinner: "You are innocent!" This is the first great forensic work of salvation. The second is when the Judge takes off the robes, comes down in front of the bench, throws his arms around you and legally adopts us as His children. Justification is a wonderful part of salvation. It describes the POSITION and STATUS that we have in Christ. We are no longer condemned (see Romans 8:1) and we are adopted (see Romans 8:15).
We are POSITIONALLY saved, but there is a PRACTICAL aspect of salvation that we must work out our entire life. Philippians 3:16 tells us, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." It's very important to understand we will fight sin and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit our entire life.
Just as a baby often stumbles and falls while learning to walk, so too a baby Christian will often fall, despite their deep desire not to. Just as we get encouraged and excited when a baby takes their first steps, so too should we be encouraging to young Christians. They should know that ONGOING forgiveness of sin is part of salvation, and is included in the deal! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) As we mature in Christ, we walk longer and farther between episodes where our sinful nature takes back over and we fall. Christians should never use indwelling sin to justify a secret life of sin that is concurrent with their Christian life. God's grace as we learn to walk and be conformed to his image is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER to be a license to sin. "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2) We must realize that a component of living an exciting life in Christ is our constant battle to mortify our old self, and get ever better at it. If sin overtakes us totally, it impedes our witness and our ability to serve God, because we have injured (not broken) our relationship with the God. Aspects of our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are damaged and need restoration. A major sin, or season of sin, calls for nothing but absolute repentance. However, in daily life, we must not let sin keep us from serving God. We must rely on God's forgiveness and the work of faith in our lives to live a forgiven and abundant life of purpose for the Kingdom of God.
With POSITIONAL sinlessness and PRACTICAL daily washing understood, let's look at four strategies that can help to daily keep sin in check. We need to daily say "NO" to sin and our old nature. We need to daily say "YES" to God.
1) SELF-EFFORT: There is an element of personal willpower and resolve in fighting sin. Most sin is "common" as Satan, the world system of ethics, and even our old sin nature make us vulnerable. Paul said, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) There is no sin too great to resist, and God will help you with a way of escape. Despite what you hear, one way of fighting sin is personal resolve and finding God's divine "escape hatch" for each situation of temptation.
2) SET UP BARRIERS: We must put up "barriers" and "hedges" in our life. The Bible tells us that EVERYONE has a sin that easily knocks them over. This is a called a "besetting" sin. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). Here's how a besetting sin works: If your weakness is alcohol or drugs, Satan or his minions are not likely to put opportunities for anger in your path. However, if you are easily tempted by sex, don't be surprised to find TV ads, books, conversation and graphic internet sites surrounding you. Therefore, the prudent Christian will set up barriers and accountability in their life. In such cases, it is important to have internet filters, accountability partners, and even go without the very source of temptation. Barriers are needed for all such vices: Drugs, alcohol, anger and abuse, gossip, and so on. Please note that we easily climb over our own man-made walls, so this strategy alone is helpful, but we cannot shut down our internal sinful nature fully through external means.
3) JESUS AS PLEASURE SUPERIOR TO SIN: Another strategy has been made popular by understanding that we were Desiring God
and Future Grace
, by John Piper. Also, Pleasures Evermore
, by Sam Storms is a must read. Allow me to briefly communicate their premise. The world system tells us — and even our own fallen hearts tell us — "You'll be happier with more material wealth, more abundance of stuff, and surplus of money. Sex and self-satisfaction can make you happier and more satisfied than Jesus can."
The key is daily finding our delight in JESUS. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). No matter where life trips us up, we need to listen to the promises of God superior pleasure in Jesus Christ himself.
In the book Desiring God
, John Piper most notably said that: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." We need to guard ourselves of the false notion that, if we say YES to God then somehow we are saying NO to ourselves. We are saying "NO" to our satisfaction, our pleasures and our joy. However, Christianity is not about just "saying no to pleasure." Christian living requires finding the Creator's understanding of what pleasure is, and then "piling on" more and more satisfaction, pleasure and joy.
Hedonists say, "Life is all about pleasure." They believe "pleasure is all there is." Therefore, Hedonists live for all the sex, food, ego, money and extravagance someone can fit into their life. Sin is momentarily reverting from Christianity to Hedonism.
In one sense, Hedonists do have the right idea. We ARE built for pleasure and crave satisfaction. However, because of the fall, we have fallen and flawed "taste buds." Hedonists are right about satisfaction, but totally wrong about what fuel to put in the human gas tank. HERE'S A KEY: God calls us to pleasure and satisfaction and then gives us himself.
John Piper makes the statement, "Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God." Sin happens when we take pleasure into our own hands. Beyond overtly dishonoring God, sin pulls us away from the God — the source of Satisfaction. In the book Pleasures Evermore
, Sam Storms adds to this idea when he says: "The fight against sin is, therefore, the fight to stay satisfied with God." Storms continues, "There is no way to triumph over sin long-term unless we develop a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God. The only way to find sin distasteful is to eat and savor the sweetness of all that God is for us in Jesus."
Finding pleasure in Christ alone is emotionally savoring all truth about God. This is a wonderful long-term strategy for growth and weapons to fight our sin nature. However, just like the above three suggestions, it too will let you down from time to time.
4) LIVING BY THE SPIRIT: The fourth and most effective way is to walk in the Spirit. Paul tells us, "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) Many people hold mistaken ideas or extra-biblical notions of what being "Filled with the Spirit" or "Walk in the Spirit" really is. Many have allowed 20th century "experiences" to overwhelm the Bible truth. To walk (or be filled) in the Spirit simply means to let God control your life minute by minute. We slide over and he takes the wheel! This verse in Ephesians is the text that proves it is all about YIELDED CONTROL to the SPIRIT OF GOD. Allow me to paraphrase" Do not BE CONTROLLED (drunk) by wine, but BE CONTROLLED (filled) by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Allowing the Spirit of God to CONTROL us happens with a whispered prayer at daybreak that's repeated all day long whenever necessary. I GUARANTEE YOU no one has ever committed adultery, murder or done ANY sin, while under control of the Holy Spirit. "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
All these four techniques will help you in your daily battle with Sin. Don't think one will do. You need them ALL.
As important as fighting sin in life is, it does not begin to cover the Christian life. God wants us to gain joy and purpose in life in all the POSITIVE factors. Remember, God promises us eternal life, satisfaction, sin is important, but it is NOT the whole of the Christian life. Loving and serving Jesus is.
Remember, sins are ultimately already paid for, and we are justified and stand positionally Holy before God, now and forever. Celebrate your grace, and sin will take care of itself with a few good strategies like these. We are not just to believe the Gospel at the outset of our faith, but daily live and breathe the Gospel. It is the forgiveness of sins for our entire life, and the promise of abundant life now and forever. And we live that life by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.