Dealing with sin so as to remove it from our life is not easy work. It not only requires us to do the hard work of discovery, but we also must be determined to remove it from our lives. After we have accomplished those two things, we are set to do battle with sin. But how?
How Do We Do Battle With Sin in Our Lives?
Let me just say at the start that the only way we are going to successfully battle sin in our lives is to have had our heart changed by the gospel, which means we must be a believer.
We must be a believer.
If you aren’t a believer, there is no hope of changing. That might sound matter of fact and harsh but it’s true. Non-believers haven’t been set free from the bondage of sin. It has them by the throat, and their only option is to obey. Listen to what Paul says about us before we come to Christ,
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:1–3)
I think Paul makes it clear that those who aren’t believers are in constant bondage to sin. They are controlled by it and have no choice but to submit to Satan and the passions of their body and mind. In order to deal with sin in our lives, then, we have to first be released from its bondage, which only occurs in Christ.
Jesus is the one who makes us alive, freeing us from Satan and sin’s mastery over us by changing our hearts. Once our hearts are changed our desires are redirected away from sin, Satan, and the world, to the things of God. Without Jesus, then, battling sin is impossible.
Just because we are a believer, however, doesn’t mean our battle with sin is over. In reality, it has just begun. Removing sin from our life is hard work and only happens as we attack sin at the root.
We must attack sin at the root.
The church where I serve as pastor is located in the country. It is surrounded by farmland. While the soil is rich for growing hay, it is also rich for growing stickers. If you were to walk barefoot through the fields surrounding our church, your feet wouldn’t be happy because they would be full of stickers.
Anyone who has ever battled stickers knows the only way to get rid of them is to attack the root. You can cut them down with the mower and it will appear as if there are no stickers for a while. But you can bet they are still there and they will pop right back up in a week or two. Removing stickers, then, requires the hard work of attacking them at the root. Cutting them down at the surface won’t do.
In a similar way, if we want to remove sin from our lives, we can’t just cut it down on the surface, we have to attack it at the root as well. The root of sin is found in our heart.
When the Bible refers to the “heart“, it’s not referring to that organ inside of us that’s pumping blood through our body. Rather, it refers to the inner man where our affections, will, and desires reside. The root of sin is found at the heart level, which is where we must battle sin.
We’ve been given incomplete advice.
While the battle against sin must take place in the heart, often times we are directed towards another battlefield and given different battle plans. The battlefield to which we are usually directed is the surface. We are told to deal with the externals rather than the internals of the heart.
For instance, we are told if we have trouble with pornography, we should throw our computers out. If we have a drug addiction, we should flush the drugs down the toilet and forget about them. If we are being influenced by the wrong people, we should move.
At one level, this is not bad advice, it is just not complete. Removing these things from our lives may be a good first step since they provide the time we often need to deal with our heart. But that’s all they are — a good first step.
While dealing with externals is a good first step, we often treat it as if it’s the solution. That’s a problem because it means we are only cutting sin down instead of rooting it out. Even worse, it gives us a false sense of victory, believing we have won, we usually head back to camp to celebrate, while our enemy, our sin, regroups for another attack.
Sin that has been cut down and not rooted out will come back.
You know what is going to happen? Eventually, we will buy another computer, see people from our past, or have to have surgery that requires us to take pain pills during our recovery. If we haven’t dealt with our heart, we are going to fall right back into these same sins. Dealing with the externals only buys us time. The sin we thought we defeated will come back, just like the stickers in the field will come back.
Frustration turns to weariness, then to defeat and acceptance.
When we see the sin we thought we defeated come back over and over again, our frustration will grow. After our frustration reaches the boiling point, we may decide to throw in the towel, giving up the fight because we see no use. We may even catch ourselves saying something like, “That’s just the way God made me.”
Keep fighting but on the battlefield of your heart.
But God didn’t make you that way, nor does He want you to give in and continue in sin. Instead, He wants you to continually wage war against sin in your life, and that war must be waged on the battlefield of the heart.
I’ll talk about how we do battle with sin at the heart level in my next post.
Questions for Reflection
- Are you a believer?
- Are you fighting sin on the battlefield of your heart or on the surface?
Post adapted from my sermon: How Do We Deal with Recurring Sin in Our Lives?