Overcoming Sin

The "battery-is-almost-dead-and-you'd-better-plug-in-NOW" symbol. Why does it seem this rascal shows up at the most inopportune times? Because I cannot keep using my phone without recharging the battery. The power to use it actually comes from outside it.

What has that got to do with overcoming sin? Glad you asked!

We all, every single one of us, tolerate some sin in our lives. We are "going on to perfection," as John Wesley put it, but we haven't arrived, yet. It seems to me that the sins we most easily tolerate in our lives are the sins that don't seem to us to be that big a deal. In a moment of anger (a natural emotion which is not sinful in itself), we let a mild curse word fly. We're just venting. We don't normally talk that way. We didn't really mean it. Not exactly a biggie when it comes to sin.

So we tell ourselves. The question is: what does God say about it in His Word? "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Apostle Paul--Ephesians 4:23 NIV) "But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." (Jesus--Matthew 15:18 NIV)

Even the mild and minor sins we sometimes struggle with reveal Sin in our hearts. And that Sin in our hearts produces the sins we commit. The Sin in our hearts is rebelliousness and idolatry. It is at the root of all the sins we commit. Some of those sins are BIG in terms of their effect on other people. Like murder or adultery. Other sins are small in terms of their effect on other people. Like an occasional curse word or an extra donut (Lord, forgive me!) But the Sin in our hearts is always a big deal to God. Because Sin separates us from Him.

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2 NIV)

Here's the deal: every disciple of Jesus Christ who has gotten serious about Sin in our hearts and the sins in our lives have discovered we do not have the power inside us to overcome them. We can clean up our act to some extent. We can live good lives the best we can and plead, "Don't judge me," or "Nobody's perfect." But we can't actually change the deepest part of our sin nature without the cleansing work of God by His Holy Spirit. Like the battery in my cell phone, the power to live a life that pleases God comes from outside myself.

This is why reform strategies only work to a point. We can practice the spiritual disciplines and seek to form new habits. That might bring us to the point we stop saying the curse words, but it does not replace the anger in our heart with the depth of God's love. We can participate in an accountability group. That might help us stop using pornography, but it doesn't deal with the lust in our heart. Reform strategies can bring us along a good path for a good distance, and they are definitely a part of the battle a believer fights to live for Christ. But they simply are not enough.

Real transformation means being charged within with God's power from outside ourselves. Change in our sin nature requires the regenerating work of God's Holy Spirit. God does not require it of us, He does the work in us. He pours His power into our lives by filling us with the Holy Spirit. And if we trust His work in us and obey as He transforms us, His Spirit will do what we cannot do. His Spirit will change who we are from sinner to saint. His Spirit will put to death the sin nature that chains us to death. His Spirit will make us more Christlike. And we will actually change.

Do not lose heart. Do not give up. Plug in to the Presence and Power of God and trust Him as He does His work. Welcome the Holy Spirit and do not grieve Him as He roots out sin and grows the fruit of the Spirit in your everyday life. This life-long work of God is meant to deliver us from the sin that binds us. And He is up to the task.

Keep walking with Jesus. And remember, He's not finished with you, yet!

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