If you are a person who is struggling against sin and failing, be encouraged: you are not alone. Many people who struggle with habitual sins do so believing two things: one, that they are the only Christian struggling and two, that the continual failures mean they are not saved. These are false beliefs—lies that Satan tells us to discourage us. The truth is that every Christian fights against sin, and most of us have at least one sin that presents a lifelong struggle, a flaw that causes us to learn the same tired lessons over and over again. Furthermore, most Christians have struggled against the fear that our habitual sins will mean we are not saved. But think—would an unbeliever have such a fear? If you love God, and wish to be with Him, you can be with Him, despite your failures. He is a Savior, and does not bring judgment down on those who believe and trust in Him (John 3:17-18).
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to stop sinning is to stop trying to stop sinning. We become vigilant about our sins, trying to avoid them, and the result is that we are obsessively thinking about the very sins that we are trying to stop. James says that "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire" (James 1:14). Desire originates in the mind, and ironically, a thought that is originally intended to be anti-sin can easily turn into a temptation as the mind turns it over.
Think of a glass filled with mud. If you try to wipe the mud out of the glass with your hand, a lot of mud will be left behind. But if you put the glass under a running tap, the mud will eventually all be cleared away. Our minds are like the glass. When we try to scoop sin out with our own hands, we fail. But if we place our minds under the clear water of the Scripture, the mud gets washed away. Paul summed this up well when he said "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
In the battle against sin, fear is your biggest enemy. Sin produces fear when we do not fully trust that Jesus Christ's righteousness is enough to save us. When Jesus was on the cross, he called out "it is finished" right before he died (John 19:30). Later, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). Our justification before God, and our sanctification that occurs over our lifetime, were accomplished (from God's perspective) at that moment when Jesus said "it is finished." There is no work left to do. Sin and good works, for a believer, have no bearing on his salvation. But sin does have a harmful effect on us and on those around us, which is why God commands us to strive against it.
The odd thing is that when you realize you are safe in Christ, the desire to sin decreases. This is because the law, the rules, the standards set by God, tend to aggravate the sin nature. That is, indeed, what the law was intended to do (Romans 7:5-8). We had to know what sin was, so we would know our need for Christ. When we learn that we are safe, and no longer in danger of eternal punishment, the law loses its power over us. The law has the power to condemn those who are living by the flesh, for they are trusting in their own efforts, trying to pay their way out of hell by good works. They will not succeed, because "all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law" and the law is perfect—no human being is able to find justification before God by the law (Romans 2:12; 3:20). But the law has no power over the one who is in Christ, for "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2).
This is the gospel! We are set free from the worry that sin produces. "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). So, going forward: when you sin, remember that the sin is paid for, and forget it. Refocus your mind on Christ. Let the water of His Spirit fill you and flow through you. Praise Him, thank Him. Look outward towards others, to encourage them and pass along the message of freedom from bondage. Most of all, take the stance of one who receives, rather than one who earns, toward your spiritual growth, simply looking at Him and loving Him for who He is—the One who saves and sanctifies you, and produces fruit in you by the Life that is flowing from Him through you (John 15:4-5). Remember that your life is His work (Ephesians 2:10). And trust Him, because He is trustworthy and will not let you fall (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 37:5).
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