What is the key to overcoming sin?
Christians should all have overcoming sin as one of our goals. Although we will never be perfectly victorious over sin in this life (1 John 1:8), we must recognize that overcoming sin is part of the battle which is the Christian life. God has not left us to battle sin on our own, however. He has given us clear instructions and several resources to aid in the struggle.
The first resource, and the most important, is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without whom victory over sin is impossible. Not only must we have the presence of the Spirit, but we must also be “filled” with the Spirit in order to overcome sin (Ephesians 5:18-21). We should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and, in that sense, fill us. Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14 state that He dwells within every believer, but He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and His activity within us can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we allow this to happen, we do not experience the fullness of the Spirit’s working and His power in and through us. Therefore, the presence and the filling of the Holy Spirit are essential to overcoming sin.
Another resource God has given to us to overcome sin and live for Him is the Word of God, which is sufficient to equip us for every good work and to make us “complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If it is able to make us complete, that would include the power to have victory over sin. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate straight to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. Psalm 119:9 refers to the power of the Word: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” Joshua 1:8 further exhorts us to “not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
The Bible will help us to overcome sin, but not if it sits on the shelf until Sunday. We are to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives. When it comes to the Word of God, we can’t simply take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually. We must ingest enough of it to be healthy, thriving Christians, which involves feeding on it and meditating on its truths enough to derive its spiritual nutrition. The Bible is an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18). Without it, we have no hope of overcoming sin.
Prayer is the third crucial resource in our battle against sin. If Jesus had to pray diligently to prepare for the ordeal He was about to suffer, how much more do we who are weak and sinful have to rely on prayer to overcome temptation? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus exhorted the disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). When they failed to heed His warning, they fell into the sin of fear and unbelief (Mark 14:50). God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 6:23-27; 1 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer acknowledges that we recognize our own limitations and God’s inexhaustible power and it allows us to tap into that power as we “come boldly before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) with our petitions and supplications.
A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the fellowship of other believers, particularly in the local church. Overcoming sin with the help and encouragement of others in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) is much easier than going it alone. James tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16) and pray for one another because just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength and comfort to be found among a body of believers whose hearts are inclined toward God and one another (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).
Accountability partners who can come alongside a struggling brother and render help in overcoming stubborn sins is another resource provided by the local church. Temptation is part of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10:13), but God has promised not to test us beyond our ability to bear it and having an accountability partner or an accountability group can help us to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.
Sometimes victory over sin comes quickly; other times, victory comes more slowly. God has not left us helpless in our battle against sin. He has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives. We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that “the LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made” (Psalm 145:13b).
How can we overcome sin in my Christian life?
The Bible presents several different resources to aid us in our effort to overcome sin. In this lifetime, we will never be perfectly victorious over sin (1 John 1:8), but that should still be our goal. With God’s help, and by following the principles of His Word, we can progressively overcome sin and become more and more like Christ.
The first resource the Bible mentions in our effort to overcome sin is the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit so we can be victorious in
Christian living. God contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. In that passage we are called upon to walk in the Spirit. All believers already possess the Holy Spirit, but this passage tells us that we need to walk in the Spirit, yielding to His control. This means choosing to consistently follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our lives rather than following the flesh.
The difference the Holy Spirit can make is demonstrated in the life of Peter, who, before being filled with the Holy Spirit, denied Jesus three times—and this after he had said he would follow Christ to the death. After being filled with the Spirit, he spoke openly and strongly to the Jews at Pentecost.
We walk in the Spirit as we try not to quench the Spirit’s promptings (as spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:19) and seek instead to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21). How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? First of all, it is of God’s choosing even as it was in the Old Testament. He selected individuals to accomplish a work that He wanted done and filled them with His Spirit (Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 10:10). There is evidence in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16 that God chooses to fill those who are filling themselves with the Word of God. This leads us to the second resource.
The Word of God, the Bible, says that God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It teaches us how to live and what to believe, it reveals to us when we have chosen wrong paths, it helps us get back on the right path, and it helps us to stay on that path. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. The psalmist talks about its life-changing power in-depth in Psalm 119. Joshua was told that the key to success in overcoming his enemies was not to forget this resource but instead to meditate on it day and night and obey it. This he did, even when what God commanded did not make sense militarily, and this was the key to his victory in his battles for the Promised Land.
The Bible is a resource that we too often treat lightly. We give token service to it by carrying our Bibles to church or reading a daily devotional or a chapter a day, but we fail to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives; we fail to confess the sins it reveals or praise God for the gifts it reveals to us. When it comes to the Bible, we are often either anorexic or bulimic. We either take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually by eating from the Word (but never ingesting enough to be healthy, thriving Christians), or we come to feed often but never meditate on it long enough to get spiritual nutrition from it.
It is important, if you have not made a habit of daily studying and memorizing God’s Word, that you begin to do so. Some find it helpful start a journal. Make it a habit not to leave the Word until you have written down something you have gained from it. Some record prayers to God, asking Him to help them change in the areas that He has spoken to them about. The Bible is the tool the Spirit uses in our lives (Ephesians 6:17), an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18).
A third crucial resource in our battle against sin is prayer. Again, it is a resource that Christians often give lip service to but make poor use of. We have prayer meetings, times of prayer, etc., but we do not use prayer in the same way as the early church (Acts 3:1; 4:31; 6:4; 13:1-3). Paul repeatedly mentions how he prayed for those he ministered to. God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 6:23-27; 1 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18).
How important is prayer to overcoming sin in our lives? We have Christ’s words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Peter’s denial. As Jesus prays, Peter is sleeping. Jesus wakes him and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We, like Peter, want to do what is right but are not finding the strength. We need to follow God’s admonition to keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking—and He will give us the strength that we need (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is not a magic formula. Prayer is simply acknowledging our own limitations and God’s inexhaustible power and turning to Him for that strength to do what He wants us to do, not what we want to do (1 John 5:14-15).
A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the church, the fellowship of other believers. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out two-by-two (Matthew 10:1). The missionaries in Acts did not go out one at a time, but in groups of two or more. Jesus commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together but to use that time for encouraging one another in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). He tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, we are told that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).
Many Christians find that having an accountability partner can be a huge benefit in overcoming stubborn sins. Having another person who can
talk with you, pray with you, encourage you, and even rebuke you is of great value. Temptation is common to us all (1 Corinthians 10:13). Having an accountability partner or an accountability group can give us the final dose of encouragement and motivation we need to overcome even the
most stubborn of sins.
Sometimes victory over sin comes quickly. Other times, victory comes more slowly. God has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives. We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that He is faithful to His promises.
God want us to know the facts regarding Satan’s strategies, the consequences of following Satan, how to escape his influences, and how to pick ourselves up when we fall spiritually. I Peter 5:8 tell us that Satan is our adversary and describes him as a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour! The best advice that anyone could give you is to “Watch Out!”
There are many fundamental facts that we need to understand about Satan and his plans for us and how we can thwart his activity. One essential way to live the victorious Christian life is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. (For a brief presentation on how you can be controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit please visit http://www.godlife.com/topics/overcoming-sin Fact 1: Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you will no longer have problems; but you now have the Supreme Problem-Solver of the universe living within you!
Fact 2: The difficulties you will experience as a Christian will come from one or more sources.
A. One source of difficulties is from the natural consequences of foolish (but amoral) actions.
B. Another source of our difficulties is the temptations of Satan
C. One more source of our difficulties could be the discipline of God as a consequence of our sin.
Fact 3: Adversity caused by any one of these sources is allowed by God through a perfect blending of two Biblical principles: You will reap what you sow and God will still make good come of it. (Galatians 6:7 and Romans 8:28).
Fact 4: Christians are to flee temptation. (Proverbs 4:14-15) (2 Timothy 2:22) and resist the devil (James 4:7)