Fighting sin can sometimes feel like a losing battle. There are some sins that seem like you’ll never shake. It’s true we’ll never be completely rid of this foe till Christ returns. Nevertheless, God has given us means to fight sin. These principles have been tremendously helpful to me and I share them here with you.
1. Pray for help.
Ask God to give you eyes to see your sin. Ask God for the strength to fight the fight of faith. And even when you know not what to pray, remember that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit searches our hearts and minds and intercedes for us according to the will of God (Rom. 8:27). Even if all you can do is groan, ask God for help. Because the Spirit intercedes for us, we know that God will hear these prayers!
2. Remember that Christ is your Lord.
If God is for us, who can be against us? If Christ is your Lord, who can condemn you? It’s for your sins that he died. Though you face tribulation and wrestle with the powers of this world, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ (cf. Rom. 8:34-39). Never forget that. Though you struggle, though you fall, remember that you’ve already overcome, because Jesus has overcome for you. Christ is your sovereign Lord!
3. Identify your twisted desires.
The big sins we think about are hardly ever the root issue. For example, sexual sin is hardly ever really about sex. It’s so often driven by other unmet desires. Because we still live in what Paul calls the body of death—where nothing good dwells—our pure desires get twisted (Rom. 7:18, 28). Things like the desire to be loved, the desire for success, the desire to be happy, and so forth. These twisted desires become demands and we’ll go to anything or anyone we think can meet them (e.g. people, porn, etc.). You’ll probably not experience freedom until you’re able to identify these underlying desires. You may need help finding them. Along with prayerful reflection on the Word of God, people can be a great help (e.g. friends, accountability partners, a spouse, a counselor, a pastor). When God reveals the twisted desires of your heart write them down in a journal. You don’t want to forget them. And there’s something powerfully healing in articulating them on paper.
4. Confess your twisted desires to God and others.
Once you’ve identified twisted desires and sins its time to confess them. I used to think this was scary until I joined my first accountability group and realized my struggles were not at all unique to me. The devil loves to make us think we have unique problems. It’s essential that we confess our sins. We must confess these things to God. And he is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). But we also must confess these things to others in the church (e.g. to an accountability partner or group, to a pastor or someone else that you trust). James 5:16 says, “…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
5. Crucify your twisted desires.
Paul says in Galatians 5:24 that, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” We do this by refusing to gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). At a positive level we do this by abiding in the fruit of the Spirit (e.g. love, joy peace, patience, kindness, etc.) (Gal. 5:22-23). We must crucify the flesh. We also need to be crucified to the world. In Galatians 6:14, Paul says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Don’t let worldly things influence you. If it’s cable TV, cut it out. If it’s Facebook, get off the grid. If anything is causing you to stumble, cut it off or gouge it out (Matt. 5:30).
6. Persevere with the support of others.
The solo Christian life is a dangerous things. Lone sheep get eaten and eaten you will be if you try to live the Christian life alone. God has given us the church to protect us, to build us up and to encourage us in the faith to the end. God has given us Christian brothers and sisters to do this. Be connected to the body of Christ. I say this especially to you men. You can’t do it alone. Don’t try. Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13). Sin is deceitful and God has designed us to need each other. Persevere with the support of others.
7. Rejoice that Christ will deliver you from your body of death.
Live with hope. Live with faith. Remember that when Christ appears, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2b-3). And even when we fail to purify ourselves we can say with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24-25a).