I have spent the majority of my 34 years struggling and drifting from extremes of guilt on one side, to trying to rationalize or legitimate the sin in my life on the other.
Finally I got to a point where I found I had to stop struggling under my own power and submit to God and trust Him to show me. What I needed was a teachable heart that would receive God’s Word and wisdom. I also began asking God to plant in my heart a desire to learn everything I can about Him, about what Jesus has done for me, and about what it means to have His Holy Spirit living in me. Since then, I have had the greatest turnaround in my life and I have learned so much (though have barely scratched the surface), and am eager to learn more.
Below are some practical things that I found I could do to overcome sin. Each point could easily be a book on its own, but I’ll hit on some ideas and explain them further in future posts. I encourage folks to get a bible and concordance and dig further.
1. Get a revelation of what Jesus has done for us and who we are in Christ.
The devil’s #1 priority is to make us forget who we are. The fact is, Jesus took our sin and iniquity to the cross and bore the curse so that we don’t have to. Satan lies to us and tries to make us a slave to sin in order to separate us from the love of God. What we can do is resist these lies by speaking back to them according to the Word, according to the fact that we are set free through Jesus. The battle has already been won, Satan is defeated. He has no power over us except that which we allow him.
2. We are not victims.
Everything that God has commanded we know we can do, because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We can’t do it alone, but we don’t have to. Jesus has already promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He wants you delivered and free more than you do. God has delivered us and given us the strength to resist. It is up to us to believe it and not let it pass out of remembrance. God has set before us death and life. The ball is in our court, it is up to us to choose.
3. God is not in love with our behavior — He is in love with us
God loves you unconditionally and independent of your behavior. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus. It is not by works of the law that we are saved.
When we get a realization of this, what Jesus has done for us, how much God loves us, how much it hurts God and breaks His heart when we rebel against Him our actions cannot help but change. We have works of Love and His love reflects in our lives.
4. Crucify the flesh
Jesus took away our sin and our spirit is reborn. It is then up to us to master our desires. The more you feed the flesh, the hungrier it gets — it always wants more. Satan cannot tempt us except with that which is common to man. Where God works through our spirit, Satan comes at us through our flesh. The more we feed the flesh in any one area, the more we “give place to the devil” and the stronger foothold he gets.
I had problems with lasciviousness, overeating (gluttony), hiding things, lying, slothfulness, fear, depression, feeling sorry for myself, complaining, (just to name a few).
Each of these would feed off each other. Guilt from one would drive me to indulge in another to try and quiet or at least “drown out” the guilt and the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Trying to tackle these individually under my own strength did no good.
Realize that God has already delivered us. Receive that in the spirit as a fact and you will have the strength to resist. We have an alternative.
The key is to believe God’s Word and not feelings.
OK. So… Now what?
We are supposed to be doers of the word.
What are some practical things to do to demonstrate being an overcomes instead of a victim?
If you try to just fight and suppress thoughts and/or urges, they only come back stronger.
Get the focus off of the sin, the more you spend time thinking about and dwelling on the sin, the stronger the hold it has on you.
Redirect thoughts and attention onto God’s word.
Here’s some things I started doing (in no particular order):
A. Have verses ready to fill my mind with and/or speak them out loud (keep a bible handy, put verses on notecards, put up sticky notes, have a bible program in the PC)
B. Thank Jesus that He set me free
C. Sing songs of praise and worship (praise God in all things. Don’t wait around for feelings. Feelings will catch up when you offer a sacrifice of praise)
D. Look at pictures of my wife and kids and pray for them
E. Listen to bible teaching tapes/CD’s
F. Listen to Christian music/radio
G. Pray in the spirit and with understanding, fellowship with God
H. Fasting. Fasting definitely disciplines the flesh. Keep in mind, that you are not trying to kill your body, your body needs food and water. The goal is to subjugate the flesh. Start out small: fast off sweets/sodas, fast for a meal, or fast for a day or two. Continue to drink water. You are not out to do “penance” or try and impress God. You are telling your flesh that it isn’t in control anymore and that you are no longer a victim.
Over time there have been lots of things that I quit doing, but I didn’t realize I quit doing them because the desires of my heart have changed. What my attention is focused on, I want more of.
5. Hardness of heart
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.’ (Phil 4:8)
It is very true and worth repeating. Matter of fact, in the bible, repetition is used as a way to emphasize a point. It is repetition and “mulling” God’s Word over and over that gets it off the page, in your mind, and dropped down into your heart.
Your heart “softens” to whatever you dwell on, and hardens to whatever you don’t spend time on. The more time you spend meditating on God’s Word, the “hungrier” you will be for more.
God never leaves us or forsakes us, He speaks to us all the time. The reason we don’t have a sense of His presence or hear His voice is because our hearts are hardened to Him.
Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. If you don’t know where to start, then personalize Ephesians 1:17-23 as a prayer for yourself. Read Romans, Galatians, the Gospels and James. Prepare your heart to be fertile ground, plant seeds of the Word, fertilize with repetition and prayer, water with love.
6. Passion is not bad
Feelings, emotions, and passion are not bad things. God created them. Just like everything else they can be a positive tool for you to use to be an overcomer, or they can utterly defeat you if you let them.
One example I’ll deal with here is that you need to hate sin.
As long as you are tolerant of sin–as long as you justify, legitimate, make excuses for, and rationalize sin–it will rule your life.
Does that mean you hate or are angry at people? NO.
Does this mean you get angry at yourself and beat yourself up? Absolutely NOT.
I’m talking about hating the sin, hating the bondage, hating the sickness. Hate the same things God hates.
You love people, you are compassionate with people, you listen to people.
Listening with empathy does not mean that you condone, approve of, or tolerate their behavior. Be willing to see what is causing pain in people’s lives. If you spend time judging people, that means you are focusing on the sin and not the person.
In our personal lives, we need to get back to the point that the mere mention of adultery or fornication get us angry and outraged. The mere thought of lying to your wife should cause anger to rise up in you. The thought of participating in any kind of impurity or deception should get you mad at the devil.
This whole politically correct society that wants you be tolerant of every kind of sin is right out of satan’s playbook. Today’s society wants everyone to be passive watered down milquetoast where nobody gets angry about anything and men are supposed to be passionless wimps. If you tolerate sin, it will rule your life.
We are taught that these “negative” feelings are bad, and we should feel guilty because we have them. This is wrong, the problem is that we not being taught how to deal with them and direct them into the right things. So we end up striking out at people and the ones we love. Anger and hatred need to be directed at sin, the devil, bondage, and slavery; not at people.
Hating sin will harden your heart against sin, and you won’t listen to the voice of the stranger.
Whew, ok I’m off my soapbox. I haven’t “arrived” yet, but I believe that I’ve left the station and am on my way. In and of myself I’m not better or different than anyone else. There’s nothing special about me, God’s love and deliverance from bondage is available to everyone. The only thing we need to do is choose to believe God and His word instead of our feelings and circumstances.