Beat Sin or Beaten By Sin

Back to some serious Q & A. Now that Easter is behind us, this pastor can get back to normal life and start pursuing his real calling… blogging. Just kidding, but it is fun.

I’ve had quite a few emails and the questions are starting to mount up, so, I have developed a strategy. Real-life issue questions with heart-wrenching, life-altering consequences get answered first. (ie. Andy, is sacrificing a cat to Satan really all that bad?… guess it depends on what you think of cats… just kidding).

Theology junk for fellow spiritual nerds (NERDS UNITE!) get answered later (Andy, when Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost, what was Greek root word for ‘seek’?… seriously… too much time on your hands… get a job, or at least an XBOX).

So, here is a great question posed via email:

What advice would you have for a Christian guy who is really struggling with some certain sins they can never seem to overcome? I try so hard, and continually ask God for help, yet I always fall to the same temptations.
Talk about your universal concern. Every one of us deal with pervasive and continual sin, and even those who espouse levels of spiritual maturity that allude to near sinlessness are either liars (sinners, and they know it) or mistaken (sinners and they don’t know it).
 

 

This argument is not to excuse us, or our sin, because it is still wrong. But, seeing the universality of the struggle should take some of the sting of hopelessness out of our personal situation.

When I was in college I hung out with other college students because when I was broke, I felt less broke hanging out with other broke college students. That’s why understanding this verse puts us on a level playing field:

There is no difference,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ro 3:22-23). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 
 

 

 

So, first of all, welcome to the human struggle… yeah brokenness! Some struggle with different sins at different frequencies with different intensities and different consequences, but God sees sin as sin. So, one man’s porn addiction is another man’s white lie to his wife about that dress still looking good on her.

But, the real question: how do we get better? Here are a few thoughts.

FIGHT
: the first thing to remember is that battling sin is a serious thing, but in essence we are powerless. We have to depend on Christ and what he did on the cross. If this is not the centerpiece of our battlefield then we fight a losing battle.
 

 

Every self-help, psychology-driven Dr Phil-ism will fall terribly short if we think that we can ‘beat’ sin. We need to fight, but not with our smarts or strength. We need to fight with the power of Christ:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (2 Co 10:3-6). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 
 

 

 

So, get ready to fight, but know that this is a spiritual battle that can only be fought as we hide behind the cross for cover.

When we are told to just read our Bibles and pray more as a way to battle sin, we are making the mistake that we can increase our Christian disciplines and somehow win. That’s just another version of us trying to overcome what we can’t beat.

Um… if we could fix us, we wouldn’t be here in the first place… McFly… McFly… get it McFly. For the 80s illiterate you can do two things: 1) get in touch with a ‘real’ generation by going back to the future, and 2) get cultured with this link: What in the world does McFly mean?.

In temptation and even in failure, we can’t trust our Bible reading plan or our prayer calendar. Depending on us has never worked and it never will!

We run to Jesus for protection and forgiveness.

For example, if you struggle with lust, you can stop dead in your tracks at the mall after a hottie sighting and approach Christ right there:

“God… it’s on! Enemy warship off the port bow… raise shields to full strength and arm torpedoes… dive, dive, dive!”

Wow. Mixing Star Trek and Hunt for Red October metaphors even confuses me. But, I hope you get the picture.

Make your battle against sin a spiritual conflict, not an exercise in human discipline. Make your greatest strength your weakness acknowledged in the presence of all powerful Jesus.

With that, here are some practical things to do within that context that will help wage war. Again, do not make these human disciplines on there own. If you do you will fail, but if you elevate these to spiritual expressions of dependence on Jesus, He will fight for you:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ex 14:13-14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Honesty & Confession:
Don’t settle for living with facades. I’m not saying you should be an open book to everyone, but the only pressure you need in life is being you, not the image of you that your spiritual publicist is looking for (ended with a preposition, my bad).
 

 

Confess your sins and weakness to God…
He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Pr 28:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
By the way, once God has forgiven you, let it go. We often slip back into sin because we feel guilty and defeated about something Christ has already died for and God has forgotten. If you’re forgiven, live forgiven.

 

Accountability:
Don’t plan on taking this trip alone. Carefully select a small group of two or three (including you) who can talk, pray and hold each other accountable.

As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Pr 27:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Pr 15:22). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 

 

 

 

Here’s a few guidelines for picking your crew:

  • No hyper-spiritual people. They are far too holy for us
  • Don’t be intimidated by those farther along in their faith
  • Don’t underestimate those newer in the faith
  • Find those you can trust. You will be taking a risk, but don’t take stupid risks (ie. Well, they gossip about everyone else they know, but I am sure I can trust them about my life… not smart my friend. Drop them like Wall Street stocks.)
  • Get people you like. If they are Godly, trustworthy and yet annoying, you are setting yourself up to fail.

 

Common Sense:
Don’t put yourself in positions to fail… SABOTAGE! If you are trying to stave off an affair, don’t hang out with a temptress, and don’t rationalize it.
If the situation has the potential for going bad, it probably will. Run Forest Run.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (1 Co 10:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 
 

 

 

This verse says that God won’t put you in a place that you can’t handle. But, it is not protection against you running headlong into the danger zone.
When my kids were little I put those little plastic plugs in all the electrical outlets. But, that did not stop them from prying out the plugs and sticking a fork in there.

Here’s a rule of thumb… don’t be stupid.

Celebrate Progress:
Finally, understand that we don’t win wars overnight. We have to take a hill, fight in the valley and battle for every inch. So, celebrate small victories and honestly evaluate setbacks.
 

 

Know that God has you on schedule for progress and that means every step forward is a success.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 2:12-13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 
 

 

 

There you have it. A few first steps.

Let me encourage all readers to add anything that they have found helpful in their personal struggles.

Between now and then, I’ll see you on the battlefield!

Gameface! Gameface…. FREEEEEEEEDDDOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (1 Jn 1:8-10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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