Jesus has some strong words about removing sin in our lives. He says,
“ If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:19-30
I am not going to try to convince you that giving up sin is something you should do. If you want to hear the Bible’s reason for giving up sin, see the sermon I preached on 1 John 3:4-10 on September 15th, 2019. John gives us 4 reasons in that passage to encourage us to fight against sin. No, this week’s encouragement is a “how to” do it.
So, how do we fight against sin in our life? Let me give you these tools in your fighting against sin toolbox. I consider them weapons to wage war against sin because that is how the Bible describes our struggle with sin. God says we wage war,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”Ephesians 6:12-13
Tool # 1 – See the sin you cling to (or does it cling to you?) as an enemy rather than a friend. No one sets out to sin so that their life will be worse. We sin to do one of these things: enjoy life more, escape pain, or overcome a trial/person. In essence, we sin to make our life somehow better. I know, when we see the destructiveness of some of our choices we wonder about this statement. However, although we should question our sanity sometimes, don’t question these motivations. The Bible says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) Peter gets it right. No matter how much we think a sin will help us, we must come to a place where we agree with the Bible. Sin wages war against us. It is our enemy. What do you do to real enemies? You hate them. So, we must hate this enemy! We won’t be ready to give up our sin until we have stopped seeing sin as an answer to our problems.
Tool # 2 – Starve the sin until it has little hold on you. Then, starve it some more. I am impressed by how often we are told to flee sin. The Old Testament saint, Joseph, did it. The Proverbs 7 young man is encouraged to do it. Timothy is encouraged by Paul to do it. All of these individuals were encouraged to do what Jesus meant when He told us to cut off the thing that makes us sin. They were encouraged to get away from the sin. Don’t stay there. Don’t keep wallowing in the sin. Run. Stay away. Starve it out. It feels weak. It feels immature. It is neither. It is smart! Think of your sin like a vicious dog. If you starve it, it will at first get really angry (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but eventually it will get weak and lethargic. Eventually, it will stop being a threat to you. However, you can’t play with it. We must starve sin. Then, we starve it some more.
Tool # 3 – Identify the tempters. Go back to Jesus’ admonition. An eye and a hand are not sin. What are they? They are the things that “cause” us to sin. Actually, He is not referring to the physical hand or eye. He is referring to the temptation within us that is triggered by what our hand touches or our eye sees. His advice? Get away from the temptation! He did not tell us to just get rid of the sin. That is good advice. He also told us to get rid of the temptation. Remember the vicious dog? As we try to overcome sin, the first response is for the temptation to get worse. That is the angry dog. How do I avoid getting bitten by the angry dog? I stay away from the dog! How do I avoid temptation? I don’t go to or do the things that tempt me to then fall into sin. Identify what tempts you. Then, get rid of those things too.
Tool # 4 – Replace it with glory. One of the big mistakes we make when dealing with sin is forgetting why we sin in the first place. Sin is our mistaken attempt to make life better. We want to be happy, avoid pain, or defeat an enemy so we do something to accomplish that goal. The problem is, the choice we make (sometimes over and over) is contrary to God’s plan to bless us and the people we touch with genuine goodness. In other words, we choose sin. What we thought would make us happy just enslaves us. What we thought would help us avoid pain just hurts us and others in another way. The solution we choose to defeat an enemy attacks the wrong enemy. Getting rid of the sin without addressing the need that led to sin means that we will just repeat the process. When James addresses the progression of sin in James 1, he tells us something interesting. He says,
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”James 1:17
This is James’ solution to the sin problem. Instead of blaming God for sin (see verse 13), James tells us to go to God for the answer to our desire. In other words, find the glory that is God’s answer to your life’s hopes and hurts. How does Jesus answer the need that you have? Find it and live it. Replace sin with glory!
Tool # 5 – Give someone else permission to walk with you. I said on Sunday, “If the church has given you the impression that you have to be perfect to follow Jesus, we have failed you.” We all struggle. None of us is perfect. If we can be honest about that together, then the encouragement of Ecclesiastes 4:9 and Proverbs 27:17 can be a great asset. When we find someone else to walk this path with us, we will have encouragement on those bad days and help on the days we stumble. We will know that we are not alone. So, give someone permission to walk with you in your desire to overcome those sins that seem to grab at you.
We can find victory. We just have to be prepare to wage war. These tools should help. Will you fight with me?
Something to think about,