Overcoming Sin

Question from a Site Viewer
I’ve struggled with lust for a long time. I have victory at times, but I continue to fall. I continue to turn to Scripture for help but overcoming sin seems so impossible.

Tim’s Answer
Thanks for going to Scripture to find your answers. One of the Spirit’s close associates is the Word of God, as the Word is His sword (Ephesians 6:17).

I think it is critical to spiritual maturity that we keep our minds focused on Jesus (Colossians 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:2). Don’t think about the devil or sin, or any such thing. As Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:6, we want our minds to think about things that are lovely and pure. Since the battle is won or lost in the mind, it is important to engage the battle in the mind to reform life. And, the enemy in the mind is not Satan, but our own lusts. I do not think that Satan can indwell believers, at least I find no support in Scripture of that concept. I think, as James 1 says, we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lusts. Satan’s role is external. He knows our weaknesses and can externally place circumstances that he knows by observation may lead to our temptation. But then, again, Satan is not omnipresent. Therefore, it seems to me that he is not the one to be blamed for every temptation we may have. As Romans 12:2 states, we are to be transformed by renewing our minds; that is, making them new into the image of Christ. So, here is what I try to practice in this area, and I have found it very helpful.

  1. I try not to place myself in situations that will lead to bad thinking. I do not like to listen to, watch, or read matters that are not wholesome and pure, kind, and helpful.
  2. I try to memorize Scripture. The sheer discipline of forcing the mind to learn something new is a great way to create new neuro-pathways and reshape the way the mind thinks.
  3. When thoughts of sin come in, I like immediately to see if I can displace them with good thoughts. Sometimes I will start singing. Sometimes I will offer a prayer of thanks to God, or a prayer of intercession for someone else. Always, it seems to help if I use such momentary thoughts as an excuse to talk to God about other matters.
  4. If a sin thought comes in and I fall for it, I have learned that Christ does not then want me to wallow in my sin for a while. Rather, He calls us to come back immediately to Him. So, when I sin, I like to immediately confess and seek His fellowship. He is faithful to forgive, even when we do not feel like we are worthy (which we are not) or that we have been forgiven. This is part of a life of faith, understanding that our feelings do not undermine the great mercy of our God upon a simple confession and return of His people.
  5. Entrenched thought patterns are difficult to break. But they can be broken (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). It takes focus, time, and perseverance. I have found that when one first begins the battle, it seems hopeless because the thought you do not want to think is in the mind so pervasively. Yet, by singing, praying, quoting Scripture, and training the mind to think about other matters, over the period of a few months the power of that thought recedes. The less one thinks about the thought, the less it forces its way back to the seat of consciousness. So, if I become conscious of the thought, immediately I focus the mind on something else. Over time, those neuro-pathways to that thought become clogged and the thought returns much less often. It can always show up later, but once we get to the place where it no longer controls our thinking, then we know better than to allow it to be re-established. We simply dismiss it by thinking about other things.
  6. I try to develop a pattern of always talking to God. I do not succeed very well, but it is a goal. I find the more I talk to God about matters, the easier it is to control the bad thoughts. He is a great help in this matter.
  7. We need to walk in the Spirit. I believe praying always is a great corollary to walking with the Spirit. Jesus said in John 14 that the Spirit would be a person who would be with us. I think living in constant awareness of the presence of the Spirit in our lives is transforming.

Righteousness comes through faith. Jesus is our righteousness, and as we live in Him (John 15:1-7) His righteousness is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). Righteousness is not so much what we do, but in whom we trust. When we trust fully in Him, then we have His righteousness.

And in that truth we can safely rest. He saved us, knowing our weaknesses. Therefore, I would encourage you not to be overly discouraged about your sin. Rather make the focus of life to know Christ; understanding that the common malady of humanity is sin, but the grace of God is to move us from bondage of sin to the liberty of Christ. Sin no longer has a hold on those who are in Him (Romans 6). Sin, for the maturing Christian, becomes not the life we lead, but the temporary setbacks we inflict on ourselves, followed by immediate repentance and a yearning to know and please our great Savior.

May the Lord Jesus guide you in your walk with Him.

tim

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