One of the most frustrating and discouraging aspects of the Christian life is struggling with sin. While it’s true that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit and sin’s ultimate control over us has been broken, we still often find ourselves doing things we hate, saying things that we know are wrong, and feeling attracted to things that we know are evil. At times, the battle feels overwhelming.
Charles Spurgeon described it this way: “I do love Thee, Jesus, and though I often grieve Thee, yet I would desire to abide faithful even unto death.”
We do love Thee, Jesus, even though we often grieve Thee.
At the same time, it is important for us to recognize that we have not been left helpless to the sin that remains in us. Our Lord Jesus Christ has richly supplied us with everything that we need to conquer besetting sins. With that in mind, here are at least three ways we can begin to make war on our sin.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Here Paul states that “we all”, that is, the whole church, are being transformed by the Spirit into the image of Christ. We are slowly, “from one degree of glory to another”, being made holy. Now, Paul doesn’t say that this process somehow happens to us magically. Instead, he says that we grow as we “behold the glory of the Lord”—or, in other words, as we look at, study, and meditate on Christ; as we learn more about who He is and what He is like.
Paul argues here that sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) happens by the power of the Spirit as believers behold Christ!
On a practical level, what this means for us is that the way to overcoming sinful habits and desires is not merely about self-control. It is filling our minds with a deeper understanding of our Savior. It is fixing our eyes on the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and then running the race that is set before us in the strength that He supplies. As we do this, we will find ourselves growing, maturing, and becoming more Christlike in our thinking, which will then overflow into godly living.
Bible reading alone will not lead to victory over sin. Our hearts must be taught to love the Jesus that we read about, and the main way this happens is through prayer.
Prayer is the furnace where our knowledge of Jesus is turned into affection for Him. It is the place where truth about a historical figure is turned into love for a personal and present King. It is also the place where we learn to see ourselves not as strong, independent conquerors but as poor and needy children—an attitude that is absolutely essential for God’s people (Luke 18:17).
As R.C. Sproul said, “Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.”
Encourage each other
Christians need each other. Plain and simple. According to the book of Hebrews, if we hope to persevere to the end, it’s going to be a group effort:
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)
The author knows that even as Christians we have an awful tendency to forget, neglect, or grow cold toward the grace God has shown us. Thus, he urges every member of the congregation not only to watch over their own hearts but also the hearts of their brothers and sisters. He prescribes a vigilant attitude toward sin that requires intentionality and humble courage.
It can certainly be awkward to exhort each other to overcome evil, especially if we are doing so daily. Still, Scripture has given us this remedy, and we would be wise to trust it.
So, brothers and sisters, let’s not lose heart in the battle against the flesh. Instead, let’s gather together and fix our eyes on Jesus. Let’s behold His glory every day and fall to our knees to plead for His help in the battle, knowing that a “bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench” (Matt. 12:20).
There is no sin that can’t be conquered through prayerful meditation on our Savior, coupled with the regular support and encouragement of His people.
Soli Deo gloria!
“Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.” — John Owen