Written by Cody Watkins
It’s easy for us to become so familiar with something that it positions itself in the back of our minds. It’s no longer fresh and unique, but rather forgettable and old. This plays itself out in many facets of life, including church. Most of us are familiar with the Christian narrative – the greatest story in the universe. We know and understand that we are sinners who fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We know and understand that Christ has come into the world so that we might be saved (John 3:17). We also know and understand that God calls us to a level of holiness and obedience, turning from sin and pursuing Him. These messages are on repeat in the Christian world. However, you might sense the newness and familiarity, and mainly the importance of these truths, waning. You might find that the walk is harder than the talk.
You might see that, even in light of God’s call on your life to obedience, you are struggling with sin, over and over. You know in your mind what is true – God wants us to hate what is wrong and to love what is good. But what do you do when that isn’t easy to do? What happens when you truly want to obey, but still fall prey to your sin? What if you long to make a kingdom for yourself, rather than serve the Kingdom of God? Christians at large have developed a bad habit of putting up a front, and for some reason, everyone feels like they have to pretend like they are okay. But we have to be honest with ourselves when it comes to the heart. The most dangerous thing we can do is not acknowledge the true condition of our hearts. We must always tell it like it is. Sometimes it’s true that you feel apathetic to the things of God. Sometimes you may even enjoy your sin, and deep down you don’t really care about what God says. Sometimes you may just feel like you can’t shake your sin. This leads to feeling trapped. As the Spirit of God works in our hearts, refining us and sanctifying us, we often find ourselves in an inner battle. We mustanswer the question: What do you do when your sin seems to rule you?
Look To The Cross
The Unwavering Love Of God
First and foremost, you must know where you stand with God. If God abandoned us when we sinned too much, we’d have no shot at redemption. So how does God see you when you sin? To find this answer, the cross is the best place to look. If you are in Christ, the cross is the single greatest evidence that all of your sins have been paid for – past sins, present sins, and future sins. The words uttered by Jesus, “It is finished,” are a powerful proclamation that the work has been completed in full – not in part – but in full. Your debt has been paid, and you don’t owe anything anymore. The payment has been made, and there will never be another payment due. There have been no sins in your past so horrifying that Christ and His cross couldn’t pay for. There is nothing in your present so wicked that would make God change His mind about you. And there are no future sins you could ever commit that could reverse the work that was done on the cross.
If you can grasp this reality – because of the cross, you stand before God perfect and blameless – it will change the way you see things. The more you can believe that your sins are crucified and buried, and the less you can believe that your sins are incurring evidence against you, the more free you will become and the less shame you will carry. We must never believe that our behavior somehow tips the scales of God’s affection this way or that way. Because of the great love of God (Ephesians 2:4), evidenced by Jesus going to the cross, and because of the righteousness that was purchased for you on the cross, God sees the righteousness of the Son when He looks at you. He doesn’t see your sins, but rather He sees the blood of Jesus that covers your sins. This is the unwavering love of God. This is how you can know He loves you. He doesn’t just tolerate you, but He rejoices over you and sings over you (Zephaniah 3:17). God’s love is truly magnificent! It does not ever dwindle or grow faint. God is not shaking His head at you, waiting for you to get better. But rather, He delights in you. The cross is the megaphone that joyfully announces, “Paid for!” to the crowd of accusations that could ever be made against you. Though your sins were great, much greater was the love of God.
Look To The Bible
The cross tells you all you need to know about God’s disposition toward you. It tells you that Jesus has purchased your righteousness, and it can never be undone. You can also look at the lives of other Christians and see that same disposition. If you ever feel discouraged because you feel like you don’t measure up, you can find comfort that the Bible is incredibly forthright about the human condition. The Bible is too honest about people to be a faulty book of made-up stories. You can’t find a single person in the Bible, outside of Jesus, who did not wrestle with sin. All of the “heroes of the faith,” found in Scripture are actually just unworthy people, yet they are still citizens of the Kingdom of God, not because they did anything good, but because God transformed their hearts. King David, who was called “a man after God’s own heart,” committed adultery with a woman and had her husband killed. In spite of this, God made David the king of Israel and bestowed to him a promise that his people would find rest, and that through David’s line the Savior would come (2 Samuel 7:10-12). The Apostle Paul, the one who wrote a good majority of the New Testament, rejoiced in the killing and imprisonment of Christians, before his conversion. He sought to destroy the Christian faith. Yet God saved him and used him. If you look at Paul’s conversion, you will see that God didn’t wait for Paul to clean up his life or change his ways. But rather, Paul was transformed in a moment. God was not offended at Paul’s sin. He wasn’t scared by it or surprised by it. In the midst of Paul’s rebellion, God intervened.
Another person you can look at is Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles, who denied Him three times. He was also rebuked by Jesus in the Bible. He stumbled about and never seemed to have enough faith. Yet, we see God’s unwavering love in that He never loved Peter less. The stories of the people in the Bible teach us that God surrounds Himself with and accomplishes His purposes through broken and sinful people. If you feel like your sin is out of control, look back on people who loved Jesus but also loved sin at certain moments of their life, and know that God extends grace. Don’t give in to guilt and shame, but look around you and see that nobody has ever carried a perfect track record. God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. This is the Gospel, and this is why we celebrate. God’s faithfulness and love towards us is not predicated on how we perform, but rather predicated upon His faithfulness. And His faithfulness is perfect. Believer, rest in the truth that God has seen you and all of your brokenness from the beginning until now, and He still loves you.
Look To The Church
Community Among The Saints
The church is the place where discipleship happens, and it’s also a place where you can find help putting your sin to death. Community with other believers accomplishes two things. The first is being known. It’s too easy in our culture to attend church but not know the church. The consumerist approach to evangelicalism is deadly, where entertainment and intake become the goal, rather than being changed and shaped by the one true God. We show up on Sundays, demanding a comfortable experience where the music isn’t too loud and the lights aren’t too bright. A lot of us fail to take seriously our calling to serve the church and be known by the church. The idea of being known is simply this: Let others in to your walk with God. Be honest about your sin struggles, and be honest about the posture of your heart. This goes against the natural pride of humanity. Most of us feel that, to admit weakness, is somehow to admit that we are inadequate in some way. But sin festers and grows in the dark. If you don’t confess your sins, they will only grow and grow until they destroy you. The only way to kill sin is to drag it into the light. Strive to be someone who shares everything. You will start to see the effects and power of sin becoming loosened around your neck when you simply tell someone. Allow your brothers and sisters in Christ to rally around you, seeking the Lord on your behalf and walking with you. Don’t dig your heels in. The cross humbles us all. We are all inadequate.
In addition to pride, we must also be careful not to drift into isolation. Satan loves to make you feel alone and make you feel so ashamed of your sin that you’re too afraid to share. He wants you to believe that you’ve gone too far, or that others would be shocked by your confession. But when you confess your sins, the opposite effect actually takes place. You will find freedom there. You will find the joy of seeing that other believers will begin to feel safe to confess their sins too. And you will feel a sense of peace when you are reminded that all of us are sinners, yet God’s grace abounds. Community helps you see that you are not alone in your struggles. Others who have gone before can help counsel you. Someone you know may be going through something similar, and you can rally together and work through it. Find someone and ask them to hold you accountable. Meet with someone regularly and share what is going on in your heart. If you don’t have any kind of Christian community, find a local church and reach out to someone on staff. Email someone here at RockPointe. Be known by someone. This is the way to life.
All sin takes place in a moment where one believes that something other than God will give ultimate satisfaction. It’s in those moments where we must believe the truth about sin. It’s costly, deadly, and it will rob you of joy. For this reason, we take action by putting to death our sinfulness. We do this by marveling at the cross, not drifting towards guilt or shame, but rather having confidence that our debt was paid in full, freeing us from the weight of a moral code that we could never keep. Embracing the fact that we’re weak will yield immense freedom. We don’t have to hide from the accusations from the enemy, because the cross declares that we are, in fact, guilty. We are, in fact, in need of rescuing. Praise God that He made a way! Jesus’ blood has ransomed us. In addition to the cross, we look to the Bible, where the brutal honesty about the human condition gives us hope. This should embolden us as we pursue Christ because we are reminded that we all struggle. Lastly, we pursue community and accountability. We want to be open and honest about where we are with the Lord. We ask for prayer. We diligently seek to put our sin to death, before it swallows us.
We are called to live lives that are in submission to the word of God. But that submission is not to be grudging and reluctant, but rather eager and earnest. The weight of the call of holiness on our lives is a good thing, because it leads to life. It leads to joy. It leads to what God intended for us. We will find life when we lose ours (Matthew 16:25). Conquering sin is not a call to try to behave better, but rather to believe better. This simply means that we trust the words of the Father when He tells us what is good, right, and true. And we can rest with complete confidence because we know that the Father is, indeed, trustworthy.