Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.

Our Relentless War Against Sin

Friday, February 04, 2011 | Comments (36)

Have you ever wondered, “Why do I have to deal with sin at all? If God hates sin, if true Christians hate sin, and we’re all in agreement, then why must it remain?”

That’s not a bad question to ask. Why would a good God leave behind such a menacing enemy that corrupts your relationships, threatens your holiness, hinders your worship, and causes so much anguish in your life?

I’ve often wondered if the children of Israel entertained the same thoughts about their pagan neighbors—the Gentile nations who continually harassed them.

Remember their history? God empowered the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua to enter Canaan, dispossess the inhabitants and seize control. Joshua was unstoppable. After the initial set-back at Ai, Israel conquered nation after nation, killing the leaders, inhabiting the cities, and establishing control. It’s one of the most captivating portions of Old Testament history to read.

But when the dust settled and Joshua had grown old, a new generation of Israelites emerged to face a grim reality—the enemy was still alive. Scattered pockets of resistance still remained. Skirmishes ensued as the Canaanites sensed Israel’s battle fatigue.

Insurgents grow bold over time, and they want to take back what was once theirs.

And that’s exactly what happened to Israel. Those remaining nations harassed the children of Israel continually, forcing God’s people to cry out for fresh deliverance. And that’s the cycle of Judges.

Can you identity with Israel’s fatigue and frustration? Surely they too questioned God’s purpose for not completely removing the enemy from their new home. God anticipated their questions and provided some fascinating insight in the opening chapters of Judges:

Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). Judges 3:1-3

Very interesting. God wanted to teach war to an inexperienced generation of Israelites. Why? Because it was important for them not only to hear of God’s power and deliverance, but to experience it for themselves. They needed to see God’s faithfulness—He was committed to their survival, He was always able to deliver, and He demonstrated His intention to preserve them. After all, experiencing God’s enabling power to conquer your enemies was better than, well, hearing about it from Grandpa Joshua.

Here’s the point. God could have wiped out all traces of sin—effortlessly, just like he could have permanently wiped out the nations surrounding Israel. But He didn’t do that for them, and He hasn’t done it for us either—not yet. Full deliverance from sin’s presence will come when we receive our glorified bodies. Then sin will no longer harass us. What a day that will be! But until then, God calls us to a relentless war against sin—a war with a divine purpose. But…what are those purposes?

First of all, we must remember that God does whatever He pleases (Ps. 115:3). He works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). We don’t know the full extent of His sovereign will, and much of that remains secret (Deut. 29:29). But we know this: in His wisdom, God has chosen not to remove fully the presence of sin from His redeemed.

A believer’s struggle with indwelling sin somehow fits into God’s overarching purpose to glorify Himself and conform believers into the image of His Son. Paul says:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28, 29

That’s the most generic explanation you’ll find in Scripture for the presence of evil in the world, including the evil that afflicts believers.

That said, I believe we can discern some reasons why God allows Christians to struggle with sins, some divine purposes for the war. Consider these possibilities:

(1) To make us humble and dependent on God: Whether you fail or succeed, have you noticed how your struggle against indwelling sin reveals your weakness and magnifies God’s strength? Whatever the outcome of any particular battle, you can give thanks to God that He allows you to see yourself for what you really are—weak, prone to sin, and utterly dependent. At the same time, you can praise Him for who He proves to be—our all-sufficient Savior and Friend.

Consider Peter, who on the night of the Lord’s betrayal boasted of his loyalty to Christ. Hours later he watched his self-confidence crumble as he denied Christ three times with oaths. Consider the failures, but resulting victory of many such men, and how they produced humble, courageous, Spirit-led servants of God.

(2) To cultivate thankfulness: Here’s an instructive exercise. Reflect on some recent occasions you found to express thanks to God. Did any of those relate to your or another believer’s ongoing struggle with sin? Maybe you thanked God for granting strength to face temptation, delivering you from a besetting sin, forgiving you for stumbling in a moment of weakness, or failing to share the gospel with a lost colleague.

(3) To promote compassion: You can relate to the lost, not only by remembering your former life of enslavement to sin (Eph. 2:1-3), but also through experiencing present failures. When you face temptation, whether you resist and escape unscathed, or succumb through weakness, it should promote compassion toward others.

(4) To keep your focus on the gospel: What causes you to survey the cross each day and marvel at the power of God’s grace? Is it not the sin that clings so closely, the sin you find yourself confessing and forsaking each day? God wants to keep the cross fresh in our minds. He wants the gospel to occupy our thoughts. Think about it. We can hardly make it through a worship service without a wicked thought assaulting our minds. Even in the name of fellowship we often commit some of the most ghastly sins with our tongue. The presence of sin and our ongoing struggle keep us focused on the beauty of the gospel.

(5) To make you long for heaven: This world is not our home, and this body is not fit for eternity. When Paul lamented his unredeemed flesh (Rom. 7:24), he was expressing a longing to be completely free from the presence of sin. He talked about that eagerness again and again throughout the New Testament. In Philippians 1:23, he said departing to be with Christ would be much better than remaining in his flesh. In chapter 3 he continued that thought: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.”

Paul longed for heaven because he grew weary of his struggle against sin. The seasons of victory he enjoyed on earth whetted his appetite for final, permanent victory in heaven.

Do you share Paul’s longing to escape the flesh? Do you yearn for the Holy City, untouched by corruption? Our struggle against remaining sin helps point us to heaven, where true rest awaits us.

Well, those are just a few possibilities inferred from Scripture. Feel free to suggest others.

Tommy Clayton
Content Developer and Broadcast Editor


Make a Comment

Click here to subscribe to comments without commenting.

You have 3000 characters remaining for your comment. Note: All comments must be approved before being posted.

Submit

#1  Posted by Chuck Tuthill  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 5:54 AM

awesome post tommy. your comment about being thankful hit home. i am convicted that i so quickly forget how God graciously forgives me when i come to Him. taking for granted the suffering Christ endured for my sin. ".. the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father..." Galatians 1:3,4 thank you Jesus.

#2  Posted by Roy Garza  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 6:11 AM

This is so true. I was so consumed with the question of God's sovereignty in our struggles that I did some research and wrote a similar article on my blog last year: http://disciplesnotconverts.blogspot.com/2010/06/gods-sovereignty-in-our-struggles.html. Thanks for your faithfulness!

#3  Posted by Kim Eriksen  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 6:18 AM

thank you GTY for your thoughts and helping me to love Gods Word more

i love GTY and John MacArthur for the wonderful bible thoughts and

explainations.Keep up the good work..looking forward to your new book

slave..

#5  Posted by Colleen Eubanks  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 7:19 AM

Just so thankful that in my struggle with sin, habitual sin, that I am not utterly forsaken. I wouldn’t want anything to do with me, but apparently and thankfully that is not how God sees it. As I walk through this He is with me, He has not condemned me nor abandoned me and He continues to encourage me with helps such as this. Thank you, Dear Lord, for your faithfulness and not utterly forsaking me. Thank You, Lord for the teaching from Grace To You. Please pray for me.

#6  Posted by Sharon Sheffield  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 10:04 AM

Thank you for this post, it comes right on time. I have the ongoing battle everyday, and sometimes I get weary. I'm grateful for the reminder of why I sin and how it glorifies the Lord {indirectly). It's a blessing and a comfort to know that God truly is greater than all my sin, in spite of myself.

#7  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 10:31 AM

I read something. It says if we did not know the consequences of our

sin against God. We wouldn't know that we need salvation from our

sins and we wouldn't receive God's provision of mercy for our sins.

#8  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Saturday, February 05, 2011at 10:35 PM

“After all, experiencing God’s enabling power to conquer your enemies was better than, well, hearing about it from Grandpa Joshua.”

One of the most glorious benefits of engaging this battle of mortification of sin is to experientially know Christ as our merciful and faithful high priest and to be able to observe His glory being made manifest in our lives. At one time we were dead in our trespasses and sins and were by nature children of wrath, but God, to the praise of the glory of His grace, opened our eyes to see our dreadful condition. We fled to Christ for mercy. He took away our stony hearts and gave us hearts of flesh. He wrote His laws in those hearts of flesh and put His Spirit within us. We are now vessels of mercy whom God has prepared beforehand for glory (see Romans 9:23). As such, His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22, 23). More than that, for those who belong to Christ, His mercy is fresh throughout the day.

As believers, the Father has adopted us as His own children. In glorifying Christ the Father has made Him to be a glorious high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Christ did not take this honor upon Himself, it is the doing of the Father. Glory to God the Father, we now have a great high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses as He has been tempted in all things as we are, yet He never sinned. He exhorts us through His word to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. God brought a test our way, we were tempted (by our flesh) and we sinned. Let us call it what it is, but let us never lose sight of the fact that He exhorts to draw near (not afar off), and not just draw near, but draw near with confidence! To where? To the throne of grace! Why does He bid us to come? He bids us to come that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

He does not bid us to find mercy, no, He bids us to receive mercy. Indeed, He is full of mercy. What a merciful high priest He is! He is altogether lovely! But there is more, much more! He is also a faithful great high priest. He bids us to come that we might find grace to help in time of need. We must come to the throne of grace seeking grace to help in time of need. If we are to be engaged in this battle of mortification of sin we must have “enabling grace” to help in time of need. That time of need in the Greek is that “strategic time”, the “precise time” when the test comes our way that we might not sin the next time. When we, through His enabling grace, pass the test let us remember that it truly is His grace that has caused us to triumph. We have so much more reason to be thankful with a reverential awe. Oh how glorious He is. -His unworthy Slave

#9  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 12:05 AM

A great point, Douglas. Thanks for that insight. I praise Him for the many "strategic times" I've received His help!

#10  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 10:25 AM

I have a few disagreements with this post. I offer them respectfully and only with regard to doctrine, not wishing to slight anyone personally, knowing that sometimes disagreements can seem to be personal in these online forums.

First, I do not think we should look for new allegories in the Old Testament. Since the New Testament does not explain the Christian's experience of sin using the allegory of Israel's battles, we should not do so. Remember, the end result of Israel's fighting was a lot of misery and destruction. We hope for a better result than theirs.

Second, although I realize I am out of step with 99% of evangelicals, I do not hold to the classic picture of struggling with sin, as if sin were somehow able to fight us like an enemy soldier. Sin is dead to us and has absolutely no power over us, if our belief in the gospel is strong and certain. Paul says in Romans 6 that the body of sin has been brought to nothing. I think nothing means nothing in a literal sense. Sin is no longer active, so if we fight sin what are we fighting against?

Struggles in the New Testament are very different from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, they are often in the area of understanding the gospel, or with maintaining belief in the Gospel in the face of persecution (Eph 6:10-20, Heb 12:4).

Consider too what the apostle John said: that we have overcome the world and have obtained victory, not by struggling against sin, but through our faith (1 John 5:4). Faith cannot include struggling of any kind, except to understand, since that is what faith is. Faith and works are opposed, and what is struggling except a work? If you include struggling against sin as part of your faith, it seems to me you have introduced works into your faith. Struggling against sin is the same thing as struggling to obey the commandments. We cannot be perfected by the law (Gal 3:3).

Finally, my own experience has confirmed my beliefs in this area. Sin is a "tar baby": the more I struggled with it, the more enslaved I was to it. This was prior to my conversion. When Christ offered me salvation by grace alone through faith alone, I let go of the tar baby and took Christ at his word. The deal is salvation, which is the whole package including sanctification. No works, just striving to understand the gospel to increase my faith, entrusting that the gospel alone has the power of salvation. I can't explain how, but it does. As my understanding of the gospel became clearer, relying on the clearly defined words and passages of Scripture, and not the sometimes muddy explanations of religious people, sin just fell away without a struggle. This process will continue the rest of my life: increasing my knowledge and understanding of the Gospel, with the result of more and more sins being squashed in the process. The Gospel gets all the credit.

#11  Posted by Mark Tanner  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 3:34 PM

Greg Corron stated: "the whole package including sanctification. No works, just striving to understand the gospel to increase my faith,"

This is very confusing. If you are striving to understand the gospel, then on what basis does anyone claim salvation? It is the hearing and the believing of the gospel which brings about salvation according to the Scriptures. I am not judging whether you are saved or not saved; just do not understand what you are saying. See Romans 1:16 & Ephesians 1:13 concerning the gospel and salvation.

James 2:22 tells us that by works our faith is perfected. Also, in Ephesians 2:10 the Holy Spirit working through the pen of the Apostle Paul tells us that Christians were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God determined before the foundation of the world that the godly would walk in them.

In other words; godly works are part of the total salvation package. Works are not the means of justification, but the result of being justified and part of the sanctification process, being conformed to the image of Jesus; it is where we produce the fruits of righteousness and give evidence before men that we are in Christ.

Anyone who has a new relationship with God's righteousness will have a new relationship with sin. One will increase while the other decreases; it will be the pattern and direction of our lives until the day of Jesus Christ.

My experience with sin is that although it continues to diminish; yet the sins I do commit seem larger than ever because I am much more sensitive to it and my "antenna" is tuned into it. I concur with Paul that one must beat themselves into submission and near the end of his life he said "for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." I thank God for Paul and words like these to strengthen us in our weakness. Romans 7:14-25 is the section to which I am referring and I wish I could get past Romans 7...LOL.

God bless you!

Mark

#12  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 4:44 PM

I thought of it what you said. We are fighting a spiritual battle. satan is the one who started all of this sin stuff. I understand we

can't blame him, It's our fault as well. We led to believe it was ok

in the garden to eat the real fruit< as well a spiritual desire to disobey God> We are pushed to fight against it by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is our King and He can provide a way out and through it too.

It's a endless battle that no man can do it on his own. As well, Mark makes a good point that Romans does explains it.

#13  Posted by Yc Lee  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 6:42 PM

Dr. MacArther's sermon "Hacking Agag to Pieces" is wonderful. However, it is questionable that this post is biblical. 1John says: "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth". A Christian's life is to be Christ-like, that's the Father's will too. If we are struggling with sin, it is because of our weakness and sinful nature. To explain Romans 8:28,29 as “A believer’s struggle with indwelling sin somehow fits into God’s overarching purpose to glorify Himself and conform believers into the image of His Son” is not biblical either. I agree with Greg that the OT scripture above is not appropriately applied.

#14  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 8:45 PM

1 John 1:8 says “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It is a fact that all believers will struggle with sin. Paul certainly expressed the struggle well in Romans 7. No one is saying that God wills for us to sin but it is in His plan to allow us to struggle with sin. Satan had God’s permission to sift Peter like wheat.

I so appreciate this excellent post. I have often thought it would be so nice to just be zapped into perfection, but God’s ways are higher than mine. Thanks, Tommy.

#15  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 11:30 PM

Greg:

Regarding the Old Testament reference. I did not use that passage as an allegory. I had an analogy in mind—Fighting sin is like this, or analogous to this. I'm not the first to see such a similarity.

A much bigger concern for me is your comments on our relationship with indwelling sin. As you said, the view you hold is not the classic evangelical position. But more importantly, I don’t think it's faithful to Scripture. Remember, we’re discussing a believer’s “struggle” with indwelling sin.

That being said, consider these passages—definitely not an exhaustive list. All written to believers:

Heb. 12:1 Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

1 Pet. 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

Heb. 12:4 You have no yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your struggle against sin.

Romans 7:21-24: I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Gal. 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one…

Rom. 8:13 If, by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

James 4:7 Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

To summarize, here’s what the New Testament teaches us about our relationship to sin as believers: Sin easily entangles us. Fleshly lusts wage war against our soul. A law in our members wages war against the law of our mind. We’re sometimes caught in trespasses and need help from the body of Christ. We’re to be killing sin continually as a course of life (present active verb indicates continuous action). We’re to resist and overcome the devil—in essence, a call to struggle against sin. Sin is deceitful, and we must encourage one another daily to resist being hardened by it.

I’m not denying those experiences are part of our life of faith. But they are efforts, struggles, warfare. The New Testament describes them as such, often with no qualification. Even resting in the gospel is a struggle within our own minds and hearts. Paul says in another place to, Take every thought captive. That qualifies as a struggle, a battle of the mind. (Part 1)

#16  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 11:36 PM

Greg: (Part 2)

I admire your zeal to uphold salvation by faith alone, Greg. But in your campaign for a pure gospel, I believe you’re setting yourself against many clear biblical passages on a believer’s ongoing struggle against indwelling sin.

You said: As my understanding of the gospel became clearer, relying on the clearly defined words and passages of Scripture, and not the sometimes muddy explanations of religious people, sin just fell away without a struggle.

Your experience (be careful with that. We have a "more sure Word," Peter says) doesn’t square with Paul’s in 1 Cor. 9:26-27, Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. Sound like a struggle? The imagery is that of two Greek athletic events, a race and boxing match—both struggles.

Also, I doubt you’d find much sympathy for your views from other Christian quarters. “Sin just falls away without a struggle”? No. Watch, pray, fight, strive, resist, flee, struggle, kill! More will be said about that in upcoming posts.

To close, here’s an excerpt from John’s Hacking Agag to Pieces message:

No Christian can give testimony, honest testimony to the fact that when he became a Christian sin was erased. It's not so. The tendency to sin is still in our lives. Even though we're saved we still sin. And worse, we still derive pleasure from our sin. We still struggle with sinful habits, not just sinful isolated acts, and sometimes we fall into shameful, scandalous sins. Our thoughts and our words are not always what they ought to be. Our time is often wasted on frivolous and worldly pursuits. Our minds and our affections are often set on things that will pass away. Our hearts often grow cold to things holy and evangelistic.

Thanks for your comments, Greg. As iron sharpens iron, brother. Perhaps some of your concerns will be answered in upcoming posts.

Press on.

-Tommy

#17  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Sunday, February 06, 2011at 11:50 PM

Yc Lee:

My thoughts to Greg on my use of the Old Testament apply to you as well (see # 15).

You quoted 1 John and registered a concern that struggling with sin somehow implies a compromised life. Keep in mind, when the apostle John uses terms like “walk,” and “practice,” he normally employs a verb tense that indicates an ongoing, continuous action—a lifestyle or habitual course. John is not saying believers who struggle and fight against sin are lost and deceived. He’s saying a person who habitually lives in sin is exhibiting signs of unbelief.

In contrast, our resistance against sin is a good indication we possess eternal life. The internal conflict between the Spirit and the flesh is normal for a Christian (Gal. 5:17).

You also said: To explain Romans 8:28,29 as “A believer’s struggle with indwelling sin somehow fits into God’s overarching purpose to glorify Himself and conform believers into the image of His Son” is not biblical.

Here’s what John MacArthur said about that in his study note on Romans 8:28: In His providence, God orchestrates every event in life—even suffering, temptation, and sin—to accomplish both our temporal and eternal benefit (cf. Deut. 8:15, 16).

All things is hard to protest. Check out John's Deut. 8 reference--great stuff.

Thanks for your comments, Yc.

-Tommy

#18  Posted by Cristian Balint  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 8:57 AM

YC

I am so happy to hear we have a perfect man amongst us, one who does not have any struggle with sin.

Wow.

Unbelievable.

#19  Posted by Yc Lee  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 9:30 AM

Cristian:

Please do not use such tone of sarcasm to speak to your sister in Christ. Don't we suppose to discuss our questions in order to build up each other? Everyone struggles with sin, include me. I simply meant that God allows us to sin because of our weakness and not able to deal it alone. (Maybe there is,) but I don’t find anywhere that the Bible specifically says that He allows us to sin so we can praise Him. We may interpret it we want from separate verses, but with my understanding that my God wants me to hack my sin to pieces with Him. You don't need to agree with me.

#20  Posted by Yc Lee  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 9:43 AM

Excuse my English. to hack sin with His strength! -YC

#21  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 10:13 AM

Thank you all for your polite replies (well, mostly!) to my contrary views. I post them not to stir up arguments, but because my convictions on this subject run deep. I mentioned my own experience not to support my belief, but simply to demonstrate that this is more than just polemics and I live what I believe.

I have found that the texts most often used to support the struggle or battle view are consistently misread in order to provide a consistency with the presupposition of the struggle view. No one can read scripture without any presuppositions. That is why I read through the N.T. three times a year, and each time I do this I test certain presuppositions. This is useful to get an overall picture of how well a theory holds up, not just in certain texts. I have tested the struggle theory in this way, from both perspectives.

Romans 7 is the classic foundation of the struggle theory. But even scholars like R.C. Sproul admit that it can be interpreted differently. My view is that Paul's clear meaning in Romans 6 must not be contradicted in ch. 7, and later reversed in ch. 8. To simplify this analysis, simply note these texts while reading through Romans 6-8 and see if you arrive at contradictions or consistency of meaning:

6:14 "For sin will have no dominion over you"

6:17 "have become obedient from the heart"

6:18,22 "set free from sin"

7:14 "I am of the flesh, sold under sin"

7:17 "sin that dwells within me"

7:18 "nothing good dwells in ... my flesh"

7:19 "I do not do the good I want"

7:23 "making me captive to the law of sin"

8:8 "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

8:9 "You, however, are not in the flesh"

The texts in ch. 7 agree beautifully with those in chs. 6 and 8, if you understand that Paul's switch to the present tense in 7:14 was simply a rhetorical device, and was not meant to indicate his present state. Sproul for one agrees that this is possible. I am convinced that he is describing in 7:14-24 his pre-conversion struggle to follow the law. This makes sense, because Paul is very concerned that Christians not try to live by the law.

Romans is the theological cornerstone of the New Testament. If you understand Romans, you will understand the rest. You will realize that words which suggest the struggle view, such as Gal 5:17, you interpreted that way because they fit with what you already accepted. But if you continue to Gal 5:18, you will find Paul was simply contrasting the non-Christian trying to live by the law (he knew all about that very well) and the Christian living by the Spirit. There is no struggle going on here. Where some see struggle, I see rhetorical contrasts to make a point: you can't have it both ways -- either try to keep the law, or live by the Spirit according to the Gospel of grace.

More to say but running out of room in this comment. This is a deep subject and hard to stay concise, but I will try.

#22  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 11:39 AM

I agree with you Tommy, that some Christians are beset with sins more than others, and this does not make them any less a Christian, if they hold firm to the Gospel. I don't want to give the impression that the Gospel makes us into perfect people.

However, I think many Christians view the Gospel as a kind of contract that they signed with God, and now they have to get on with taking care of sin by applying other methods. Yes, the Bible says to do certain things to avoid sin - mainly, stay away from it! Don't put yourself in the way of sin, or as Paul says, don't "present your members to sin." Good advice.

Christians fall into sin or grow indifferent to certain sins. Why? Are they weaker than others? Is it because their resolution is not strong enough? Well, yes, but that it is not the ultimate reason. If they do not address the ultimate reason for their failure they are certain to repeat the same sins over and over. This is the kind of struggling I reject as a fundamental dysfunction arising from incorrect theology.

The ultimate reason is their lack of understanding of the Gospel. They haven't "worked out their salvation" because they haven't pondered the full meaning of all the truths in it, and tested their thinking against it. It could very well indicate that they are false converts, but not necessarily. If, when they are corrected or rebuked, they remain indifferent or rebel, then they are likely false converts. If they have genuine godly grief, though, we should not encourage them to remain too long in a state of remorse, giving them the idea that they need to do penance or in any way make themselves suffer beyond the Spirit's conviction (2 Cor 2:6-7). Instead, we should guide them into a clearer understanding of the Gospel and to trust in this understanding, which is faith, to complete their salvation including sanctification. Eph 6:10-20 is the "goto" text to explain this.

OK, I need to defend my position now in light of the texts that Tommy and others cited to test it. Again, I'll try to keep it concise.

Heb 12:1 - No problem, we "lay aside" sins. My own description was that they drop away, but basically in agreement with the almost effortless process as compared with trying to follow the law.

1 Pet 2:11 - No problem with "abstaining from passions". If you put and keep the Gospel in your heart and head, you won't need to wrestle with this continually. If you instead devote your energies to sweeping clean your mind from temptation, even stronger ones will return (Luke 11:24-26).

Heb 12:4 - to "resist to the point of shedding your blood" implies a struggle to believe the Gospel strongly and clearly enough to warrant persecution, and not a struggle against internal passions.

(continued later)

#23  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 1:27 PM

Re: Mark, comment #11 Sorry Mark, that sentence you quoted me on was rather sloppy on my part. I should not have said "no works" but instead, "not by works of the law". Works that arise freely because of our faith in the Gospel of grace are the norm for the Christian. These works are the evidence of our ongoing sanctification, and not the cause of it.

Re: Tommy, #15 Perhaps "metaphor" or "illustration" is more accurate than allegory, but my point is that when we illustrate lessons from stories in the O.T. in this way, we don't actually support our argument - we are just illustrating it. Practically every preacher does this, but I think it encourages the mindset of looking for allegories in O.T. history. Of course, Paul did that very thing in Gal. 4:24, but he had Help. But I've heard some pretty wacky sermons based almost entirely on illustration from O.T. history. The danger is that they seem to actually convince a lot of people who can't make proper distinctions.

Re: Tommy #17 To use Rom 8:28 to show that all struggling with sin is proper or right is to stretch it too far. Just because God uses all things for good does not mean we should do them, or that they are proper or right for us to do. It wasn't right for Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery, though God used it. Joseph did not endorse their actions, but merely showed his brothers that God's purpose is unstoppable and good.

Re Tommy #15 In Rom 8:13, notice that Paul gives the proper way to "put to death the deeds of the body" - by the Spirit of adoption. The Gospel is our sword, not the law. There is a slippery slope where at some point a zeal to fight sin is indistinguishable from wanting to live according to the law.

Many pastors exhort people to fight sin but don't tell them that their only chance at success is the Gospel of grace. Some pastors even lead them not to expect much success, but to continue a dreary struggle anyway. This kind of message is what I oppose.

OK, I don't want to dominate this discussion (too much)! Thank you Tommy and GTY ministries for making it possible for us to do this and sharpen our understanding with each others help.

#24  Posted by Cristian Balint  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 2:09 PM

I apologize Yc.

Your right, the sarcasm was out of hand. My mistake. Sorry

#25  Posted by Jane Wilson  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 3:12 PM

Perhaps, another aproach is to look at the battle of sin from a "resting" position. Obviously when a soldier is on the front lines, he is not lying down sipping a soda, saying, "Man, it's in the bag, because I am freed from this stuff. God will do it all, and I'm going to enjoy the victory in a minute. No sweat, no pain, no problem." If this is the case, the enemy will have the widest smile in the end.

A true soldier on the front lines will have to ENTER the fight, ENGAGE in battle from the RESTING position. The resting position of being yielded to Christ, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, with his/her spirit at REST that God can overcome in "battle" when we CRY OUT FOR HELP in time of need. (Which on the front lines would be often.) There is an arrow coming straight ahead... a mature Christian keeps in step with the Spirit, and cries out for help. Taking wisdom to heart for this particular case, he raises his shield quickly to deflect it. From the "resting in Christ" position. The enemy is pressing in from the right: A Christian takes marching orders from the Holy Spirit... Raises his sword, and charges in the enemies direction. The enemy recognizes the Christian is resting in the power of Christ, and responding in faith and courage for this advance, and high-tails it out of there. The enemy attacks from the left. The Christian is resting, yielded to Christ. The Holy Spirit's wisdom is to FLEE this one. Get out of there fast. Not necessarily retreat, but get out of that area of the battle for that moment, that particular attack. (Perhaps a sexual temptation?) David learned all sorts of battle, needed battle, from a yielded, resting position- faith in His God. It is a fitting anaology from the Old Testament for today's Christians. We must also learn to do battle or we are fooling ourselves.

In a sense we are at complete rest in the power of Christ in us- knowing we alone would lose the battles, but at the same time at complete ATTENTION to His manuvers in battle. Keeping in step. If we are tuned out to this reality we are not truly yielded soldiers, but sitting ducks.

#26  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 4:21 PM

God's Word is a sword to fight against sin. A spiritual weapon.

Putting God's armor to fight. Not to human flesh, Against evil

spirits and one's spiritual sinful flesh. When we read God's word,

satan flees when we pray to our Lord Jesus.

#27  Posted by Cristian Balint  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 4:26 PM

So what is the person of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, what is His role in the battle we face daily??

#28  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 6:17 PM

Our Helper and Counselor.

#29  Posted by Yc Lee  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 7:05 PM

Thanks, Cristian.

Good to know you :)

YC

#30  Posted by Jane Wilson  |  Monday, February 07, 2011at 7:08 PM

The Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God to us in the midst of the battles. Giving us insight, and directives. When we keep in step with the truth of God's Word, in His direction for each individual battle... then He gives us the power to overcome in Christ. As Christ has already won the battle against the evil one, we yield our lives to keep in step with the will of the Father... and the Holy Spirit will show us all that we need to see as yielded "slaves" (as John MacArthur is reminding us). If we are in step as willing slaves, attentive, engaged, and obedient, then the victory is ours IN Christ Jesus! Certainly not our own efforts or works, but through faith in Him alone.

#31  Posted by Eileen Harris  |  Tuesday, February 08, 2011at 8:23 AM

I appreciate this series and am looking forward to all the great suggestions on how to fight sin.

I am no scholar, but my belief is that our life here is a testing ground, and that we are ever to be on the look-out for thoughts, actions and situations that could lead us to sin.

I realize that there is nothing I can do to earn God's love, that as a fallen human it is only through God's Grace, that I can even be called a child of God.

I cannot even begin to express my gratitude, awe and love to the Holy Spirit, for helping me and directing me toward the right path. Forgiving me when I fall off that path, encouraging me to dust myself off and press on.

#32  Posted by Ronald Kavanaugh  |  Tuesday, February 08, 2011at 9:19 AM

Thank you Tom...it's easy to forget our corrupted state in day to day life and guarding ourselves from sin...even though its impossible, I try to engage the battle intentionally hoping not to displease Him who deserves the best I can give Him and His Son while I am in this woeful condition. Yet, I can see His plan truly is perfect.

#33  Posted by Paul Dresvyannikov  |  Tuesday, February 08, 2011at 4:48 PM

Wonderful post. The Scriptures repeatedly talk about our struggle with sin. It is a very important topic to talk about. Only then in the presence of God, will we be completely free from sin. A moment I long await.

#34  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, February 08, 2011at 5:43 PM

The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity. Father,Son,and Holy Spirit. 3 persons in 1. One God. Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, protection, and enables us to endure trials. He teaches us, help

us to know what to say even we are not able to.

God use 3 roles to show us that He is one living God and how He made

the promise of the Messiah. List goes on. It shows that God can

do all things. Amen.

#35  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, February 08, 2011at 10:58 PM

# 27: That is a great question Cristian, and I promise we'll get to it in an upcoming post within this series. Stand by, brother.

-Tommy

#36  Posted by Paterson Thomas  |  Wednesday, February 09, 2011at 1:04 PM

"You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." Genesis 4:7

Once a person confesses Christ as his or her savior, he or she has declared war on sin, satan, and the world. In the above passage, God declares a conflict between man and sin.

Hebrews 12

1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

" Let lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us"

#37  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Saturday, February 12, 2011at 6:08 PM

Another terrific blog. There was one part that really struck me, here it is: (We can hardly make it through a worship service without a wicked thought assaulting our minds). The more I study Gods word the more this occurs. When I study the Bible is when it occurs most. I recognize now how much of a fight we are in with sin and how much it needs to be mortified in our lives. I thank God that He does know the struggle we face everyday with sin and that He is there to shelter us as we are His children.