We've been so blessed in our church over the last months and years to have welcomed into the fellowship so many new Christians. It continues to encourage my heart day after day, week after week, to meet those who are just new in Christ, who are a part of our church family. And it has reminded me that we have many people who have never had the opportunity that some of you have had, who have been here a long time, to go through some of the great truths of Scripture. And we don't want to forget them and we don't want them to miss some of the most rich and rewarding and significant and essential elements of God's Word. And so the Spirit of God has really prompted my heart for the last several weeks, and for a few in the future, to look at the book of Romans to give some foundational understanding, to those of you who are new in the faith, of the matters regarding salvation and your relationship to Christ. And we've had a wonderful time touching the great pinnacles of this epistle. Obviously we can't go in to great detail, but what a rewarding rich and blessed time we've had in so doing.
This morning then, I want to draw you back to Romans chapter 8, and to two verses in particular that I think will be of very great encouragement to all of us, verses 12 and 13. As you know, in this particular brief study we have primarily been looking at larger sections of Paul's letter to the Romans but for this morning I want us to look at really just two verses, Romans 8:12 and 13. Let me read them to you and you can follow along. "So then, brethren, we are under obligation not to the flesh to live according to the flesh, but if you are living according to the flesh you must die. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
There's one key phrase there that I want you to identify perhaps by underlying it in your Bible and that is the phrase "by the Spirit." Or your translation might say, "Through the Spirit." And just hold that in your mind.
Now you remember in our last study we were looking at Romans chapter 7 and we came face to face with the fact that Christians are engaged in a major struggle. That struggle is intense, that struggle is wrenching, frustrating, discouraging, debilitating, and frankly sometimes outright defeating. And it goes on all through our entire earthly lives. We are engaged in an unending struggle.
To remind you of that struggle and its nature, go back to chapter 7, verse 15 for a moment. And Paul defines it for us in pretty clear terms, "That which I am doing I do not understand for I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the very thing I hate." Verse 19, "The good that I wish I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish." Verse 21, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good." Verse 23: "I see a different law in my members, 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." And then he says, "Wretched man that I am."
That's a Christian, and he's talking about a battle that's going on. And I told you last time that there is a certain wretchedness about being a Christian and it comes from an understanding of this conflict. We have a new inner man created in Christ Jesus. That's true. We have been made holy in Christ and had His righteousness not only imputed to us but granted to us in reality by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We possess new life. We have become partakers of the divine life, the very life of God. We now have holy longings. We desire what is righteous and godly and virtuous and pure and lovely. And all of that wells up within us and then collides head-on with our unredeemed human flesh. And it is a constant and frankly exasperating and wearying struggle.
And so, we ask the question, having come to some understanding of the struggle, can we win it? And if we can win it, how do we win it? How do we win the battle for virtue so that we can experience joy and peace and usefulness? Those are the things we want in our lives, an exhilarating joy, a lasting peace, and an ongoing usefulness to God. But how can we get ourselves into the virtue that produces that? How can we be victorious in this battle? I mean, as you're reading Romans chapter 7 it kind of ends up with wretchedness. And we all identify with that. But where is the source of victory? And you remember last time I told you this week I was going to tell you.
But before I tell you the answer to that question, I want to tell you the answer to another question. And the other question might go something like this: you know, I'm so wretched and this battle with my sin is so common, I'm afraid I might lose my salvation. Is that possible? I mean, it's certainly conceivable that if I find myself doing what I don't want to do and not doing what I want to do, and if I see this evil principle of sin in my unredeemed flesh operating, and if I see myself engaged in this war and if I get exasperated enough and frustrated enough and defeated enough and wretched enough and weary enough, I might come to the conclusion, you know, I'm probably so bad God is just going to take away my salvation.
You want to know something? There are a lot of people who believe that. They believe that you can sin so badly or so much that you just lose it, and now you're back unredeemed again. And whatever death, burial and resurrection you had in Christ is no good anymore and you need another one because you just blew it too much or too greatly. Either the magnitude of your sin or the frequency of it has disqualified you. And it's possible that in the midst of the struggle over our wretchedness those thoughts might enter our minds and so Paul is in a big hurry to straighten that one out quick. And so we read in chapter 8, right off the bat, verse 1, this statement: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
He says, look, there's one thing I don't want you to worry about and that is that somehow in this battle you're going to forfeit your salvation and wind up under divine judgment again. Not so, can't happen. Why? Because you are in Christ Jesus. What does that mean? You were united to Him in His death, you were united to Him in His burial and resurrection, the penalty for your sin was paid in Christ, the justice and the judgment of God is satisfied. Therefore all your sins have been dealt with. Nothing you do by way of sin in the spiritual struggle can ever be reason for God to condemn you. He already condemned you and executed you in Christ. That's settled. That's done. And we wipe the sweat from our brow and say, "Amen, hallelujah." Right? It's good to know that's taken care of.
So I'm not going to worry about answering that question this morning. We could spend some time dealing with that in the first part of this eighth chapter. But I want to go to question number two. We'll assume that question number one is answered to our satisfaction. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. We are in Christ, united in His death and resurrection and now united to Him in the very life which we live, which is His life being lived in us. But let's go to that second question. Alright, I know I can't get so wretched that I lose my salvation but I'll tell you this, I can get so wretched I lose my joy, peace and usefulness. Amen? That's right.
So the question for me is how can I gain the victory in my spiritual experience? How can I get out of Romans 7 and how can I overcome this debilitating power of my remaining flesh? How can I deal with it? The answer comes in verse 13, in that little phrase, "By the Spirit,” or “through the Spirit." And by the way, Romans chapter 8 is the Holy Spirit's chapter. It's the Holy Spirit from start to finish. From 1 to 39, He is the hero of chapter eight. And I wish we had time to explore every detail of it but I'll commend you to the commentary or tape series or whatever that gives you that and focus for the time this morning only on verses 12 and 13.
This chapter gives at least seven things the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer. We're just going to focus on one in verses 12 and 13 and that is that He gives us triumph over sin. He gives us victory over the remaining flesh. And we want to look at that and see what Paul says and then get a practical handle on how we can enter into that victory which the Spirit of God provides.
Now the key phrase in verse 13 is that little phrase "by the Spirit," or "through the Spirit." And I only need to say this, and I know you'll understand it. There is no victory over the flesh apart from the Holy Spirit. Alright? Simply stated, the flesh has no power over itself. I'll go one step further. The flesh has no will to overpower itself because it only has one will. Flesh doesn't fight against flesh. If there's going to be any conquering of the flesh it's going to be done by something other than the flesh, namely the Spirit of God working in us. Apart from the power of the Spirit working through the inner man, there is no victory over the flesh. Humanness can't conquer humanness. The leopard cannot change his spots. He, that is the sinner, cannot do anything other than sin and even that which is his noblest effort turns out to be filthy rags. And so, the flesh can't change the flesh. Only the Spirit can overpower the flesh.
Now remember, as a believer the dominion of the flesh is broken and the powerful Holy Spirit dwells within us, right? Back in verse 9 is a very, very central statement to understanding the sanctification process in the believer. It is in the second half of verse 9, "But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." That's a negative way to say a positive statement. The positive statement would sound like this. Anybody who belongs to Him has the Holy Spirit. Right? So as believers we have received the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ dwells in us. Verse 10 says that if Christ is in you, and He is by virtue of His Spirit, then such and such and such and such is so. So the Spirit lives within us and is the energy for that spiritual victory.
You remember in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "You shall receive power after (What?) the Holy Spirit is come upon you." The Holy Spirit is synonymous with sanctifying power. You remember the description of those noble, godly men in the early church who were to be identified as deacons. It says of them in Acts 6:5 they were full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and then three verses later in verse 8, "Full of faith and power." Being full of the Holy Spirit is equal to being full of power. The Spirit is the source of spiritual power.
I was reading just last night in the little prophet Micah and I came across this verse, and I don't know that I had ever really thought of it before, but it's verse 8 of chapter 3. He says, "On the other hand, I am filled with power with the Spirit of the Lord." And we all are familiar, not only perhaps with Micah 3:8, but Zechariah 4:6 which says, "Not by might or by power (that is human might and power) but by My Spirit, says the Lord." Therein lies the true power for spiritual life and service and victory.
So, in Christ we have been freed from sin and death. We are alive to God and we are now able to fulfill the righteous law which we now love because we have a new nature and in that new nature or new inner man resides the Holy Spirit in full power, power to conquer the remaining sin in our unredeemed flesh. Beloved, there is the answer to the anxiety of Romans 7. The answer is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians, had we the time, we could look at chapter 5 and we could see how that the flesh and all of its vices and devices are overpowered by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer.
If we had time we could look at Ephesians chapter 5 and we could look at it in some detail and there we would read these most amazing words by the apostle Paul. He says, "Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but be filled with the Spirit." And I know somebody is going to say, "Why in the world does he make that kind of contrast? What is being drunk with wine have to do with it?" And the answer is a very simple one. Ancient pagans believed that they could elevate themselves to some transcendent state, some mystical communion with the deities by getting drunk. Somehow they had to lose their minds, they had to go out of themselves, they had to be beyond their normal senses and that would elevate them to the place where they could commune with deity. And so, when they went to worship, their worship included the evil liturgy of drunkenness and sexual orgies and all of the kinds of things that induced some kind of euphoric state in which they thought that they were lifted up. And Paul says you're not lifted up, it's not exaltation you're experiencing; it's dissipation. You're going down the drain is what you're doing in that experience. If you want to commune with God you don't get drunk with wine, you get filled with the Spirit. That's how you live in communion with the living God. Now what that says to us is that the Spirit is there residing in our lives but the real issue is that He needs to fill our lives. And you could look at that from two sides. One side of it means that He wants to have total control. If you take that little word "fill," plro, push it back into the gospel account, you'll find that a number of times it is used with very strong emotions, filled with rage, filled with anger. That's interesting. You know, we basically go through life and we have a little scale in our life and let's say we have anger over here and then we have sort of kindness over here and somebody does something that just infuriates us, you know, the scale might tip a little bit and then we as Christians think kind thoughts and we sort of bring it back to balance. But when you totally lose your cool and blow your stack, you're filled with anger. You're out of balance. Your total behavior is controlled by that one thing. And that is the sense in which you could see the word plro used here. It's where the Holy Spirit tips the scale totally in His favor and we have absolutely no control because He's got all of it.
Another use of the word would be to speak of the wind and the sail of a ship moving it along on its course. That's not a static one. The first illustration is more static. Put them together and you have this kind of concept: Being filled with the Spirit means to be so totally controlled by the Holy Spirit that He is moving you along the path of His perfect will. Now you have the Holy Spirit, you may not be filled with the Spirit and thus the command, be being kept filled with the Holy Spirit. The power is there but the power is only released when you're under the Holy Spirit's control; but it's there and it's there for the purpose of overcoming the flesh. So let's just make that point number one in your thinking, the power for victory. The power for victory resides in the believer and can be released to its full capacity.
But let's go secondly, beyond the power for victory to the pattern, and that's what I really want to talk about. The pattern for victory: How do I get it going? You say it's there, you say I need to be filled with the Spirit, how do I really let the Spirit of God take control? How do I get to the place where I experience the victory? Let's look at the pattern for victory, and we're right back to verses 12 and 13.
The pattern for victory, he starts with this. And I'm going to give you some simple things to follow. It starts with a very, very basic understanding. Verse 12, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation not to the flesh to live according to the flesh."
First thing to understand in the pattern of spiritual victory, listen to this, you are not under any obligation to live after the flesh. What do you mean by that? There is no compelling demand that you sin. There is nothing within you that is so compelling and so dominating and so powerful and so sovereign that you sin and you can't prevent it. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “There is no temptation taken you but such is as common to man, and God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able but will with the temptation always make (What?) a way of escape.” It's always there if you want to take it. It's always there. It's always there. You are under no more dominion of sin. You are under no compelling obligation to live after the flesh. Why? Because you are no longer after the flesh, or according to the flesh, same concept. You're not under any obligation to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. You don't have to do that. You used to be according to the flesh, you used to be after the flesh, but you're not anymore. You used to live according to the flesh as a way of life. You were ruled, motivated, guided, dominated by the complex of the ugly, sinful, desire, motive, affection, principle, and purpose that make up the flesh. But you're not anymore.
To show you that go back to verse 5 and he describes those who are according to the flesh: "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; those who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit." And then he goes on talking about the flesh, "Those who are according to the flesh have a mind set on the flesh that leads to death. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." Then he further says, "The mind that is set on the flesh that belongs to those according to the flesh is hostile toward God, it does not subject itself to the law of God, it isn't even able to do so." Who does he have to be describing here? An unbeliever, he's describing an unbeliever. And verse 8, he says, "And those who are in that condition cannot under any circumstance please God." And then he says in verse 9, "However, you are not in the flesh." You're not there anymore.
So, it's simply a statement of fact. People who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. Those who set their minds on the things of the flesh, that's their way of life, the only thing they care about is fleshly fulfillment, fleshly desire, are headed toward death. Their mind is hostile toward God, verse 7, it doesn't care one bit about the law of God, it doesn't love the law of God, doesn't desire to keep the law of God, doesn't pay any attention to the law of God. It isn't even able to do that. And verse 8, it can't even please God no matter what it does. That's an unregenerate person. That's the person living in the flesh.
But look what he says, verse 12, "You're certainly not under obligation to live like that anymore, are you?" I mean, how ridiculous. How totally contradictory for brethren — he calls us brethren there in verse 12 — for brethren who have the privileges of justification and of sanctification, having been freed from sin and death and the mastery of the flesh to think they're under some kind of obligation to do what's wrong. Listen, if you sin it isn't God's fault, it's your fault. It's your choice. It isn't even, in one sense, sin's fault. It is sin that is in you but from the theoretical standpoint you don't have to sin because you're not under its dominion, you're not under any obligation to do what it says.
That's a very important thing to learn, beloved, because that takes you out of being a victim and you'll never have spiritual victory in your life as long as you think that you are being overpowered by something over which you have absolutely no control. That's not true. I don't care whether it's alcohol, drugs, or homosexuality, or sexual perversion, or pornography, or whatever of those compelling things, you as a believer are not under some compelling obligation over which you have no control to live according to the flesh. Not so. Non-Christians, they are. They are. They live after the flesh, they mind the things of the flesh; they walk in the flesh. They're absolutely headed for death. They're unable to care about the law of God. And they can't please God no matter what they do. They are eternally separated from Him and they're bound for eternal punishment. That's them, that's not you. That's not you.
So, Paul is making a very strong point here. He's saying you owe nothing to the flesh, nothing at all. And you can't cry around about being a victim. You're not, because the power for victory is within you. The Christian who has patterns of sin and constantly loses the battle is losing it for reasons. But the reason isn't because the resource or victory isn't present, right? That's not the reason. Sure there will be lapses into fleshly behavior. First Corinthians 3 talks about that. Sure Paul says in Philippians 3, "I haven't made it, I haven't arrived, I'm not what I ought to be, I'm pressing toward the mark." We understand we're not perfect. But it's essential to understand that when you sin you sin because you choose not to follow the way of escape, right? You have chosen not to go the way of escape. So you're not to live after the flesh. You do not have an unconquerable enemy. You'll never get victory over sin if you believe you have an unconquerable enemy. So there is victory available to you by virtue of the positive side, the indwelling Spirit. And looking at it from the negative side, the fact is you do not have any compelling obligation to live the way you used to live. Hmm.
There's also a positive side to this. You're not under obligation to commit sin, but flipping it over, you are under obligation to do what's right. You do have the compelling command of God and the work of the Spirit who will inevitably produce some good fruit. But let's look at that statement. Look at verse 13. He says here, "If you are living according to the flesh, you must die." That's right. If you're — listen to this — if you're living according to the flesh as a way of life and you're under dominion, sovereignty, and obligation to the flesh, then you've never died yet. But if you've... You're headed for death. You're headed for eternal death. But if by the Spirit you're putting to death the deeds of the body, you'll live. Now that is an axiom again. The first one was an axiom, too. The first statement in verse 13, "If you live according to the flesh you'll die" is axiomatic. An axiom is a self-evident truth that needs no proof. If you live according to the flesh you're headed for death, eternal death.
And here he says, on the other hand, if you are putting to death the deeds of the body and living through the power of the Spirit, you will live. That's also axiomatic. As the first axiom identified an unbeliever, the second axiom simply identifies a believer. Another way to say it would be this, if you're a person who is killing the deeds of the body in the power of the Spirit, then you are one who is headed for eternal life. You understand that? It's really a definition of a Christian. It's really a description of a believer. If you're spiritually bent, you're headed for life. That's what he's saying. It's the evidence of your true salvation.
And so, he says, look, if you're going to have victory the pattern of victory is this: Number one, realize you have absolutely no obligation to sin, it doesn't have any dominion over you; you owe it nothing. Living according to the flesh would be stupid because that's the way unbelievers live and you're not one of those anymore. But on the other hand, you do have a new bent. You do have a new direction. You are now headed toward life and so you'll be characterized by killing the deeds of the flesh through the power of the Spirit. That will be true of you — listen to this — and it needs to be more and more and more true of you. The Spirit will be killing sin and you need to move in the Spirit so He's killing more and more and more sin.
All of us could be killing more in the power of the Spirit than we are killing. You say, "Alright, I'm up to speed with you now. The question is: How do I kill sin in my life? How do I do it?" Let me give you a little principle, very basic, very straightforward. If you live by the Spirit and are headed toward eternal life because of your salvation, the Spirit in you gives the power to be killing the deeds of the flesh. The question is, alright, now how do I do that? I agree the power is there. That's the bent of my life. That's the way I'm going. I want to see the Spirit do more and more and more of it. How do I get to that point? How do I get that victory? How do I get that pattern established? How can that become habitual? What do I do?
Here we go, number one, number one principle, recognize the presence of sin in your flesh. Recognize the presence of sin in your flesh. Do you know why I believe with all my heart most Christians are most commonly defeated by sin is because the sin has so totally deceived them that they never really get to the point where they honestly evaluate its reality. They're not dealing with the issue. You spend so much of your life justifying your sin as a quirk of your personality or a product of your environment, you spend so much time sugar-coating your habitual kinds of sins as simply idiosyncrasies of individuality or some prenatal predilection that your mother had, or whatever. You have become so good — we all have — at coating over the reality of our sin that we don't see it and so we don't deal with it because we flat out, number one, don't even recognize it for what it is. Any kind of spiritual victory begins when you identify the enemy. I mean, it's the same old story, if you don't know what you're shooting at how you going to hit it. How am I going to eliminate from my life what I don't even identify as needing to be eliminated? Sin is not only wicked, it is deceitful. It is deceitful. And it's there, believe me it's there. John Owen was right. He says, "It has no doors to open, it needs no engine by which to work, it lies in the mind and in the understanding, it is found in the will, it is in the inclinations of the affections, it has such intimacy in the soul," end quote. It's there, but inevitably it's covered up.
You remember when David said, "Protect me from secret sins,” hidden sins? And to kill it you've got to recognize it, you've got to search it out. Psalm 139 is a good verse, verse 23, Psalm 139:23, remember this? "Search me, oh God, and know my heart and try me and know my thoughts and see if there be (What?) any wicked way in me." Help me see my sinfulness. I want to recognize it for what it is. I want to get to the root of it. That's what's so fallacious about contemporary psychotherapy is that instead of having you deal with the reality of your present spiritual condition, it wants to drag you in the past and find somebody else who is responsible for your problem. You must deal with whatever is debilitating your life that is in you. And don't be deceived about how good you are. Believe me, your sin is there and it is wretched and it spurts forth between the cracks of your supposed righteousness. It comes out in anger and bitter words, unkind thoughts, criticism, self-conceit, lack of understanding, impatience, weak prayers, immoral thoughts and even overt sins. You've got to know your weaknesses.
Haggai the prophet, chapter 1, twice, verses 5 and 7 said, "Consider your ways, consider your ways,” take a good deep look at yourself. First Kings 8:38 says, "Know the plague in your own heart.” Know the plague in your own heart. And Paul, in Ephesians 4:22, talks about deceitful lusts. You have to begin by examining your own life to see the reality of what is really there.
Second step, in order to gain this victory, this triumph, and to see the power of the Spirit of God begin to give you the power over the unredeemed flesh that you desire, that God desires, you must have a heart fixed on God, a heart fixed on God. The psalmist said in Psalm 57:7, "My heart is fixed, oh God, my heart is fixed." What do I mean by that? Undivided devotion to God, that's that wholeness in spiritual life where I am given wholly to God. What do I mean by that? Well, what I'm really saying in this context is that you can't have sin in one area, you can't just sort of clean up a lot of it but leave it in one area, you can't starve it out and kill it in one spot and feed it so it lives in another spot, if it lives anywhere it will crawl all over everywhere. It is the most noxious fast-growing weed in existence. It will not confine itself to one flower bed, it will be everywhere. The psalmist said in Psalm 119 verse 6, "Then shall I not be ashamed." When? When will you not be ashamed? "When I have respect unto all Thy commandments." My life isn't going to be right, my life isn't going to be without shame until I give proper respect to every command of God, and that is to deal with every issue of sin in my life. The only un-shamed life is the life of one who is totally fixed on God, everything has been dealt with.
Thirdly, meditate on the Word. Meditate on the Word. The filling of the Spirit is equated in Colossians 3 to letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. When the Word controls you, when it controls your thinking, when it is there, as the psalmist said, to meditate on day and night, when it is there hidden “that I might not sin against God,” then you have the control factor in your life. The way to kill sin in your life is to feed it Scripture. It's a poison, it’ll poison sin. Just feed a sinful life Scripture, and it’ll poison it. Whatever really controls your mind controls your behavior so you learn to close out the garbage and you feed the sin, the remaining sin in your life, a steady diet of God's glorious truth and it poisons sin. And so you must give yourself to the Word. You must saturate yourself in the Word. You must hear the Word preached and taught. You must learn it yourself and you must meditate on it day and night.
Fourthly — and these are so very basic — fourthly and very importantly, commune with God in prayer. Commune with God in prayer. This sort of circles back around to the first point that I gave you. True prayer gives the heart a sense of its own vile character and renews the hatred of sin. True prayer does that. John Owen said, "He who pleads with God for the remission of sin also pleads with his own heart to detest it." Somewhere along the line in your prayer life you need to get honest. You need to get honest. And you need to begin to say to God, "I want You to reveal my sin. I want You to stir it up in me. I want You to show it to me. I want You to blow away the dust that's covering it. I want You to peel off the things that have been hiding it away in my life so that it becomes manifest and visible to me. I want to see the reality of my sin. I want You to show it to me just the way it is." That's part of your communion with God. When you pray to God, that's an honest confession. You can say you confess your sins but until you pray, "God, show me all the sins of my life, reveal all of them, uncover every little corner of my life, bring it up and may it become as detestable to me as it is to You and may You give me the strength to see it go away," those are the kinds of prayers that are true prayers of repentance.
I've always believed that when you really confess your sin there's a little P.S. you add to the end of it when you say, "Lord, please forgive me for that sin, you always add if your confession is true, ‘and, Lord, may I never do that again.’" That's my heart's cry.
And so, prayer then exposes secret sins. Prayer weakens prevailing sins. Prayer finds strength in fellowship with the holy God to kill sin in our lives.
What must I do if I am to know victory over sin? First I have to recognize the sin in my life. Don't kid yourself, don't gloss over yourself. Don't underestimate your wretched condition as Paul didn't in Romans chapter 7. And then fix your gaze wholly on God and become totally devoted to Him so that everything in life, center and circumference, is Him. As the psalmist said in Psalm 16, "I have set the Lord always before me," and that's the only way to live. And then it's also equally essential that you cultivate a knowledge and an understanding and a deep comprehension and application of biblical truth and that you spend time in honest prayer before God bringing the truth to light in His presence. And in those kinds of simple, spiritual exercises comes the death of sin.
Then there's a fifth and last in this little pattern for victory and that is to cultivate obedience, to cultivate obedience. Now we go out of that private place where you looked for your sin and where you fixed your gaze on God and where you meditated on the Word and where you communed with God in prayer and we move into the public place and now the pattern of your life is set on a course of obedience. Paul said, I haven't attained, I love this, but he said, “I press toward the mark.” I haven't reached the goal but I'm on the path. What path was he on? The path of obedience. Peter said our life should be characterized, 1 Peter 1:22, by obedience to the truth. And we walk a path of obedience. If you want to engage yourself in a real battle with sin, just set your course day by day, moment by moment, one step at a time on a path of obedience. At first it seems hard, at first the progress seems slow, but you stay with it and eventually you become habitually obedient. Habitually obedient becomes a habit. You stay on the path that God has laid out in His Word. That path will lead you to grow in grace, to perfect holiness, to renew the inward man day by day and you'll train yourself toward godliness.
Now it would be fair, I think, to ask a final question and that is: How am I doing on this? How can I do a little inventory and say to my soul, “Soul, how are you doing? How is this working out? Are you doing these things?” Just ask yourself some simple questions. Ask this question: How is my zeal for God? Is my heart cold toward God? Has sin made me indifferent to times of communion with Him? Do I have little or no interest in His presence? In the glory of His name? Do I love His Word? Do I love His law? Can I understand what the psalmist meant in Psalm 119:136 when he said, "Rivers of water run down my eyes because they keep not Thy law?" Do I have such a love for God's law that I am devastated when His law is disregarded? Do I earnestly contend for the faith? Do I live to uphold truth? To live it? To proclaim it? What level is my zeal at?
Second question, do I love the Word? Do I find myself drawn to the Word? Almost...almost pinned to it by some divine wrestler who has me on the canvas and I can't get up until its truths have become my own convictions? Do I find myself indulging in the deep things of the Word? Ask myself this: Self, do you love the time of prayer? Do you love the place of confession? Do you eagerly rush into the place where you can confess your sin and ask God to do the self-examining process by the light of the Holy Spirit so that every dirty thing can be brought to light? Do you seek that? Do you delight in worship? Is it your great longing to be here with God's redeemed people? Is it precious to you to spend the Lord's Day in the church? Is it your soul's highest delight to sing His praise? To know Him better that you might offer Him honor? Or do you say with the Jews of Malachi's day, “what a weariness worship is”?
Ask yourself this, are you sensitive to sin in the church? Are you sensitive to sin in the world? Does it tear your heart up when you see sin around you anywhere? In your own life?
You see, those are just the basic principles that I gave you flipped around and turned into self-examining questions. Spiritual victory is there. If you recognize that you're not under any obligation to sin, if you recognize that the Spirit of God has already bent you toward life, and so He's already killing sin in your life and the power to kill all of it is there, then all you need to do is tap into the means. And I gave you simple principles by which you can begin to do that in your life and a little test by which you can examine whether you are.
I don't know about you but I want to have a life of virtue. I want to have a life of joy. I want to have a life of peace. And I want to have a life of usefulness to God. And this is the path to that life. May God give you the strength to walk it, and may, through your walking it faithfully, God bring glory to His own name. That's the purpose of everything. Let's bow together.
Father, confirm to our hearts these truths that we might be all that You want us to be.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.