How can we win the fight against sin?
#1 Develop New Patterns of Living
Paul writes to the church in Ephesus and makes the powerful statement that if you know Jesus Christ, your life will be different. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that before people come to know Christ, they are dead in their sins, but when they know him they are made alive. In chapters 1-6 Paul says that knowing Christ should impact the way you live your life.
Based on your knowledge of Jesus and new life in Him, you should be different than you were. Christians are to develop new patterns of living that match their knowledge of Christ:
“ . . . put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24).
Immediately following Paul’s words, he encourages some practical things to change based on understanding the gospel and a relationship with Jesus. He instructs Christians to do the following:
Don’t lie. Tell the truth.
Don’t allow sinful anger to create a situation where the devil will have a foothold.
Don’t steal. Work enough that you will have something to share with those in need.
Don’t tear others down with your words. Build them up instead.
Notice that there are things to stop doing or “put off,” and there are new patterns of living that Christians should “put on”.
When you think about the struggles in your life, understand that they won’t just go away, but through conscious effort and growth as you “put off” these things, new life patterns will be “put on.
Paul told Timothy to “ . . . train (himself) for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). Just like athletes train to excel in their sport, Christians train themselves in godliness. So what is the issue(s) you’re struggling with? How do you train yourself for godliness?
Name what it is that needs to be put off and what needs to be put on in its place.
#2 Develop New Patterns of Thinking
To “put off” old thoughts, you must “put on” new ones. Your thoughts have a huge impact on how you live your life, so first change the thoughts you have about your own weaknesses and strengths.
If you struggle constantly with the same thing, you’ll be tempted to think, “I am so weak that I will never be able to beat this.” After each failure, you’ll believe it’s an impossible task and give up more easily the next time, because you feel hopeless.
Challenge these thoughts with what Scripture says about your situation:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13.)
God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. There is ALWAYS a way out. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking by the Spirit keeps you from giving in to the temptations you’re facing.
These two verses remind you to have an attitude of strength rather than weakness when you’re tempted. God will not tempt you beyond what you can bear, and the Holy Spirit keeps you from giving in when you walk with him.
“Put off“ the thoughts of weakness and failure.
“Put on” the thoughts of strength as you face your temptations.
You must change your thoughts from shame to sorrow.
Maybe you continually remind yourself of the failures and come to the conclusion that you’re so terrible God couldn’t possibly love you.
Maybe you look at your track record and assume you have exceeded the number times God will forgive you.
This shame brings a sense of hopelessness.
This kind of thinking is actually contrary to the gospel.
God knew what you were like and the sins that you committed before you were saved. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God does not love you any less now than he did then!
#3 Get help with your struggles.
Be around people who encourage you, not drag you down into whatever you struggle with. Your involvement in church is crucial here! You were not meant to live your life alone. Be around people who are going to make this their goal:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” . . . (Hebrews 10:23-25).
As a part of the faith community, you are among people who love you. Ideally, they will be close enough to know what you’re going through and encourage you.
In addition to encouragement, you need those who can help when you’re stuck in a sinful habit, especially those who have been there and come through it. It could be a pastor, small group leader, or Bible study teacher. Galatians describes God’s desire for helping this way:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
God commands those who are spiritually mature to help those who are struggling. Seek out people who want to help, but don’t look in the habitations of your former self.
#4 Get radical in the battle.
When Jesus talked about dealing with temptation, he suggested some radical (extreme) measures to deal with it. He used a figure of speech to illustrate its seriousness:
“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:7-9).
He was not saying you should actually poke out your eye or cut off your hand but that you should take seriously the nature of sin and its effects. Here is the radical fact that should be taken seriously:
Your life is not really yours to do with as you please. When you humbly surrender your life to Christ, you belong to Him. Adopt this attitude toward your life and stay in the battle:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).