by Mack and Leeann Stiles
The following blog post are notes from a breakout session featured at the FOCUS Fall Conference 2014. To listen to the main sessions talks, click here.
“Sin” is one of few words where the singular word is bigger than the plural word. That is, “sin” is a much greater problem than “sins”. That’s because “sin” is our nature, part of our spiritual DNA. It’s been passed down from generation to generation ever since Adam.
Our sinful nature is confirmed by our experience and by the Bible. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved”. We only have to look at the last 3000 years of history to see that sin is universal and real. Scripture also verifies our sinful nature: “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”(Psalm 51:5). Ephesians 2:3 informs us that we were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”. Paul describes the reign of sin throughout human history in Romans 5, starting in vs. 12.
In our sinful nature, we commit sins - acts of rebellion against God and his ways. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22). We’re corrupt on the inside and we show it by our evil behaviors.
So what hope is there for us? Are we forever enslaved to sin? People can’t answer this. Neither can most of the world’s religions. In fact most religions say we need to do enough good to counter what we've done wrong or that we need to practice religious rituals to win God’s favor again. But there’s no way to know when we’ve done enough- or if we even could do enough.
Christianity offers a solution apart from our efforts and ourselves: salvation by faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning work on the Cross. Because Jesus took on himself the penalty for our sin by dying in our place and then rose from the dead, the power of the sinful nature has been broken. When we repent of our rebellion against God and believe the gospel we are freed from bondage to sin and its consequences (Romans 8:2).
Does this mean that when someone becomes a Christian they stop sinning? Or that if you do sin you’re obviously not a Christian? No, it doesn't. We will continue to struggle with sin in this life. The difference now is that we hate it. We want to stop doing what we know to be wrong. But how?
Here are six ways to fight sin:
1. Please understand that there is no victory for sinners apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ
You must start here. People want to skip over this. They think they can overcome sin on their own, but rejecting the gospel is the number one sin, without understanding and accepting the gospel there is absolutely no hope for us. It’s a profound message. Jesus lived the perfect life we cannot live. He died the death we deserve so that we can be reconciled to God. If we repent and believe in Jesus as our risen Lord and Savior, we are delivered from the tyranny of sin and hell. The gospel frees us not only from our bondage to sin, but from its end: standing before a holy and just God on the Day of Judgment with our sins unforgiven.
2. Name it
“I slept with my girlfriend even though I know the Bible says sex outside of marriage is wrong.” “I lied. I told my professor that I was sick and I wasn't.” “I sinned when I said those cruel and hurtful things to my sister.” Too often we rationalize away our sins or try to convince ourselves that they really aren't that bad. But they are awful and being honest reveals the truth of that.
3. Don’t stop with giving it a label
Confess, ask God’s forgiveness and repent. Pray and determine to fight those sins with the Spirit’s help. Confess and ask forgiveness from those affected.
4. Look at your heart
Jesus says, “the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 7:45). What’s going on inside of you? Our actions show what’s in our heart. Rage and lust come from a discontented heart. Sexual sin reveals a distrustful heart- we think God is withholding something good from us and so we break his commandments. Greed springs from idolatry in our hearts. If you want to stop a sin in its tracks, you must find its source.
5. Be accountable
Tell someone when you’re entangled by a sin. Ask them to pray for you. Give them permission to check in with you to see how you’re doing in the fight. Older, mature believers are good people to approach- they know more about sin and how to fight it than you since they've been in the battle longer.
Remember a Christian battles sin not because we’re trying to be good enough to merit God’s mercy, but because we've already received God’s mercy in Jesus. Christians are no longer alienated from God, but on his side. We want to be holy because he is holy. And one day we will sin no more and be in his presence forever. Focusing on these truths strengthen us for the fight.
Mack Stiles is CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions, General Secretary for FOCUS and an elder at Redeemer Church of Dubai. He is married to Leeann and have 3 boys and one daughter-in-law. Mack and Leeann love thinking through how to apply the gospel of grace to issues confronting students in the university world. Mack has also authored many books including his latest, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus