The more we delight in God, the more disappointed we get with ourselves when we blow it. The harsh words we spit at people when frustration gets the better of us, the video re-plays of stuff we wish we’d never seen that pollute our minds again and again. We know that grace is not a free-for-all, it’s freedom to walk out from the play pen of the law and the prison of sin, but how do we take those steps? How do we walk in the freedom for which Christ has set us free? How do we keep in step with the Spirit who is reshaping us, renovating us from the inside out? How do we live out our freedom?
Paul says in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Paul instructs us how to live out our freedom “…if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Paul says if you do this you will live. I take that to be the eternal life that begins now and continues into eternity. Remember Jesus’ words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It’s real life, free and full life. Life with energy, life that’s not constantly drained by shame and guilt. Life with joy, that celebrates who we are in Christ rather than lives defined by our failures. Life with power to make a difference in other’s lives, because we’re not constantly raking through the muck of our lives.
First, notice who is to do the tackling. You are! You for whom there is now no condemnation because you know you are in Christ (8:1). You who are trusting in the sin offering of Jesus Christ to have made you right with God (8:3). You who live in accordance with the Spirit and have set your minds on what the Spirit desires (8:5). You are to tackle sin in your life. Every genuine Christian who knows he/she is free from the penalty of sin wants to embrace the life of freedom Jesus offers. Not just freedom from the penalty of sin but living a God honouring, Jesus honouring, life experiencing increasing freedom from the power of sin here and now.
So is this the opposite of grace? Is this where the weights drop back onto our shoulders? NO! that can’t be! Those of us who have come with empty hands to receive God’s grace do so because we know that we can’t tackle the garbage in our lives ourselves. If we could make the changes ourselves, and you see some people who do, they clean up their lives – where do they end up? Self-change, by self-improvement leads to self-righteousness. Grace strips us of pride, of any self-righteousness as God pours his amazing, undeserved, unearned, lavish love into the lives of sinners just like us. Grace has set us free from thinking it’s all up to us, we’ve learnt to give up on ourselves to abandon ourselves to God’s grace. Now grace leads us into the life Jesus died for you to live a new life, a Spirit led life.
Secondly, we are set free to tackle sin, but who does Paul tell us actually gets the job done? “if you, by the Spirit put to death…” This is a call to live a life that is faster, higher, stronger but it’s a call that is accompanied by the power source of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ who now lives within you (8:9-10). The Spirit of sonship (8:15-16). The Spirit who prays for you when you run out of words (8:26-27). To live by this Spirit is the freedom we have been set free to enjoy.
So how do we go about putting to death the misdeeds of the body or as we’re putting it, how do we go about tackling sin in our lives?
1. GET YOUR THINKING RIGHT
2. GET YOUR HEART RIGHT
3. GET YOUR ACTIONS RIGHT
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
We won’t ever tackle sin in our lives until we see it for what it is. Geoffrey Bingham helps us here.
1. The POWER of sin
Jesus said, John 8: 34 … “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
While the world thinks that sin is freedom Jesus teaches us better. Sin’s power is that it enslaves us. Feel free to lose your temper whenever you feel angry, and you’ll soon find yourself a slave to rage. A headlong pursuit of freedom often turns into bondage.
“In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is… extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.”
The POWER of sin if its power to enslave
2. The POLLUTION of SIN
Sin pollutes your heart till instead of flowing with living water it flows with sludge. Proverbs 25:26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. Jesus put it like this
Mark 7:20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
Paul has shown us what comes naturally out of the heart of men and women, Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Distorted sexuality, distorted spirituality, fragmented society, loss of self-control. Sin pollutes the heart and poisons it. Part of the misery we feel is the misery of being demeaned and defiled by sin which has captured and polluted our hearts
3. The PENALTY of SIN
Gal 6:8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction;
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,
Sin sets us up for the harshest penalty, not merely the death of our bodies but the ultimate death which is separation from God.
4.The PRESENCE of SIN
The Bible at times paints sin as an animal waiting to pounce, Romans 7:11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.
We can’t escape the presence of sin, and left to ourselves the power, pollution and penalty of sin take us down. Until you recognise the ugliness of your sin and the way it corrupts and pollutes your life you won’t tackle it. So get your thinking right. Get your thinking about sin right, see it from God’s perspective, as a horrible pollution and corruption of your life.
Christianity isn’t just about what we believe about Jesus, it’s also about what we believe about ourselves. We need to get our thinking about ourselves right. What does God think of you? Tackling sin in your life by the Spirit means believing what the Spirit says about you:
– you are God’s child Romans 8:15-16
– you are at the centre of God’s purposes Romans 8:18-21
– you are at the centre of God’s attention Romans 8:28-32
God delights in you and has wonderful plans for you. If you’re serious about tackling sin in your life then you need to get your thinking straight about sin and about yourself. Unless you see sin for what it is you’ll never tackle it. Unless you see yourself as God sees you, you won’t be motivated to be who he calls you to be.
Remember the Lost Son, Luke 15:17 “when he came to his senses he said …’How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’
Tackling sin in your life means getting your thinking right. God has promised to transform your life and the means he uses to do that is in cooperation with us he transforms our thinking “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
But humans aren’t just brains on legs, we are more complex than that. In fact the bible has a name for the centre-point of our being, our core. The Bible calls it the heart. The heart is source of our affections: emotions, desires, passions. The heart is the source of our understanding, thought and reflection. The heart is the source of our will. The heart is the centre of our motivation and inspiration for what we do. And it is the focal point of God’s interest in us.
Jesus is less interested in what you know that what you love. What drives you? What motivates you? Someone has said that the worst kinds of sins are the sins where we do the right thing for the wrong reason.
So as Jesus calls us home to the Father he calls on us to believe in him, to trust him, but he doesn’t stop there does he. He calls us to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
John 17:26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
It’s this centre point, the heart, which God looks to. That’s where he tests us. So any attempt to tackle sin in our lives has to involve more than a change of behaviour it must include a change of heart. we’ve seen recently that a change of heart is what Jesus demands and promises. Since Jesus has promised those who trust in him and new heart we need to feed that new heart.
Gardeners tell me the best way to attack plant disease is prevention, is to have healthy plants. You make sure your plants are healthy by providing them with the light and water and nutrients they need and they remain strong. The new life Jesus gives us, his life within us, doesn’t operate independently from us. We need to feed the flame of His Spirit within us. We need to nurture the Spirit if we are to grow the crop of the fruit of the Spirit. John Piper says worship “is not a mere act of willpower buy which we perform outward acts. Without the engagement of the heart we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart is the coming alive of the feelings and the emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings from God are dead, worship is dead.” Desiring God
You conquer sin by feeding life. Feeding life is about responding to all of who God is with all that you are.
One of the hymns we sing is by Bernard of Clairvaux
Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts
Thou fount of life, thou light of men
From the best bliss that earth imparts
We turn unfilled to thee again
The way to get your heart right is to soak in the love of God so that your heart becomes a spring of God’s love. How does a child show love for it’s parents? By receiving their love. Tackling sin isn’t about behaviour modification it’s about recalibrating the desires of our heart. Resettling your security in the Father’s love, nurturing his life in your life, responding to all that God is with all that you are.
That will involve; fearing him in his holiness, grieving with him over other’s hurts, delighting in his grace, becoming excited by his capacity to love. Worship is the key to a transformed heart. Looking hard enough in God’s direction that your desire for him fans into flame.
God made us as complete beings so we have a mind, we have a heart and we have a body. Effectively tackling sin in our lives means cooperating with the Spirit in every area, including our bodies, So what do we do? Briefly…
Remember Joseph when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him:
Genesis 39:11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SLIP DON’T GO WHERE IT’S SLIPPERY
Pray for specific grace for a specific time: name the fruit of the spirit you need and the time you need it for
Celebrate victories: express your excitement in praise to God when you tackle sin in your life
Don’t allow Satan to isolate you: divide and conquer is one of Satan’s favourite ploys. Find someone you can trust to pray for you in areas that you are having difficulty tackling in your life.
Enjoying shame-free and joyful life, the life Jesus died for you to experience, depends on you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, tackling the sin in your life.