My pastor posed this question to a group of young adults during a session studying godly dating relationships. I groaned inwardly too, but then he gave us a question to ask about the person we are either dating or interested in pursuing: “How do they do battle with sin?”
The question was profound. And one I needed to answer for myself.
How do I battle sin?
This was a question answered prayerfully with my pen in hand in a quiet place. I hope that I’ll continue to ask this question of myself. For now, I’ll share with you words from my journal:
Confess it to God honestly. Be real about the sin. You can’t fool God, and lying to yourself only keeps you stuck deep in the mud. The times where I’ve been open enough to say, “God, I don’t really want to get rid of this sin. I don’t care about it that much, but I know you do,” are the times where breakthrough happens. How can I expect God to change part of my heart when I can’t even be honest about what’s in it?
Asking God for help is truly the only way to overcome sin. And what do I mean by sin? Whatever separates you from him-which is anything shy of his holiness. It could be a heart problem or an action. Both cause damage internally and externally, whether we have eyes to see the consequence or not. I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that enough understanding and willpower can keep me from repeating my mistakes-but’s its not enough. Not even close. It just creates a cycle of frustration and self-dependency. We need a heart change when we’re in sin and only God can heal the human heart.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. -Ezekiel 36:26
Obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit when he gives you a way to avoid temptation. Really, do it. If we open our eyes, we can usually see the sin coming-or the opportunity. We feel that thought or desire start to bloom in our mind, feel the familiar feelings of habit arise as we see the same old situation pop up in our life. Obedience to the Holy Spirit strengthens our ability to say no, again and again. It makes resisting the enemy a habit, then a discipline.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. -Corinthians 10:13
Soak your thoughts in scripture. The ONLY way to defeat Satan’s lies is to know the truth. It reminds me of the game Katniss and Peeta play after (*spoilers*) Peeta has been hijacked by the Capitol and loses sight of reality. He constantly checks with her to see what’s real or not real. We need to go to God’s word to see with clarity. When the lies are put in a line-up against the truth about who we are as God’s redeemed, it’s easy to see the fake fuzzy edges of the lies-and they become unappealing.
Surround yourself with accountability. This is the toughest one for me, I’ll be honest. I often forget to depend on community when it comes to sin. Being vulnerable with those you can trust is a sure way to arm yourself against sin. Keep in mind that we become like those with whom we spend the most time. So ask yourself, do I want to be like them? If they’re stuck in an area of struggle for you, the answer may be no.
Get to know God more deeply. This includes spending time with him, in His word, and listening with obedience to the Holy Spirit. Pray! Whatever that means to you, even if it’s in writing or song. You can even get crazy and try showing God love through the 5 love languages! As you know God, his love for you will lead you away from sin and towards what he is offering you that is for your best: himself. Sin becomes undesirable and pales in comparison to a great, good, loving God who has the power and desire to fully meet our every need.
So that’s how I have learned to do battle with sin by the grace of God. I’ve tried it my way, and that only lead to constant failure with a false sense of my own ability to control myself. That’s not to say I’m perfect at battling sing, but this is also how I hope to continue to do battle in the future as God reveals in my heart many more places of sin that have yet to come into the light.
Because it’s a process of growth.
When you have Jesus, you’re already spotless to God. But sanctification, burning the yuck and the darkness out of your heart as you’re renewed, takes time. I hope you’ll be encouraged to try these tactics as you do battle against your own sin, and know that you’re not in the fight alone.