As of late, I have received quite a number of emails asking questions about the problem of overcoming indwelling sin. I thought it might be good to take a few installments just to put forth some strategies from Scripture regarding it. In truth, it is a most important topic. Since The Father’s goal for all Christians is to see us perfectly conformed to the image of His Son, dealing with these remaining vestiges of our “old man” is a topic at the heart of our Christianity.
As a starting place, we need to get some sense of the problem as the Bible describes it. Getting a grasp on the problem in the big picture first so that we can see how to proceed is important. We must deal with truth, not myth or supposition. With that in mind there are some foundational principles which need to be kept in mind.
Our first foundational principle is: This is war.
Ephesians 6:10-20 is neither a fluke, nor a simple but somewhat unrealistic metaphor. It is a simple statement of the truth. Since the Fall, all mankind has been at war with God. We have been at battle with Him over who has the right of supremacy over our souls. We want to be our own final authority. Eph. 2:1-3 states it this way: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV)
Prior to our salvation, we were directly under the influence of Satan and this world system. We stood as God’s opposers and thus were in a position of being the subjects of His wrath – especially the final wrath yet to come. When we came to Christ in faith, we changed sides in the war, but the war itself did not end. We laid down our weapons against God and His truth, but we took up weapons against the World, the Flesh and the Devil. The very nature of those weapons helps us understand the battle we are in. We’ll discuss more of that later, but keep in mind such “weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV)
Nothing is more debilitating to the Believer than to be thinking they should not be involved with ANY such struggle if they are truly a Christian. The doubts and fears which flood the soul simply because we are unprepared to face how much wickedness still resides within us – cannot be overstated. Christians often spiral into despair thinking things like: “Can I even BE a Christian and have such thoughts?” – “How can a truly saved person still have such blasphemous desires?” These and a thousand other thoughts like them can literally plunge the soul into mental and emotional torture. Most of you will recognize the pattern from your own thought life. Especially in the aftermath of some particular failure.
The truth is beloved, just as the real battles for the Israelites didn’t begin until AFTER they crossed the Jordan and started to possess the Promised Land – so it is with us. While we were still in an unconverted state, our only real enemy (God) was wholly external to us. Now, we are being betrayed from within and battling inwardly. We have begun the phase of life (again, like the Israelites) where we are to possess the “land” (possessing ourselves, WE are His Kingdom) and that means we must engage in dispossessing the inward sins which have long held the territory unchallenged. An entirely new thought life must be carved out. While our justification brought us peace with God (Rom. 5:1) – it also touched off the firestorm against the World, the Flesh and the Devil which will rage hotter and hotter until Christ comes or we put off this present existence in death.
So by way of our first strategy Beloved, let me plead with you to get a battle mentality. You will never have peace with your sins again. And they will not go quietly. They will shriek and wail every time they are attacked. And they will viciously attack at every given turn. We will not have rest from this war in this life. We must prepare for it. Temptation – both inward and outward will not end here. Do not be discouraged because you are in the battle. Take heart because being in this battle – means you are one of His!