To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
I was once a man full of confusion, anger, bitterness, and lust. I was a man of selfishness and greed. I knew in my bones of the pain and wrong of the world. The potential for violence and disastrous acts were within me, and indeed are within all of us. When I was younger I would go out and party, get drunk, think evil thoughts of violence and greed. I even recall looking at fellow human beings and thinking they were no more valuable than a bird in the sky, or a fish in the sea. I had no sense of human dignity or worth, except for those I loved. This caused turmoil and pain inside of me, as much as I tried to ignore it. That pain inside of me was sin at work. And still even though I am a Christian, I slip up sometimes. I think we could all relate to Paul in Romans 7 on this topic. So how as Christians do we overcome sin?
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul talks about the last days how humans will behave. ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power…’
We are all guilty of one or more of those things from one time or another, lest our arrogance and pride tell us otherwise. History shows us of the depravity of the human condition. Unable to seek peace no matter how hard we try, we inevitably fall. Since coming to faith in Christ his presence has been at work within me, this I do not doubt. Things that I used to see as being acceptable for a Christian to partake in, I now see as wrong. Things like even desiring to live a comfortable life for my own selfishness, to sexual immorality, and more. My mind has been shifting further from the ways of this world, and closer to God and his righteousness. This change is not of my own will or deeds. It is from God alone. I am no better than anyone else. But rather, my heart and mind through the power of God strive for his will, to pursue things of the Spirit rather than the deeds of the flesh, and I do so out of joy! To put my sin to death is liberating. There is no other source of life other than to overflow with God’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. This is not a form of slavery, it is who we were created to be. Christ set us free from the chains of sin so we may live for his glory, love and righteousness, and to display that power to our neighbours.
In Romans 3:21-31, the Apostle Paul says that we as believers are justified to God through faith alone, apart from the law. For if we were justified by the law we would fall short every time, and it would cause reason to boast about our good deeds. But, it is through the grace of God, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). His grace alone is sufficient!
It is comforting to know, that if you are like me and fight against sin every day, then that alone is evidence of God working in your life. For before we believed, we were guiltless and shameless of our sin. (Romans 3:9-18). But for believers, sin has already been overcome on the cross. Jesus took our penalty and washed us clean. Romans 8:1-2 Paul says ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.’
We overcome sin by calling out to God, prayer, fasting, studying scripture, and being in community with other believers – people who hold us accountable. These actions and good works will come naturally from our faith in Christ. But some may say this is still work. And it is! For faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).
But it is not works that justify us to God. Our works are from God alone! He changes us and molds us into his righteousness. If I claimed to believe in Christ but still got drunk every weekend, slept around, watched pornography, snorted drugs etc, my faith would not be real faith. It would be fake and meaningless. But if I claim to put my faith in Christ, and I turn from such destructive things, then my faith is real as my works are evidence. Nothing on this earth can save us from sin except Jesus Christ.
I’ll end this post with a couple verses from 2 Corinthians and Phillippians. Be assured then, that God is working in your life to free you from sin. Do not be ashamed when you slip up. We are being transformed into his image day by day, and the battle is already won!
2 Corinthians 3:18 - And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Philippians 1:6 - …that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’