Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Do you struggle with sin? Do you find that even though you want victory, it sometimes almost seems impossible? Is there hope? Can we find victory over the sin in our lives? The Bible teaches us that there can be victory. The passage we just read commands us to lay aside the sin which doth so easily beset us. Some believe the spoken of here is the sin of unbelief or faithlessness; however, others also believe that this can include any sin that seems to have a stranglehold on our lives. Albert Barnes wrote in his commentary –
- Those to which we are particularly exposed by our natural temperament, or disposition
- Those in which we freely indulged before we became Christians
- Sins to which we are exposed from some special weakness in our character
It is not the Lord’s will that we wallow in our sin all of our life. It is the Lord’s will that day by day, and year by year, we become more and more like His Son.
What does it take for us to find victory over sin?
I. WE MUST KNOW JESUS CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR
A. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian – is
One of the primary reasons so many church members can’t find victory over their sinful habits is because they are not true, born-again believers. They may have their name on a church roll somewhere, but that doesn’t make them a Christian. Though such people may pretend to be a Christian, deep down inside they don’t want victory over sin and that lack of desire to change is a good indication of a lack of salvation.
It’s not my intention to cause any unnecessary fear in anyone regarding their salvation; however, we do have to recognize that scripture repeatedly teaches us that it is possible to pretend you are a Christian, but in reality not be. Jesus said –
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Saying you are a Christian doesn’t make you a Christian. Paul wrote to the Corinthians –
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
The word ‘examine’ means to test yourself to determine if there evidence in your life that you are a true believer. Note that Paul says that we should ‘examine ourselves’ and not examine everyone else. Although we may question the genuineness of someone else’s salvation, only they and God know for sure if their profession is real.
An even clearer and more straightforward passage on this subject is found in the book of 1 John.
1 John 3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
In this passage John states very clearly that someone who habitually practices sin is not a true believer. They have not been born again of God. John is not saying that just because someone commits a sin they have lost their salvation or even if someone sins they were never really saved. In the first chapter of this same letter John tells us that if we deny that there is ever any sin in our lives, we are lying. But the difference between someone who is a true believer and someone who is not is that the true believer is walking in the light and whenever they sin, they desire spiritual cleansing. They confess their sin and they receive forgiveness. The non-believer, on the other hand, sins and continues to sin. They willfully and habitually sin and there is no regret or repentance. Such people are not true born-again believers; therefore there is obviously no spiritual victory in their lives over sin. Any change that occurs in their lives is usually short lived and eventually they return to their old ways. The Bible is very graphic in describing such individuals–
2 Peter 2:22 The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
B. What does it take to be a true believer?
What does it take to become a true, born-again believer?
1. An acknowledgment of our sinfulness in light of God’s holiness
Jesus said in Mark 2:17 … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Do you realize your spiritual sickness? Do you see your sinfulness and God’s holiness? The Bible says that heaven is a perfect place and those who practice sexual immorality, acts of hatred and violence, drunkenness and other indulgences of their sinful pleasures – ‘…will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ (Gal 5:21 CSB)
2. A sincere desire to change
The Bible calls this ‘repentance.’ What is repentance? To repent means to have a change of mind. It is a change of mind about God and about sin. It is turning from sin to God. It is desiring to be made whole. Jesus said that unless we repent of our sin, we will perish. (Luke 13:5)
3. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Have you made a personal decision to turn from sin to the Savior? Have you cried out to God – “Have mercy upon me a sinner?” The lack of desire to be changed is an indication of a lack of salvation.
II. WE MUST BELIEVE THAT WE CAN HAVE VICTORY OVER OUR SIN
Erwin Lutzer writes in his book on breaking sinful habits – “No one can win a war that he believes can’t be won.” One of Satan’s greatest lies against the struggling believer is that – ‘You can’t have victory.” Why do we believe that lie?
A. ‘My weaknesses are greater than everyone else’s’
One of the reasons some believe this is because they believe that their weaknesses are greater than everyone else’s. Many years ago a young man came to me who was caught up in sexual immorality. Although he said that he wanted deliverance, he didn’t believe that deliverance was possible because he believed that he had a stronger sex-drive than everyone else and therefore, this was an excuse for his actions. However, note what the Bible says –
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
One of Satan’s great lies that he uses to keep us in sin is to tell us that our situation is different from everyone else’s and inescapable. Others are more spiritual than we are and if they were facing what we are facing, they would be just as sinful as well. Yet note what we learn from this passage –
1. We all struggle with the same kinds of temptation.
We should not be so prideful as to think that our situation is special or unique. Others have encountered the same kinds of temptation and found victory.
2. God will not permit us to be tempted beyond what He knows that we are able to resist and to bear.
The story of Job teaches us that God sets a limit on what Satan can do. The same is seen in the life of Simon Peter. Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked for permission to sift Peter like wheat. But Jesus also told Peter that He was there, praying for Peter that his faith would not fail and that he would recover. God is always aware, available and active in our times of temptation.
3. With each temptation, God will make a way to escape.
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy…
God is able to rescue us and keep us from falling.
Let me add something very important at this point. It is not sinful to be tempted. We know from scripture that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. Temptation becomes sin when we linger at the temptation and yield ourselves to obey. Many years ago I read this –
“Sow a thought and you reap an action;
sow an act and you reap a habit;
sow a habit and you reap a character;
sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
B. ‘I’m not as spiritual as others’
Some people try to use their lack of spiritually as a crutch when it comes to matter of living a victorious Christian life. “I don’t know as much as others.” “I can’t do what they do in the church.”
Spiritual victory has little to do with Bible knowledge or busyness. The question is this – ‘Do you want to be made whole?’ That’s the question Jesus asked the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.
The reason non-believers can’t find victory is because of a lack of salvation. The reason believers can’t find victory is because of a lack of sincerity. They don’t want to lay aside the sins which so easily beset them. Many of them have become their pet sins and rather than forsaking them, they try to justify them and in the process keep themselves spiritually defeated.
III. WE MUST YIELD OURSELVES TO HIM WHO CAN GIVE US VICTORY
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Let me point out three important truths found in this passage:
A. WE HAVE BEEN DELIEVERED FROM THE POWER OF SIN
Before our salvation, our old nature was corrupt and under the mastery of sin. We were a part of the kingdom of darkness. (Col 1:13)
But salvation is God delivering us from that kingdom of darkness and translating us into the kingdom of His dear Son. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He delivered us from the penalty of sin. When Jesus rose again from the grave, He delivered us from the power of sin.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not , that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be set free from sin’s death and dominion.
B. WE HAVE BEEN STRENGTHENED THROUGH THE POWER OF CHRIST
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Many Christians recognize their crucifixion with Christ, but they do not recognize their resurrection with Christ . They think that Christ carried the ball so far and now it’s my turn to finish out the race. But that’s not what scripture teaches us. At the cross our weakness came to an end. We were crucified with Christ. And at His resurrection, His strength in us began. Note what the greatest Christian who ever lived wrote about his walk the Lord –
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Jesus said – “I AM the way, the truth and the life!’ (Jn 14:6) The ALL IN ALL is our ALL IN ALL!
C. THEREFORE WE ARE NOW FREE TO YIELD OURSELVES TO GOD AND NOT UNTO SIN
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Non-believers sin because they are slaves to sin. Believers sin because they give sin authority over their life.
How do we yield ourselves unto God? Let me suggest some steps:
1) Renounce anything we know to be in direct conflict with the desires of God
- Flee youthful lusts 2 Tim 2:22
- Resist the devil and he will flee from you Jas 4:7
- Let it not once be named among you as becometh saints Eph 5:3
- When we sin – immediately confess and seek cleansing 1 Jn 1:9
2) Fill your heart and mind with truths from God’s Word
- Jesus fought Satan with scripture – ‘It is written…’ Mt. 4:4
- Regarding spiritual warfare Paul tells us that God’s Word is like a sword Eph 6:17
- Walk in the light as He is in the light 1 Jn 1:7
3) Pray for God’s help and expect to receive it
- Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil Mt 6:13
- Pray that ye enter not into temptation Mt 26:41
4) LIVE IT OUT!
- Yield to the guidance of the Holy Spirit Gal 5:16
- The fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace… Gal 5:22-23
We will not obtain sinless perfection until we are at home with the Lord. Yet through a complete surrender to Christ’s Lordship over our lives, many victories can be won.