I wonder if there is a sin that you feel powerless to change. Maybe the temptation grows so strong who feel unable to resist. Maybe it creeps up and takes you by surprise so that before you know it you’ve reacted badly. You’ve committed this sin many times. You’ve tried changes many times. But you just feel struck.
The Nicene Creed says: ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.’ If you are in Christ then the Spirit has given you life: life to live for God, life to change old habits, life to proclaim Christ’s name.
So don’t give up. Don’t give up the battle with sin. I want to encourage each one of you to think of a sin with which you struggle and decide to re-engage in the battle. Romans 8:12-13 says: ‘Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation … by the Spirit … to death the misdeeds of the body’. So let’s do battle with sin. Ask yourself four questions:
1. What excuses am I making?
Lots of us hate the effects of sin in our lives – the sense of shame or the broken relationships – but we still love the sin itself. So we blame our up-bringing or other people or our circumstances. It allows us to leave our sin alone. But if you’re not killing sin then sin will be killing you.
2. How can I flee temptation?
Don’t ask, ‘What am I allowed to do?’ or ‘What can I get away with?’ Ask yourself, ‘How far can I run? How can you avoid things that encourage you to think in a wrong way? How can you avoid situations when you might be tempted?’
3. How can I embrace God instead?
How does God offer more than your sin? How can you stir your affections so your love for Jesus is bigger than your love for sin?
4. Who can help me?
Who can you ask to encourage you, challenge you, hold you accountable? Who will tell it straight? Don’t just look for sympathy can be toxic. A little salt is a good thing. But too much salt sucks the moisture out of you. A little sympathy is good thing. But pure sympathy encourages you in your discontent or victimhood. So who will point you away from your excuses and towards Jesus?
That’s your ‘obligation’ according Romans 8:12-13. But don’t miss the main thrust of Romans 8. Verse 13 says we put to death the misdeeds of the body ‘by the Spirit’. Paul’s main point is that we have resurrection life and power. Self-improvement doesn’t work – that’s the message of Romans 7. But we’re not left to ourselves. We have the Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.
So take heart. You have a one-person extreme makeover team living in you. When you resist temptation you going against the grain of your old sinful habits – and that’s tough. But you are going with the grain of the Holy Spirit. You have his desires, his life, his power – and that makes all the difference.