The following post is adapted from a message John preached on a practical plan for overcoming personal sin.
The question is, “How do I kill sin in my life? How do I do it?” Let me give you some little principles — very basic and straightforward.
If you live by the Spirit and are headed towards eternal life because of your salvation, the Spirit in you gives the power to be killing the deeds of the flesh.
The question is, “All right, how do I do that? I agree that the power is there, that’s the bent of my life, that’s the way I am going. I want to see the Spirit do more and more of it. How do I get to that point? How do I gain that victory? How do I establish that habitual pattern? What do I do?”
1. Recognize the Presence of Sin in Your Flesh.
Do you know why most Christians are most commonly defeated by sin? I believe it is because their sin has so totally deceived them, that they never really get to the point where they honestly evaluate its reality. They are not dealing with the issue.
They spend so much of their lives justifying their sin as a personality quirk or a product of their environment. They sugar-coat their habitual sins as simply idiosyncrasies of individuality, or some prenatal predilection that their mother had, or whatever. People can become so good at denying the reality of sin that they don’t see it. As a result, they don’t deal with it because they don’t even recognize it for what it is.
Any kind of spiritual victory begins by identifying the enemy. It is the same old story, ”If you don’t know what you are shooting at, how are you going to hit it?” How am I going to eliminate from my life what I don’t even identify as needing to be eliminated?
Sin is not only wicked, it is deceitful. And it’s there inside each of us. Believe me it is there. John Owens was right, he says of sin:
It has no doors to open. It needs no engine by which to work. It lies in the mind and in the understanding. It is found in the will. It is in the inclinations of the affections. It has such intimacy in the soul.
It’s there! But inevitably it’s covered up. As the Psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:22). We must ask God to help us see our sinfulness, if we want to recognize it for what it is.
Don’t be deceived about how good you are. Believe me, your sin is there, and it is wretched and it spurts forth between the cracks of your supposed righteousness. It comes out in anger and bitter words, unkind thoughts, criticisms, self-conceit, lack of understanding, impatience, weak prayers, immoral thoughts, and even overt sins. You need to know your weaknesses.
Haggai the prophet, in chapter one of his prophecy, repeats the command, “Consider your ways! Consider your ways!” (vv. 5, 7). In other words, take a good deep look at yourself. First Kings 8:38 says, “Know the plague in your own heart.” And Paul in Ephesians 4:22 talks about deceitful lusts. From these and many other passages, the Bible makes the point: If you want to kill sin in your life, you must begin by examining your own heart to see the reality of what is there.
(To be continued tomorrow)