The Battle Against Sin and Self
Take a moment to think of that one sin—you know, the one that just keeps creeping up and bearing its ugly head. Is it laziness? Gossip? Porn? Greed? Whatever it may be, what steps are you taking to kill it? By God’s grace, He doesn’t allow His children to live in sin (1 John 3:6). He disciplines us and convicts us through His Word and the Spirit (Hebrews 12:5-6). But, are we to sit idly back and let God do His thing, or is He calling us to co-work with Him to kill our sin?
Impatience with my children is the reoccurring sin that has been at the forefront of my mind and heart. Every Sunday, I am resolved to do better and not get frustrated with them over their constant demands and lack of appreciation. But, come Monday morning at about 7:30 (they usually awake at 7:15), I’m already feeling the frustration of, ‘How dare they interrupt ME from what I WANT to be doing?!’
After a long period of recognition that this attitude is wrong, yet continually giving in to the frustration, the Lord began working in me to act. Through conversations with friends, my husband, and just being overwhelmed by conviction through God’s Word and the preached truth, I reached a point of brokenness. I realized I was FED UP with this sin, and I needed God’s help to wage war against it to kill it.
A very impactful sermon on this topic is titled, “Make War – Killing Sin.” In it, John Piper talks about waging war against our sin. The premise of this sermon is that we are in battle—a spiritual battle. And, just like a real battle, we need to arm ourselves with weapons to fight against our sin. I’ve never been to war, but I can imagine soldiers don’t just show up on the battlefield without a plan of action. So, let’s look at a practical plan of action to wage war against our sin.
Step 1: Analyze the Situation
Pray with the psalmist that God would search your heart, reveal your sin to you, and lead you in the truth. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24). If there is a specific sin, like the sin of impatience is for me, examine it and determine if there is a root cause. The root of impatience is selfishness and desiring my own way.
Step 2: Choose your Weapons
Prayer is the best weapon of all, and waging war without it is in vain. We must have total dependence upon the Holy Spirit to help us because we have no power against sin otherwise. Along with prayer, God has given us His Word – a weapon even sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). You need a sword in battle. The absolute best combination of weapons that I have found is to pray Scripture. So, for my battle against impatience and selfishness, my weapons of choice are any verse about dying to self.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Join with me in praying, “God, hide Your Word in my heart and mind, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11).
Step 3: Commit to the Battle
Even when I began thinking about my sin and the call to die to myself, I was already trying to find a way of relief. I was thinking, ‘Okay, so I’ll commit myself to dying to self from 7:15 (when my kids wake up) to 5 (when my husband gets home from work). Then, I’ll be able to do what I want to do.’ Erg! Wrong answer! That’s not fair to my husband, who has been working all day, and dying to self isn’t a day job from which we can clock in and out. It is the call and the way of life for the Christian. So, I must commit myself to dying to myself. This doesn’t mean I will never get to do what I want, but I pray that God will reorient my heart to imitate Christ first and foremost, and then allow joy to flow from my faithfulness to this call. As Jesus did battle on our behalf against sin and death, so we get to align ourselves with Him daily as we practice what it looks like to die to our sin.
Most people don’t even die to self for five minutes of their day to read their Bible or pray, so to die to self as a lifestyle seems, well, impossible. In our own strength, it is impossible. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible – not painless, but possible. And by God’s grace, we aren’t left in the thick of the battle without relief. That is why God has given us the church, to be amongst other believers. We are to serve one another in Christ, but part of this service involves being served and encouraged by others. There may be seasons of giving, giving, giving, but there will also be seasons of receiving, receiving, receiving. Let us look to fight the good fight of faith alongside one another, continually praying that God would enable us to fight our sin and be sanctified in Him.
Death and dying are never easy, but both in physical death and spiritual death we have the hope of God’s promises to come. We are promised eternal life with Him when we pass from life on this earth, and we are promised joy when we die to sin and self. We can have this hope that when we endure suffering, we become more like Christ. As we look to the cross of Christ as our supreme example, let us see how He died to self to make a way for our salvation, and rose that we may have life in Him. What a joy it is to imitate Him as we learn to die to our sin.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:24