Struggling With Sin

Overcoming Sin NatureLast week we talked about our sin nature. We said it is a defect in character which prevents us from being consistently righteous. We said everybody has a sin nature – including Christians. So that means ALL Christians still struggle with sin – even after becoming believers. Let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

In Chapter 6 of Romans Paul said that the power of the sin nature is broken when a person becomes a believer. He said believers have “died to sin” and they are no longer “slaves to sin”.

So, this raises a question. Why do Christians continue to sin in view of these changes?

Well, to answer that question, we need to review the meaning of the expressions — “died to sin” and “slaves to sin”. “Died to sin” means that the power or control of the sin nature has been broken, which is why Paul said the believer is no longer a “slave to sin”. OK, so what does that mean?

Well, before a person became a believer, the sin nature was in total, control. The person would do whatever the sin nature suggested – usually without any hesitation. Paul called that condition, “slavery to sin” (meaning slavery to the sin nature). However, when a person became a believer, Paul says God broke that control. However, God does not REMOVE the sin nature. It’s still there. So, the urge to sin is still present. That hasn’t changed, but the compulsion to sin has changed. The sin nature has lost its power.

To fully understand the implications of that — we need to know what else happens when a person becomes a believer. What happens is called regeneration – regeneration simply means being made new.

OK, so what’s new? Well, God gives the believer a new nature. He calls it a new heart, and this new heart gives the believer a desire to pursue God and His righteousness. At the same time God gives Christ’s righteousness to the new believer. So, the believer is now holy, unspotted and unblemished in God’s sight.

These are major changes, but they are spiritual changes only. God does not change the physical side of the believer, and that’s where the sin nature is located. Since the sin nature is still there, it continues to act as it always has.

However, this gives the believer a choice – which he didn’t have before. He can choose to follow his new nature or he can choose to still follow his sin nature. The sin nature still makes the same suggestions to sin – just as it did before, but the new nature makes suggestions for righteous living. So, the believer can which one he wants to follow. Sometime he chooses to follow his sin nature.

Paul did that occasionally. One of his biggest sins was pride. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about being taken into heaven where he received special revelations from God. This was a special privilege, and it could have made him proud. Apparently, he had a predisposition to pride. But God had a plan to deal with his pride. Let’s look at the story.

7 …….. so to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT

OK, so what does this all mean? It means that — as believers – we will still be tempted to sin. However, we can so “no” and decide to follow our new nature which wants us to be righteous.

However, we need power to do that. Fortunately, we have it through the presence of the Holy Spirit. So, at the point of temptation, we can say to the Holy Spirit, “Please help me follow my new nature”.

That’s it, you may ask? Yes, that’s it!!!!

See you next time….

Powerless

Prayer

Introduction

In our last two blogs we talked about denial. We said we have to admit that we all have certain problems that we haven’t been able to deal with effectively. We said everybody is in this situation, and when we finally realize it, we are “STEPPING OUT OF DENIAL”. This is important, because the truth is we are all POWERLESS. We simply don’t have the resources to do everything that we WANT to do or NEED to do. This is an important realization, because it motivates us to get what we need from outside sources. In this blog I would like to dig into the subject of POWERLESS a little deeper. To help us do this we are going to use an acrostic. We will use the word, POWERLESS itself. We will use each letter of the word to guide our discussion. However, since the word is so long, we will only cover the first 3 letters in this blog, and we will finish up in future blogs. So let’s begin with the letter “P”.

“P” stands for PRIDE

Pride is a big problem for powerless people. Pride is the belief that we are better than we really are. That’s especially true for powerless people, because they don’t always understand their limitations. Powerless people tend to overestimate themselves, so they go ahead and try to do what they are not capable of doing. There is a story in the Bible about Satan that illustrates this problem very well. The Bible says Satan was God’s highest creation. He was the most beautiful and intelligent of all the angels. I guess he was reading his own press clippings, because somehow he thought he was better than God. So he decided to take over heaven, and he convinced a third of the angels that he could do it. But God intervened and said, “no way”, and He booted Satan and his followers out of heaven. So Satan fell from his exalted position. That story illustrates very well what pride does. It always results in a fall.

Take a look at Proverbs 29:23:

“Pride ends in a fall, while humility brings honor.”

This is called a contrasting proverb. It contrasts pride with humility. Now we just defined pride, so what’s humility? Humility is recognizing that we have limitations — that we can’t do everything — and we need outside help. In other words, “stepping out of denial”.

Take a look at Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Notice God says seek Him in EVERYTHING WE DO. It doesn’t matter what it is – God doesn’t specify. When we follow this advice we will automatically recognize our limitations, and that automatically neutralizes pride.

“O” stands for “ONLY IF’S”.

Powerless people often use the expression, “only if”. They will typically say:

• “Only if I hadn’t done that.”

• “Only if I taken more time.”

• “Only if I had taken that advice”

• “Or not taken that advice”.

• “Things would be a lot different today.”

People who use “Only if’s” have lots of regrets. They look at the past and wish it was different. That’s called ignoring reality. Luke 12:3 says:

“So then, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad daylight.”

This passage might seem a little confusing, so let me explain it. The phrase, “what we say in the dark”, refers to the past. The reference to “broad daylight” means today. This passage is saying that the past will always appear in the present at some point. So the question is, “What do we do when it happens?” We have two choices Do we use it as a learning tool, or do we get into the regret and only if mode? The truth is we will always make mistakes. That’s a fact. But we must avoid our natural tendency to lament over our mistakes and second guess ourselves. We need to acknowledge our past to be sure, but we must use it as a learning tool for growth. When we engage in the “only ifs”, we will not. We will wallow in self-pity, and that often leads to depression and bitterness.

“W” stands for WORRY.

Powerless people tend to worry. They worry about everything. They worry about failing – falling short – disappointing other people – looking bad – saying the wrong thing – doing the wrong thing. Etc. Etc. The list is endless. Jesus tells us how not to worry. He says,

“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” Matthew 6:34

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us how to do that:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

It’s important to understand that this passage promises God’s peace, IF we meet two conditions. The first condition says, “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything” (that means ALWAYS substitute prayer for worry). The second condition says, “Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.” When we satisfy these two conditions, God promises to give us His peace.

There is an important principle in this verse, and here it is:

GOD’S PEACE IS THE SOLUTION FOR ALL WORRY.

So let’s apply this principle to a hypothetical situation. Let’s say we’re out of work. We have been looking for a job for a long time, and we getting more and more worried. So we decide to apply Philippians 4:6-7 to our situation. The passage says whenever we are worried, we need to stop and pray. We need to tell God what we need and thank Him for what He has done. So let’s do that. Here’s a prayer we might pray:

Lord, I am looking for a job. My reserves are getting low, and I am worried. You instruct me in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry, but tell You what I need and thank You for what You have done in the past. So here is what I need. I need some interviews. I have been submitting my resumes to many potential employers, but no one has responded. Lord, please open some doors and connect me with the right people. Lord, You have always provided for me in the past. Here are some examples _______________ I thank You for Your faithfulness. I am confident that You will continue to provide in the future according to Your perfect timing. Lord, when I pray this way, You promise Your peace. I believe You and trust You, and I ask You to do that now. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

That’s praying according to the passage. We’re meeting the conditions. And when we do that we can expect God’s peace, as we wait for Him to answer our requests.

OK, that covers the first 3 letters of the word POWERLESS. We will pick up next time.

Pastor Bob