written by Kyle DeGuzman
Every believer, either new to the Faith or a seasoned veteran, knows all too well the vicious battle with sin and temptation. We have all weathered the fierce storm of fighting for minutes, hours, even days against the old self that so desires to grab us back into our former ways. And we have all tasted the bitterness of falling into sin – sometimes even the same one over and over again. We can find ourselves in the same situation and pattern of sin and be trapped in a cycle of habitual sin that we cannot seem to escape. Have you been there? Or maybe you are currently in a spiritual drought right now and feel hopeless, dejected, and discouraged to take up your sword and continue the fight. Have you been tasting defeat in your battle with the flesh? If this is true of your current state, I hope that the following may give you strength and resolve to continue your daily fight with sin and that you may find victory over the flesh through Christ who strengthens us.
When discussing our fight with sin, we must first know the means by which we are to fight. For this, Romans 8:13 provides a succinct answer. It says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” From this, it is clear that God has provided the Spirit for us to put to death our fleshly deeds. It is a simple charge that we are given. But what does that mean or look like exactly? What are we to do? What does it mean to put things to death “by the Spirit?” This question racked my mind when I first came across it in Scripture. At first glance, it is one of those ambiguous passages in Scripture that we can nod our heads in agreement to and yet not fully understand its meaning. However, understanding this verse is crucial if we are to see victory, because it is our Lord’s prescribed way to kill our sin. Let’s delve deeper into this idea of killing sin by the Spirit.
The wrong interpretation of this command, which I came to during my early years as a believer, is that this is a passive act that is done by the Spirit alone in some mystical way. I thought that killing sin did not involve activity on my part, but instead, a work of the Spirit that would just happen over time. This is so far from the truth and is an extremely dangerous way of living our lives. This is a huge misunderstanding of the Spirit’s role. Paul says that by the grace of God, he was what he was, and that this grace caused him to work and strive even harder in his life for God (1 Corinthians 15:10) — quite the opposite mindset of a passive approach to the Christian life. So then, if this is an active charge for the believer to kill sin, what exactly are we to do? The answer: strive to rest in Christ. This idea comes from Matthew 11:28-30, where it says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Christ calls us to rest in Him because He gives us an easier load to carry. What does this mean for us? How do we rest in Christ and how does this lead to effective sin-killing in the end?
The key in putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit is realizing that it is a call to rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross and find our satisfaction in Him. Christian, it is imperative that you remember that you have been bought with the blood of Christ and that you have been freed from the chains of sin. Sin has no more power over you, for you have died with Christ in His death and are therefore dead to sin (Romans 6:6-7). Do you realize what this means? We are no longer captives. We are free! That is why sin has no more power over us. Sin may seem powerful and overwhelming because we still think we are captives and believe that sin is still our master. But if you are a child of God, you can stand up to your sin and refuse it because you now belong to Christ, and nothing can separate you from Him and His love for you (Romans 8:38-39). Let this Gospel truth not only remind you of the victory that you have in Christ, but also lead you to greater love, affection, and ultimately worship of Him who has so graciously saved you. This is just as important in our fight with sin because in the end, our fight with sin is a fight for our worship. A desire for sinful pleasure must be trumped with a greater pleasure and satisfaction in Christ. Do not settle for the fleeting pleasures of sin, when we have a God who has pleasures at his right hand forever more (Psalm 16:11). Let God be your contentment and your desire. Find your rest in Him, and you will find victory over your flesh. How do we find our pleasure in God over sin? Be with Him and know Him through prayer and the Word. We can only love God more if we seek Him through the way He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. May the following chorus from a beloved hymn be your anthem as you seek to find your rest and victory in Christ:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”