A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

Today’s picture is from a lesson to the Unit 5 Innovative Entrepreneur class. It was drawn to deconstruct a chapter on the leadership from Chief Hanna’s book Mastering Self: to Lead Self and Others.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul helps us understand the responsibility and power of leadership.  As I read through today’s chapter, Chief Hanna’s principles on the power of leadership continued to surface in Paul’s life.  

Challenge: See if you can draw any similarities from Paul’s account and the image above as you read through the chapter.  If you find any that you’d like to share, or any other scripture that comes to mind, put them in the comments.  

I’ve included some takeaways from the reading below along with some other scripture that came to mind when reading it.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.- 1Corinthians 4:1-2

A follower of Christ is a steward of the truth.  The mysteries of God have been revealed plainly to us in the New Testament. (John 14:26)  The steward’s job is to protect the truth from perversion and proclaim it unfettered. (2Timothy 1:14, Romans 1:16)  The Word of God saves souls so I can see why it is important to steward it well, (James 1:21) but what does it mean to be a faithful steward?

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Perhaps the first step in being faithful is to recognize who we are to be faithful to. We are not men pleasers but God pleasers. (Ephesians 6:6-8)  We are slaves of God and we seek our Master’s glory.  We trust his Word and are not ashamed of it.  God is the only one fit to judge.  Comparison is empty if left to us.  Only One can compare rightly.  The Sprit compares us to God’s word.  This is a personal gift to help us each individually.  In the same way, we should not try to unwrap a friend’s birthday gift, we should not attempt to unwrap the Spirit’s gift of comparing others to the Word.  We only need protect the Word and proclaim it. 

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. – 1 Corinthians 4:6-8

Perhaps the second step in being faithful is to admit our position.  We own nothing but that which God has given us.  God has given us everything to steward for His glory.  

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 1Corinthians 9-13

Paul’s proper view of himself places him at the bottom which gives him the personal power to minister, save souls, and bring glory to God.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? – 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Paul’s example is faithfulness.  Words would not do, therefore Paul sent Timothy as a reminder of the power of a life.  Wisdom is not knowing things.  Wisdom is shown in a life lived well. (James 3:13)  Paul warns that he will inspect lives and discern the presence or absence of the power of God.

The Purpose of Comfort

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

Men Who Want to be Pleased

As we transition from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians to his letters to the Galatians we might hope for a more peaceful episode.  The Corinthian church, along with Paul directly, was attacked by false teachers.  Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were tough to read, in the sense that it is uncomfortable to read about the church under attack.  Though we might long to turn the page and find a pleasant account of everything going right easily, that is not what we get.  The church is again under siege by false teachers.  This time in Galatia.  

Free from man-pleasing

Paul opens this letter and gets right to the point.  In first-century letters, the first thing the writer did was identify himself.  Whereas now, we identify the writer at the end of the letter.  Paul fits in the point of his letter directly in the first order of business.  This tells us how aggressively he pursued to cleanse the church in Galatia of man-pleasing.

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) – Galatians 1:1

Paul is an apostle and he was made one by Christ, who God raised from the dead, not by anything of men nor by men.  This opening chapter and this letter go on to lay out the doctrine first revealed in John 8:32:  

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:32

Jesus is the truth. The false teachers were holding on to a false position in legalism that placed them above others, claiming God through the law.  Jesus sets his followers free from the law’s eternal wages.  (Galatians 2:16)

Two types of man-pleasing

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:  7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:6-19

There is so much here to discuss but I want to focus in on verse ten.  The strait statement that if Paul should seek to please men, he would not be a servant of Christ.  A simple if, then, statement of truth.  If we seek to please men, then we are not serving Christ.  Are we seeking pleasing men? 

The first type of man-pleasing that comes to mind is the exhausting burden of trying to please people.  The other day my business partner and I were at lunch discussing a seemingly difficult situation.  After too much talk, he said, “What if we just focused on God’s glory and didn’t worry about anything else?” Amen! Amen! The weight was lifted and our trust in the LORD ushered in the peace that transcends all understanding.  He is Good!  He is worthy of our trust!  He is trustworthy!  Praise God for freedom in the truth!  

The second type of man-pleasing is found in the introspection that there is another man who desires to be pleased.  Self.  It is not enough to let go of aiming to please others, we must also die to ourselves to be truly free.  Here is another question that brings freedom, this time from self.

“What if we set aside all our goals, everything we desire, weather seemingly good or not, and focused on God’s glory, trusting Him with everything we desire?”  Do we trust in God’s promises enough to commit all our goals to him and pursue His Glory alone? (Matthew 6:32-34, Proverbs 16:3, Mark 10:29-31, Luke 6:38 (what if we gave our desires to the LORD?), Matthew 6:10, Matthew 6:19-24, Luke 12:29-31, Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 8:5)

The last questions were in a different business conversation this past week as a friend and I wrestled with the “balance” of letting go and pushing/working hard.  I have come to believe that there is no balance required when trusting in God.  I am suspicious that any advice that points to balance as what is needed when considering priorities is faulty.  God wants to be number one on a list of one.  He wants us all in.  (Luke 9:62, Luke 9:23-24)

 

God, may we have single eyes for You. May Your kingdom come reign in our hearts.  May Your will replace our will.  May our hearts and eyes be for You and on You always. May our desires be committed to You in thanksgiving and contentment.  May we release them to Your care and loving kindness.  May You be gentle with us God.  We are sinners in the world.  May we never be of the world.  Amen.  

5 Essentials for Christian Growth

Have you ever seen a W.W.J.D. bracelet?  If you’re wondering, it stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’  When I was growing up my friends and I all wore them.  We had them in all different colors.  We wore them inside out and upside down.  We were all about our W.W.J.D. bracelets.  

I always thought W.W.J.D.  was a great reminder to do the right thing.  Growing up there are so many choices that we are faced with.  Finding the right answer was not always easy but this bracelet seemed to at least start us looking in the right direction.

As a Christian grows up they hope to mature in Christ.  They hope to have the right answers and make the right choices more than they did when they were young.  This is what happens when a Christian matures.  Scripture is clear that Christ followers will grow (2Peter 3:18, 1Peter 2:2, 1Timothy 4:15, Ephesians 4:15, 1Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 2:6-7, 2Corinthians 3:18) From our reading today, Philippians 1:9-11 reveals to us the 5 essentials for Christian growth. That is, the 5 ways the Spirit works in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Love

We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19)  It is no surprise that the first essential to Christian growth is love.  After all, love is the greatest attribute of a follower of Christ. (John 13:35)  In a world that tosses around this word seeking to destroy its meaning, it is always a good idea to return to the truth to test our definition of this defining characteristic of our faith in Jesus.

Agape is the word here translated as love. It is a self-sacrificing love.  Later in Philippians 2:1-8, Paul gives one of the fullest descriptions of agape love in the Bible. One statement from this scripture stood out to me, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What would our lives look like if everyone’s interest were always placed above our own?

Love is not blind.  Quite the opposite love is very perceptive, very discerning.  True love produces obedience that requires knowledge of the truth.  (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:10, 1John 3:24)  Here is a list of 1236 commands from the New Testament.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Philippians 1:9

  1. Excellence

Verse 10a begins, ‘that ye’ or ‘so that’ in the ESV, indicating that the first point is foundational to the second.  The word here ‘approve’ is ‘dokimazo’, meaning to allow, examine, prove, and discern.  The love of God, with its foundation in the Word (commands), not only helps us discern right from wrong but helps us discern what is best from what is only good.  God’s will is not good, it is perfect. (Romans 12:2)  Love and the Word help us find what is excellent.

When John Wesley went away to Oxford his mother wrote the following in a letter to him: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin.”

That ye may approve things that are excellent;
Philippians 1:10a

  1. Integrity

Verse 10b also begins with ‘that ye’ or ‘in order to be’ in the ESV, again making clear the continued progression of the text.  The word ‘sincere’ is ‘eilikrines’ and carries with it ideas of cohesiveness, oneness and unity.  What would our lives look like if everything touched everything else and ‘gelled’ as it were with no offences?  Does Christ touch every part of your life?  Is there any part of your life that you are keeping for you?  

that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:10b

  1. Good works

Verse 11a begins with ‘being’ or ‘having been filled’ in the ESV, a perfect passive participle in the Greek indicating something that happened in the past and is continuing here and now.  It is essential that we understand the progression of this Scripture.  The fruit’s appeal is instant gratification but trying to skip ahead or jump right to the fruit is a lie.  The fruit itself is not something to strive for in a direct sense.  The fruit is the byproduct of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Forced fruit without the leaven of love is legalism.  

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:11a

  1. Glory of God

Verse 11b begins with ‘unto’ or ‘to’ in the ESV, this is the purpose clause, it answers the question ‘why?’.  The most important essential is the glory of God.  Indeed it is the reason for the others.  

For a time I thought of reversing this list so that it would begin with God’s glory and end with love.  Though I decided against it, the reason was that it all actually starts here, with the end in mind.  

Our heart attitude is what sets all growth in motion, through the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Glory to God.  Glory to God is on the believer’s heart.  If God’s glory is our focus the Spirit will be at work in us, helping love abound in us, producing in us spiritual excellence, personal integrity, and genuine good works all to God’s glory.

As I made my way through this study I realised that there was one simple answer to that question ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus brings glory to the Father.

unto the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11b

God, may our eyes be single for You. Amen.

 

Study sources:

3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them)

Quenching and grieving the Spirit is the topic today, but first a little context on the role of the Spirit in our growth as followers of Christ.

We learned from Philippians 1:9-11 that there are 5 essentials in Christian growth.  We also learned that what sets this growth in motion is the Christian’s focus on God’s glory.  Lastly, we learned that what aids this growth is the Spirit.  If God’s glory is our focus, the Spirit will be at work in us – helping love abound in us, producing spiritual excellence in us, establishing personal integrity in us, and empowering genuine good works in us – all to God’s glory.

Simply put the Spirit’s work in us is to move us along a path to holiness.  Holiness means separate.  His work is to separate us further and further from sin, from temptation, from a preoccupation with the things of the world and thus closer to God.  This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Today’s reading issues a warning not to retard the work of the Spirit.  (1Thessalonians 5:19)  Today we will cover three things with a quick summary of each: 1.) the three stages of Christian growth, 2.) quenching the Spirit and 3.) stoking the Spirit.

The 3 Stages of Christian Growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  14 I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.  15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1John 2:12-16

Quenching the Spirit:

1Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 1Thessalonians 5:6-22 give us instruction on Christian living.  In this instruction, there is a warning not to quench the Spirit.  Throughout Scripture, the Spirit is revealed to us as fire.  When a believer quenches the Spirit, the Spirit is grieved. (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30)  When the Spirit is grieved it slows the Christian’s growth.  It is as if the Christian says “I’ve got this” to the Spirit by ignoring it and tosses a bucket of water on the fire.

Stoking the Spirit:

Stoking the Spirit is a term to illustrate the opposite of quenching the Spirit.  Here are three simple steps to stoke the Spirit.  The three steps for the recovering Christian:

  1. Read the Bible. (reading the Bible feeds the Spirit.)
  2. Listen to the Spirit. (quiet your life to be able to hear the still small voice and test what you hear against the Word.)
  3. Obey. (Luke 11:28, James 1:25, if there were a fourth step it would be: rinse, repeat.)

Stoking the Spirit is valuing the Spirit.  It is recognizing the Spirit as the source that empowers us to glorify God.  The Christian’s heart seeks God’s Glory, the Spirit sees it through. 

God, we need You.  Fill us with Your Spirit LORD.  May You reign in our hearts and may our eyes be Yours and Yours alone.  Amen.

Be Strong

Today’s reading gives us the patterns of a Godly man.  Paul is exhorting Timothy to “be strong” (v1), but Paul doesn’t stop there.  He gives us relatable examples of what it means to “be strong”.  

Paul gives us the example of the teacher, the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer, then he commissions Timothy to  “think over what [he said]”.  The examples are not long and exhaustive but Paul promises Timothy that “the Lord will give [him] understanding in everything” if he thinks over it.  (2Timothy 2:7)  

A wise man once said, “better to read little and think much than to read much and think little.”  Today’s journal entry includes some thoughts and reflections on these short powerful examples.  I would love if you would share some of yours in the comments or on facebook.   

The Teacher.  Christ instructed us to teach His commandments to all nations and modeled this for us through discipleship. (Matthew 28:20) . Discipleship is a chain.  Position yourself in the chain, between someone who will disciple you and who you can disciple.  Those you disciple should be carefully selected people who are faithful and trustworthy to carry on the chain.  (2Timothy 2:2)

The Soldier.  We are at war.  The soldier is not confused about work-life balance.  The two are integrated and his purpose is singular.  Full of integrity, his life is whole and complete.  There are no situations in which he changes modes or leaves something behind.  There is no clocking out.  A soldier at war is always on active duty.  He does not concern himself with things of the world.  His eye is single in the battle and pleasing his commander.  (2Timothy 2:3-4)

The Athlete.  It is a given that athletics require effort.  Even though some athletes have incredible natural abilities, fans tend to cheer on an underdog who gives it his all over the more skilled athlete who doesn’t.  Fans tend to gravitate to athletes who are ok with giving it their all and being beaten, even if it means everyone knows they could not have done any better or given an ounce more effort.  An athlete looks at the cost of defeat and competes anyways.  Humble athletes are fun to watch.  Still, even though effort is a given for athletics, no matter the effort expended, if the athlete breaks the rules he is disqualified.  (2Timothy 2:5)  

The Farmer.  The farmer is hard working.  This word is from a Greek verb meaning ‘to labor to the point of exhaustion.’  Day in, day out the farmer works amidst circumstances outside their control.  The farmer can not control the water, the bugs, the temperature, the sun, the clouds, or the shifting seasons, yet he works to the point of exhaustion in hopes that he might reap a harvest.  A farmer is truly seasoned in the art of sowing to the LORD and trusting Him with the harvest.  (2Timothy 2:6)

May we all continue to think over the Scripture and trust in the LORD to give us understanding.

Reading quote reference: Mastering Self: To Lead Self and Others by Chief Hanna