The Way 2 Life
  Do you know the nature of Sin?
 

Do you know the nature of sin?

Above all else, sin is deceptive. It entices its victims with lies, lures them away from safety, and kills them. Sin promises pleasure, and delivers pain, sorrow, and death (James. 1:14, 15). Sin is crafty and subtle, like the serpent in Eden. Sin presents itself as a trusted ally, offering friendly counsel and whispering sweet promises, but it will always deceive. Sin can never be trusted.

When you look back on its history, you discover a track record of treachery.

Sin deceived Eve with a piece of forbidden fruit, and weakened Adam to turn away from God’s clear command, plunging the human race into ruin.

Sin deceived Achan with a forbidden mantle, and his whole family suffered death by stoning.

Sin deceived David with a forbidden woman, leading him into adultery, deception, murder, and a conspiratorial cover-up; David’s family and kingdom never recovered.

Sin deceived Solomon with foreign wives, leading him into idolatry; it tore his kingdom apart.

Sin deceived Judas with a meager 30 pieces of silver, for which he committed the most notorious crime in history—betraying the Son of God.

Sin deceived Ananias and Sapphira with the deadly combination of money and prestige, leading them to lie to the Holy Spirit, for which they forfeited their lives.

In every case, sin allured its victim with some delectable, promising what was desired. Like bait on a hook, sin offered wisdom, pleasure, wealth, and respectability. It delivered death.

Know the enemy !

Are you ready to kill sin?

That’s a stark question, and it demands qualification, but killing is a regular part of the Christian life. There’s an aspect of being a Christian that’s downright violent.

You see, God commands us to hunt down and kill all remaining sin—to terminate it with extreme prejudice. Want proof? Here’s what Paul said in Romans 8:12-14

“12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 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. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” 

Or, how about Colossians 3:5?

“5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

So, there you are, Christian. Paul didn’t say, “Negotiate or bargain with sin”—this isn’t diplomacy; there’s no call for making threats or shooting sin in the leg. God calls you to identify, locate, attack, and execute the enemy, the sin in your members. Put it to death. Period.

Your objective is clear, and your enemy has been identified.

But do you really know sin? You’d better. Being ignorant of the adversary is inexcusable because God has revealed everything you need to know about it—its nature, its strategy, and its goal.

Only a fool would engage an enemy he doesn’t understand, whose strengths and tactics he doesn’t know. Try that approach in sports, you jeopardize the game; try it in business and watch your revenue plummet. But those losses are petty compared with the health of your soul (Rom. 8:13). In the relentless war against sin, ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s suicide.

Think of it like this. If it was your job to track down and eliminate a dangerous group of insurgents, what would you need to know to accomplish your objective? You’d want to know their background, identify their leaders, understand their goals, and learn their strengths and weaknesses. You’d familiarize yourself with their allies, technological sophistication, weaponry, tactics, and a whole lot more.

Now take that approach with sin. What do you need to know about sin to put it to death? Let me give you some things to think about:

Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? What fair siren is this who seated on a rock by a deadly pool smiles to deceive, sings to lure, kisses to betray and flings her arm round our neck to leap with us into perdition? Sin.”

That’s the nature of sin. It’s deceitful and crafty.

The Strategy of Sin.

The main strategy of sin is to excite lust, tempting you with an opportunity to fulfill it. When you take the bait, it yanks the hook and you’re caught. That’s exactly the picture James painted: “14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14: 15).

The temptation may come from the outside, but for the strategy to work, there must be a cooperating attraction on the inside. And there is—the internal lusts, betraying thoughts, and sinful impulses. James revisits the concept in chapter 4:1-2.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.”

Notice the progression? You want, you need, you demand, and finally you take, whatever the cost.

Sin is treacherous. Pride, resentment, bitterness, and unbelief are choice weapons in its arsenal, and it’ll work through your dissatisfaction, jealousy, fear, sorrow, or anger, taking advantage of multiple entry points. It’ll ambush you at the point of a recent accomplishment, a spiritual milestone, or even a season of victory over other sins. Sin’s strategy is to find and target your most vulnerable spot. Again, here’s sin’s strategy:


Sin is always acting, always conceiving, and always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he has ever had anything to do with God or for God which indwelling sin has not tried to corrupt?...There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails, or is prevailed upon. It will always be so while we live in this world. Sin will not spare for one day. There is no safety but in a constant warfare for those who desire deliverance from sin’s perplexing rebellion.


The Goal of Sin.


At the end of the day, what is sin’s goal? What’s its objective, what does it want?
First, sin wants to master you. Consider the Bible’s first description of sin, provided by God Himself. He warned Cain in Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” I can’t think of a more eerie description of sin than that. “Its desire is for you” means sin wants you, it’s coming after you! God compares sin to a savage beast, poised to attack yet patiently waiting for the victim’s weakest, most vulnerable moment. Sin isn’t necessarily hiding, but waiting. Sin wants to dominate you. That’s its goal.


If you remember, sin triumphed over Cain. Sin took control of his thoughts, mastered his emotions, and governed his behavior; and it resulted in Cain’s demise. Cain was the first person God cursed in the Bible; now he awaits the judgment. In Cain, sin accomplished its goal, and here’s the path: deceive, divide, dominate, and destroy.

A second goal of sin is to defile and corrupt.

Sin is defiling. We need to understand that its nature is that it defiles. It is to precious metal what rust is. It is what scars are to a lovely face, what stain is to silk cloth, what smog is to an azure sky. It is a defiling thing. It makes the soul red with guilt and black with evil. In 1 Kings 8, the sin of man's heart is compared to oozing sores of a deadly plague. In Zechariah 3:3, compared to filthy garments. It is a defiling polluting staining thing. It stains the soul and blots out the image of God…sin pollutes and defiles and stains and mars everything it touches. And it touches everything in the human realm.

Sin is like a cancerous disease. It is entrenched deep within the heart, undetected but not inactive. If it’s not rooted out, it will grow, infect other areas, and eventually take over to the detriment and destruction of the entire body. Sin corrupts and defiles everything it touches—families, governments, churches. Sin seeks the ruin of its host, always.

A third goal of sin is to diminish the glory of Christ and dim the hope of the gospel. Sin produces despair, tempting you to abandon any hope of forgiveness. Sin wants you to feel perpetually unworthy and never look to Christ. It wants to hide God’s face (Isa. 59:2) and distort the gospel. Sin wants to paralyze the sinner with fear and condemnation, and then hide the remedy.

Sin seeks to do all those things because, if successful, it will destroy your soul. That’s its ultimate objective. Sin wants you in hell.

Make no mistake. Sin is a fierce enemy and has devised your ruin. From the very beginning God has warned us about sin’s cunning and treachery. Sin entices, masters, and then kills (Gen. 4:7; Jam. 1:15; Heb. 12:1). It cannot and will not be ignored, so it must be executed.

You know sin is your enemy. You understand it lurks deep within your members, warring against your soul, seeking to ambush you at your most vulnerable moment. You’ve experienced its power and treachery many times.

You would agree with Paul when he says you’re under obligation to put all remaining sin to death—to kill it (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). You know that too.

How to Slay Sin.

You know sin is your enemy. You understand it lurks deep within your members, warring against your soul, seeking to ambush you at your most vulnerable moment. You’ve experienced its power and treachery many times.

You would agree with Paul when he says you’re under obligation to put all remaining sin to death—to kill it (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). You know that too.

But what you may not know is…how. How do you slay sin?

 This is how you slay sin.

First, understand your true position as a Christian.

This is a call to think biblically about the way you relate to sin. Miss this vital first step, and the rest will be nothing but a self-improvement exercise.

Study the Bible carefully and you’ll notice Scripture rarely calls you to practice a specific behavior without first laying down some kind of theological foundation or framework. That was especially clear in Paul’s epistles, the transition from doctrine to duty, belief to behavior (cf. Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:1). Practice follows position, application flows out of sound theology.

That’s what you see as Paul develops the doctrine of mortification in the book of Romans. Before you learn anything about the struggle you face as a Christian, before you hear the call to put that sin to death, you first learn how you should view sin. Here’s how that section begins in chapter 6:6-7
 

“6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

Notice the syllogism in that verse, Paul’s argument. Major premise: all those who die with Christ are free from sin. Minor premise: you died with Christ. Conclusion: you are free from sin. Free. From. Sin.

Let that truth settle in your mind, Christian. Christ triumphed over your sin, and because of your union with Him, His victory becomes your victory. That’s the reason you see the phrase “with Christ” throughout that entire section. You’ve been crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ. With Christ means you are united with Him and in Christ you have participated in everything He accomplished. 

The extent of your freedom becomes clear in Romans 6:11: “Consider yourself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Don’t miss the powerful point in that verse. It has huge implications for how you fight against sin. You are free from sin (v. 7); you are dead to sin (vv. 7, 11); you are alive to God in Christ.

Let me ask you this question: What difference does that perspective make when sin ambushes you? Do you think it would be to your advantage, at the moment of temptation, to see yourself as free from sin? What power does a dead, defeated enemy have over you?

I hope you see how that makes all the difference in the world. That’s why Paul continues in verse 12, saying, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.” Sin is a conquered foe. Don’t let it return to power in your life.

That’s the vital first step to slaying sin in your life—don’t give sin any power. By God’s grace, by the power of the Spirit who indwells you, you call the shots in your life, you choose what you will and will not think about. You’re not a victim here. You’re not the defeated enemy here, sin is. Treat it like the cowering, quivering captive it is.

But you say, “Why does sin seem so strong?” Because you’ve been accustomed to thinking like a captive rather than a victor. You’ve been used to thinking like a slave of sin rather than a slave of Christ and righteousness. If you understand who you really are in Christ, you undermine sin’s ability to deceive you and gain a foothold in your life.

You were once enslaved to sin. It owned and controlled you. But now, because of Christ you’re free from it and dead to it. He purchased you out of the slave market of sin and made you His slave. You are now in Christ.

That’s your position as a Christian. Understand and enjoy it. That’s step one in slaying sin.

 Weaken sinful habits and strengthen righteous behavior.

Imagine you’re facing an enemy on the battlefield who enjoyed a good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a personal escort to the most strategic position on the battlefield. And here’s the worst part—you provided all those things! Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? What kind of lunatic makes provision for his enemies and gives them that kind of advantage?

Think about that. Isn’t it true that so often, instead of weakening sin by cutting off all provision, we strengthen and empower sin, by giving it occasion to take root and grow strong? But notice how Scripture addresses that attitude, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).


Did you catch that important command? Make no provision. Don’t feed and strengthen sin. Starve it out; weaken it; keep it in an anemic state. Subject it to a slow, debilitating death by removing its strength and vitality. You must cut off all support and provision for sin as if you were laying siege to a castle.

In ancient warfare, an invading army would surround a castle and cut off all supply of food, water, reinforcements…and means of escape. Then the troops would settle down and wait on the inhabitants to either surrender or die—victory by attrition. It was an effective strategy, and a great example of how you should lay siege to indwelling sin. An enemy without strength will soon be a defeated enemy.

A malnourished sinful habit will soon die. Count on it. Richard Baxter once said, “Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out, by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.” The idea is to wear down and weaken your sinful habits, to keep them in a perpetual state of death.

 As a Christian, you have power over sin. You can weaken and kill it, and the Bible shows you how.

Search carefully and you’ll notice how some of the most practical chapters in the New Testament command you to “put off,” “lay aside,” “abstain from,” and “do away with” corrupt behavior, much like you would take off old, worn-out clothes and put on brand-new ones.

That’s the language woven throughout Ephesians 4:22-32 and Col. 3:8-17. In Colossians 3, Paul writes:

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (vv. 8-10)

But notice how the Word of God not only tells you which sinful habits to put off in those sections, it goes further and provides righteous replacements:

Replace lying with truth telling.

Replace stealing with working.

Replace hatred with love.

Replace bitterness with forgiveness.

Replace pride with humility.

Replace harshness with gentleness.

Replace coldness with compassion.

If you read those sections carefully, you’ll notice how the message moves from what God has done for you in Christ, to what you have been empowered to do for Christ. The power to choose which behavior you wear rests with you, Christian.

 Fill your mind with Scripture.

The Word of God is the weapon you simply cannot neglect.

Have you ever considered some of the symbols the Bible uses to describe itself? Scripture is called a light, hammer, fire, rock, mirror, milk, seed and water. Each highlights a unique characteristic of God’s Word, but by far the most memorable metaphor of the Bible is a sword (Eph. 6:17). Any idea why?

God’s Word is sharp and able to penetrate effectively through thick layers of sin and hypocrisy. It can effortlessly slice through soul and spirit, laying bare the thoughts and intentions of your heart (Heb. 4:12). It serves dual purposes in battle—deflecting blows from the enemy and inflicting wounds of its own (Mt. 4:1-11). As you handle God’s Word and experience more of its power, both your skill and confidence will increase (Heb. 5:14). See the parallels?

Here’s one more you may not have considered. In the Bible, a sword often symbolizes execution (Matt. 26:52; Rom. 13:4,). It’s an instrument of death—a killing device. Before the electric chair, the gas chamber, or lethal injection, governments would use a sword to carry out the death sentence. The imagery is powerful.

If you want to carry out the death sentence on your sin, you need God’s help. Lay aside your puny, inadequate human weapons (2 Cor. 10:4) and take up God’s mighty sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Remember, this battle is spiritual and you can kill sin only “by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:13). You’re no match for sin, but sin is no match for the Holy Spirit. God’s Word is sufficient to the task. It’s the greatest spiritual resource you have, Christian, and it boasts of an utterly unique identity.

The Holy Spirit authors it (2 Pet. 1:21), empowers it (1 Thess. 1:5), and interprets it (2 Pet. 1:20). Scripture is your quintessential spiritual weapon, forged by God Himself.

Since God’s Word is the single most powerful weapon you possess, to neglect or ignore it is absurd:

A pilot without his chart, a scholar without his book, and a soldier without his sword, are alike ridiculous. But, above all these, it is absurd for one to think of being a Christian, without knowledge of the word of God and some skill to use this weapon. -

No believer has excuse for not knowing and understanding God’s Word. Every believer has God’s own Holy Spirit within Him as his own divine teacher of God’s divine Word. Our only task is to submit to His instruction by studying the Word with sincerity and commitment. We cannot plead ignorance or inability, only disinterest and neglect.

You can’t escape the New Testament’s various charges to be saturating your mind with the Word of God: “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you” (Col. 3:16). “Like newborn babes, long for the milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

Only Scripture is said to be profitable for “reproof, correction, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It’s the hammer that smashes rocky hearts; the fire that purifies tainted motives. Unleash Scripture on your sin, Christian. It knows exactly what to do—search and destroy (Ps. 139:23-24).

Filling your mind with Scripture is the most powerful measure you can take against indwelling sin. It will help you:

Anchor your hope in the gospel (1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1)

Behold the beauties of Christ (Phil. 2)

Consider the horrors of hell (Matt. 5:29-30)

Set your sights on heaven (2 Tim. 4:8)

Cultivate a hatred for sin (Heb. 3:12-13)

Understand the will of God (Eph. 5:17)

Recall God’s promises of deliverance (Ps. 46:1)

So, let God’s Word fill, enrich, renew and control your thinking—or let sin. Either Scripture will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from Scripture.

Our sins often “play dead” too, especially when faced with the threat of execution. They fake death in order to escape it. While you may think you’ve slain a particular sin, sometimes life still pulses within your enemy and it secretly takes its leave, stays quiet, and waits on danger to pass.

We’ve all been tricked by sin’s craftiness, haven’t we? How many times have you sheathed your sword, convinced sin was finished, only to suffer a violent retaliation a few hours later? How does that happen, and what can you do to stop it?

Killing sin is not covering it up:

You may appear successful at covering up your sin. You can easily deceive your friends, family, and pastors. For awhile, you may even deceive yourself (Jer. 17:9). But hiding sin is not killing it—you’ll reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7).When you paint over sin like graffiti on a wall, that’s not putting it to death, it’s practicing hypocrisy. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion."

Rather than conceal your sins, confess and forsake them. That’s how you kill sin (1 John 1:9). Merely covering up your sin obscures the problem from plain sight, which keeps it secret. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Sin doesn’t die in those conditions—it thrives.

Killing sin is not internalizing it.

 When you stop your tongue, body, hands, eyes and ears from sinning, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ve killed sin. Stopping the action is part of the process (as we noted last post), but binding your hands is not the same as keeping your heart (Pr. 4:23). Sinful actions are driven by sinful attitudes (James 4:1-2)—you must kill both.

Some imagine that ceasing sinful activity equates to gaining victory over sin, yet they often continue ruminating on the pleasures of previous sins in their mind.

Perhaps you reason with yourself, “I'm not going to entertain myself by going to movies that parade immorality,” and so you stop. But maybe you allow the vivid imagery of those past sins, the experiences of seeing those movies, to creep back into your mind and relive the pleasures of those sins over and over. That’s not killing sin.

Killing sin is not forsaking some sins while tolerating others.

Don’t imagine you’ve slain sin when you merely forsake one glaring sin while you tolerate others. Remember, even the minutest transgression of God’s holy law carries enough guilt and offense to cast you into hell for all eternity (Rom. 6:23). What good could come from trading the lust of the flesh for the lust of the eyes, or the lust of the eyes for the pride of life (1 John 2:16)? The lust hasn’t died; it merely changed forms. That would be like drinking a less-deadly poison—the result is the same. Likewise, forsaking sexual immorality but tolerating greed and covetousness is futile and puts you at greater risk of being hardened by sin’s deceit (Heb. 3:13).

Remember when Simon Magus appeared to forsake his sorcery in Acts 8? Time revealed the truth—his repentance was a sham. He apparently put away his spells and incantations, but his sinful ambition was alive and well. When Simon’s un-slain sin sought expression, the apostle Peter called him out:

You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours…for I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity. (Acts 8:21-23)

Don’t engage in selective sin-forsaking, and then imagine you’ve progressed spiritually. To trade sins is simply to prefer one sewage over another.

 Killing sin is not repressing it.

Some people repress sin with drugs and alcohol. They drink themselves into oblivion or take drug-induced trips away from reality. But there are even Christians who suppress their guilt with movies, music, and worldly entertainment. They find distractions to eclipse the misery sin brings. If that doesn’t suit them, some will even consult counseling professionals who attempt to manage the person’s guilt by elevating his self-esteem.

People seem to become very lazy, almost indifferent when it comes to contending against sin. Even the thought of fighting against temptation wearies them. So they don’t fully commit to the battle. Instead, they repress their sins with work, the gym, or tragically, even ministry—anything to resist full engagement with the enemy. But that’s not killing sin. David wrote:

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. (Ps. 32:3-4)

Keep in mind, that confession came from a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). David testified to both the deceit and misery of sin. He was able—for a time at least—to suppress his guilt, until God came and announced His glorious work of putting David’s sin away (2 Sam. 12:13). David slaughtered God’s enemies by the tens of thousands (1 Sam. 18:7), but the enemy within his bosom proved too elusive for him.

 Killing sin is not enjoying occasional victories over it.

Occasional conquests of sin do not count as killing sin. When a person faces some sudden invasion of sin in his life—such as a scandal or some evil tragedy—and becomes all stirred up about it, he may feel he has killed sin. He reacts to sin as fervently as the Corinthians did in 2 Cor. 7:11. But when the lust dies down for a time, he forgets about it. Yet the lust is like a thief that has only lain low in order to start its felony once more.

Likewise, when a sinner faces the affliction of some calamity, or the exposure of some sin, he deals with the problem by resolving never to do it again. It appears that the sin is gone, whereas it is only concealed, waiting to come back later on.

Killing sin is not ignoring your conscience.

 Part of the process of killing your sin is working through the issue of guilt. Until your conscience is quiet, and fully appeased, sin is still alive and active. If you truly want to know those areas of your life where sin thrives, listen to your conscience. Like sonar on a battleship, it can detect enemy presence hidden beneath the surface, in places you can’t immediately see or hear. To ignore the presence of the enemy is to hasten death.

If you want to kill sin, don’t ignore your conscience. Inform it with biblical truth so it functions accurately, flooding your soul with knowledge like a skylight brings light into a dark room.

You and I live in a culture that counsels us to run from guilt and kill our conscience. But it’s not wise to throw away your shield in battle, nor is it safe to ignore your conscience. Pain tells you something is wrong in your body; guilt tells you something is wrong in your soul. Listen to your conscience, Christian. If you silence the pangs of your conscience, you’re not killing sin—you’re accommodating it.

So the next time your sin drops to the ground before you, closes its eyes, and appears dead, don’t sheathe your sword. Review the points we’ve covered, examine your heart, and make sure you’ve done the grueling, Spirit-empowered work of completely executing your sin.

 
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