Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why You Have to Fight Sin by Trusting in God

I said here and here that in order to overcome sin and temptation, you have to let go of trusting in your own willpower and turn instead to putting all your hope and trust in God to provide the strength to resist. Here are some examples of how the Bible emphasizes this truth:

"Thus says the LORD:
'Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

'Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.'"
Jeremiah 17:5-8

Paul said of his ministry: "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God... ." 2 Corinthians 3:5

Paul also confessed: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." Romans 7:18-25

Paul recognized that he did not have the ability himself to obey what is right. He saw that his physical body was captive to the desire for sin, even when he wanted with his mind to obey God. And in verses 24-25 he emphasizes that he needs someone else to deliver him from this state, and then gives praise to God through Jesus Christ - the one who delivers him.

One of the most subtle deceptions that keep us trapped in a pattern of sin is the idea that our hearts and minds are basically good and capable of doing the right thing if we just try hard enough. Too many people cling to this idea as a self-image, not wanting to accept that they are not good by nature. Our hope of freedom is not found in being able to think of ourselves as good people. It is found in recognizing that God has shown inexhaustible and profound grace to us by loving, forgiving, restoring, and accepting us even though we were not good. Until we accept that we really are sinful and unable to obey God ourselves, we will not appreciate the relationship of salvation. It is, and must be, a total dependence on God alone for mercy and freedom. And that is the same way we have to continue to live, trusting God moment to moment to keep us from turning away from Him to seek after the deception of sin. I'll address this more deeply here and here.

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