If you are a Christian, you battle with sin. I do not need to list examples of the struggles with the flesh you may have. The minute you read the title of this post, you most likely had a specific battle in mind. You have within you both flesh and Spirit, and the two are contrary to one another. However, knowing this does not mean the fight will be easy or that you have it all under control. Here are five truths about your battle with sin you hate to admit, followed by three points of encouragement.
1. Some battle scars are more recent than you are comfortable acknowledging.
As Christians, we are quick to acknowledge our struggles with sin, but we prefer to talk about past battles—the ones where we have seen significant victory. The problem is, you have recent battle wounds as well. The fact that the struggle is ongoing is not something you like to broadcast to the world.
2. You sometimes try to get as close to the flame as possible without getting burned.
No matter how much you despise the sin that so easily besets you, you still find yourself wanting to get as close to the fire as possible. You think, “I will only allow myself this much room and will draw the line here.” The problem is that every time you get close to the line, it seems to move just a little further. This tendency to push boundaries has left you beating yourself up over going too far on more than one occasion.
3. You sometimes wonder why you desire the very thing you despise.
Every time the deceitfulness of sin deceives you, you wonder how, at times, you desire the very thing you hate. Like Paul, you cry out, “who will save me from this body of death?” Even when you want to do right, evil is close at hand. You know that the problem with temptation is you because deep down, you still have desires that war against your soul.
4. When it comes to your growth in godliness, you thought you would be further along than you are now.
You often think back to the many times you swore it was the last time, and you set out to grow in godliness. If you have been a Christian for a long time now, you remember looking forward to this time in your life with great anticipation. You imagined you would have experienced greater sanctification than you have.
5. You wonder if you are the only one; there must be other Christians out there who have risen above this.
You occasionally look at other Christians and think, surely they do not have to war with sin the way I do. They seem to be the picture of holiness. When you look at them from the outside, you think, “certainly, their heart does not struggle like mine.” You may even hear from someone who claims, contrary to scripture, to have stopped sinning, and you think, maybe it is true. Perhaps it is just me.
What you need to know
1. You are not an anomaly because being a Christian means battling sin.
This fight is something we all face, and warfare never happens without a few wounds. The fact that sanctification will not be completed this side of eternity means that every believer still has unsanctified areas in their life, no matter how holy they are. In fact, the closer you walk with Jesus, the more aware of the battle you will become. The problem is not when you feel the conflict; the problem is when you do not. John Newton once asked the Lord that he might grow and found that these inward trials were part of the growth process. Temptation will continue to come as long as you live, and it can be difficult to resist, but our acceptance in Christ does not decay because we encounter temptation. As John Owen once said, “When we say a tree is firmly rooted, we do not say the wind never blows upon it.”
2. You are not alone because Jesus is with you.
Christ did not go to the cross to atone for your sin and bring you forgiveness to leave you to yourself to see if you could hack it. He called you, and He will keep you. Even when He sends His rod of correction, His love is dealing with you, not His wrath. His wrath was satisfied on the cross. He is faithful and just to complete the work He has begun in you. You can look back and see victories over sin in your life, and you will continue to see more. Stay close to our Savior, hide His word in your heart, and pray without ceasing. He has promised to be with you, even to the end of the age.
3. The enemy will continue to accuse you, but there is no condemnation in Christ.
The enemy will frequently tell you that you are not worthy of being a Christian. Never go for the bait because what he wants you to do at that moment is to begin to justify yourself. The minute you start listing off all your good qualities and victories over sin, he will have you right where he wants you. There are clear victories you have experienced in Christ, and you are right to rejoice in them, but they do not make you worthy to be a Christian. When Satan tells you, you are not worthy to be a Christian; the correct response is to agree with him. Of course, I am not worthy of being a Christian; no one is. I was not worthy in the past, I am not worthy now, and I will not be worthy in the future, but Jesus is worthy, and my worth is in Him. I am counted righteous in Him. And if you ever start to believe the lie that you may have fallen beyond forgiveness, here is something you can do to defeat the enemy’s lie and remind yourself that Christ’s atoning work is fully sufficient. Picture Jesus dying on the cross and imagine yourself walking up to Him, and try to tell Him He didn’t do enough to atone for your sins.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6