5 Signs Sin Has a Powerful Grip on Your Life

As believers, we struggle against sin and temptation. There will never be a time in our lives when we will not be striving against it. However, fighting against sin is one thing; sin having control is quite another. Sin can quickly gain power in our lives if we are not diligent. This is why John Owen said, ‘Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” In his book, The Mortification of Sin, Owen does us an excellent service by providing us with five signs that sin has a stronghold on us. Take a minute to look through the following list. If you recognize any of these patterns in your life, be sure that you are in a dangerous condition of sin.

1. You have a besetting sin that is constant and unlikely to change.

I will not bother to give examples of besetting sins. If you have one, your mind went to it the minute you read the heading. Look over the past five years. As you think about your struggle with this sin, can you see any improvement at all? Sanctification may be slow work at times, but it does happen. If you cannot see any change in your relationship to that sin, and it looks as if it is unlikely to change in the near future, you need to see your condition as serious; especially if the pattern of sin is getting worse.

2. You have secret pleas of the heart to approve of your sin.

As you think about the desire for the sin in your life, have you ever thought, “I could do this whenever I wanted if I did not take this Christian thing so seriously.” Or perhaps you have asked yourself, “Is my interpretation of scripture too ridged? Certainly, something so natural cannot be so bad.” Maybe it has progressed to the point where you are thinking, “Maybe you need to change churches, other, more liberal, congregations see this as normal, and they let their people enjoy it.” If these thoughts are crossing your mind, realize that sin at work, and it is attempting to move you away from Christ. This could be the beginning of a drift toward apostasy. Most people who have left the faith have done so for this reason. They have listened to the secret cries of sin in their heart.

3. You indulge and delight in the sin even after you have attempted to kill it.

Perhaps you have grown sick of this sin and have even tried to put it to death. You go through periods in your life where you try to put it away, and maybe you see some success for short periods, but after a short time, you find yourself back in the mire. If this is the case, it is time to recognize how much strength this sin has in your life.

4. You find that your distress surrounding the sin focuses more on the fear of getting caught more than being right with God.

The sin in your life may cause you genuine anxiety that you assume is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The problem is that you are more concerned about your reputation than you are about your relationship with God. This misdirected concern is what the Bible calls worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow has a different focus. This reality reveals how deep the deceitfulness of sin runs in your heart. If this is you, your sin has deadened you to the point where you care little for your relationship with Christ.

5. God sends warning shots of chastisement across your bow, and you still resist.

If this sin has been with you for some time, you have probably experienced difficulties in your life, and you know God is dealing with you. It is as if he is warning you to repent because if you do not, he will lay his heavy hand on you because he loves you. You may have even backed off for a time, cried out for God’s forgiveness, but as soon as the danger passed, you went right back. When you do this, sin is causing you to resist the Holy Spirit and you need to deal with it.

If any of these five signs apply to your current situation, no matter how involved you are in your church, or how Godly the people around you think you are, you are not in the will of God, and sin is controlling you. It is time to draw up under your Savior.

The one good thing about experiencing any of these five situations is you finally realize that your indwelling sin nature is more than you can handle on your own. It is stronger than you, and it always has been. You are just now beginning to realize it. It is not until you come to this point that you can properly bring it to Jesus and lay it at his feet. From there, you need to apply all the means of grace in our life, Bible reading, prayer, corporate worship, the Lord’s supper, and a close relationship with a body of believers who can help keep you accountable.

In the end, remember this. Jesus died for you, he has been faithful to you even as you wandered, and he will not leave you in your time of need. Call upon him in the day of trouble; He will deliver you, and you shall glorify him (Psalm 50:15). 

-D. Eaton

Coronavirus in Light of Psalm 93

If we withhold the doctrine of the sovereignty of God while discussing coronavirus, we withhold one of the most precious balms of comfort for the Christian found in the word of God. Scripture does not shrink back from showing us God’s sovereign rule amid distress, and neither should we. We indeed only have two choices when it comes to the evils besetting us in covid-19, either our Lord is still in control, or something else is, and he is doing the best he can to manage the situation and turn it for our good. The latter would be an appalling reality because God would no longer be God, and we would have no reason to take comfort. Psalm 93 is an excellent place to find real comfort, especially if we read it in light of the multiple distresses that are coming our way due to coronavirus.

The Reign of God

1. The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

The first two verses of this short psalm begin by focusing our attention on the attributes of God, primarily as they relate to his sovereign reign. It does not matter what we may face, his throne is established, and his eternal decree orders all things.

He is robed in majesty. Sovereignty is his garment. He is the supreme authority over all things, and He has put on strength as his belt. The belt that holds his rule in place is his power. His omnipotence can never be thwarted. No sin of man, no deadly virus, or any other calamity can ever diminish his perfections. He reigns on high.

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. The world will stand as long as our Father wants it to stand. Humanity will endure as long as he sees fit. Even considering covid-19, the planet continues orbiting the sun and spins with perfection upon its axis, all because of our Father’s established rule.

2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

His throne is established from of old; He is from everlasting. We may not have been paying much attention to it before now, but once a microscopic particle altered our lives, we began looking around for meaning. Our minds were turned to thoughts of our frailty and his strength. As Charles Spurgeon put it, though he may now appear in more conspicuous sovereignty, He is no upstart sovereignty. He is from everlasting. The Lord is eternal, and so are his glorious attributes.

Coronavirus Lifts Its Voice

3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord. We saw it first when a few people began to get sick and and some of them die. Then it began to spread, and the number of those infected began to grow. The whole world began to pay attention to the rising tide.

The floods have lifted up their voice. We heard its shouts of conquest as it began to conquer one country after another. Victory after victory, as it shut down enterprise after enterprise and sent people running for the cover of their homes.

The floods lift up their roaring. The market crashed, employment rates crumbled, and grocery stores were depleted. The sound of the roar sent anxiety and distress deep into the heart of nations as wave after wave was announced in real-time on the news and in social media.

God is More Mighty than the Virus

4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

As we trembled before the tempest, we were reminded that there is one who is more mighty. The Lord can restrain it. His knowledge and power are far greater than that of any enemy. He can bring it to an end in an instant if he so chooses. He is the Almighty. This truth also means he could have prevented it if he had desired, but he did not. His ways are higher than ours.

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore.

His Decrees are very trustworthy. What he chooses to do is right, even if we do not fully understand. His word stands unmoved. His promises do not waiver amid chaos. We are to build our house on the rock, and when the waves crash upon it, it will stand. He is trustworthy.

Holiness befits his houseO Lord forevermore. All he does is good, and even the distress we face is for the good of those who love him. God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all. As he wears the robe of majesty, the only proper adornment of his house is holiness. It is his beauty and splendor. It is also the only ornament appropriate for his people. Through the tumult, he is orchestrating it all to conform us to his image and adorn us in a similar beauty. He will complete the work he has begun in us, and we never need to fear because his reign will never end. He is the Lord forevermore.

-D. Eaton

We Echo Satan When We Laugh at the Sins of Others

By other men’s sins, a holy man is put in mind of the badness of his own heart. Bernard makes mention of an old man, who, when he saw any man sin, lamented and wept for him. Being asked why he grieved so, for other men’s sins, answered, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”

The falls of others puts a holy man in mind of the roots of sinfulness which are in himself. Other men’s actual sins are as so many looking-glasses, through which a holy man comes to see the manifold seeds of sin which are in his own heart, and such a sight as this cannot but humble him.

A holy heart knows that the best way to keep himself pure from other men’s sins, is to mourn for other men’s sins. He who makes conscience of weeping over other men’s sins will rarely be defiled with other men’s sins.

A holy heart looks upon other men’s sins as their bonds and chains, and this makes him mourn. Ah, how can tears but trickle down a Christian’s cheeks, when he sees multitudes fast bound with the cords of their iniquity, trooping to Hell? Who can look upon a lost sinner as a bound prisoner to the prince of darkness and not bemoan him?

If holy people thus mourn for the wickedness of others, then certainly those who take pleasure in the wickedness of others, who laugh and joy, who can make a sport of other men’s sins are rather monsters than men! There are none so nearly allied to Satan as these, nor any so resemble Satan as much as these! (The devil always joys most—when sinners sin most!) To applaud them, and take pleasure in those who take pleasure in sin, is the highest degree of ungodliness!

-Thomas Brooks

The Way to Holiness

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells. – Romans 7:18

The depravity of our fallen nature is, and will be, universally and always felt during our present earthly state. It insinuates into, and mixes with all our thoughts, and all our actions. It is inseparable from us, as the shadow from our bodies when the sun shines upon us.

The holiness of a Christian does not consist in a deliverance from our sin nature, but in being sensible of it, striving against it, and being humbled under it; and taking occasion from thence to admire our Savior, and rejoice in Him as our complete righteousness and sanctification.

The grace of God puts a great deal into the heart, but it takes nothing out. Nature and grace, flesh and spirit, will antagonize each other to the end of life. Therefore the life of a believer, while in the body, is a continual state of warfare.

The apostle felt a law in his members warring against the law of his mind. He would do good, but evil was present with him. He groaned, being burdened.

When we first set out, we hope to be spiritually rich–but the Lord’s purpose is to make us sensible of our extreme poverty. We wish to be something–but He is teaching us that we are nothing.

When indeed we are willing to be nothing, that He may be all in all, in us and for us–then I think we reach the very acme of holiness. Then, while we feel that we have no sufficiency of ourselves, we shall be enabled to do all things that occur in the line of duty, through Him strengthening us.

-John Newton

Growing the Church in the Power of the Flesh

It is amazing the amount of church growth that can be accomplished in the power of the flesh. Though there are significant problems in the church growth movement, we should all be for church growth. In fact, it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples. When they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.

Many times, however, church growth seems to come down to thoughts like this, “If we get this program or attraction going, more people will show up,” and sometimes this is true, but have we traded the spirit of God for business acumen? Is our church only growing because we have grown skilled in organizational leadership and event promotion? Don’t get me wrong, those things are not necessarily antithetical to the ways of God. God has not called us to be inept in the ways of business and leadership. A godly elder should have knowledge in these things, but let’s be clear, a church can grow in numbers without the Spirit of God moving. To prove this, all you have to do is look at a few well attended liberal churches that have abandoned the faith.

The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other useful strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.

A church where the congregants live worldly lives is not really growing, even if it is growing in size on a regular basis. We cannot call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same worldly lifestyle as the rest of society. If we, as congregants, spend our week chasing after self-glory, personal peace, and affluence, and we let the Word of God sit unread while we neglect our prayer life, it does not matter how big our church is.

This also seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches as well. The people come on Sunday and see low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons. Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After they spend the entire week indifferent to God and godliness, they attend church and expect something to happen. However, when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen when we attend church. The congregants often have more influence on the spiritual state of a congregation than the pastor. This can be seen every time a Godly preacher is driven away.

True church growth will not occur when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. On the contrary, when there is a hunger for righteousness, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We do not need more programs to increase the number of people who attend and live worldly lives. We need individuals in the church to grow in Godliness, and as this happens, we will not need programs to bolster attendance. The church will grow because the people will be evangelizing, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.

I have many concern about the state of the church growth movement, but this post was not aimed directly at it. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this can happen in churches with big marketing plans, and those without them.

As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world, we are less enticed,
In our hearts, God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth, He is approving.

D. Eaton

4 Aims of a Godly Pastor – J.C. Ryle

It is of great importance to recall to our minds the real nature of our work as ministers of the Gospel. We should remember constantly the great ideal of what a Christian minister ought to be, sketched out in the sixth chapter of the Acts: “We will give ourselves to the Word of God and to prayer.”

The preaching and expounding of the Word of God, with nothing added, and with nothing taken away–is beyond all doubt our principal business. We must take heed that we give due honor to the Word of God in our public ministrations. A thousand things continually call us away from this–committees, schools, visiting, and the like. But we must remember that we are ministers of the Word of God, that our province is the Word of God, and that we must be very careful not to leave the Word of God to serve tables.

But after that, we must never forget private prayer. This is one grand secret of the strength of the ministry. It is here that the roots of the ministry, practically speaking, are to be found. The ministry of the man who has gifts, however great, but who does not give the prayer-closet the principal place–must sooner or later become tedious and ineffective.

I will remark, in the next place, that it is of immense importance that we should take heed to our own lives. “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things” 1 Timothy 4:16.

I have been lately studying the lives and private habits of those men whom God raised up to be the revivers of the Church in the last century. I have been much struck with their self-denial, and entire devotedness to the work of the ministry. They were men who lived very plainly and simply, and did not seem to care much for anything but their pastoral work. They were not men who sought the entertainments of the great and the rich. We would do well to consider whether we are living as near to God as they did.

I will remark, in the next place, that we all need to be more careful in the employment of our time. There is a danger of trying to do too much. Some clergymen have so many irons in the fire, that it is impossible to keep them all hot. A few things well done, are far better than twenty poorly done. The man whose work will stand the longest, is the man who, whatever people may say, however lazy they may call him determines that he will not do more than he can do well.

And always remember: What costs little, is worth little.

-J.C. Ryle

16 Lessons on Pursuing Holiness

Not that I have already attained, but in my desire to press on, I recently taught a class called Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. If you are interested, you can listen to the lessons at the links below. Simply click on the link to play, or right-click to download the mp3.