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

4 Ways Incense is a Picture of Prayer in the Bible

May my prayer be set before you like incense. – Psalm 141:2

Throughout the Old Testament, we see incense playing a significant role in the worship God had prescribed for his people. It was so essential that there was an altar of incense in the Holy Place. As we consider this topic, it is important to remember the ceremonies of the old covenant were pictures and shadows of what Christ would accomplish in His atoning work on the cross, and incense is part of that picture. Ultimately, incense is a picture of the sacrifice of Christ, which is the sweet aroma that goes before the Father on our behalf. Still, in another sense, incense also typifies prayer. John Owen, in his commentary on Hebrews, lays out four ways incense is like prayer.

1. The incense was beaten and pounded before it could be used.  Likewise, acceptable prayer proceeds from a broken and contrite heart. 

Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Elsewhere we are told that God “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” For our prayers to be as incense, we must approach the Throne of Grace in poverty of spirit, knowing that our sinfulness has separated us from God and that only through Christ our mediator do we have peace with Him. This is biblical brokenness. If we approach God in any other way, we are like the tax collector trusting on our own righteousness, and he went away unjustified. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.

2. Incense rises toward heaven, and the point of prayer is that it ascends to the throne of God.

One of the significant points made in the book of Hebrews is that Christ is exalted and sitting at the right hand of the Father. Yet, we are encouraged to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence. When we pray, we are doing precisely that. We are bringing our praises and petitions to the throne of God. Though we have no merit of our own, God still embraces us with love because of the merit of Jesus and His righteousness. For our prayers to be as incense, we need to be aware of the great heights they are reaching as we commune with the exalted Christ. This goes hand in hand with our brokenness. Pray with confidence. Despite your sinfulness, your prayers rise to the Most High, maker of heaven and earth, and there is no one above Him.

3.  Incense requires fire for it to be useful, and prayer has no virtue unless it is set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit.

By this, we are not referring to some mystical experience. The fact that a believer desires to go to the Lord in prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not the natural man’s disposition. The only prayer that can take place without the Spirit is prayer that is not in accord with the Word of God. For example, prayers to false gods, and ritualistic prayers by those who believe they will be heard because of mere formality and many words. We must pray in accordance with the Word of God. When this happens, it is because the Spirit is moving. When you feel the urge to pray, do not neglect that desire because your incense is being set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4.   Incense yields a sweet aroma, and our prayers are a sweet fragrance to the Lord.

This seems to be at the heart of the Psalmist’s cry.  “May my prayer be as incense,” means, may it be a sweet aroma to the Lord.  In Revelation 8:4, we see that the smoke of incense rose with the prayers of the saints. This seems to signify that there is a sweet fragrance associated with our prayers, and the sweet scent is because we approach the Lord in Christ’s name. Our prayers are pleasing to the Lord, and the fact we can bring pleasure to God is something that should cause us to drop to our knees with joy. Pray boldly in Jesus’ name, because it brings pleasure to God almighty.

May this short study encourage you to spend more time on your knees this week. You may not feel worthy to approach him, but that is the only proper way to draw near to the Throne of Grace. From there, your lowly supplications will rise to the heavens where Christ is exalted. If this encourages you to pray, know that it is the Holy Spirit who is encouraging you to do so. Finally, as you pray, you will bring pleasure to the only King of Heaven as the offering Jesus made for sin is presented to the Father on your behalf.

D. Eaton

You Cannot Satisfy Sin By Sinning – John Owen

Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

The general nature of indwelling sin is that it is always at enmity with us. There can be no terms of peace. It must be abolished and destroyed, every part and parcel of it. Every drop of poison is poison, and will kill; and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn. We can admit no terms of peace or compromise. It is in vain to have any expectation of rest from lust, except by its death. Some, in the troubling of their corruptions, seek for quietness and laboring to satisfy them. This is to douse a fire with oil. Casting wood into the fire will not satisfy it, but increase it: so it is with seeking to satisfy sin by sinning, it only inflames and increases it. You cannot bargain with fire to take only so much of your house; you have no way to quench it. It is so with indwelling sin. Sin opposes duty, and temps us to unbelief, because of its enmity toward God. Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God. The great means to prevent the fruits and effects of this enmity is to constantly keep the soul in a universally holy frame. As we are directed to ‘watch unto prayer’ (1 Peter 4:7 KJV ), So watching every duty. Whatever good we have to do, and we find evil present with us, we must prevent it from parlaying with the soul. We must prevent its insinuating poison into the mind and affections. Be sure you are not worn out by its persistence, nor driven from your hold by its importunity. Do not faint by its opposition. It is so dangerous when the soul gives over in part or in whole, either by being wearied in the battle of sin against holy duties or wearied of communion with God. Labor to possess a mind of the beauty and excellence of spiritual things – obedience, and communion with God – so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul and this cursed enmity of sin will thus be weakened.

-John Owen

What Does it Mean to be Spiritually-Minded?

This morning I had the privilege of preaching at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. The title of the sermon was “Looking on Things Unseen.” The focus of the message was on the importance of being spiritually minded.

The sermon has four main parts.

Why This Sermon? – It is here that I tell a little about a recent experience and why I believe this sermon was needed.

What Does it Mean to be Spiritually-Minded? – Here we look at the topic scripturally and lay out a few definitions and thoughts about the topic.

Are We Spiritually-Minded? This is the self-examination. We put ourselves to four tests to see if we are truly looking on things unseen.

Final Instructions – This is the shortest of the sections, and we quickly cover a list of 10 things we need to remember to be spiritually-minded.

You can download the sermon here, or you can listen to the audio through the Youtube video below.

 

 

Sanctified Affliction Seldom Seems Sanctified

One of the great prayers from the Valley of Vision, a collection of old puritan prayers, says this, “No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If thou, oh Lord, should give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sin, or to have them burnt away with trials, give me sanctified affliction.”

We see this idea of sanctified affliction throughout Scripture. We hear cries in the Bible that say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word,” and “It was good that I was afflicted so that I might learn Your statutes.” Many of us have gone through difficult times in our life, and it may not have been the direct result of sin, but when we come out of it, we see that the Lord has changed us for the better. He has removed some pride or some other sins with which we struggled, and He has drawn us closer to Him because of it.

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It is important for us to understand this idea of sanctified affliction, because if we do not know that God is doing something good in our life with affliction, we will be without hope. The sovereignty of God in our trials is a glorious truth we must comprehend, but when you are in the midst of sanctified affliction, it may not seem sanctified. In fact, it may feel like utter darkness.

If you find yourself there, this is where I want to encourage you. The Lord, for some reason, has seen fit to allow you to go through a dark and difficult time, but what you are seeing during this is more and more of your sinfulness. The deeper the trial seems to go, the deeper and more profound your sense of sin. Because of this you think, this cannot be sanctified affliction because sanctified affliction is supposed to be moving me forward in holiness, but I seem to be more and more awakened to my sinfulness in this trial.

I want to encourage you since that is precisely what we should expect because what the Lord is doing, is He is drawing the dross to the surface and bringing it to your attention. Before, when you were comfortable and at peace, all these areas of sin did not really bother you much, but now you cannot help but see them. When I have gone through times like this, God allowed me to see how sinful I was when I was comfortable, which was part of the trial. In reality, it was probably the darkest part of the affliction, but God was bringing the dross to the surface of my life to wipe it away.

If you are there, this is where you need to take heart. Our God is a good God. If you have confessed Him in faith and trusted in His sacrifice on the cross, He says, “You are mine. I will never leave you. I will never lose you.” Jesus is the perfect shepherd, and He makes no mistakes.

If you find yourself there, keep moving forward in obedience. You may not feel peace for quite some time, but take the advice of John Owen when he said, “See in the meantime that your faith brings forth obedience, and God in due time will cause it to bring forth peace.” At that point, you will find that your peace will be deeper than you ever imagined.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 11:67

D. Eaton

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