HOW TO WIN THE WAR WITH SIN
You and I are in a battle. We are constantly faced with two choices: are we going to choose the way of God, or the way of His opponent? The last part of the Lord’s Prayer, that most Christians know by heart, speaks into this everyday spiritual battle.
In this blog, based on a message I did at Vineyard Groningen on January 20th 2019, I’m going to give you four strategies that will help you to win the war with sin.
1) Receive God’s forgiveness
Forgive us our debts
The word ‘debt’ is equivalent to the word ‘sin’. It reveals that through sin, we are in debt to God. Let’s first define what sin really is: Sins are conscious or unconscious acts that go against the will of God and wellbeing of others. They harm our relationship with God, others and ourselves because we are not walking in God’s perfect plan.
We are born with a capacity to do both good and evil and with a free will to choose between the two. I know that for each and every one of us, taking a good look at our lives, we will realize that we have been doing good things, but also a good number of bad things.
The 50/50 gospel
Many people life with the life philosophy that to live a good life, or perhaps even a life pleasing in God’s eyes is to make the balance tip in your advantage. The idea is that if Hitler is at 0 and Jesus at 100, scoring a 51 would get you to heaven. I’ll tell you what. Scoring a 99 doesn’t even get you to heaven. It doesn’t work this way!
Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
God’s glorious standard is Jesus, who lived a sinless life. Anything short of sinless is sinful. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve sinned, the fact that you have makes you fall short of God’s glorious standard. We cannot make our good deeds outweigh the bad deeds – and so we cannot earn our own salvation.
Sin is like a trap. Offering something beautiful and fulfilling, but leading to destruction. And for ages it has functioned like a trap that no one could climb out of – like a prison no one could be released from, because no one could pay bail.
Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)
Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Jesus came to set the record straight on our behalf. He paid the ransom with His own life and in this way paid off the debt we owed God. When we pray “forgive us of our sins”, we firstly need to realize that the burden of sin has already been taken off our shoulders. Sin is still around, sin may still be part of our lives or even a daily struggle – but it has lost its grip on us and its power to separate us from God.
Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT)
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
So, when we pray forgive us our debts, we are reminded of the forgiveness we already have received and can walk in every day. But this prayer also reminds us that it is an ongoing battle. The ultimate victory is guaranteed, but the battle is still going on.
When we converted, Jesus changed the direction of our lives. We are walking on a different path now. But we are still able to stray from this path.
And even though sinning will not change the ultimate course of our lives any more, it still harms the relationship with God and makes our journey through life a lot more difficult! And so, it is good to regularly pray for forgiveness – not in fear that you might miss out on heaven, but out of the humility towards God that says: I didn’t always get it right. I’m sorry. Please forgive me and help me to do better next time.
Don’t dismiss receiving forgiveness as something of the past. There are still things that when they remain undealt with, will form a blockage in our relationship with God. Bring it back to God, receive His forgiveness and ask Him to bring you back on track.
2) Generously extend the forgiveness you have received
As we also have forgiven our debtors
Understanding that we have been forgiven a debt we couldn’t pay ourselves, the question emerges: “How will this affect the way we deal with others that sin against us?”
Jesus teaches us to freely extend the forgiveness we have received to those who sin against us. And I believe that there are many reasons why.
1) It makes us appreciate forgiveness more
I’ve experienced how ‘being wronged’ by someone can really get to you. A couple of years back the person we rented a house from just came up with a lot of things we had to make right that weren’t our fault. It cost me a significant amount of money, a lot of frustration and kept me up at night. Forgiving him was hard, but it helped me appreciate the forgiveness I have received in Jesus Christ more.
2) Holding grudges doesn’t help anyone anyway
Refusing to forgive others, allows their sin to continue its hold on you. Unforgiveness is a prison. We think that we are punishing the other person for the wrong they have committed against us, but really, we are just imprisoning ourselves. It’s like drinking poison, hoping the other will die.
The grudge that we hold against the other person is pulling us back into our old life. Because once we let offence and unforgiveness settle into our hearts, it quickly becomes our response to more situations. And suddenly, the whole world is against us.
Release yourself out of the prison of unforgiveness by speaking out forgiveness to the other person. Mind you, he doesn’t have to be in the room. Forgiving the other person doesn’t make them ‘get away with it’, nor is it ignoring what they did. To forgive, you first have to recognize and identify what they’ve done. Then you speak out forgiveness, and leave the consequences with God.
3) It is the right response to the gift we’ve been given
When one of the disciples asks Jesus how often they should forgive, Jesus tells a parable about a guy who was 100 million euros in debt – but the debt was cancelled. Then he sees someone who was a couple of thousand euros in debt to him – but he strangles him and demands the payback. When the king hears this, he puts the load of the debt back on his shoulders and throws him in prison.
I love this parable because it shows us so plainly that it is silly to hold grudges against others, while God has freely forgiven us our sins. I know that forgiving someone is not easy, especially not when the suffering they have caused you is great. There are two women that are known for their great teaching on forgiveness. One is Corrie ten Boom, a holocaust survivor who lost her sister in a concentration camp. Second is Joyce Meyer, who has been sexually abused from the age of 3-18. Both testify that God leading them to forgive their debtors was a liberating and healing experience.
You will never forgive if you wait until you feel like it. Choose to obey God and steadfastly resist the devil in his attempts to poison you with bitter thoughts. Make a quality decision to forgive, and God will heal your wounded emotions in due time. ~ Joyce Meyer
3) Stay clear from temptation
Lead us not into temptation
To win the war with sin, we need to stay clear of temptation. Temptation is anything that may lead us to sin. Now, why would we pray lead us not into temptation? Would temptation come from God and would our request then be – don’t lead us there?
James 1:13-15 (NLT)
And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
The text is very clear, God doesn’t tempt you to sin! He might test your faith – but that’s an entirely different story. Also, it is not necessarily the devil that tempts. Don’t give the guy credit for something he didn’t do!
Temptation comes from our own desires. And when we allow this desire, start feeding it and yield to it – then it becomes sin. I see this prayer as a request for help to stay clear from temptation.
We need to see temptation for what it is and keep a safe distance. “Live on the edge” may sound cool, but in fact, it’s stupid.”
Jesus was quite radical in his advice around temptation as well. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. Matthew 5:29 (NLT)
Literally? No, you dummy! But you do catch the point, right? If you know that something is going to lead you to sin – don’t keep it around but remove it from your life. It doesn’t matter how harmless it may be to others – if it is harmful to you then gauge it out and throw it in the trash, empty the trash and don’t down download software to redeem the trash.
Here’s the mistake we make. We ask this question: ‘how far can I go’? The answer is: ‘you are asking entirely the wrong question’. Apparently, you don’t understand that God’s will for your life is good and perfect.
God's plan is the best plan. When He gives us boundaries, it is not to limit us, but to keep us safe.
4) Dismantle the devil’s power
But deliver us from the evil one
God has an opponent and his name is satan, which literally means ‘opponent’. He has been God’s opponent ever since he was thrown out of heaven. He was the worship leader in heaven, but decided at some point that instead of praising God, worship should be directed at him instead. And now, his aim is to destroy everything that God so beautifully created, main target: humans.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Here’s the truth. He may be a roaring lion, but his teeth were pulled out long ago. You are hidden with Christ in God. The enemy has no right to attack you. The only thing that he can do is talk. And he will. Question is if we can identify his voice and dismiss it.
Here’s what he’ll try to do: he’ll try to convince you of lies about God and about yourself, and entice you to turn away from God’s holy ways. And when that doesn’t work, he’ll try use anything he can: distraction, diversion, disunity to keep you from making a difference for God’s Kingdom.
And we can dismantle his power in our lives, when we start listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead. He does exactly the opposite!
When the devil tries to steer us away from Jesus, the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus.
Where the devil speaks lies, the Holy Spirit speaks truth.
Where the devil will try to trap you, the Holy Spirit brings freedom.