I grew up in the Church. I learned how to have a quiet time, I learned how to pray, I thought everyone went to church and lived life just like me. I began to understand how sin gets a hold of people and how we often choose to do things that are contrary to God’s word, but for years I processed most sin as outward, and preventable. I can choose to not cheat on a test or lie to my parents. It was not particularly difficult to follow the rules, to live a morally affirmable lifestyle.
When I began to understand the sins of the mind and attitude, like pride, despondency and stubbornness, I did not have the skill set to fight them. Sure, I could have quoted to you the passages of Scripture about Spiritual warfare, preparing for battle with the armor of God, and renewing our minds, but the pieces never quite clicked.
While we do not have record of Jesus sitting down with the disciples and teaching them “how to” fight sin, we do have these old familiar passages in Scripture that lay the foundation for the tools that we must implement into our lives if we want to grow in righteousness and knowing God.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Rom 12.1-2
It begins with the desire to know and honor God. We surrender. We realize that our life is a vapor and we choose to set ourselves apart for the service of God. We offer our bodies to God as a spiritual act of worship. Does that mean we climb up on an altar and burn ourselves with fire? It means that we value God’s agenda and give ourselves over to that. Instead of living for ourselves, we live for Him. When we make that conscious decision to surrender to His plan, live in a way that furthers His kingdom and love Him, we then get busy about knowing Him more. We dig into His word. And we are transformed in our minds.
Do you know the promises of God?
Fighter verses are those promises that God has given to us that we claim. We pray them back to God in moments of weakness, trial or confusion. We stand on them when things look good and when we do not fully understand what is going on. Are you afraid that you will lose your salvation? Do you doubt God? Do you doubt that you are forgivable? Renewing your mind means when that doubt creeps in, you turn immediately to Him and pray, “I know that you have promised that nothing can separate me from your love – not heights nor depths, not principalities, not demons, not sin, nothing” (Rom 8.38). Sometimes you might have to preach it to yourself, sometimes you might have to ask God to confirm it in your heart, sometimes you might just have to say, “I don’t understand this or feel it, but I know it is true”.
This is how we transform our minds. The big sins are easier to fight. We can control our actions with more ease than our minds. There might be times that we have to use the same skill set to fight sins like fornication, adultery, stealing, but sins like pride and lying are more sneaky and more difficult to monitor. And that is why we have to fight them in the mind.
Last night at small group, I learned a new tool in the fight for holiness. “Replacement”. Sinful habits have to be eradicated from our lives, and we need to fill the void with something God-honoring. The example was given of replacing smoking with praying. Everytime the desire to smoke comes up, choose to pray. Does that mean the urge will immediately go away? Of course not. But it willfully battles a sin, by choosing to agree with God and turn to Him for strength in the moment of temptation or weakness.
There are many tools available. As long as our sinful habits turn to righteous living, we are fighting the battle of faith. As long as we rely on the strength of Jesus, we are honoring Him. And when we do fall, we claim fighter verses like:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
– 1 John 2.1-3
Jesus is our propitiation. He took our place. He took our sins. So when we do fall, we confess it and we thank God for His wonderful grace, we leave it behind and we change.
Do you have tools? Do you have a mentor or someone helping you to learn these tools? Do you have an example to imitate? Paul encouraged his churches to imitate him (Phil 3.17), he knew that he had learned well. Who do you imitate? Let’s get fighting.