When we become aware of our sinfulness and the consequences of those sins and in response turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness of those sins, we begin down the path of eternal life. Sanctification. Salvation. God takes out our heart of stone that is dead and opposed to Him, and gives us a heart of flesh on which is written His perfect law, and we feel convicted of sin and long to obey Jesus out of love. We begin the difficult battle of dying to ourselves and killing our sinful desires in order to grow in Spiritual maturity and holiness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us, in quite simple vocabulary:
“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
John Owen, upon reflecting upon the book of 1 John warned us,
“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
– John Owen
Scripture teaches us that our bodies and our desires are at war with the Holy Spirit that now indwells us:
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
– Gal 5.17
Fighting sin is a difficult discipline. We speak little of it within the church and amongst believers because we are afraid to define sin and potentially hurt someone’s feelings. We also have made peace with much of our own personal sin and are not interested in vetting it from our lives. Sin is dirty, it is something that we keep hidden from one another, and without strong discipleship, we will not develop the disciplines of defining and seeing sin within our own lives and fighting it. But we must! If we are comfortable with sin then we are denying Jesus. We, as Christians, must learn to see sin, identify it, and take steps to remove it from our lives.
Once we have entered into relationship with Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit within us whose job is to convict us of sin and righteousness.
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”
– John 16.8
He will inform us what sin is, and it will always be aligned with Scripture. The Spirit is sent out into the world to remind us and convict us of what Jesus taught.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
– John 14.26
Therefore, we must study the Scriptures to know what Jesus taught. The Bible unashamedly teaches us the desires of God and what He defines as sin. When we understand what sin is, the Holy Spirit reminds us and convicts us of sin in our own lives. And then we begin the battle of fighting it.
Where does this all begin? It begins in the mind.
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
Our goal, as believers, is to present our entire selves to God as a living and holy sacrifice. Holy and acceptable means that we are fighting sin and making our lives reflect the worth and value that we believe God to have. In order to not be conformed to the wold, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We learn the Scripture, we understand what God says – and by daily getting into the word and knowing God, we are able to discern the will of God. We understand what is good, acceptable and prefect.
Then we have to put it to action.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”
– 2 Cor 10.5
Once we are relatively comfortable in our Christian walk, many of our sins will be on the heart and mind level. These – in my opinion – are the most difficult sins to fight because they rarely come to a fruition that others can see. Pride, lust and envy are things that we can mask and maintain without ever having another notice and call us to accountability. This is why Paul teaches us that we need to take every thought captive. The moment that a proud, lustful or envious thought runs through our minds, we must stop that thought and replace it with one that honors God.
Our goal in sin fighting is not simply to stop sinning, but it is to grow in holiness. That means taking the sin out of our lives and replacing it with something that gives glory to God. Therefore, when an envious thought enters our mind, we should squash the thought and replace it with thankfulness for what we have, and praise God for blessing that other person. When an arrogant thought grips our mind we must stop and humble ourselves before the Lord, purposefully dying to ourselves and acknowledging the worth and value of the person who is the object of our wicked thoughts.
Peter says that we need to “gird our minds for action”:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
– 1 Peter 1.13
During these days people wore long flowing robes with a belt tied around the waist. In order to run or moved quickly, the men would grab the back of the robe and pull it up between their legs and tie it to the waistband. Essentially they would turn a dress into running shorts. This would give them mobility and the freedom to run and move quickly. Peter says that this is how we are to prepare our minds – put running shorts on our minds so that we can move and be agile. We are to keep sober in spirit and look completely in hope to our coming salvation. That means remove distractions and sin. Do not numb your mind with TV, with the vanities of life, with sin – but instead renew it daily with the Scripture and the promise of the coming end. Live daily with the intention of making an eternal impact and storing up treasures in eternity.
When we do this, when we understand what sin is, and when we develop the discipline of identifying it in our lives and hearts, and when we replace the sin with a thought that glorifies God, then we have one of the most beautiful promises in all of Scripture:
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
– Is 26.3
When we set our minds on God, and keep sin out, even on the mind/heart level, God will keep us in perfect peace. Do you have a lack of peace in your life? Examine your heart to see if you are allowing any sin of the mind or heart to take root. Bitterness. Envy. Anger. Lust. Pride. Few will be able to see these sins until you verbalize and act on them. But the Spirit within you will reveal it to you if you ask Him, set your mind on God, and learn what God defines as sin within His Word.
Set your mind on Him today and experience that perfect peace that passes understanding.