You know sometimes a switch is flipped and God’s truth is given new life, clarity, and power in your life. I had that privilege recently as we sat listening to the week’s lecture. His truth about my identity as a new creation and child of God shot through my performance-based faith and gave me new hope in my struggle against sin and my old girl. Laurie talked about how the Spirit in us wants to worship and rejoice, but it is the flesh (my old identity and ways of doing things as a sinner) that wants to resist, grumble, and complain.

It made me think of a statement that God put on my heart years ago as I struggled to get out of bed in the morning to spend time with Him: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Does this statement ever feel like it defines your life?  The love you have for your Savior is constantly thwarted in action by the darn flesh that seems to cling to and hinder you? If so, take heart! You are in good company!

Jesus uttered this assertion to the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked them to pray as He faced His darkest hour. And guess what they were doing when He returned…sleeping.  Hmm, maybe our struggles haven’t changed much? Matthew writes: “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matt. 26:40-41). 

I have found it practically helpful to utter that statement as a confession in those times when I feel the enemy wanting to lure me into old sinful habits, whether it be coveting, gossip, self-righteous thinking, or complaining (just to name a few).  “Jesus, my spirit and the Holy Spirit that you have placed inside of me wants to follow you and obey, but my flesh (my thoughts, attitudes, and emotions) are weak and I would rather give in to them than obey you.” It is a simple acknowledgement that I need Him desperately, moment by moment.  Our confessions break the power of the flesh and help us cry out to Jesus for His grace to walk in the Spirit.

It seems part of the disciple’s weakness in the garden and the “temptation” that Jesus was referring to was more than just sleeping. They didn’t realize their weakness and frailty as humans. They didn’t recognize their desperate need for prayer and connection with their Heavenly Father. But they would soon find out. Within hours Peter would deny Christ and all of the disciples would desert him.  The weakness of their flesh was soon exposed. The sleepiness was just a symptom of their greater struggle.

So, how do we overcome? Try harder? Wrong answer…that leads only to moral self-righteousness instead of Spirit-filled living. Rather, we confess our weakness, THEN, as Laurie said, “We rejoice!” We affirm in our hearts His never-ending, covenant, everlasting love for us exemplified perfectly by Christ’s death for us on the cross. Praise and thanksgiving break the chains of the flesh and wrong-thinking and reset our affections, emotions, and heart rightly on our Father. Rejoice in what He has done and will continue to do in your life and heart! He is making all things new!

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

This post has been contributed
to the Thistlebend blog anonymously.

by Susan Sampson

The gospel of Jesus Christ is such good news precisely because apart from His free gift of saving grace, we were under a rightly deserved death sentence, which of course is incredibly bad news.

Through our sin we were indebted to God. A debt we could not pay back, no matter how much we might think we could, or how hard we might try. Before a perfectly holy and righteous God, all our righteous deeds are filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). We were under His wrath.

Hear the good news and may it bring all our hearts to rest in Christ! As Zephaniah wrote, may He quiet us by His love (Zeph. 3:17).

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14).

Our sins have been forgiven by the blood of Christ.

It is also true that our wise and good Lord has seen fit to have our flesh remain during our time on earth. We are still sinners. Sinners saved by grace. There is no good in us apart from Christ. We will still fall into sin until the day we are glorified in heaven.

But God, because of his great love, has made a way for us when we sin. He has given us the gift of confession. We do not have to run and hide. We are not meant to remain in darkness. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. When we go to our Father and confess our sins, He is faithful and just to not only forgive us, but to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Our loving Father has also given us the gift of His Spirit to indwell us. We have the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead living inside of us. I confess that most of the time I don’t feel this way, but this is the truth of His Word, so we must believe the truth and not our feelings.

By the Spirit, we can overcome. We have the responsibility to as well as the ability in Christ to put our flesh to death. Our loving Savior could not have been more clear about the severity of our sin and what we are to do. “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…” (Matt. 5:29a).

So then what do we do? We then put on Christ. We press on and walk forward by faith, in the power of the Spirit and rejoice in Christ. We glory in our Redeemer and no longer in self. Repentance is a turning around in our hearts to the Lord.  Then we flee the sin and pursue holiness.

God is so good, it’s mind-boggling sometimes. Recently I was sent an article that spoke to this very thing. It is such helpful instruction. I hope you all find this to be a sweet blessing to your soul. I know it looks long (it’s not the entire article), but it is so worth your time. It is from John Piper’s website, Desiring God, and was written by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. She was struggling with sin and a friend gave her John Owen’s book, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

She writes, “As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?”

Here is what the Lord revealed to her in John Owen’s book.  This is quoted directly from the article:

Owen explained with four responses.

1. Starve It

Indwelling sin is a parasite, and it eats what you do. God’s word is poison to sin when embraced by a heart made new by the Holy Spirit. You starve indwelling sin by feeding yourself deeply on his word. Sin cannot abide in his word. So, fill your hearts and minds with Scripture.

One way that I do that is singing the Psalms. Psalm-singing, for me, is a powerful devotional practice as it helps me to melt my will into God’s and memorize his word in the process. We starve our indwelling sin by reading Scripture comprehensively, in big chunks, and by whole books at a time. This allows us to see God’s providence at work in big-picture ways.

2. Call Sin What It Is

Now that it is in the house, don’t buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name. Don’t “admit” sin as a harmless (but un-housebroken) pet. Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out! Even if you love it! You can’t domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home.

Don’t make a false peace. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get sentimental about sin. Don’t play the victim. Don’t live by excuse-righteousness. If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive. That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.

Be wise about your choice sins and don’t coddle them. And remember that sin is not ever “who you are” if you are in Christ. In Christ, you are a son or daughter of the King; you are royalty. You do battle with sin because it distorts your real identity; you do not define yourself by these sins that are original with your consciousness and daily present in your life.

3. Extinguish Indwelling Sin

by Killing It

Sin is not only an enemy, says Owen. Sin is at enmity with God. Enemies can be reconciled, but there is no hope for reconciliation for anything at enmity with God. Anything at enmity with God must be put to death. Our battles with sin draw us closer in union with Christ. Repentance is a new doorway into God’s presence and joy.

Indeed, our identity comes from being crucified and resurrected with Christ (Romans 6:4-6).

Satan will use our indwelling sin as blackmail, declaring that we cannot be in Christ and sin in heart or body like this. In those moments, we remind him that he is right about one thing only: our sin is indeed sin. It is indeed transgression against God and nothing else.

But Satan is dead wrong about the most important matter. In repentance, we stand in the risen Christ. And the sin that we have committed (and will commit) is covered by his righteousness. But fight we must. To leave sin alone, says Owen, is to let sin grow — “not to conquer it is to be conquered by it.”

4. Daily Cultivate Your New Life

in Christ

God does not leave us alone to fight the battle in shame and isolation. Instead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the soul of each believer is “vivified.” “To vivicate” means to animate, or to give life to. Vivification complements mortification (to put to death), and by so doing, it allows us to see the wide angle of sanctification, which includes two aspects:

1) Deliverance from the desire of those choice sins, experienced when the grace of obedience gives us the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers).

2) Humility over the fact that we daily need God’s constant flow of grace from heaven, and that no matter how sin tries to delude us, hiding our sin is never the answer. Indeed, the desire to be strong enough in ourselves, so that we can live independently of God, is the first sin, the essence of sin, and the mother of all sin.

Oh how I thanked the Lord for providing this article!  So sweet, so kind, so loving! His perfect timing! You can read the entire post here.

Abba Father, please forgive us our debts and give us the grace to believe your gospel and take it to heart and bring it to life. May we no longer glory in self, but glory in our Redeemer. May we have grace to surrender all and kill our remaining sin and walk forward by faith rejoicing in our amazing God!