Stop Struggling with Your Sin and Kill It!

myswordOne April during my Air Force tour, our squadron commander handed us a goal: a 100% off-duty safety record for the summer.

I raised an eyebrow. Our squadron was based in college-town Phoenix and consisted of twentysomethings brandishing motorcycles, ATV’s, jet-skis, and a love of drink. No off-duty accidents for a whole summer seemed as likely as deciphering a Newsboys lyric.

Later, that commander visited the flightline and happened to strike up a conversation with my work group. Being a little (too?) bold, I asked if he realistically expected the 100% goal to be reached. His gracious reply:

“Well, what results would I get if I only asked for 80%?”

I am among many Christians struggling with certain sins. We sincerely want to please God, cut the garbage out of our lives. The first thing I often say to teens who admit they’re struggling is, “Good. Struggle is good. It’s better than surrender.”

But eventually we have to face the results. Longings to become gentler and kinder, with little to show for it. Years of bondage to sexual sin. Constant failed attempts to be more honest. Our flesh doesn’t just roll over; it weighs us down, and our hearts sink with it.

One day, I heard a talk that transformed my approach to sin.

It was at a workshop for youth leaders. The speaker told us to stop saying that we were “struggling with sin”. He said that the word “struggling” actually gives sympathy to sin, creates a middle ground where we’re fighting but not winning. “Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!” he said.

It’s one of those but-of-course things. After years of hard-fought effort to kill an entangling sin, we start settling in subtle ways. “I’ll never really win,” we mutter. “I guess trying is what counts.” We settle for a cordial detente where we’re not capitulating but not winning either. A sort of romanticized no-man’s land, where we talk about grace and the dark night of the soul and “the journey and not the destination”.

The enemy is perfectly happy to dwell there.

Now God’s Word:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. …In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13, 16-17)

Do you see the contrast? The vigorous intentionality?

“Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!” jolted me awake, made me question the nature of my efforts. Was I really overmatched, or was I just going marshmallowy with my daily crucifying because I’d come to believe victory was out of reach?

God doesn’t write as if victory is out of reach. He says we should be “able to stand our ground”. It’s so hopeful.

But we have to choose it.

And a shot of gumption towards our sin goes a long way.

It’s not a matter of our strength, but attitude. We have to hate the stuff. Sharing God’s aggression toward sin was the push I needed to start making real headway.

And then, of course, the first thing that happens is that we realize how much we like the cordial detente. “Sure, you could defeat that sin in prayer. But it’s a hassle, and you really don’t want to.”

That commander of mine wanted 100% from his troops. So does God (Matt. 5:48). I’m like, “100%? I might have 30% in play on any given day.” Partially because of my flesh, but partially because I’d been deceived about how much victory was available. Saboteurs to my left and right. The sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith gather dust in my closet, and then I wonder why I don’t have victory.

Enough.

We’re a people who procrastinate, slash other people with our tongues until we get our coffee and brag about it with Facebook memes as the world goes to pot around us. What if we could be different?

The battle may take a while. Some victories, especially over addictions, are processes.

But that is no excuse to linger in the valley. Your fruits will waver if your goal does. Our eyes must stay on holiness. God can get us there.

Stop struggling with your sin and kill it.

Image credit

31 thoughts on “Stop Struggling with Your Sin and Kill It!

  1. Very interesting. Your post reminds me of something. I’ve always had an issue with calling ourselves sinners. I know we will sin, but the idea of constantly calling myself a sinner made me feel like it’s okay if I sin. So I stopped using that term a while ago. Yes I will sin. Yes I do sin. But I’m not comfortable with the title of sinner. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Could definitely be another way of wording the trap I’ve described, yeah. My influences include teachers (e.g. Neil T. Anderson) who point out Paul labeling believers as SAINTS WHO SIN, not sinners, and hinting at a new nature that battles the first. It still fits 1 John 1, for saints can and do still choose the old man.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Brandon Adams, for writing such an insightful post! I have suffered from the addiction of sexual lust since a young age and for the most part the Lord has healed me of the addiction but the sexual desire still lingers behind at times and your post has inspired me not just to fight it but kill it! Thank you, again I have a whole new perspective on sin and how it needs to killed off.

    Like

  3. Brandon, thank you for sharing this. The keyword is “mindset.” Paul wrote the early Christians to consider that we have the mind of Christ. And to Timothy, “We have received the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.” In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “We have divine power to destroy strongholds, casting down imaginations,…. bringing every thought in captivity to Christ.” Meditation on the truths of God’s Word sets our minds on things above, not on things on the earth. Also Romans 12:1-2. The same power of God’s Word was Jesus’ weapon.
    I am excited when I read of what you young Christians are about, and encouraging each other. You make our generation proud, and give us reasons for joy and praising our Lord. 🙂
    The Lord continue to bless your life as a sentinel and a soldier of the cross.

    Like

  4. Wow Brandon, another great post. It was so in line with our message tonight on understanding and practicing repentance. The pastor said we hear a lot of talk about faith, but repentance is almost never heard of even in the mainstream of churches. He described six things that Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher described were necessary components of repentance: 1. The sight of sin, 2. Sorrow for sin 3. Confession of sin 4. Shame for sin 5. Hatred of sin and 6. Turning from sin. He pointed to David’s penitent spirit in Psalms 51 as an example. Wow. I am going to share your post on Facebook. This was really helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Brandon J. Adams and commented:

    We’ve been hearing about Josiah in church. Hatred and aggression towards sin is something that pervades the Bible, but it stands out especially with Josiah. He gave no quarter towards the stuff, eliminated every hint. Are we like that?

    Like

  6. Brandon, you’ve driven that blessed sword right to where it does the most good in my life. It’s like lancing a abscess, so necessary, but so messy. Thank you for the post, no more excuses for myself. I’m killing it. Ironically, I’ve known I’m supposed to, and known how, but it’s come back each time. It takes a year or sometimes a little less, but it comes back. And I use that as my excuse for not killing it again. Honestly, I don’t know why. Well, no. I know why. That’s the length of time it takes me to forget the damage. Then I forget the joy of being free from it. Stupid brain. But the sin must die, and I must kill it. Just as my Master says in Scripture. Thank you for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Stop Struggling with Your Sin and Kill It! | Brandon J. Adams

  8. I think I know where you’re coming from, Brandon, and I agree: We can’t afford to settle or compromise, and we can’t afford that cordial detente. It’s too easy to get complacent and act as if the battle is a hopeless task. When that happens, we’ve come dangerously close to waving that white flag.

    That said, I may also be missing something. But with all due respect to the speaker at that workshop for youth leaders, I think he was mistaken. Struggling with sin vs. killing it is, as far as I can tell, not a Biblical position.

    “Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees!” (Psalm 119:5)

    “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

    “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. … Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:18–19, 24–25)

    We will always have weaknesses and temptations, and the Bible never guarantees sinlessness. Some sins will indeed be broken in this life, but some we will have to fight our entire lives. (The key is to keep fighting until Satan flees—which, I think, is one of the things you’re saying here.)

    More than that, the verses you quoted don’t seem to support the speaker’s position. Putting on the armor of God implies warfare—a struggle that we indeed face every day. Saying that we are “more than conquerors” is primarily about persecution and hardship, not temptation. When Jesus said to be perfect, as God is perfect, He wasn’t talking about victory over sin—not directly, at any rate. If the commentaries and my study Bible are anything to go by, He is talking about one of two things: (1) completeness, consistency, and maturity that are proportionate to our state of growth; and/or (2) the future state of sinlessness that ought to be pursued in this life and will become a reality in the next. I don’t see anything in the verses that commands us to stop struggling with our sin and kill it.

    Practically speaking, the notion of killing our sin could be a setup for big disappointment, as it has been for me. Long before I ever read your post, I’ve tried to kill sin, pray it out of existence, avoid it—anything just to keep sin a mile away from me. But temptations return and I hit the battlefield—and sometimes I mess up, despite doing what I know to do. That’s why I ask: What’s going to happen if people try to kill their sin and they mess up, just as I have? Won’t they ask the same questions I did: “Did I just not struggle hard enough? Did I just not have enough faith? What does it look like to win—if I can even call it that?”

    I say all that to say this: Based on what I’ve read in Scripture and seen in my own walk with God, I think there’s a more effective way to approach the issue of struggling with sin.

    (1) Refuse to be complacent.
    (2) Go to war with sin, refusing to accept defeat or detente.
    (3) Let God change us by changing our thought patterns (Romans 12:2).
    (4) Remember that the battle is always God’s, and victory is assured (1 Samuel 17:47).
    (5) Let His love influence us (1 John 4:19).
    (6) Remember that if we do sin, Jesus still has our backs (1 John 2:1).
    (7) Trust God to give us the passion and power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13).

    I’ve seen this pay off for me already, because it frees me from fighting alone, being too hard on myself, and treating a single mistake as the cue for the anvil to fall. God’s love is what wins the battles and keeps me from burning myself out. Indeed, loving and being loved by God is the most powerful force in the universe. That’s why we go to war against sin—we fight for Him—and that’s why we win.

    Just my 2¢.

    Like

    • Well, our life is justification, sanctification, and glorification…three distinct steps, the last of which (total freedom from sin) doesn’t happen in this life.

      But what I tried to explain is that sometimes, my knowledge of “well I’ll never be totally free from sin” CREATES a complacency. That’s my own testimony, at least.

      I would also add that some sins CAN be defeated and entirely removed from a person’s current existence. Alcoholism can be beaten, pornography can be conquered, a controlling personality can be transformed and replaced with love. I’ve read many testimonies of that, and frankly it might be a huge favor for the people around us. Otherwise how could Job say, before God himself, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl”? (31:1)

      I know what you mean about the frustration of falling short when the goal is eradication, believe me. But that’s what grace is there for. And as I practice it more, the bumps become easier to take.

      So I maximize my goal to maximize my results and rely on grace when I fall. Otherwise, I agree with everything you said.

      Like

      • “I would also add that some sins CAN be defeated and entirely removed from a person’s current existence.” Agreed, and I also said that in my comment—but I’m glad you went into detail. The testimonies of people breaking from alcoholism, pornography, narcissism, and lust are evidence that some sins can indeed be rendered powerless in our lives. The more stories we hear about that, and the more we know what God used to break those sins, the better. Moreover, some sins are relatively easy to avoid, especially if we take that step or two in the right direction. Making that covenant with our eyes, for example, trains our eyes and heart to avoid looking lustfully. (By the way, I’m glad you mentioned Job 31:1, as well.)

        “I know what you mean about the frustration of falling short when the goal is eradication, believe me. But that’s what grace is there for.” What exactly is it for, though? Eradication? The strength to endure temptation? Something I’m missing?

        “And as I practice [grace] more, the bumps become easier to take.” What does it mean to practice grace more? I’ve never heard that idea before, and I want to know what it’s all about.

        “I maximize my goal to maximize my results and rely on grace when I fall.” Overall, has this paid off? It hasn’t paid off for me. This approach hasn’t killed sin nor made it easier to overcome temptation. If anything, it has put undue pressure on me to get things right—and I’ve usually blown it, and God’s grace doesn’t seem to stop the fallout from hitting. In my life, at least, trying to maximize my results has been an ugly cycle of trying, failing, reeling from fallout, and trying again. Of course, I want to see sin’s power break in my life and temptation lose its allure, but I’ve never seen that happen except when His love was filling me up and flowing out of me. It’s His love that has helped and empowered me to please Him with all I have—even to go to the mat and fight sin and temptation until I’ve won.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “What exactly is it for, though? Eradication? The strength to endure temptation? Something I’m missing?” There are different graces, but the grace to which I refer is for the frustration, the balm for our conscience. Confessing and repenting to God and falling back on the Scriptural reality of our total forgiveness and his perfect love is what salves the ache, even as we seek to be better. It’s a wonderful gift.

        We seek the eradication for many different good reasons, but I think it’s Scripturally safe to say that we needn’t wait for the eradication to find any joy or peace. It IS a long battle, as you say, and anyway God wants us to be emotionally dependent on his forgiving character rather than our performance. If we’re going “I can’t find any joy or peace until I beat this sin”, we’re missing the gift of Hebrews 10:19-22.

        “What does it mean to practice grace more?” Just to keep falling back on that Scriptural reality – reminding ourselves of God’s unfailing forgiveness every time we fall. Meditation on key Scriptures is a crucial part of this spiritual discipline – saying them out loud. Ephesians 3 is another good one. And, as you say, that love is our fuel source towards beating the temptation in the first place! Never seek eradication without that.

        “Overall, has this paid off?” It has. Focusing on eradication has definitely yielded better results. It’s been a long battle, and believe me, I know it’s hard. But we’re talking a decades-long campaign here, so don’t be discouraged. Also, remember that sometimes results come suddenly all at once, as it did for Jericho or the people Jesus healed (after years of illness), so yours might be right around the corner!

        I like to regard God pumping his arms and roaring with excitement and encouragement as I run my race, rather than waiting with arms crossed to point out how I missed my previous time by a half second. The goals are the same, but his posture is different. It’s an image that acutely pierces my negative perceptions of him and forces me to readjust them. And in the end, he is my strength anyway.

        Like

      • It sounds as if we agree on more than I thought. On the whole, I think we’re saying many of the exact same things—just in different lingo. But for what it’s worth, I still worry that eradication and self-improvement can be setups for disappointment and dejection. Sometimes they’re not good goals for us to seek.

        The English poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold once said, “It is not always by plugging away at a difficulty and sticking at it that one overcomes it but, rather, often by working on the one next to it. Certain people and certain things require to be approached on an angle.” Similarly, I wonder if a better way to approach this issue of struggling with sin is to tackle the thing next to it: seeking God. The Psalmist did not seek eradication of sin; nor did he seek to be better. He sought God (Psalm 27:4, 8), commanded us to seek Him and His strength (Psalm 105:4), and said the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). True change and victory come from partnering with God, drawing on His strength and resting in His love—even as we fight.

        Even with sins that may be killed in this life, seeking God must be a higher priority than trying to kill sin or to be better. The emphasis must be on God, not on ourselves or our efforts—but in your post, I see undue emphasis on our role in things, not His. That’s a big reason I worry that “Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!” might fail you someday, because the emphasis seems to be placed on you, not Him.

        Then again, maybe I’m critiquing a mindset that works for you and that God wants to use in you. I just wanted to give you something to consider, knowing that we may have to agree to disagree on this point.

        Like

  9. Pingback: Warning Signs | Following Him Beside Still Waters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s