Victory Over Sins | Part 1
By: The John Ankerberg Show
By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2000
Are you a Christian who has placed your faith in Jesus Christ, but struggle privately in your personal life with many different problems? Have you been surprised at how easy it is to still fall into sin? Has it made you wonder how does the Christian life work? Have you discovered that as a Christian, you can know in your mind what God wants you to do, but your bodily desires can still lead you to give in to sin in a moment’s time?
I remember while I was in college a bright, young fellow accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He came from a straight pagan background. He truly believed in Christ to forgive him of his sin and eagerly started to live the Christian life.
But just a short time later he came to me and said, “I don’t understand all that has happened to me. I became a Christian and really felt that God saved me and had forgiven me of my sins. I was thrilled to know that I was going to Heaven when I died. And I expected the Christian life to be one victory after another, but that has not happened. “In fact,” he said, “everywhere I go I seem to be tempted more now than before I became a Christian. What’s worse, I find myself actually wanting to do some of these sins, and as a result, I have committed them, only to feel guilty after. How come these desires for some of my past sinful practices haven’t disappeared? Am I not a Christian? Is this the normal Christian life?”
I wonder if his question is your question? I believe many Christian people are living defeated lives right now. They don’t know the wonderful promises God has made and how He can give them victory in their lives. If that describes you, let me show you from God’s Word what the answer is.
To begin, I want to look at what God says our condition was before we became Christians; second, after we believed on Christ what changed; what did God do for us and give to us? Third, after becoming Christians, why is it that we can know what God says, but still experience sinful desires which tempt us to sin? Why? What provision has God made for us so that we will be able to live victoriously each day?
Well, first, what does God say our condition was before we became Christians? The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that man is made up of spirit, soul and body. It is through our spirit that we can communicate with God, or keep Him out.
Jesus said in John 4:24, “God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The Bible sometimes refers to our spiritual nature as our heart.
Ephesians 3:17 says, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” We are told in Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God…shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So our heart, our spirit, is different and separate from our mind. What was our heart’s spiritual nature like before we became Christians?
Ephesians 2:1 says the spiritual part of us was dead to God. In this spiritually dead condition the Bible says we “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air”—that’s Satan—”the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2).
In other words, before we came to Christ, Satan was at work in our lives and we were following his ways and ideas. This was so, even though we wouldn’t have called it that or believed it. We were deceived.
Before we became Christians, the Bible says we gratified the cravings of our sinful nature and followed its desires and thoughts. As a result, we were by nature objects of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3).
How did we get this sinful nature? According to the Bible, before Adam and Eve sinned, their spiritual natures were alive, open and sensitive to God. But when they sinned, their spiritual nature died and their communication with God stopped. Adam and Eve didn’t physically die, but their spiritual natures died, that is, their spirit became dead to God. Every man born since the time of Adam has inherited a dead spiritual nature at birth.
Augustine said, “Every man is born with a God-shaped vacuum that only Jesus Christ can fill.”
But the problem is, our God-shaped vacuum is empty. Without God, our dead spiritual natures have become hostile to God. We don’t want to submit to God’s ways. We live every day to gratify our own selfish desires and thoughts. Some theologians call this our sin nature. Our sin nature leads us to view God as unnecessary in our life, someone to whom we refuse to submit. In short, as a result of our sin natures, we refuse to acknowledge the true God and make ourselves our god.
But secondly, the Bible says man is not only made up of a spirit, but he has a soul. The soul of man includes our mind, our will and our emotions—three things which make each of us the unique personalities that we are.
However, before we became Christians, the Bible describes how our sinful soul functioned. In Romans 8:5 it says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires….the sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” In other words, our sinful nature influences our soul—and specifically here, according to the Bible, our sinful nature inclines our mind to rebel against God.
How about our will? Here again, because our spiritual nature was dead to God, with our will we just didn’t want to submit to God’s way of living. So we didn’t.
What effect did all of this have on our emotions? Well, our emotions were up and down. There is no doubt sin is pleasing for the moment, but as one writer has said, all the devil’s good looking apples have worms inside.
The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” That is, sin may be fun for the moment, but in the long run produces dreadful consequences. The young couple that passionately delights in sex before marriage one night has fun, but such sin can result in their contracting a sexually transmitted disease, the girl becoming pregnant, or an emotional breakup. As a result, our emotions go up and down and find no peace or security.
But someone might ask, “Isn’t it possible for sinful people to make up their minds to do good things?” Yes, but our sinful disposition controls our will so that many times the motive for our doing good things is selfish—so people will see us doing good things. If we go to church, do a good deed, or help someone out, how many times do we do such things because we are worried about what people will think if we don’t do them? How often do we do good things simply because we love God? Because we willfully decide to live the way we want to live, our emotions fluctuate wildly, especially when we fail.
Then third, the Bible says we have a body. This body houses our soul and spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 says our body is an earthly tent. Before we were Christians, we used our bodies to gratify our own selfish desires. Keep in mind, when our body dies, the Bible says our spirit will continue to exist, either with God in Heaven or separated from God in hell.
So let’s summarize what the Bible says was the state of our spirit, soul and body before we believed in Christ. According to Scripture, each of us was spiritually dead to God. We were controlled by a sinful nature that inclined us to live without God and for ourselves. Our mind and thinking were hostile to God because we didn’t want to submit to His ways. We lived our life to
gratify our own selfish desires and thoughts. We were sinners, candidates for hell and judgment, desperately in need of a Savior to rescue us from ourselves. But now the good news— which is point number two. One day we believed on Christ and asked Him to be our Savior. What happened at that moment? What did God do for us? What changed? How did God’s salvation affect our spirit, our soul and our body? Well first, it’s always good to remember that the Bible teaches salvation is a gift God provides for us; it is not something we work to attain.
Titus 3:5,6 says, “God saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy, he saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
When we believed on Christ, we were spiritually reborn. God gave us a new spirit. God did for us what He prophesied in the Old Testament He would do for people in the future.
In Ezekiel 36:26 God promised, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” So, when we believe on Christ, God gives us a new heart, that is, a new spiritual nature. In addition, He gives us the Holy Spirit who takes up residence and lives in our life.
In Jeremiah 31:33 we read, “‘After that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people…. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”
God says He gives a new spirit. This new spiritual heart, this new spiritual disposition or nature desires to serve God, loves God, and wants to obey Him. This new spiritual nature begins to influence our soul. Our mind now begins to understand God’s truth. Our will and our emotions begin to react to God’s truth. For example, our emotions are relieved that God will not punish us for our sins and He now promises to be our friend. We are excited and happy to know that He will someday take us to be with Him in Heaven.
Third, at conversion our body, following our mind, will, and emotions, starts to become an instrument that Jesus lives in and through. He begins to use our body in ways that witness to the world that He exists. If God does all of this for us when we believe in Christ, then why do Christians still have problems?
Do you think you have a problem? C. S. Lewis tells a neat story about himself that shows the problem we have. He said one day he was trying to prepare for a speech, so he told his secretary, “Please, don’t disturb me.”
She went out of the room and closed the door. He got down to his books and started to read. As he was writing his speech, all of a sudden his secretary burst through the door and interrupted and said, “Hey, there’s a special person that wants to talk to you!”
He got angry. He said, “Please, I told you NOT to interrupt me! Get out of here!”
She left and when she closed the door, he picked up his pen to write. Now he felt bad. He had just lost his temper. He had just said some angry words to his secretary.
He started reasoning in his mind, “Well, I told her! But I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I’m a Christian.” He said, “Well, if she had let me know that she was coming in, I could have prepared myself, calmed myself, and I wouldn’t have acted that way and I wouldn’t have said those words.”
But then he thought some more about it. Yeah, it was a kind of “surprise attack.” He didn’t know that was going to happen and what came out when he wasn’t expecting anything showed what he really was—and he didn’t like that.
How do we change what we really are when we don’t like what we see? Only Jesus Christ has the answer to that and we’re going to look at His answer in part two of this article.
Don’t miss out on the second part of this series. Read part 2 here.
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