The following study we will explore revolves around combating and defeating sin in the believer’s life. Hamartiology is the biblical study of sin and what it is, but that is not our topic. Many believers limit their production for the Lord because they do not know the basic principles of spiritual combat. It is not a complicated topic, nor was it meant to be, for every believer must participate in fulfilling the mandate of obedience our Lord requires. Following through and performing is the more difficult part, but with time, patient endurance, and strong and steadfast faith in the Lord, everything is easily possible in the Spirit’s power. What starts as something seemingly extraordinarily difficult eventually becomes something much less challenging and of second nature. This struggle with everyday obstacles and temptations is our basic training. Take courage, don’t lose heart, and follow me now as we examine the process of overcoming sin. It is not impossible because victory always awaits all those who pursue it.
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
1. The Difficulties of Dealing with Sin
Overcoming sin isn’t always easy. How long it takes for a believer to defeat a habitual sin depends on their faith and commitment to the Lord (and how predisposed toward certain behaviors they may be). The more time and effort one gives into taking in the Word and applying it through faith, the farther they will go each day. It is a step-by-step, day-by-day commitment that never ends until we meet the Lord face to face after death ( Matthew 6:34). So the Christian’s focus has to be entirely on the Lord and Him alone. Our dedication to God requires that we put Him first in our lives, eschewing all things evil and prioritizing Him over all the things the world screams in front of our faces.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Living for Jesus and overcoming sin entails sacrifice, self-control, and discipline. Through faith, believers have enlisted in God’s army, which means complying with all the training and personal conduct rules while in service. In this case, following these rules is a lifelong commitment because a person cannot live for both God and their lusts and desires simultaneously, for that would be approaching our task with a double mind.
3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
Here is where personal reflection is most helpful. Whether the individual is an unbeliever wishing to become a believer, or an actual believer desiring to pursue the Lord with as much love as possible, the decision remains the same. Are they willing to undergo a significant amount of stress and difficulty from satanic opposition that is common for every believer? Will they have enough commitment to follow through on their resolution to live the rest of their entire life for God?
Think of a marriage relationship as a loose analogy. When two people are in the process of getting married, they both recite vows to each other. They do this to stay committed to their relationship with each other in all love and honesty. We assume they have counted the cost of sacrifice, which a marriage relationship will entail. Time and space do not permit us to examine the many challenges that marriage presents a couple, but the marriage analogy is helpful to a small degree. Assuming they stay faithful to one another “till death do them part,” the couple has made a lifetime commitment to each other. Divorcing for no good reason would be a sin, but the choice to do so will always be there. So it is with the believer’s relationship with the Lord (except that breaking up from Him is always a sin).
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
When our Lord tells us to count the cost, He is doing so for multiple reasons. Sin is part of this reason (though far from always) along with personal trials, tribulations all involving suffering of some sort to some degree. God wants to spare individuals from putting themselves through so much pain and suffering for nothing. How much agony would there be to get saved, go through all the troubles and hardships of personal growth and sanctification, only to turn back and throw that “so great a salvation” away? All the suffering they experienced in spiritual growth was for nothing.
As difficult as spiritual growth (also involving overcoming sin) may be, there has to be a balance here. There is a sweet spot between overestimating the difficulty of spiritual growth and underestimating it, for both are liable to harm our faith one way or another. If we overestimate the challenge, the chances are that we will become depressed and majorly discouraged when we fail to believe that we can have victory in our battles. That is an easy way to have our faith swamped. God’s will for us is to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), but He knows very well that even as believers, we will never achieve sinless perfection in this life, and that is because we are but flesh possessing a sinful nature (1 John 1:8) (something that will not cease to exist during our time here on earth until we reach the heavenly kingdom).
But what the Lord expects from every believer is their very best. Our Savior wants us to run this race as fast as possible without compromise and the thought of turning back. So there is no specific level a person must attain to know they are spiritually mature and that their lifestyle is acceptable before God. As long as the believer continues to grow spiritually (is seeing at least some results) and follows the Holy Spirit’s leading, obeying their commander, then they will have that satisfactory feeling of peace knowing their conduct is acceptable in the sight of their Lord. But this doesn’t mean we stay content to stay in one place, for we should always strive to do better and more for as long as we live. We can never afford to relax and remain fixated in one spot, for we must always be on the move spiritually, continually striving to do our best for Christ at all times.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The other extreme in this, underestimating the challenge, a partial example being the man in our Lord’s analogy who began to build a structure but never finished because he never counted the cost, is equally (if not more) dangerous as the first extreme mentioned. Not being serious enough about the difficulty of overcoming sin through spiritual growth will lead to all kinds of problems; complacency and laziness are the first to come to mind. The believer has to realize that fighting the fight may take lots of time and effort, and just as military combat is never easy, neither is spiritual warfare. Granted, it becomes easier with growth and experience, so uttering a “no” to temptation becomes all but second nature with time.
We never know when temptations will come, for they often come when we expose ourselves because of letting our guard down, and it is almost always when we are at our weakest that Satan launches some of his best attacks. He learns by observation and experience where our spiritual weaknesses lie, and these he will most certainly exploit given the opportunity. That is why 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us to be alert and of sober mind at all times, for we cannot afford to be caught unaware. The believer must always keep an eye out for enemy attack, not in dread or fear, but in clarity of mind with zealous and dedicated love for God whose peace will guard their hearts and minds if they would but keep their eyes fixed on Him at all times. This is where thinking on things above (meditation) is so important (Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8).
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Every person must be aware that living the Christian life will be steeped with pain, trials, and difficulties of various kinds. But as we will examine further in this study, the believer possessing the Holy Spirit can be joyful when unbelievers would be in complete despair.
2. The Negative Side Effects and Dangers of Sin
Whenever we sin, we are to confess, forget and move on immediately. We should never write off the day, dally, or wallow in our failures. However, we should not understand this to mean that we are not to understand and be aware of the dangers that sin presents and the consequences it can and will have on us (they can vary depending on how deeply involved we are with it). We should never focus on the things we’ve done wrong because we are told to forget what lies behind and fix our eyes squarely on Jesus (Philippians 3:13). But we need to remember that we cannot just act as if we can sin and expect their to be no consequences at all. Every time we sin, we inflict a little bit of damage on ourselves regardless of how spiritually mature and advanced we may be. If we fail to take the dangers sin presents to our lives seriously, we may become more complacent about overcoming it and cut back on our efforts to deal with it (which may lead to us never dealing with the issue at all). We may even begin to justify it and come up with excuses as to why we have committed it as much as we have. We may not even see the damage done as something we urgently need to deal with. Sin has a blinding effect on our Christian life and always damages our faith to some extent! The more we do it, the less we walk in the light, and the more we stumble about in the darkness (1 John 1:6).
We can never afford to be double-minded regarding sin (James 1:5-8). Either we are going to strengthen our resolve (perhaps even reevaluate our approach if failure continues because we may be going about the issue the wrong way—self-examination may be necessary once in a while) and get right back in the fight and continue engaging in this ongoing war until victory or we will continue to allow ourselves to be ruled and dominated by something we know no longer has any power over us. Romans chapters six through eight deal with this very issue of how we (as believers) are no longer slaves to sin and that we have the power to defeat and rule over it. For the sake of time and space, we will not post any of those passages here. I would ask and encourage the reader to visit those three chapters to get a better idea of the issue of sin all believers must deal with (Romans 6-8).
To continue, not all sin brings divine discipline, especially the everyday ones that all believers (even the most spiritually advanced) commit. If we are growing in a particular struggle and are seeing improvements in that we are stumbling less and less, the lesser the damage and consequences will be. But if we aren’t getting better but only getting worse (we are either moving forward or backward), then we can expect divine discipline and the ugly symptoms and side effects of sin (we will discuss those further below) to show themselves more glaringly. And even after we repent, not all the symptoms or side effects of sin will go away immediately overnight (they may linger for a while).
The more we give in to sin, the stronger an influence it will begin to have in our lives so that saying no to it becomes harder and harder (even though far from impossible). It is true that the deeper a pit we dig for ourselves, the longer and harder it will be for us to get out, and the more our spiritual growth, progress, and production will be stunted (as a natural result). If we sin less, we can and will do more for God. If we sin more, then we will do less by default.
The greatest danger sin presents (one we will discuss later in our present study and have discussed elsewhere in this ministry) is its damaging effects on our faith. It can contribute to the process (though it doesn’t always have to be involved) of apostasy whereby it beings to weaken our faith in Christ by taking priority in our lives. As this terrible cycle continues, the individual will slowly but surely find themselves living less like a believer and more like an unbeliever. Since “no one born of God goes on sinning” (1 John 5:18), a decision will have to be made sooner or later. Once a person’s heart has become so hardened in sin, they will eventually have to decide whether to keep serving it or repent and return to the Lord. If no repentance ever comes (assuming divine discipline has not had much of an effect on the person), then said individual has chosen to serve another god (sin) in the place of the One and only true God. That is idolatry, and those who live that way will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Continued allegiance to Christ (following Him faithfully to the very end) is the same as continued belief in Him. You cannot serve and believe in God while serving an “idol” that we have come to put above our relationship with the Lord. We cannot serve God and money simultaneously (Matthew 6:24), and those who attempt to do so have wandered from the faith by piercing themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10).
The above is the greatest danger that sin presents the believer. For while apostasy through giving oneself over to sin requires an extraordinarily hardened heart to accomplish (it is a drawn out process), it is still a danger we always need accept since we may fool ourselves into thinking we can do anything (even go on to deny our faith in Christ) and still be saved. That is the biggest danger with the false teaching of the extreme version of eternal security (not perseverance of the saints, even if that is also a false doctrine). But from that significant risk aside, there are also other dangerous symptoms and side effects that sin can bring into our lives (even for serious believer determined to stay faithful to Christ till the very end-all believers in general). Sin (assuming it is getting worse) deprives us of the peace, hope, and joy we are supposed to have as God’s children. The less of the fruits of the spirit we have, the harder it will be for us to advance and walk in faith and obedience to Christ. We cannot enjoy and more fully and meaningfully experience the Christian life as the Lord intended for us if we see less of the fruits of the Spirit produced in our lives. Without godly peace, it will be harder for us to get back on track to where we need to be because worry and anxiety can paralyze faith, making it harder to be effective ambassadors for Christ through the witness we give to others (both believers and unbelievers).
It is true that no believer stands condemned as long as they are a believer (John 3:18). It is also not our job or right to punish and discipline ourselves (God’s job). But living in fear (habitual sin often produces fear and mental anguish) will only hinder our forward progress. Fear hinders faith, thus making it less effective. Obedience is necessary to allow Christ’s peace to rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15).
Even though all believers have a sense of peace because they all stand justified before God by faith through grace alone, that peace (as well as our hope and joy Romans 5:1-2) will decline the more we fail to live out the true identity and reality we have as those who have been set free by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. In other words, all believers are saved and have a relationship with Jesus. But that relationship will be foggy because it is not pursued (and thus experienced) as it should be. Would we rather live in fear and worry all the time or in the freedom that brings for a good and meaningful life? Sin will only take away our joy by continuing to make us more unhappy and depressed the more we give in to it. And this may cause us to see ourselves as hopeless individuals who don’t see living for God as truly worth it. We may begin to rationalize that the Christian life will only bring unhappiness, not the true peace, joy, and hope the Lord wants us to have. Living the Christian life is not easy, but it is not supposed to be an unhappy, miserable experience. It will not be so if we obey and do what we should (even though suffering will be involved to attain the peace, joy, and hope the Lord wants us to have—“he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin 1 Peter 4:1). The more we give into sin, the more suffering we will have to endure to get out and the more of an unpleasant experience it will become (unnecessarily so). That is very dangerous because we may begin to lose our hope that we can ever overcome our struggles and be happy again (yet we can only learn obedience through suffering since that is the only true path to victorious glory Hebrews 5:8) . Worse yet, we may even begin to doubt our salvation and put ourselves through so much unnecessary torment (“am I really saved.”). And even more, some may think they have crossed some “point of no return” so that forgiveness is no longer possible (which is absolutely untrue). True, these things can help inspire the believer to get out of the mess and misery they have gotten into and put themselves through (God can use depression and anguish to help bring us back to repentance). But being in that type of situation may cause some to give up.
On the other hand, those who continue backsliding may eventually become unwilling to endure the hardships of getting out of the mess they have gotten themselves into so that they believe it is no longer worth it to continue trying (it may cause them to question God’s character). The point is that the dangers are many. When we begin to destroy our hope through sin, we begin to have a harder time believing we can do what the Lord wants us to do which will only hinder our efforts to obey by discouraging us to the point where we struggle to walk in the necessary faith we need to begin fixing the problem. Ultimately, peace, hope, joy, and faith are all connected and cannot be separated if we want to live our lives for the Lord as He wants us to. If one is negatively affected, the others will be as well. We should be growing in all those areas.
To summarize this section, let us be realistic about the dangers of sin and the damage it can cause so that we do not stumble because we fail to appreciate the crucial reasons why we should stay away and never dally with it. Sin should not be our focus (the solution to it should be first and foremost in our minds), but it is never something we should take lightly and be unrealistic about. Sin displeases God, hurts our spiritual walk, and limits our impact on others through the ministries the Lord calls us to. The more we engage in it, the weaker we will grow and the dimmer the light of our witness.
3. Knowing the Opposition
Satan has many methods of assault in his arsenal to oppose and destroy the growing believer (the lie being among the biggest and most-prominent). The world we currently live in now is a perfect testimony to this. It would be impossible to cover the many things and distractions this life contains that could quickly become a stumbling block for the believer, for they are very many indeed. Satan never plays fair, and he will use anything at his disposal to trip up God’s holy ones to further his cause, to thwart the plan of God by leading all believers astray. This plan, however, as we know from Scripture, is an impossible task. For it is not in Satan’s power to make any person’s decision for them, which means that all he can do is make that choice to choose for God all the harder, and this he will do to the best of his abilities to the extent that God allows. He is limited, for the Lord controls the degree of satanic attack on believers and unbelievers. Satan can only tempt those born again as far as God will allow, and rest assured, our Lord will never allow any of his own to suffer temptation beyond what they can handle. The level of temptation and testing corresponds with our particular level of spiritual maturity (faith) at that specific moment, and our Lord’s perfect knowledge of the situation guarantees that we can always escape if we genuinely desire to do so.
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Satan is not allowed all-time access to any particular believer to hound them as much as he pleases, for even this has a limit. There will be times when he will not be present to attack any particular person, which should give us much relief. But the Lord does allow the devil to attack us nonetheless, and temptation is something that we will have to fight every day. It’s part of our job description, so the believer should be peacefully braced at all times, expecting satanic attacks to come and not be surprised when they do.
13 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. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
There is a bit of confusion regarding temptation that many people have often come to believe. Many believe that temptation comes from both Satan AND God. That is just not true, for God does not tempt anyone. Genuine testing comes from the Lord, while the temptation to disobey and do evil comes from the devil only. God opposes sin, does not encourage it, and temptation is not how He directly tests our faith. Temptation is a part of everyday life, for Satan will never pass up an opportunity to trip us up in whatever way(s) he can. His goal is simple—to drag the believer away into their lusts to harden their hearts toward God to make them reject Him in the end. And the Devil has had this goal in mind all along since human history first commenced. Unlike our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, he is not seeking our good but his own agenda. He is not trying to save us but to destroy us. He is not telling us the truth; he is lying to us. He is not leading us to everlasting life, but eternal death should we choose such a course. Everything Satan presents that looks “good” is nothing more than a terrible lie designed to destroy and compromise the peace and eternal life we have in Christ Jesus. Whatever he can do to make us doubt, look back, and consider what this world offers, he will by no means hesitate to do. Instead of being sacrificial on our behalf as our dear Lord was on the cross, he opposes us to the highest possible degree allowed him.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
We will not examine the many methods the evil one uses to oppose the soldiers of His enemy, Jesus Christ. However, having a smaller general understanding of how Satan operates should suffice here.
One of the many ways the devil often effectively attacks his victims is by employing overwhelming “machine-gun fire” style attacks. That is to say, a continued barrage of temptations designed to overwhelm his targets. Many believers have often complained that certain thoughts or temptations keep coming back again despite continued resistance. One reason could be that the believer is not serious enough about the temptation and is dallying with it too long, revealing an evident weakness to Satan. He persists in his attacks because he sees an apparent defect that keeps growing weaker and weaker with every episode. He knows all too well that a person’s faith will collapse in time with enough onslaughts. Seeing how far one can go with temptation, in that a person hesitates and thinks about the thought(s), is not a sin in and of itself. But it shows a person is not serious enough and is guaranteed to lead to giving in almost every time. A believer has to be firm and upfront with their decision, letting “their yes be yes, and their no be no.” Either we want to obey the Lord or submit to our flesh, and the longer we wait, the weaker we get.
One weapon that Satan often uses against us is very frequently something we give him more than we think, and that is time (mentioned right above). This Satan will use to his advantage. The longer a person waits, the harder it is to say no, so that in the process, the enemy just keeps getting closer and closer, like a crocodile floating toward an antelope that has let its guard down. Anytime we as believers are under enemy fire, we must never hesitate to fight, and we must always jump into action as quickly as possible. Proper spiritual warfare requires a sober and alert mind controlled by the Holy Spirit at all times. For we must remember that Satan can either attack us upfront even when prepared for battle or ambush us when our guard is down during a period when we feel least like engaging is spiritual warfare the most.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
On the other hand, excessive temptation could just be an overly aggressive satanic attack. In other words, some deliverances are quick, while others take more time. This the Lord will due to temper our faith and patience. Such temptations are an excellent opportunity for our faith to be refined, grown, and strengthened. For the more difficult test passed, the greater the rate of spiritual growth. The individual just has to keep resisting in the Lord’s power, resting in His grace and trusting in the truths of His Word, which the Lord Himself uses as ammo to fire back against the enemy.
To conclude, anytime we are tempted or led to disobey the Lord in doing any kind of evil, we know we must resist. As believers, we know what sin is, and we know we should stay away from it at all costs, regardless of the “how” or “when” of the satanic or fleshly attack.
4. Knowing our Advocate
If God is for us, who can be against us? With God, all things are possible! We can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength! These are parts of famous passages in Scripture that should encourage us with every step we take in our spiritual journey. As believers, we must realize that we have living inside of us the strongest force in the entire universe who will help us overcome all obstacles. This force is the Holy Spirit, our advocate, and the one who empowers us to live the Christian life. Whom shall we fear when the Lord is near? Nothing is too great for our God to handle, and He would have never put us into a situation if He knew we couldn’t take it. What appears as big as a mountain of a challenge for us to face is but a tiny pebble in our Lord’s eyes, “nothing” to be even more accurate. That is why we cannot live the Christian life in our own strength because we will fail every time we try. Flesh cannot fight the flesh, just as how Satan cannot be divided against himself (Luke 11:18). The sinful nature is a friend of the devil, and in it, nothing good resides. How can we produce anything good at all from something corrupted in every sense? It’s just not possible. From the Spirit comes the fruits of the Spirit, and from the flesh, the deeds of the flesh. Anything righteous in God’s eyes is things He produces through us.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
It is true that as believers, our struggle with sin will continue as long as we live in these sinful, corrupt bodies, but with the Lord’s empowerment, we can live the righteous life He desires us to live with sin under control. There is no struggle too great for God, and we must never forget that He is with us even during the most intense satanic attacks. Compared to our Lord, all spiritual attacks against us are a joke. We need to remember not to give in to fear, for fear has a nasty habit of paralyzing faith, rendering it useless against all attacks. Since our God is so great and powerful, why would we doubt His ability to deliver us? We may be weak, but He is strong and mighty to save.
It is factual that we are usually at our strongest when we are at our most vulnerable, for as Paul states, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we are in such desperate need, we understand we are helpless to do anything for ourselves. This knowledge further gravitates us through spiritual discernment to cry out to God for help. We know that any such situation is hopeless by ourselves, but we must also remember that we are never alone, for our Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. Though certain temptations may last longer than others, this helps refine and strengthen our faith so that we can cope with these same attacks the next time around. We must never forget that no temptation(s) lasts forever, and sooner or later, the Lord will pull us through. Just because we have to wait a little while does not mean the Lord has not come to our aid. Instead, He gives us the strength to endure whatever duration of time He allows the temptation to occur.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Some complete deliverances are quick, while others are longer. Our Lord knows exactly how strong we are, what we can handle, and what we can’t. He knows our strengths and weakness better than we will ever know, and He most certainly knows them far better than our enemy, the devil. The Lord knows how far we can go, how much He can “stretch us” if you will. Whatever He allows us to go through, rest assured that He has perfect knowledge and understanding of the situation, meaning that we can endure through whatever challenge we face. How could a faithful God allow anything else? Does God authorize sin? Of course not! God, in His infinite wisdom, knew every difficulty we would undergo before we even encountered them. The Lord knows how to help His own, and He can easily sympathize and relate to us because He, too, once suffered in the flesh as we do, but to a much greater degree (and He was perfect). Our Savior knows what it’s like to endure temptation because He was tempted by the evil one for his entire life on earth (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knew suffering more than any human being has and will ever know (a combination of both physical, mental and spiritual anguish). No person has ever had it nearly as difficult as our Lord Jesus did during His 33 years here on this earth. He has the power and experience to help all those who belong to Him.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Not only do we have all the above from our Lord, but we have His comfort as well. Jesus knows this life we live for Him is challenging; after all, the life He sacrificed to give Himself up for us on the cross was the most difficult any human being has ever had to live. Not even the most tremendous suffering endured by any mere man could compare to it.
Even when faced with opposition from multiple sides, we can have peace even during the roughest storms. Our Lord contributes to our stability by giving us comfort even better than what a parent could give their child. That is because the Lord loves us with love so profound, deep, and remarkable that we will never be able to comprehend or fully grasp it this side of eternity. He loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins, something none of us could have ever done. The Lord doesn’t need us, He didn’t even have to create us, and we all deserve eternal punishment. Despite all that, God came to earth in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, took on the form of a slave, and suffered more than any human being ever could to save us.
18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
The fact that our Savior intercedes for us with “groanings that words cannot express” (Romans 8:25-27) goes to show how much He loves us because of how desirous He is to help us. To be clear, God can never suffer anxiety, but He is still always concerned for us. As believers, our job is to choose to obey our Master, no matter the circumstances. We can read our Bibles, pray, receive solid teaching, meditate, and study all we want. But until we put all those things into practice through application, we can never defeat sin. Obedience, in this case, is full submission to God’s will in which the person in question has officially chosen to do things God’s way. The first step to obedience for the believer is repentance, and it is to this which we will now turn our attention.
5. Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If a believer has been living in habitual sin for a good long time, their first move would be to repent of such erroneous behavior and get back on track to the main road they should have been running originally. The only way to defeat sin is to do it God’s way, not the “way that sounds good to a man, leading to death.” For any believer who has struggled with chronic sin for a long time, a zealous change of mind resulting in a change of actions is the first step. This change of mind is repentance, fully surrendering one’s thoughts, words, and deeds to God. Since sin is anything we think, say, and do that displeases our Savior, giving up our entire self to Him is the only way a person can return to the Lord in purity and live their lives entirely for Him. Faith and obedience are required, two aspects we will discuss later on in our touchstone passage of Ephesians dealing with the armor of God.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Repentance is not about emotions or how bad we feel about our sins and prior way of life. It is all too common for human beings to distrust the Lord by giving Him something else that they think by their standards will appease Him. The thinking is that the more sorrowful and emotional we are when coming to the Lord, the more pleased and likely He is to forgive our sins. But God does not want emotions or dramatic feelings for Him to accept our plea of forgiveness. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t feel naturally emotional because we are so profoundly moved and convicted over the fact that we have grieved the Holy Spirit to whatever extent. All that the Lord is asking us through repentance and confession is a genuine desire from a broken and contrite heart not to continue in the way we had been heading. So, in the end, it matters very little whether there are tears or not, for the Lord looks at the dispositions of our heart. Do we have a genuine desire to change our minds and, therefore, our course in life from evil to good? Are we now willing to do things God’s way? That is what matters.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Overcoming habitual sin is not an overnight process; combating it can be challenging. The longer we stay steeped in sin and disobedience, and the longer we take to get our act together and start doing things God’s way, the harder it will be to obey. But rest assured, victory is never an impossibility for those who desire to return to the Lord and please Him. Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of action. In regards to salvation (first believing in Jesus Christ), repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. How can this be? Remember, our Lord told us that without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). No faith equals no salvation. One cannot trust the Lord if there is no desire for any change in their heart whatsoever, i.e., repentance. As James puts it, faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Salvation is by faith through grace alone, but works are a manifestation of our belonging to Christ, and this is because the Holy Spirit is the one producing all good things within us. We then have our Romans passage, which tells us that those who do not have the Spirit do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). Works in a believer’s life are a manifestation of the Lord’s Holy Spirit dwelling and working through the individual, a sign of their salvation. A person does not come to believe in Christ and then have nothing to show for it, for the Holy Spirit performs at least something through the individual. Faith and repentance work together in the process of justification. Faith is useless if there is no sign of a changed life. To sum up, putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is committing to Him (repentance), a commitment that entails a change of mind, heart, and attitude, and therefore, a change of lifestyle. That is why both faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin.
For example, even the demons BELIEVE, and yet they tremble in the Lord’s presence (James 2:19). Why? Because they have no intent upon committing their lives to God by diligently serving and obeying Him. That is something that fallen angels who have already made up their minds on where they want to spend eternity will never do. In their free will decisions stemming from an unrelenting hardened heart, they have already crossed the line of no return. They have absolutely no interest in coming to Christ in true genuine saving faith, faith that goes beyond simple belief and mental appreciation of who God is. Every human being alive believes in God, for there are none who are ignorant of Him. All are without excuse, for the Lord has made Himself evident to all through natural revelation. Most people do not come to Christ not because they don’t believe He exists but because they do not want to COMMIT to Him in faith. Like the demons, they believe, but they don’t want the Lord as their Master. Hence they reject and disobey Him. Our Lord tells us very clearly that “whoever is not with me is against me”(Matthew 12:30).
Regarding believers struggling with sin ( assuming they were already believers for a long time), repentance from habitual sin must entail a change of mind resulting in a change of actions. So the individual in question is not believing in Jesus again because they are already saved. Instead, they follow through with the mindset of changing their lifestyle/behavior for the Lord, with confession resulting from this changed attitude. This process is different from initial salvation because the individual comes to God for restoration of fellowship. They already stood forgiven (Christ died for all sins past, present and future), but their disobedience caused a temporary break (NOT loss of salvation) in the personal fellowship with their Savior. As believers, Christ has already forgiven all of our sins, past, present, and future. The passage below demonstrates this exceptionally well.
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; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
5.2 Confession and Forgiveness
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Confession naturally occurs after a believer changes their mind toward their sinful behavior (repentance). If a believer repents (has a change of mind), then confession will result. Nobody is perfect, and we all fail from time to time, getting our “feet” dirty every day, which means they need cleaning every time we mess them up (John 13:7-10). The sole purpose of confession is to restore the believer to fellowship with God as soon as they sin. By failing to do so, we open ourselves up to sustaining even more spiritual damage. Wasted time can be one of Satan’s greatest weapons, and when he sees us wallowing in our sin for whatever reason, he will never hesitate to “sock” us as many more punches as possible. His goal is to weaken us to such a tremendous degree that we become thoroughly discouraged and hopeless in our failures, resulting in the hardening of our hearts and the backsliding of our walk with God.
5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
John 13:5-10 ^ makes it very clear that keeping up on the cleanliness of our “feet” is our daily confession of everyday sins, ones all believers commit. Our spiritual feet will always be getting dirty day in and day out. Since our whole body is already clean, representing our already accomplished forgiveness at salvation, there is no need to bathe all over again. Salvation cannot be earned by good works,” for our Lord’s sacrifice has already paid for all our sins. In the context of our passage in John, foot washing represents the believer confessing their sins daily to the Lord. Their cleanliness after foot-washing symbolizes the believer’s entrance back into fellowship with Him after confession. Those who have already had a bath have/and are already saved.
From all the above, it is easy to see why confession is so important, especially when done without dallying. Confessing our sins is how we recover from sin, and living this knowledge out in our lives is one of our best defenses against the devil. Satan wants to rack us with excessive guilt to such a degree that our faith becomes overwhelmed, and we can no longer move forward as a result. This concept all comes back to what we have mentioned previously in this study about avoiding the two extremes, complacency, and legalistic perfection. Complacency works against confession, and therefore, true repentance as well. On the other hand, legalistic perfectionism brings with it a misguided and misconstrued thinking process of what a truly righteous life should look like before the Lord.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
For one thing, there is no specific level of self-control that we can go by to know we have overcome a particular sin. In other words, the Lord does not tell us, “you have to reach 80 out of 100 on such and such a scale.” What matters is that we are seeing improvement, whether quickly or slowly but surely. If that is the case, then we know we are moving forward and advancing as we should.
The point that our Lord wants us to understand when He says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” is that we should strive for absolute perfection in our lives. God knows we will never be perfect during our stay here on earth, but He wants us to run as fast as we can as best as we can. God wants most of our efforts and nothing less.
The best thing for believers to do is to let God be the judge. We are not to judge or discipline ourselves, for that is the Lord’s job, and it would be a big mistake for us human beings, imperfect and fallible that we are, to attempt to do something that we cannot do correctly. Only God can evaluate and discipline us in perfection. By taking on this role of judging ourselves as we shouldn’t, we risk falling into either one of the two extremes we have already mentioned. Does that mean we don’t get tougher on ourselves when we know we have a major sin problem? Absolutely not! We need to acknowledge our issues and face the sin in our life head on instead of “looking for external ways unrelated to spiritual combat” to solve our problems. Sin is always a heart issue that must be dealt with through spiritual combat. There is nothing we can do in the power of our flesh to defeat something only the Lord can overpower through us. That is why our Lord sarcastically says we should gouge out an eye or cut off a hand. External solutions will never solve the problem.
28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
God has already set the standard of righteousness for us. We simply do our best for Him to fulfill that standard, even though we will never be able to do so perfectly. That is where God’s grace comes in. In dying on the cross to pay for our sins, our dear Lord and Savior fulfilled the Law, giving every human being who has, is, and will ever live a chance to come to Him and have everlasting life. This eternal life is a free gift that no amount of righteous living could purchase, for God’s grace only has to be accepted through faith to receive this “offer of offers.”
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore, understanding confession is something every believer needs to know how to practice if they want to grow in their faith. So when and where do we confess? Like, how many times should we come to the Lord and admit our sins to Him? We acknowledge our errors to God every time we know we have sinned. That doesn’t mean that confession for sins “possibly” committed are not to be confessed at all, for it is always better to be safe. And we must never forget that sin interrupts our fellowship with the Lord, and getting back under the control of the Holy Spirit is crucial if we are going to move forward and beat any temptation the next time around.
To speak the truth here, believers sin more often then they know. But the Lord knows our hearts, and as long as we are still determined to grow spiritually and do our best for Him, then all those forgotten sins are automatically forgiven. For it will never be the case that anyone can keep perfect track of every sin they commit in a single day. Rest assured, even if we confess 4 out of 6 sins we committed during the day, and our awareness of those others is lacking, God will forgive them regardless of whether we remembered them.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Something believers can never afford to do is let their sins and failures drag them away and cause them to indulge. We should never “delay in coming back” just because we messed up. On the contrary, we get back up, dust ourselves off, and continue running this race of ours. Once we have confessed, the peace and joy of our salvation should return to us immediately. This peace of knowing our forgiveness is what we must guard at all costs, for Satan is all too willing to take it away from us. The evil one will often play the “guilt game,” an attempt to pick our thoughts and emotions, with the aim being for us to feel that we are not forgiven or that we have sinned far too much for the Lord to cleanse us. And it’s no surprise that he does this, for he accuses the saints before the Lord in the third heaven (Revelation 12:7-12). We cannot afford to fall into this trap, for as believers, we are saved and safe as can be in God’s arms as long as we continue to believe. We don’t want to be complacent about our failures, but we shouldn’t let them override us with excessive guilt and dread. That will only lead to misplaced feelings that God’s grace is not greater than all our sins, and what a complete insult that is to Him! The only work that our Lord asked us to do to receive His salvation was to “believe on the one whom He has sent” (John 6:29), clearly showing the gospel to be by faith through grace alone and not by works.
All people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are saved. Unchecked, excessive sinning does lead to hardening of the heart, contributing to the process of apostasy if allowed to continue (resulting in idolatry 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Like maggots eating flesh from a carcass, sin eats away at faith (especially if one puts that sin above God by committing idolatry), and once no faith remains, neither does salvation. Sin is damaging and best avoided at all costs, but faith must be absent for an individual to no longer be considered a member of God’s family. So sin is not the issue as much as faith is because it’s all about belief. Saving faith is a lasting faith. Even people who were once true believers can fall away given enough time. They had eternal life when they believed, but they have forfeited that life by throwing God’s gift of salvation away. Our Lord told us that no servant can serve two masters and that we cannot serve God and money simultaneously (Matthew 6:24). That means believers can’t have it both ways—serving sin, Satan and the world and trying to please God (faith without works is dead James 2:14-26). To continue believing in Jesus means to keep following Him.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
On a more positive note, our salvation is not dangling on a thread in that God casts us away from His presence over the occasional sin or even a lot of sins, though the more we sin, the more we put ourselves at greater risk of turning away all together. On the contrary, God’s grace covers all of the sins we have committed, are committing, and will ever commit in this life. Christ has already paid the price of our sins by dying on the cross, and failing to accept His forgiveness in our lives is to insult Him by saying that His sacrifice, in which He suffered so much pain, agony, and humiliation, was not enough. ALL our sins have been covered by the blood that Jesus Christ shed for our eternal life! We cannot work our way to heaven; it’s just not possible.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
2 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; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
This last passage below should especially stand out to us.
7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
When we sin, we confess it! We don’t wallow and waste time because we will only allow more damage to occur than we should. We must never look back, for our time on this earth is too short for that. We must always confess immediately and keep running this race our God has graciously allowed us to run. We must always do our best, striving for perfection, even though we can’t be perfect in this life. Our Lord told us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There may be “blood,” sweat, and tears, but God’s grace will sustain us through our battles, both in our victories in empowering us to overcome and in our defeats, automatically forgiving us when we do stumble.
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Confession is to acknowledge our sins to God. So when we do so, we must do it with an attitude to stay out of any sinful behavior we may have engaged in previously. We don’t confess only to turn around and do the same thing again as if we didn’t care, for that shows no repentant desire to obey God.
It’s one thing to stumble while actively engaging in spiritual battle while attempting to overcome sin. But that is different from giving no effort to counter temptation and triumph over it in the power of the Spirit. True confession and repentance entail a change of mind toward a desire to do what’s right. That means there must be a “no-tolerance policy.” A person who cares about their relationship with the Lord knows to be deadly serious with temptation. They know its’ no joke, meaning that they aggressively engage in the fight instead of sitting on the side-line as if they could care less. They WANT to obey their Lord and Master.
As believers, we must never forget how much God loves us, though the full depth of His love is not something we can comprehend this side of eternity. He will never let us go or forsake us and no sin is too great for Him because He died for all of them. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Even before we confess, we are forgiven for Christ already paid for our sins on the cross. But did you catch the two words in bold above? How can we not believe that God’s grace and forgiveness are greater than all our past, present, and future sins? God is always in the business of forgiveness for those who seek it. As the faithful being that He is, His character never changes. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Whatever He says He will do, that HE WILL DO. He will always be faithful and just in dealing with His children and with all humanity. His faithfulness means He grants forgiveness to those who seek it, and His justice means that He deals with us in every perfect and righteous way, whether we sin or not. His righteousness and faithfulness mean that He will always keep His promises, no matter what. The Lord will always forgive us and lovingly accept us back into His embracing arms, just as the father in the story of the prodigal son did (Luke 15:17-24). No matter how heavy the believer’s weight of sin may be, the Lord has thrown them behind His back for all those who have believed in Him. Therefore, we need to stop holding onto the guilt of past failures, and like the Lord, we need to throw them behind our backs as well.
17 Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
Now, you are probably wondering, how do these two aspects (faithfulness and justice) of God’s character work when a believer has fallen into habitual sin and not come out of it yet? Does the Lord still deal with those individuals in a just, righteous, faithful, and loving way? Of course He does, and it is called discipline.
6. Discipline - God’s Loving Way of Protecting Us
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
Instead of abandoning us, God protects us, something a good shepherd does. When a believer goes astray into sin during their time “in the “wilderness,” our Lord pursues them with loving care that we can hardly fathom. Discipline is for believers only, a sign that we belong to our “true” Father. For as Revelation 3:19 says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.”
The phrase “ if He finds it” in Matthew 18:13 above is quite telling. If a believer has not hardened their heart to the point of rejecting Christ altogether, heeding all of God’s conviction and discipline, and choosing to come back to their master, then it will be said in this instance that Christ has “found” that lost sheep.
The Lord Jesus will seek His own who have strayed from Him, pursuing them as far as they will allow Him to chase. But He cannot force an individual to come back to Him, but He can convict the believer to the point where truth and reason begin to set in and fill their heart yet again. But this requires the person to have an open heart, for by continuing down the wrong path, the heart becomes harder and harder to a point where it can become impenetrable, unable to receive and take in any truth.
For a straying believer not having gone “over the cliff of apostasy,” their “time in the wilderness” means they are saved but totally out of fellowship with their Savior, and our Lord will pursue them to keep them from going too far. But it is still the believer’s responsibility to heed the Lord’s convictions (discipline) and return to Him. We must understand these matters, for our God’s dealing with His children is one of how He demonstrates His love toward us. God cares about His own, and instead of throwing up His hands and giving up, He lovingly chases after His own until they have either returned or departed from Him. Our Lord never quits His pursuit of us until a yes or no decision has come to the fore.
But God doesn’t discipline only straying believers. Even mature Christians will receive discipline for any pattern of sinning they may have gotten themselves into, though this doesn’t speak for every sin per se. The choice of what to discipline and how often is our Lord’s, for there is no possible way of knowing how many sins one must commit to warrant disciplinary action from our heavenly Father. Still, it’s always more likely to be the case that He will correct those who are dabbling with it too much and too frequently, even though they are faithful believers.
Discipline is an act of mercy from our Lord, for the sole purpose is to teach the individual not to go there again. They touched the hot stove, got their fingers burnt, received a rebuke and slap on the hand for it, and now know, or should know, not to go there again. That doesn’t mean believers stop sinning entirely, but the idea is that they learn to stay away from a lifestyle of sin, knowing the damage and consequences it produces. Evil always pays bad dividends, and the risk of self-harm is still involved.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
But the question remains, how does God discipline His children? There is no specific answer to this question, for there are various ways He does so. With enough time and discernment, the believer can know whether they are receiving discipline, even if it is not apparent at first. But we must also remember that there will be times when we may not know. It’s not always easy, for our Lord isn’t physically paddling us so that we feel physical pain, for our discipline is of a different kind but can involve physical health issues. Chastisement can be physical, mental, or spiritual. It not only acts as a protective measure from our Lord but as a good learning opportunity as well.
It may not always be clear to us whether we are undergoing discipline or not, for many believers often don’t pay attention to the Lord’s dealing with their sins, which means they may begin to miss the fact that what they are undergoing has a purpose. Or it may be the case where it’s just difficult to tell when we are being “dealt with,” for we human beings do not have perfect knowledge and insight into what goes on around us in the spiritual realms. We should learn from our mistakes through our Lord’s dealing with us, but so many Christians have often confused discipline with genuine testing from God. And as mentioned, since our knowledge is limited, we will never be able to catch every act of discipline the Lord sends our way entirely. But it is true at times that we can know when we are being “spanked,” for we are told not to take it lightly.
So when we are disciplined, we should never be complacent about it. We should always be using the spiritual sense of discernment to distinguish between genuine discipline and legitimate testing. When we believers suffer from doing what’s wrong, then our suffering is deserved. But if we are suffering for having done right, then that is just our Lord allowing us to go through some type of test to strengthen our faith. It is always better to suffer from doing right then wrong (1 Peter 3:17).
Discerning the Lord’s handling of our sins will help us to heed His calling of us back into fellowship. For it would be spiritually foolish and detrimental to our faith to continue to defeat the whole purpose of our Lord’s dealing with our sins by ignoring His chastisement of us. The point is that we must always take it seriously, very seriously, for by failing to do so, we only inflict more discipline onto ourselves, resulting in even more pain, distress, and anguish. In this case, a stubborn heart will only increase present hardships and future ones as well, for the longer we continue to fail to resist sin, the harder it will be to overcome it in the future. Better to heed the Lord’s warnings and return as quickly as possible.
18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
The passages above should be enough to give us the whole purpose of discipline. It is out of love from our Lord from a genuine concern for our spiritual safety and well-being. What a loving God we serve!
To end our discussion on this, let us remember that God does not throw us out of His family when He disciplines us for having strayed from Him for a time. The whole purpose of His discipline is to keep us from jumping out of His loving embrace! All believers sin, and many will have times where they struggle (even for years depending on the person). We can never allow it to harden our hearts, and we should never use God’s grace as a license to commit evil, for our Savior endured 33 years of immense and terrible suffering for us to have our eternal life with Him. Let us, therefore, exercise prudence when we have erred and embrace the Lord’s discipline, allowing it to sink into our hearts of why it has come our way. It has come to us for a reason, a loving reason, and how could this fact not want to make us return the love?
4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
7. The Holy Spirit vs. Our Flesh
Every believer needs to remember that they are not alone in this fight. If we were alone, no victory in any spiritual struggle would be possible, for one cannot live the Christian life without being controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are entirely powerless to do anything on our own, and this is because nothing good lies in our flesh. Every human being is born with a sinful nature. Despite having the ability to rule sin in their lives, all believers will have to cope with that ever remaining presence until they reach eternity. That means that we need God’s help at ALL times, for we cannot do anything acceptable for ourselves in His eyes for a day, hour, minute, or second.
Although not omnipresent himself, Satan will take any opportunity he can to attack and destroy any believer, for 1 Peter 5:8 describes him as a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” We never know when an attack will come, for although Satan is limited in when, how hard, and how often he can attack, we believers have no idea about any of these things. We aren’t meant to see them either. The encouraging news is that we can be ready for and defeat any attack that may come our way. That is why Scripture commands us to be alert and of sober mind.
Not all temptations come from the Devil. There are times when he often gets too much credit because a lot of temptations can and do come solely from our flesh (sin nature) instead of Satan and our flesh (combined). There are times when our flesh just feels like doing wrong things without Satan even being involved. But this difference is not something we can know at any given time and is thus unimportant because all temptations are to be resisted and overcome. Temptation is temptation no matter how they creep into our minds.
Although there are some things we can’t know about temptation, when it will come, how long it will last, and how difficult it will be, we know what to do when it shows its ugly face. We understand that all we have to do is say NO. We resist in Christ’s power just as how we have done with any other temptation. Regardless of how the evil one may tweak and adjust his attacks (temptation is still temptation after all), they will always fail when up against the Lord Jesus, which means we must fight against Satan in God’s power at all times.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
So what does the believer do? We study for academic tests, but how do we prepare for a spiritual one, whether it be a genuine test from our dear Lord Himself or a real temptation from the devil and/or our flesh? The most important way to be ready for the fight that interests us here and now is to submit ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
Galatians 5:16 tells us to walk in the Spirit, but how do we do that? We first have to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. But again, how do we do that? There is no specific definition the Bible gives on what it means to be governed by the Holy Spirit, and for a good reason. It can be described in multiple ways, as long as they all mean the same thing, coming to the same conclusion, of course. It is something that a person has to describe accurately based on spiritual discernment and knowledge. We cannot box up the concept of submitting to the Holy Spirit into a specific set of descriptive words, but there is an overall meaning, just with different ways to describe that. The process is not complicated to understand.
So what would be some examples of this? Well, we know that we have to set our minds on Christ entirely focused on our Lord so that we can think, say, and do everything pleasing and desirous in His sight, but what does that mean?
An example could be we are studying the Word of God, and we become distracted. Though we were initially focused on the task at hand before, we all of a sudden become diverted from what we should have kept doing by allowing our minds to wander on things we shouldn’t be thinking about. That is not a sin in and of itself, but it opens us open to Satanic attack, making us vulnerable to giving in to temptation when it does come. It’s basically like turning off our spiritual “forcefield” of protection. Since Satan is always looking for the exposed and vulnerable believer to exploit, he will not hesitate to take advantage of such a critical situation. We should hope that such a person would realize they are distracted, turn around, and come back under the Lord’s safety and power of control. Being controlled by the Holy Spirit means giving our minds attention over to God so that everything we think, say and do will be in accordance with His will. This requires faith and trust in the Lord that He will sustain us as long as we continue to rest in His power.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
Now, if the believer is fortunate, the moment they step away from the Lord’s protection, we should hope would be during a time when Satan is not present, for we must remember that he is not omnipresent as our Lord Jesus is. Isn’t that an immense comfort! But there is more danger we have to contend with than just Satan, and that is our flesh or sin nature, something always present within us at all times even though we do not always act on its inclinations when we are under its control. As notoriously obnoxious as Satan may be, our flesh wages war against our Spirit; Satan only takes advantage of our flesh by tempting it with all sorts of evil. The Spirit’s desires counter the flesh’s lusts, for a war between good and evil is continuously being fought within us. That is why being controlled by the Holy Spirit’s power is imperative because if we cede our will over to the flesh, we will give in every time. On the other hand, if we give our allegiance to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him and Him alone to take over by submitting to Him, we have all the power and protection we need to beat the challenge that awaits us.
Our job is to submit to God, step out of the way, and let Him take over. He will then do the rest. We should remember Israel beside the sea, the sea to their front, and the Egyptians to their rear. Despite their predicament, Moses told the people to “stand back and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). That is the part we play in all this, submitting our will to the Lord in faith and obedience and then letting Him do all the work. We may be weak and powerless to help ourselves, but God is strong and mighty to save. All things can easily be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit through faith, for there is nothing we cannot do through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We just have to be willing to obey, desiring to put God’s will before our own. That is submission, something every good servant does. We are slaves of Jesus, not slaves of the flesh to obey its lusts. We belong to Christ, and as His children, we have everything we need to accomplish the task He has for us to carry out, and there will never be a wall too high that we will not be able to kick down through the Lord’s power.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
When we battle temptation through the Spirit’s power, we fight in God’s strength and not our own. How can we expect to be controlled by our flesh and have victory when nothing good lies within it? If it is not in God’s strength and power we are fighting, then it is only through Satan’s ally, i.e., our flesh, that we are waging war, things that work hand and glove with his strategies and methods. Failure is guaranteed every time.
26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
By itself, free will is not enough, for we cannot “will” our enemies assaults away. Submission to God’s strength through faith is the only thing that can do that. A plant cannot live, grow, and thrive without a root, can it? Christ is our foundation, our “root” holding us up.
Our flesh will continuously nag us during our stay here on earth, and the only way to resist its cravings is to counter them through the power of the one who defeated the power of sin, death, and the flesh at the cross. Our faith in Him has liberated us from all evil. Never do we have to obey its desires, for we always have a choice in the matter to say no. The Lord will always extend a helping hand to those who cry out to Him for help in times of distress, and He will never fail to deliver us. Nor will He ever leave us, which begs the question, “what are the whereabouts of the Holy Spirit when we sin, even falling into habitual sin for a time? A few things need to be cleared up regarding the Holy Spirit’s position and relation to our lives when sin is involved.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit living within them does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). That is because the Spirit is the “witness” or “pledge” of our salvation, testifying to our human spirit that we belong to Him and empowering us to live the Christian life. We have also discussed the process of repentance, confession, and forgiveness and the meaning of apostasy. As we already know, we DO NOT lose our salvation from committing everyday sins or from even falling into deep, habitual sin for a time. Salvation can only be lost when there has been a complete departure from the faith, a person reverting from belief to complete unbelief.
Now regarding believers caught in habitual sin, where is the Spirit during a time of such a crisis?
Many legalistic works-oriented groups have often misunderstood Psalm 51:10-12. This passage’s meaning is not what many have suggested that David lost his salvation through a few grievous sins. Not only would this teach a gospel of works, but grace wouldn’t be grace. Besides that, Christ has died for all our sins, past, present, and future. Sin (assuming it is involved) only damages faith, contributing to the process of apostasy through the hardening of the heart. David never committed apostasy, for, despite his sin, he stayed faithful in his belief and commitment to the Lord Jesus. He repented, not devoting his life to sin over God.
5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
There is also a common misunderstanding of how salvation occurred during the Old Testament. Salvation happened no different back then as it does now. Justification has and will always be by faith through grace alone. Old Testament believers received Christ no differently than believers today. It has always been by faith (even if all the details of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection were not known at that time).
9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”
22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
To get a strong sense of support that salvation has always been the same, the reader is encouraged to read through Hebrews 11.
The Holy Spirit’s role and work were different in Old Testament times than they are now. For believers who have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation have the Holy Spirit living within them permanently, as long as they continue in faith, exiting this life while still believers. From the Day of Pentecost, believers had received the Spirit in a new and unique way. But in the Old Testament, the Spirit didn’t quite work the same. The Holy Spirit was given differently during old testament times as opposed to how we receive it today. In our day and age, the Spirit has come to indwell the person who has come to Christ permanently. But the Holy Spirit did not reside in believers permanently during Old Testament times.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
We contrast the above passage with the passages below, which show that the Spirit came upon specific believers during old Testament times to empower them for particular tasks the Lord had for them to accomplish. In David’s case, the Spirit came upon him to be God’s chosen king of Israel. The Spirit would empower him to carry out the tasks the Lord had for Him to do, and in addition to this, acting as a sign of David’s kingship.
10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
Immediately after this section of the passage in the next verse, we see that the Spirit had departed from Saul, indicating that God gave Saul’s kingship to David. Because of his carnal disobedience, the Holy Spirit no longer empowered the once king of Israel to carry out his duties since the Lord had rejected him. As discipline, the Lord sent an evil spirit to torment David’s future foe.
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.
Other passages that show that God’s Spirit would come upon people who were already believers to empower them for specific purposes and tasks are Numbers 11:24-30, Judges 14:5-6, 6:34, 3:9-11. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit during Old Testament times was selective and temporary.
8. Our Weaponry in this Fight - The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
This passage above will serve as our touchstone in discussing the spiritual weapons we have in Christ Jesus to wage war against Satan and our flesh. This topic will constitute a large portion of the rest of our study. Every individual part of the spiritual armor we believers have as protection is ever so critical in our spiritual success. Taking just one of these crucial elements away would render us completely helpless in our struggle against sin, for we could not overcome it at all if one of our “pieces of the armor” were missing.
8.1 The Belt of Truth
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
Believers during Old Testament times did not have the same advantages and resources we have today. For one thing, the Holy Spirit, as mentioned previously, was not permanently present inside the faithful individual, nor was the complete canon of Scripture available to the OT saints. This truth helps explain the many Christophanies, miracles, and prophecies found in the Old Testament (and parts of the new). Even in the early part of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was not available for permanent residence to the faithful believer until the Day of Pentecost. Neither was the complete canon of Scripture available until many years later. Once our Lord Jesus gave His life on the cross for our sins to fulfill the Law, the Old Covenant ushered in the New, resulting in grace.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Today, all believers are blessed to have the presence of the indwelling Spirit and the complete canon of Scripture to act as our “spiritual life and blood” to righteous living. Just as how the heart pumps blood through the body, so God has designed His Word to sustain spiritual life, for it is by God’s truth that we grow in His grace and knowledge. If a recent convert lacks access to our Lord’s revelation of Himself through Scripture, then the Lord will provide that person a way to access His truth. Our heavenly Father feeds the sparrows (Matthew 6:26), so why would He leave one of the many beings created in His image to starve of His truth when they truly desire it? God will always supply the needs of all who want Him, for that is part of who He is, a just and merciful creator.
8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Scripture is so important on so many levels. It reveals who God is, showing us the “mind of Christ,” revealing His desires for all humanity. The Bible speaks of many positive things to help us live our best for the One who bought us with His precious blood, but it is impossible to know all of these beautiful truths on this side of eternity. Nonetheless, Christ will always ensure that those who desire more “spiritual food” will receive enough to live a victorious life. But learning these many important truths is not an overnight process, and it can take years to effectively assimilate and adequately apply these same principles in one’s life.
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
The truth of God’s Word contains all the perfect information we believers will ever need to live the Christian life. We can never say, “the Bible contains too much,” or “it contains too little.” Such has and will never be the case. So why would we doubt our ability to overcome sin through its power? Is it not sufficient enough? Of course it is, for it is the complete revelation of Jesus Christ, His message to the world. What the Lord has written, He has written for a purpose. All 66 books of the Bible were inspired by God and then written down by man. But it was not man’s knowledge that was the reason for which books belonged in His Word, but it was by God’s inspiration. The Bible is trustworthy, so the believer contemplating their own life’s struggles can put complete confidence in its authority.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
We cannot list all that Scripture reveals, for that would require so much more time and space, an impossibility even. To stay true to our subject and main idea, we will focus on how the believer can use the truths of Scripture to overcome sin in their life. And only believers have the power to apply God’s Word, for head knowledge or mental appreciation of the facts is not enough. Remember how we discussed the importance of being controlled by the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life? We know that the flesh cannot control us, for the flesh works hand in glove with sin, being one of Satan’s greatest allies. Only those justified by faith through grace alone have the Holy Spirit living within them. Because of this, unbelievers lack the strength, power, and ability to do anything right as our Lord sees and defines it. And just having good morals will in no way earn God’s favor, for unbelievers can be upstanding, law-abiding citizens. “Good works” will not be sufficient enough to appease God. Only faith in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ will God accept as the requirement for entrance into His kingdom. And as we have said before, this faith is not a mere mental appreciation of God or a temporary belief but a lasting, lifetime commitment to Him.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
A. Reading the Bible on our Own
The belt of truth refers to the believer’s full acceptance and understanding of what they read in the Bible (the accumulation phase-loading the gun so to speak). One cannot fire a gun if they have no ammo. On the other hand, the sword of the Spirit (see further below) is more strictly an application of the truth we have hidden in our hearts (firing the gun itself). Since both involve the truth, we will discuss some aspects of the sword of the Spirit in this section as well.
We want to spend as much time in the Word as we can, taking it in, dwelling on it, and meditating on it in our hearts, believing it at all times, and then ministering it to others in the spiritual gifts and ministries the Lord has called us to. This way, when temptation does come our way, we will have the proper ammo to thwart the attack, whether it be a short or long temptation, for God’s truth will never fail those who fully trust in it to the very end.
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
So how much time should we spend getting in our Bible’s every day? Well, there is no answer to that question, but it should be enough to get us through the challenges we face day in and day out, not meaning we won’t mess up, of course, for every individual sins. There is no specific way to do this, for how we do it does not matter as much as we do it. Having a particular schedule is undoubtedly extremely helpful and most certainly has its advantages (though we should always be ready for things to change and get in the way once in a while; setbacks). We should be striving to get in the Word every day, even though the Bible makes no rule on this since it is not mandatory. However, the question is not whether the Bible commands it, but rather, what is the safest and most effective option in this case? We have to remember that Satan roams around like a roaring lion, looking for his next victim to devour. As mentioned earlier in our study, though he may not be omnipresent, we as mere human beings most certainly do not know when a strike will occur. Best to be safe and take advantage of every day we have to take in God’s truth.
12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
B. Good Solid Bible Teaching
A believer must read the Bible for themselves, understand it, believe it, and then apply it in their everyday life, which is part of taking up our cross daily and following Jesus. Using truth in one’s walk usually entails denying self, sacrificing whatever necessary to abstain from anything displeasing to the Lord.
As important as reading the Word on our own is, a significant part of our learning should be from qualified men whom the Holy Spirit has led to teach the Bible. The whole point of spiritual gifts is to use them in the ministry the Lord has called us. All of this is for His glory to fulfill His plan and purpose for humanity, particularly believers. As servants of Christ, our goal is to use our gifts to lead other people to the truth and help them grow in it.
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Every believer has been given a spiritual gift(s) at the moment of salvation, and the Lord expects us to use them. God provides for a reason and a purpose, which is to fulfill His plan for the world. By submitting ourselves to God, putting ourselves at His disposal, we allow ourselves to be a more crucial part of that plan.
Many people have often said they have wanted to stand remembered in history for some great act of courage and accomplishment(s). How much more should we believers want to be part of the spiritual history, more significant than all earthly things done in this world and of lasting quality that will endure for all eternity? Only the fruit brought forth through ministry will remain forever, good works performed in this life that will be truly worth it in the end.
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
With that said, the process of getting to that point of progress and production will require the prior spiritual growth of the believer ahead of time, growing through the Word of God by reading it on their own, and by receiving proper instruction from an individual believer prepared and qualified to do so. It is the pastor/teacher who has the highest authority in the church today, and by failing to submit our time and attention to an equipped individual whom the Lord has prepared, we are, in essence, trying to gut spiritual growth out on our own. In other words, the person is trying to march to the beat of their own drum. This approach will expose us to tremendous error. Without being adequately fed from a reliable source, our faith will suffer spiritual malnutrition, hampering and weakening the potential growth we could have had. Eating healthy food is good for our bodies; eating healthy spiritual food is good for our spirits. When we fail to eat healthily, our mind and body suffer; when we fail to “eat” healthy spiritual food, our spiritual health suffers, resulting in sin, complacency, and just downright indifference to the Bible, its doctrines, teachings, and exhortations. This spiritually unhealthy lifestyle will then show itself in how we live our lives.
2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
The Holy Spirit will indeed teach and guide us through His Word, and there is some any believer can learn (as well as apply) from just a casual reading of Scripture. But there will be more challenging interpretation areas dealing with critical teachings and doctrines that the individual needs to know. Getting certain things wrong can lead to terrible dangers depending. There is often more than meets the eye regarding what we can learn and get out from just one particular passage alone, even with basic verses. If we don’t submit ourselves to a good pastor, we leave ourselves exposed to the many dangers of misinterpretation, leading to all manner of false teachings. Think of the saying, “you are what you eat.” Apply that to the Bible. If a person receives poor instruction, what can they expect but a poor understanding of God’s Word and a poorly lived life for Him? They are limiting the potential they could have by so much! All believers need a Bible teaching ministry to help them grow.
For those called to teach, do they love God? Then teach the Word and take it seriously! Do we love God as believers with different spiritual gifts? Then heed good teaching! It is a significant need in the believer’s life to please the Lord as much as possible. By availing ourselves to sound doctrine, we help maximize our growth, progress, and production, which will increase our eternal rewards, all while bringing us closer to our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He expressed through His own life so great a love no human could fully contemplate.
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
The above passage should give us pause. The importance of loving care from one believer to another is crucial to our Lord, and that level of concern will be determined by how well a person does in either teaching or seeking out the truth to grow. If a person loves God, they should know to take His Word seriously, whether the teacher or the listener, for you cannot separate the two. The teacher needs to express great love for God in how He teaches, and the listener needs to demonstrate love by whom they choose to believe (Ephesians 4:11-16). Prayer is crucial here, and this takes great discerning power through the Holy Spirit.
7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
The Bible is no joke, and we are to treat it carefully, hiding it in our hearts, believing and applying it through faith, which means we need truth to do so. Therefore, part of studying the Word to be approved workman aside from our own personal Bible reading is studying under a person prepared to teach it seriously.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
It is a sad truth that in our lukewarm era of Laodicea, the Bible is not being taken seriously or given the due honor, respect, love, and attention it deserves. Yet, in our day and age, believers seem to love the world more instead. But our interests should be toward God, our treasures in Heaven, and our comfort and joy in that we have an everlasting share with the One who sacrificed Himself for us to have it. Why, then, do we not love the Bible the way we should? Why is it not being taught seriously? And why are those exposed to such poor teaching not seeking out good spiritual food?
Finding truth, searching for it by seeking it out no matter the cost, takes commitment, a zealous love for God to put Him first before everything else. In today’s day and age of Laodicea, such places with good teaching are rare, but they do exist nonetheless. So how do we expose ourselves to such sound teaching when most churches today are lukewarm? How do we counter the attack of false doctrines? How do we counter the attitude of Laodicea? It is the individual believer’s job to change, as Laodicea won’t change itself as a whole. It all starts with dedicated Bible reading on our own and prayer, lots of it! Then, the believer should pray that the Lord would lead them to a place where enough consistent spiritual growth can occur in their life. In other words, it is all about our attitude which determines how we approach the Christian life (and thus the truth).
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
This whole process of searching takes considerable discernment. Finding answers in a spiritual haven may take time and pain because the process can be gruesome. But what is needed is endurance, the patience to wait on the Lord for Him to bring the answers (Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 27:13-14, Lamentations 3:25, Proverbs 3:5-6). The Bible also advises on things believers can do searching for answers, a small handful of verses shown below. For one thing, we should stay away from anything that would weaken our resolve; these include things that would distract us, especially false teaching and anything that would thwart our mission. Additionally, as the believer grows, so will their priorities. Finally, the mature believer knows what is more important to them, and they will go out of their way to put the Lord first in their life, even with all the suffering entailed.
4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
We can discern good fruit from bad fruit (Matthew 7:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 6:14, 1 John 4:1, Romans 12:2, James 1:5). Every person belonging to the Lord can search under the Holy Spirit’s guidance to discover the answers.
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
The believer who seeks solid truth from a trusted source will find what they are looking for, and God will not fail to deliver. Therefore, let us seek good solid teaching and good spiritual food to obtain spiritual healthiness.
C. Understanding, Believing, and Applying the Truth
There are usually three things, each building upon the other, that need to occur for the believer to benefit the most from Scripture. These are reading, understanding, and applying (I owe this phrasing to Dr. Luginbill of Ichthys.com). Before these three aspects, the former process is to seek the truth, something we have already touched on in our discussion on good solid teaching. Now we will talk about what needs to occur during this process. For example, one who searches for the truth but does not understand it will not benefit from their efforts. And if a person does not know what they are reading, how can they believe it?
E. Believing and Applying
Without believing the truths one has stored in their heart, no believer can apply anything. Once they have come to accept and believe what they have read or heard, they can then apply what they know to be true—the next and final step. That is where our free will comes in, and what better time to use it than at all times? We should not just choose to do the right thing when we are under personal temptation only, but at all times, in every instance, moment, and circumstance where doing the right and wise thing is necessary.
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Believing in the true meaningful sense requires us to apply the truth (epignosis-true knowledge not only understood, but also learned and experienced through application), not just believe it intellectually (gnosis—mental understanding only) James 2:14-26. Application requires an active (not dead) faith for us to live out the truth we have stored in or hearts.
F. Thinking on God’s Truth
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
We should never content ourselves to read our Bibles but never think about what we have read. No one will ever overcome sin this way! We drink the Word to think the Word! This point is significant! Part of having our spiritual gun on “fire” rather than on “safety” is having truth fresh and ready in our minds. We should meditate on God’s Word as often as we can. After we put the ingredients (the truth) in the pot (our hearts and minds), we stir it (think on it) so that we can serve it (apply it).
Additionally, we can do this any time, anywhere. Meditation (dwelling on the truth of God’s Word) keeps our minds set where they should be by keeping them ready for spiritual attack and testing. 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us to be alert and of sober mind, and that is because we don’t know when the evil one will launch his next attack. Meditation keeps our minds focused on the hope to come, granting us peace, joy, and love for others. When we think biblically, we think as our Lord wants us to think. The battle starts in the heart (mind), and what we think as believers dictate what we do (Proverbs 23:7a). We are what we think and treasure most. The question is, how much do we think about God’s truth? Meditation is all about what is going on in our hearts, regardless of how we do it. It doesn’t matter whether we speak our thoughts out loud or go over them quietly. We have to be careful defining biblical meditation because if we go by the world’s standards, we may try to replicate their way of doing things in a legalistic fashion.
8.2 The Shield of Faith
16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If the believer wants to conquer sin in their life, they must trust in the Lord without compromising doubts in their hearts. By faith, we come to believe and apply the truth of God’s Word, for the rock on which we stand, we stand in faith. Do we believe that God will keep supporting us even in the most challenging temptations?
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Here is what we must keep in mind. Temptation is temptation, period. Though some may be more difficult, drawn-out, and aggressive than others, they are, in essence, all the same. Satan can attack us from different angles, pry our greatest weaknesses, and strike when we slack in our spiritual alertness. He will do his best to try to make a temptation seem like something entirely else, something that it is not. The key is to get us to think some of his attacks go beyond just being a temptation like any other, that they are somehow too strong for us to overcome. But although Satan may style his attacks differently, they are all the same, and this should give the believer peace and confidence, knowing that there is nothing too great for them to handle in the Holy Spirit’s power. We resist temptation by standing firm in our faith, and then we let the Holy Spirit do the rest. When confronted with spiritual danger, believing the truth is not a matter of believing as the demons do with a mental appreciation of the facts. Instead, it is casting our burden entirely on the Lord, entrusting Him to deal with the difficulties we encounter.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
But a willing heart to believe is also needed, for if we ask God to help us out of temptation while having second thoughts about the matter in a double-minded fashion, can we expect to overcome it? We can’t, not with a divided mindset, for the believer will only be tossed to and fro by indecisiveness. We cannot have a divided mind when faced with temptation, for Satan will undoubtedly take advantage of the situation. Therefore, we must always let our yes be yes, and our no be no. Either we will exercise faith and obey, or we will give in to the cravings of our flesh.
Believing (a full surrender to and reliance on God as opposed to just a mental understanding and acceptance of the truth) is the same as applying, for faith must be present when and if we obey the Lord’s command. Having hidden His truth in our hearts, we believers then take that same truth that the Spirit makes real to us and apply it in faith. The Spirit will then empower that faith through His strength so that victory becomes possible. Trying to resist in the power of the flesh is like trying to ride a stubborn bull peacefully, knowing it will not happen. A bull will only buck and kick until it manages to throw its rider off of its back. Our flesh will never cooperate with us.
For that reason, faith is a shield because it is a defensive aspect of our spiritual combat that protects us from all attacks. God is our trustworthy source of peace and safety, our rock, and our fortress. But His power will not benefit us if we do not take advantage of it in faith. God’s grace has to be received, for if we believe He will help us when we cry out to Him, then He will not fail to deliver us.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. 21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Now you may be wondering, what are some signs of genuine faith? Well, a first and obvious one would be lack of doubt, but how can we describe this more efficiently? The answer is peace. Peace means soundness of a mind wholly set and focused on Jesus Christ, unwavering tranquility even in the most untranquil of circumstances. Fear only causes us to doubt, shake, and tremble, while peace causes us to be still and unmovable. It is a result of genuine faith in God’s ability to rescue us, and it is this that we must never allow the evil one to take away from us. That requires focus and total reliance on the Holy Spirit with heart and mind entirely attuned to what He tells us. We are commanded not to fear, and we are told to “be still, and know that He is God.” Although temptation rages around us like the waves and wind of a stormy sea, we must not pay attention to them so that they do not throw us off balance. Otherwise, we will begin to sink as Peter did when He doubted the Lord Jesus while walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
When we doubt, we are letting our peace become disturbed by what Satan throws our way. But we know that even though we are no match for God’s enemy one on one, God is greater than the evil one who wages war against us. For this reason, we can have peace, being able to be joyful even in the most excruciatingly strenuous tests. And that’s another thing worth mentioning. Faith tells us to never overestimate a temptation to the point where we feel our God cannot see us through it. Faith tells us we can do all things through Him, who is our strength. And if we know our Lord and Savior as we should, we should also know that God would never have put us into a situation if He knew we could not handle it. Our Lord never sets us up for failure but has in mind only the very best for us. He knows what level our faith is at any given moment, so we need not fear at all. His knowledge of the situation is better than our adversary’s, which means He knows the playing field better than anyone (Psalm 139:1-12). He knows the believers’ strengths and weaknesses, but He also knows our enemy inside and out, for nothing is hidden from Him, not even the devil’s craftiest schemes. God knows about things before they even happen, for in His perfect knowledge, He has been aware of them before He even laid the earth’s foundations. His knowledge and insight are limitless, and so too are His power and love. And because His power is incomprehensible, we can be confidently sure that whatever temptations Satan throws our way are limited in God’s eyes. They are nothing to Him, for He laughs at such things.
4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Another thing we ought to discuss here is our free will and how it relates to our faith. As already mentioned, believing is pretty much the same thing as applying, for a free-will decision by itself will not suffice to deliver. True saving faith results in obedience so that faith and obedience are like two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to obey without faith, and faith without obedience is not true faith at all. Faith takes the next step past mental assertation, making that commitment in the heart by taking that same truth and believing it to the full, resulting in obedience. A leap of faith could not have been “faith” if the action of actually jumping never occurred. Likewise, a step of faith would not have been of “faith” if we never took the step. That is how faith always works. It is a commitment, and a believer who desires to do the right thing and obey their master must do what the Lord has called them to do. Consider Abraham, who, by his works, demonstrated true legitimate faith in following the Lord.
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Obedience is a sign of a living faith inside of us. God’s truth refutes the lies of the evil one and his present “kosmos diabolicus.” The Bible tells us very plainly that worldly treasures are not only fleeting but deceptive as to their value. By faith, we Christians know that this earth is not our actual dwelling place, and the only way to avoid making it our home deep within our hearts is to walk in this world by faith. Falling for the world’s offerings will only lead us into further sin and temptation. But faith displays itself in unrelenting commitment to God.
Another thing to examine here is how our knowledge and intellect interact with our faith. Far too often, Christians rely on their emotions and understanding of a situation to act as their guide. This approach is contrary to the Spirit’s will, for we believe what He tells us. Our flesh, intellect, and emotions will often lead us astray because they are not spiritual weapons at all! Our weaponry in this war we are currently engaged in does not consist of anything physical or emotional, though we still choose to trust in the Lord through our free will decisions. Our weaponry will always be spiritual, for our intellect will only be of any use to us if it is in tune to the Holy Spirit’s power.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Walking in the power of this same Spirit requires true faith, for if we are to rely on the Spirit, we first have to trust Him to lead us down the dark and dreary path. We may not be able to see where we are going, but our Lord does, and He knows where He is taking us. There is always a light at the end of every tunnel for the believer who perseveres to the end. Though a wall may be in front of us, we can knock it down with just a simple “blow of faith.” With only faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
We walk with God in faith. We live by faith, and we act in faith. We are saved by grace through faith. The closer we walk with the Lord in faith, the better we understand the advocate we have fighting our battles for us. When we know more about God, we unleash a plethora of truths to guard our hearts and minds to strengthen our spiritual defenses. Today, our primary way of understanding our Lord Jesus is through His Word, the Bible, for it is the very “mind” of Christ, revealing who He is in character. The book of Proverbs tells us to acquire knowledge, and this requires zealous faith to seek it out. But proper zeal for God is not possible without true biblical knowledge. It takes an unwavering trust to keep seeking the answers even when dealing with difficult doctrines and passages. By faith, we understand that we may not discover the answer to something we truly desire to know overnight. Rather, faith perseveres in seeking the truth, even when results do not come immediately. God always gives to those who ask, and He reveals things to those who seek (even if some of those things take time).
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
To add to the paragraph above, our enemy, the devil, opposes the truth. And because he fights it, he will try to get in the way of our daily search for answers. Satan knows all too well that truth is a weapon against him, and faith must have something to believe for it to benefit anyone. If the devil can mess with the supply line, taking away our ammo by diverting our attention to something else, he needn’t worry about us countering the lies he will throw our way in the future. But that is not all. Satan will not only do his best to keep us out of God’s Word, but he will also try to distort it as well, for he is the father of lies (John 8:44). This attack, known as false teaching, is one of his most effective ways to stunt a believer’s spiritual growth and even destroy it if the teaching is sufficiently harmful and the heart hardened enough. Lies and false teaching are one of Satan’s strongest attacks against the church. For instead of giving the believer an actual bullet, Satan will try to persuade us that the so-called “truth” we receive is legitimate “spiritual “ammo.” But, in reality, it is nothing but a plastic bb that won’t have any actual effects. The believer thinks they have received bullets, but all they have are counterfeits. And this is where discernment comes in.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Discernment is faith’s best friend, for we are to be cautious and prudent in many decisions we will have to make in life. We can’t afford to go jumping right into a situation without knowing much or anything about it. For example, soldiers may scout out the enemy before making any moves to use a military analogy. Would it be wise for them to attack or not? In the spiritual realm, it would go something like this-“ would it be wise for a group of believers to give in to a specific teaching without first examining it to see if it is truly Biblical or not?” The Bereans mentioned in Acts 17:11 should set a good example for us.
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
If we intend to put our trust into something, we must first discern whether it’s true or not through the Spirit’s power (1 John 4:1-3,Matthew 7:15-20). God will provide the answers, and He often does this by leading the individual to a teaching ministry where the truth is available. So it is by faith, we seek the truth, understand it, believe it, and apply it. That is how spiritual growth occurs, and that is how we overcome sin through faith.
8.3 The Helmet of Salvation
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
As believers, we have received salvation by faith through grace alone, according to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Lord is our rock and redemption, a strong fortress for those who take refuge in him (Psalm 18:2). Because of this great salvation we possess, we are no longer slaves to sin, for the power of Christ’s Spirit lives within us to empower righteous living. And since we belong to Christ, we are as safe as can be against the evil one. Sin no longer has any power over us and cannot separate us from God as long as we remain in the faith.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the secular world of warfare, the helmet protects the most critical part of the body, the head. If our head is destroyed or seriously damaged, then no other form of protection will matter. We have to be saved to beat sin, possessing the Holy Spirit within us to counter all spiritual attacks. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will only benefit us if we take advantage of this gift of gifts. For all the other parts of the spiritual armor of God to work or mean anything, we must have on us the helmet of salvation.
But just because we have this helmet doesn’t mean we will take care of it (keeping it on means holding fast to our faith till death). If we are truly taking care of our salvation, then we will take care of the rest of our armor as well. Just as how a good and wise soldier does not abuse his protective clothing, so too a mature and prudent believer attends to and takes care of his own spiritual needs.
An example of this could be building up our faith to protect us during testing and tribulation. All of these other parts of God’s armor come to us because we have received the gospel into our lives. And it is because of our identity with Christ that we believers can further benefit from the other aspects of spiritual warfare.
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
A. Hope and Assurance
To benefit from salvation, we first have to receive it. But what about believers? What does it mean for us to put on this critical piece of armor? Much of it has to do with our hope and assurance. As we move forward in this life, fighting our battles, passing legitimate tests of our faith, keeping our eyes set on the prize has immense motivational power within it. Even though this world is dark, dreary, and challenging, the believer can walk with a true KNOWING that their toil and difficulty is not in vain, for we as Christ’s “soldiers” are not on this mission for nothing. We must remember that there is great reward lying at the end of the journey for all those who persist in their faith unto eternal life. We can never afford to take our eyes off this hope, for this is our greatest weapon against the evil one making all the other parts of the armor possible.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Hope gives us confidence and assurance. If we live in doubt and fear all the time, how can we expect to overcome any of life’s challenges? Satan will take advantage of this weakness in no time at all. Doubting our salvation can lead to excessive fear and worry on the individual who may begin to rationalize that God is not powerful enough to save them. The next thing you know, these fears and doubts can lead to the hardening of the heart if they give birth to greater sin, which may lead back to a complete reversal to unbelief altogether. The believer became positionally saved when they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and all the Lord asks them to do is hold fast to that salvation through faith. No works are involved here! Salvation is entirely secure as long as we continue to believe. That is the truth of the Gospel, for there is nothing more or nothing less to it. You cannot throw works into the equation. Only faith empowered by God’s grace will do it.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
So what does hope do? Regarding temptation and spiritual resistance, it keeps our focus on what truly matters, diverting our attention away from the lusts of this world and projecting our spiritual eyes on the actual reality of who we are in Christ. For if we focus on the temptations swirling around us, we will become afraid and begin to sink just as Peter did on the Sea of Galilee. Satan wants our attention! But we must not give it to him! Our eyes should be on Jesus at all times, for by looking at the attacks and distractions around us, we risk desiring to give into them by becoming afraid of them all the more.
B. Benefits of Salvation
Here is a non-comprehensive list of essential truths about our identity in Christ that will help us to reach the spiritual victory our Lord so desires us to achieve. Knowing our salvation, assurance, and what it entails will arm us with the proper mindset, ready for battle. Through faith (salvation) in Jesus Christ, we are:
1. Free from the power and bondage of sin
13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
2. No longer slaves to sin and death
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. Adopted children of God part of His family
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
4. No Longer slaves to fear
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
5. A new creation
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
6. Citizen’s of heaven
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
There are other words and passages to describe the believer’s new position in Christ, but the ones we have used here pertain most to our discussion, being the most valuable things to keep in mind when fighting this war we have to engage.
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
As mentioned earlier in this study, fear can paralyze faith, making it utterly ineffective against all Satanic interference. But since we have the Lord living inside us, we no longer have to be afraid of whatever may betide, and this is because we have everything we need to handle all opposition effectively. God is so great and powerful, and since we have Him living inside of us holding our hand, why should we ever be afraid? But giving in to fear means strangling our faith if we do not allow the truths of Scripture to comfort us.
For the above reasons, faith and peace must exist alongside each other to succeed in spiritual combat. There is no doubt that the believer will become afraid during some temptation because spiritual warfare is never a perfectly clean and straight-line ordeal. It just isn’t like that. Fighting the good fight entails suffering, failures, disappointments, and imperfections. It is not easy, and many times, the believer will not fight the battle correctly. But with time, experience, and patience, said person will get better and better as they go along.
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Having a smidge of fear or doubt doesn’t automatically guarantee failure, but it most certainly will if allowed to grow for too long. We know that nothing is too great for the Lord, for, unlike our enemy, our advocate is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. We know this in our hearts, but do we apply it? In the case of spiritual combat, our faith demonstrates itself by using what we know to be true. The knowledge that sits unused in the mind is like bullets in a rifle left to sit without being fired.
Since having peace in our Lord Jesus entails knowing about Him, understanding, believing, and then living out that same knowledge, a brief inspection of the differences between gnosis and epignosis would be appropriate.
Gnosis is, by itself, simply put, knowledge. Many famous proverbs from Solomon tell us to acquire knowledge, for no amount of rubies, diamonds, or gems can compare with its value. That is because knowledge makes wisdom possible, that is, the living out and application of what we know to be true in our hearts. Attaining knowledge is like loading the gun to be fired at the enemy. The more we have, the longer and more effectively we can fight the battle. But if we are on the battlefield with no knowledge of how to fight, what will we be able to accomplish? Very little, or even nothing. But by having the proper understanding of what to do, we now have all we need to traverse the battlefield effectively.
Epignosis, on the other hand, is knowledge lived out through wisdom, complete. Unbelievers may have gnosis of God, but they cannot possess epigonosis, or real knowledge of Him because they lack the Holy Spirit. We can’t say we know our commander in chief when we do not obey His orders and do what He says, for that would mean that we would lack the experience of knowing God’s gracious working in our lives. It is often the case that when we are at our weakest, then we are at our strongest, and that is because it is during those moments when we experience God’s power the most. The more intense a spiritual attack, the more glorious and astounding the Lord’s gracious deliverance and handling of us. We begin to see just who our God is, His power, and what He is like during these moments, experiencing more of His love, compassion, and mercy.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.
Along with peace, joy is a fruit of the Spirit, an outward sign of our hope in life. How could a person who belongs to the Lord be saddened by the weight of the world’s difficulties? Are believers any different than unbelievers? Of course they are! So it should behoove us to act like it. This joy is not a false and deceptive facade, but rather, genuine happiness in our status as those who belong to the Lord Jesus, having been redeemed by His precious blood and assigned a place in His eternal kingdom.
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
Before we explain this further, it would be helpful to clarify why absolute joy is essential for the believer.
We do not want to wear facemasks exhibiting a false spiritual condition of ourselves. This is deceptive when we are around other believers because we advertise ourselves as happy people when we are not. As is the case with the rest of the fruits of the Spirit, joy is something that we allow Christ to produce in us. These are things meant to express our true inner self, our condition, and in a way, our relationship with God. So when we feel biblical joy, we represent our inward reality at that very moment. But putting on a false show among other people is only misleading. We are all family members in the body of Christ, and when another person suffers, we suffer with them. We pray for them when they are hurting, and we help them when they express their needs to us. So when we act as if all is fine and dandy, when that is not the case, we are dishonest to Christ’s flock and depriving ourselves of their help and prayers for the deep and dark struggles we may be experiencing. This behavior will not only hurt our relationship with others, but it will hurt our relationship with the Lord as well if we fail to be honest.
26 And if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if a part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it.
Even in the most challenging temptations, we can have joy knowing that we are participating in the sufferings of Christ, following in the footsteps of the one who walked and died on this very same earth to give us everlasting life.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
8.4 The Breastplate of Righteousness
14 Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
The breastplate of righteousness represents the righteousness that believers have received from Christ at the moment of salvation. As long as they rely on His strength instead of their own, they will not fail. With faith and grace comes the righteousness that God imparts to the individual in that said person can now do all that is good and pleasing in God’s eyes. They have God’s righteousness so that they no longer have to sin. Their sins are forgiven, so they are no longer slaves to them.
A. Works of the Flesh vs. True Righteousness of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the One who produces all good things within a believer. Since unbelievers do not possess the Spirit of God, they cannot please Him in any way. But even believers do not automatically practice righteousness when they should. The whole process is not automatic but requires total obedience through a free-will decision made in faith on the believer’s part. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness would be our obeying the Lord and allowing Him to work all truly righteous deeds in us (which requires the person to be saved), for we cannot do anything pure in our flesh. Only God’s righteousness is pure and undefiled, while ours is not, and that is the whole point. We know from Paul that nothing good lies within our flesh in that apart from faith in Christ Jesus, we can do nothing (Romans 7:18). When we try to live righteously on our own, we end up acting as legalistic religious people. Only the righteousness that comes from God’s power (and not our own) will do (Ephesians 4:15-24, Philippians 3:8-9).
God created us, knowing us even before He formed the foundations of the world. What makes us think that we can somehow save ourselves by working our way to heaven? Even if all the above is not the case, and the person in question is a true believer, how can they expect to overcome sin by countering Satan’s attacks through their own strength? It just won’t work, for evil cannot be divided against evil. Attempting to counter Satan in our flesh only gives him another weapon to fight against us, so we only lead ourselves toward defeat. Righteousness is something only God can produce, for sinful human beings cannot have it on their own without having it imparted to them. According to Christ’s battle plan, putting on the breastplate of righteousness means doing things God’s way, fighting this war His way. That means we have to practice faith and obedience, allowing God to take over and override the lusts and desires our flesh craves. Scripture tells us that “if we walk by the Spirit, then we will not give in to the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The “created” has no power by itself, but the “Creator” does. As believers, we must always abide in Christ because that is the only way to bring forth fruit. Righteous works come from a righteous source, and that is Jesus. Believers must continue to believe (endure in their faith which represents keeping their helmet on).
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
And so, when temptations come, we must be under the protective power of the Holy Spirit, ready to produce the true righteousness that comes from Christ. If we are unprepared for spiritual warfare, we will most certainly stumble when faced with spiritual opposition because we will attempt to produce a righteous result through our strength and power, an attempt that will only result in failure and self-righteousness. Only God is good in that He is perfect in everything He does.
“Self-righteousness” shows a lack of faith, and it is from this mindset that man can save himself apart from God through his strength and power by things he deems acceptable in his own eyes that false religion lives by. God is not pleased or impressed by human-made rules or man-powered efforts to please Him.
To the believer currently running this race, all who belong to Christ are in Him. And not only this, but we must actively seek out the truth to hide in our hearts to perform righteousness, for it is the ammo that the Spirit uses to fire back against the evil one. This process is not automatic, for though the Spirit does teach and remind us of the truths we have learned, we first have to search and store that truth into our “heart gun” for there to be something to “shoot.” This truth is not contradictory in any way, for exercising our own free will is simply the process of allowing God to do His unique saving work through us, which we do not accomplish ourselves. We simply trust and obey, storing the truth of His Word in our hearts, and then allow Him to take that truth and submissive will and turn it into something righteous (Galatians 5:16-26).
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
8.5 The Sword of the Spirit
14 Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.
In essence, using the sword of the Spirit means taking the truth we have stored in our hearts (see the belt of truth earlier above) and applying it in the power of the Spirit. Much of what it entails we have already discussed (for sake of time and space) with the belt of truth since they are both very similar.
When faced with temptation, we must recall the truths we have learned by storing up God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). With that, we will end this section with the following questions:
When tempted to doubt our ability to overcome an attack, do we remember that it is God who fights our battles and that His power is unlimited?
13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
22 Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
When tempted to believe the test we face is too great for us, do we remember that the Lord would never have put us in a situation we could not handle?
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
When tempted to be afraid, do we remember that our Lord commanded us to have peace and not fear?
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
When tempted to believe the Lord does not hear our prayers or is not listening to us, do we remember that He is a God who hears and does listen?
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When tempted to believe the Lord will not grant our request, do we remember that He will answer those who desire to overcome sin? Is it the Lord’s will for us to sin? Of course not!
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
When tempted to think that God does not understand our sufferings, do we remember that He suffered more than any other person who has, is, and will ever live?
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When tempted to despair and to become spiritually demoralized, do we remember that our Lord comforts us and produces joy inside if we allow Him?
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away.
When we doubt our freedom in Christ to resist the attacks that come our way, do we remember that we have free will and are no longer slaves to sin?
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
When we doubt God’s forgiveness, do we remember God has forgiven all our past, present, and future sins?
17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8.6 Readiness of the Gospel of Peace
15 and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace;
“Strapping on” the shoes of the gospel of peace involves being firmly grounded in our standing and identification in Christ (us belonging to Him gives us peace and comfort to help others) and always being prepared to share God’s truth (especially the gospel) with others. If we are really growing spiritually and overcoming sin as we should, we will eventually be led to the work that God has for us to do. Once we have advanced in our spiritual growth far enough (from the Lord’s perspective), we will then be ready to help others grow as we have. Possessing all the other parts of our armor now makes us ready to counter Satan’s attacks against unbelievers and other believers. In other words, we (the targets of Satan’s attacks) are now working against his plans by helping others whom he seeks to destroy. We are now countering his regime in a more complete way. Instead of just overcoming his attacks (spiritual growth and progress), we are taking a step further by taking that “battle” experience and using it to help others (production). Doing this will continue to strengthen our resolve to keep sin under control.
To sum up, all the pieces of God’s armor are necessary to complete the process of spiritual growth, progress and production. We can summarize the armor of God as follows;
Helmet of Salvation- Overcoming sin, Satan and the world requires one to be a believer and stay one (keep the helmet on) to the very end. The evil one cannot fully knock us out (and thus win the war) and overcome us as long as we are believers. We are eternally secure as long as we remain in the faith. As long as we have salvation, we always have the power and ability to resist all attacks.
Shield of Faith- True saving faith is required for every aspect of the Christian life (justification, sanctification and glorification). Faith is needed to become a believer and live like one (apply the truth). After salvation, it is needed to grow, progress, and produce.
The Belt of Truth- Faith has to have an object and that is Jesus Christ. However, the Holy Spirit needs truth stored in our hearts to use as ammunition against all evil attacks. This requires the believer to seek the truths of God’s Word out, understand, and believe them.
The Sword of the Spirit- The believer then takes that same truth and applies it in the power of the Spirit (hence, sword of the Spirit).
The Breastplate of Righteousness- God’s righteousness (imparted to us the moment we believed) is not only a sign we belong to Him (it keeps us safe from eternal death) but provides us the power to apply the truth (to wield the sword of the Spirit). Only God can produce anything righteous in us for we can do nothing by ourselves in our strength and power. We cannot apply the truth in the Spirit’s power if we are resisting His influence to deal with personal sin. If we try to overcome sin on our own, we will fail, but not if we rely on the Holy Spirit who produces the true righteousness of God within us.
Readiness of the Gospel of Peace- This is taking everything we have assimilated through prior growth and progress and using it all to produce for the Lord (showing that we are battle tested). The shoes of the gospel of peace not only help us to stand our ground in the peace we have as believers, but also allows us to help give that peace to others by ministering to them ( in whatever ways). We can now comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves received from Christ because we have grown and progressed far enough to do so (2 Corinthians 1:4).
9. Final Words
Overcoming habitual sin can take time and often requires great patience and dedication. When you plant a garden, you tend to it as long as you have to. The same goes for our relationship with God. But just like a garden, spiritual growth and victory over sin is not an overnight process. The difference is that our sinful natures will always be with us as long as we live in these fallen, physical bodies we possess. We still sin and will continue to do so until we meet the Lord face to face. But this does not excuse disobedient behavior. If we want to avoid spiritual ruin and compromise, we must avoid it altogether, though we can never reach perfection in this life. Our Lord knows that we are but flesh corrupted by a sinful nature, and He knows that we can never be perfect. His standard of perfection is to get us to give our very best for Him, for by striving to obey this command without carrying the baggage of a legalistic standard, we get closer to reaching this goal. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), very short indeed, for there will never be a single person this side of eternity who ever came close to perfection. The lie of sinless perfection is just that—false teaching stemming from a self-righteous behavior that makes one believe that they no longer sin.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Spiritual combat can be messy. It is not easy, and it is not automatic, for it requires a lot of willpower (not by itself but only through totally surrendering ourselves to God in complete and total reliance) on our part to submit to the Lord and allow Him to do His perfect work within us. How long it will take to reach consistency depends on a person’s disposition toward that same bad behavior. The more we come to detest and despise it, the greater our resolve to defeat it becomes. It can take time, and the process may not look pretty, but victory shall triumph with time and enough commitment.
Some people struggle with certain things more than others, and their background could play a role in this. For example, a person who has grown up around an angry person their whole life may take longer to defeat anger than someone who grew up around more patient and loving people. Whatever the reason or circumstances, the point is that we all struggle with different things to varying degrees. Of course, this shouldn’t give us the idea that we should compare ourselves to others and compete against them, for that is not the Christ-like attitude we should possess. As believers, we have to remember that we are not fighting our allies, our brothers and sisters in Christ, but fighting against Satan and all this world’s spiritual darkness and opposition.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We are here to please Jesus, not ourselves or others. We do not make it our priority to compare our spiritual progress to that of other believers. We will know we are progressing in our struggles when we begin to see more self-control and less sin in our lives. And we cannot fail to mention the signs of our growth that the Holy Spirit produces in us. Fruits of the Spirit are the exact opposite of the fruits of the flesh. An indication of our progress will be the works of righteousness produced in the believer by the Holy Spirit. And this means that His control in our lives is strengthening, while the sin nature’s rule is weakening.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
But there is a problem that often faces many believers, especially younger ones. They will usually start well, growing, progressing, and overcoming sin, but their progress plummets. Does this mean that all hope is lost? Of course not, for though they may have gotten themselves into a mess, God will most certainly and eagerly pull them out of it to get them back onto the main road if they are but willing to seek His help. And all believers have “down periods” in their life, some worse than others. But we should never let them become more severe. There is no excuse for sin, and if we are not careful, that same evil can lead to the hardening of the heart. Sin is no joke. It’s not funny, it’s not safe, it’s not rewarding, and it’s not helpful to our spiritual growth and production whatsoever. Disobedience hurts our relationship with the Lord, and it fails to increase our fruit, resulting in the loss of eternal rewards. Just because God never throws us out of His family during our period of sin does not mean we are to take advantage of His grace. God’s loving care with us through discipline should cause us to return the love, not commit even more sin! Grace is designed to lead us to repentance, not away from it!
3 But do you suppose this, you foolish person who passes judgment on those who practice such things, and yet does them as well, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Defeating sin in one’s life often entails many learning curves. There are many times where we develop incorrect beliefs in relation to the issue of overcoming sin. Below is a non-comprehensive list mentioning things to remember while we engage in spiritual combat.
1. When you fail in a particular area, do not say, “I won’t do it again, Lord!” We can’t make promises like that because we will never be perfect.
The above is something you will often hear believers struggling with sin tell you. But we know that we can’t see the future, and sinless perfection is not possible on this side of eternity. Chances are, we will commit that same sin again; however far into the future is uncertain. So it is better to throw ourselves into the Lord’s arms, trusting in Him, and resolving to do better the next time. For if we keep our eyes focused on Him at all times, the chance of us falling into a chronic pattern will decrease drastically. Better to focus on the truths of His Word and meditate on all things good than to worry about when temptation will strike next. Worry and anxiety only lead to failure.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
2. Don’t put any false standards on yourself
Legalism is one of the worst traps a believer can fall into, a snare of believing they can please God in some way through the power of their flesh. All good things come from the Spirit’s power and not our own. And it should be remembered that there is no specific level of maturity to mark how well we have to have sin under control. Our Lord just wants us to do our best and keep striving to do better and better until we see Him face to face. He is the one who will evaluate our work done here on earth. We answer to Him for all the wrong we have done, and it is not our job to discipline ourselves. Nor should we take the Lord’s handling of our sins lightly, for it should lead us to repentance.
So to conclude, we should not attempt to judge our maturity level, for only the Lord truly knows where we are. If we are in habitual unrepentant sin, we will know it, and the solution is to stop it by repenting/confessing our sins to the Lord. By putting false standards on ourselves, we will only become disappointed when we fail to live up to them. We cannot afford to make the same mistake the religious leaders of Jesus’ day made by putting a standard on the people that no one could bear. We strive for perfection, but we cannot think that we will ever be perfect in this life because that will never happen. The danger of the legalistic teaching of “sinless perfection” will only lead to failure and self-righteousness.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
3. Do not become fixated on judging yourself on Things You Cannot know
4. Do not allow your defeats to do more damage than they should
As believers, we cannot afford to wallow in sin when we fail. Wallowing is a big trap that many often fall into, for the mindset goes something like this—“I sinned. Oh well, mine as well indulge a little bit more before I decide to confess.” This compromising attitude only allows more damage to occur to our faith, and our relationship with the Lord can become breached if we take our failures too far.
When we sin, we confess it immediately. We don’t dally just because we have failed in some way. Instead, we go to the Lord, get back under the control of His Spirit, and begin “running” again. Think of a ship damaged in battle. More water will gush through the hole if the crew hesitates to get the repair underway while out at sea (assuming the vessel is repairable). Satan does not play fair. When he hits us, he tries to get us to stumble more than once. He wants that stumble to escalate even more failures so that we begin to move toward spiritual ruin, a process known as backsliding. The result if we are not careful can be the shipwreck of our faith.
So when we sin, we must never allow more of it to come in after that. We must “repair the hole” and get back to fighting the good fight of faith. The longer we wait to confess, the more spiritual pain we bring on ourselves. In addition, the Lord’s discipline will not only come, but it will increase in severity as our sin does (Psalm 32:3-5).
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
5. Stay away from anything that would weaken your spiritual resolve
Every believer struggles with certain sins and behaviors. We all have our weaknesses, though they are never unique to one person alone. That said, it only makes sense that we should stay away from certain things that may link our inner desires to that particular sin that irritates us. Even if something is not wrong by itself, it may be best to throw it out entirely. That may mean we stop going to certain places we don’t need to be. It may also mean we stop seeing certain people whose own behavior is not helping our spiritual growth.
Additionally, we may have to avoid certain activities such as reading particular books, watching specific television shows, certain music, etc. We must be careful not to be legalistic, but we must also discern the best course of action to deal with the abovementioned things. If doing certain things is wrong, then we must stop doing them. Not sure if they are right or not? Better to be safe and stop altogether. Dealing with something that’s not wrong but not exactly helping our spiritual situation? Best to avoid it. Our time here on this earth is short, and we have better and more important things we can and should be doing.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
6. Avoid complacency, pride, laziness, and taking advantage of God’s grace
The spiritual prosperity test can often be one of the most challenging tests for a believer to undergo. When times are difficult, we often rise to the occasion and throw ourselves into the Lord’s arms out of great distress. But when times are good, we tend to relax our dependence on the Lord, trusting more in our favorable circumstances than in Him.
Complacency only gives the evil one an opening for attack. There is no such thing as a suitable situation to relax our grip on the Lord, for the prosperity test is often the test that will determine in those moments just how thankful we are to the Lord for having brought us to that point. Our faith should be unbending, no matter the circumstances. There can be no compromise between right and wrong, for we must always do the right thing. Our Lord wants us to trust in Him and keep running faster and faster even when times are not as seemingly difficult.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
We must always handle spiritual success with great care, and we must always keep our spiritual growth in perspective. It was by the Lord’s strength and power that we even attained the spiritual status we now enjoy. God gets all the glory and credit, not man. Pride and complacency can be so dangerous because they can cause us to think, “I have done well up to this point; a little sin wouldn’t hurt. After all, I’m going to sin sooner or later anyway.” That is a downright lie and can have disastrous consequences!
26 Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
Complacency with sin is taking advantage of God’s grace. We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), for our Lord Jesus suffered such a terrible death beyond all human imagination for us to have the relationship and eternal life we currently have with Him now. It is the Lord’s kindness toward us that should cause us to put away all unrighteousness, not embrace them even more! You can now get an idea of just how much of an insult it is to take the grace the Lord Jesus suffered so much to give us and to fail to live accordingly to it.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
7. Don’t dwell on or worry about the past or future
Believers often struggle with letting go of the past and staying focused on the present. Our time on earth is too short for us to dwell on our past failures, and that is what Satan wants us to do. Inordinate guilt is one of his greatest weapons because it tends to grab hold of the individual like a chain and not let them move forward. And that is just the tactic the evil one desires to use, for we must remember that he appears in the third heaven before the Father to accuse believers as if to persuade the Lord somehow to give in to his wishes and deal with them his way. It’s not only an attack on believers, but it’s an attack on God Himself because Satan is acting as if the Lord is not already aware of His own children’s failures. In other words, Satan wants to persuade the Lord that He is in the wrong, utter blasphemy in the least. Our Lord’s handling of us is just and fair and perfect in every way, whereas Satan’s knowledge and viewpoint of the matter are not only twisted but limited in scope and vision as well. The evil one purposely accuses believers in an attempt to show the Lord He is wrong in His just handling of His own. When we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father who goes before Him and tells Him, “he/she is good, for I covered all of that with my blood.” Of course, the Father already knows this, and as the Son, is in perfect agreement with our status.
Believers must let go of excessive guilt concerning sins committed in the past. The Lord does not hold them against us, for if He did, He never would have gone to the cross to die for them. Looking back on past failures will only hinder our progress moving forward.
On the other side of this is worrying about the future. How can we deal with today’s problems if we are anxious and worried about the potential challenges tomorrow will present? You may think to yourself, “ oh, I gave into that particular sin so easily last time. What will happen when the temptation returns to me tomorrow?” That is not how we are supposed to follow the Lord. We walk by faith and not by sight. We live this life day by day, moment by moment. Fear paralyzes faith, rendering it useless when faced with a difficult situation. Tomorrow will take care of itself (Matthew 6:25-34), and by worrying about future difficulties, we only add to our troubles in a single day.
1. Knowing our enemy and our ally is crucial in successfully negotiating the spiritual battlefield. Having sufficient knowledge of our helper, the Holy Spirit, and how He aids us in the fight is vital. Knowing our enemy for who he truly is is also critical. We need to know that he is evil and that he is a liar. We cannot afford to have any false beliefs about either God or Satan. God is all-powerful and will never fail to pull us through our struggles.
2. Repentance is mandatory to get a straying believer back onto the road of fellowship with God and spiritual growth. Without a legitimate desire to change, no change for the better will ever occur.
3. To recover from sin, believers need to know how to confess it. We all stumble every day, and acknowledging, forgetting, and moving on from one’s failures is the only way to go when we do mess up. In addition, confession restores us to fellowship with God and puts us back under the power and control of His Spirit. True repentance results in us confessing our sins and eventually following through. Repentance is illegitimate if we go through the motions of acknowledging our sins to God without any desire to actually change (which results in continued disobedience).
4. All believers stand forgiven of all their sins, past, present, and future. There is not one sin uncovered by the blood of Jesus (other than willfully turning back by rejecting Him—unbelief).
5. The believer must walk by the Spirit. If they do not, they cannot live the Christian life. Living in the power of the flesh will only result in constant failure.
6. Discipline is God’s way of handling our sin. It is reserved only for believers, not unbelievers. Though far from taking away our free will, this loving act from our Lord helps to keep us from going deeper into sin.
7.We must (possess) put on the whole armor of God to withstand the flesh and the attacks of the evil one. These metaphorical “parts” of the armor consist of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Please see that discussion for the individual treatment of each part of the armor.
8. Having the proper attitude and perspective about our future hope and our present standing and identity with Christ will help keep our minds in place and protect them from any fear, doubt, or misery. The fruits of the Spirit are things that the Lord produces in us, requiring our free will faith to submit to Him. Upon obedience, the Lord then works through and empowers the believer to do what is right, i.e., resist temptation and overcome it.
9. We have free will, so the Christian never has to give in to sin and temptation.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.