Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Introduction

 

Overcoming Sin
through Christ

Sins of the Old Life
and How to Overcome Them

Richard Hollerman

Introduction

The world generally fails to understand the nature of holiness that God wants for His people in the midst of living in an unholy world.  People around us do not comprehend the depths of sin in which we dwell or the heights of holiness to which God calls us.  We will value the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided for His people to the extent that we realize the heinousness of the iniquity that brings God’s judgment and eternal condemnation on an unbelieving and sinful world.

Sometimes we read books that describe the fruit of the Spirit and character virtues mentioned in Scripture.  I have written on these desirable qualities in Character Traits of the Spiritual Life.  I believe that to be complete I should make available the opposite and related studies that we now begin.  You will be able to access dozens of different sins described on the pages of the Word of God. What’s more, you will be able to see how you can conquer these sins through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture says that no one guilty of sin will enter the heavenly City of God.  Sin will be entirely foreign to the new heavens and new earth and the city of God (Revelation 21:1-2, 8, 27; 22:15; 2 Peter 3:13).  This is why it is utterly important for you to find forgiveness through Christ and to overcome sin in your own life.  Jesus said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).  He also said, “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (v. 11). The Lord promised, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (v. 7).  You need to see sin as your dreadful enemy and take measures to overcome it through the Lord Jesus Christ.

We pray that these short studies will help you to see the character of sin, the seriousness of sin, and the results of sin so that you may not be led astray by “the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13), be “entangled” by sin (12:1), or fall under sin’s condemnation (Romans 6:23).  Even more, may you learn how you can overcome sin’s dreadful power so that you may “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us” (Romans 8:37). May this study help us to appreciate “how great a salvation” that God has brought to us through Christ Jesus and His cross (Hebrews 2:3; cf. 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

–Richard Hollerman

Sins of the Old Life

We can’t understand the incredible love, mercy, and grace of our God if we fail to see clearly the holiness, righteousness, justice, and wrath of God against sin.  We can’t understand the significance of Christ’s redemptive death on the cross if we don’t comprehend the seriousness of the problem from which Christ rescues us.  We can’t comprehend the necessity of living a holy, pure, and devoted life if we fail to grasp the gravity of all disobedience, wickedness, evil, and sin that plagues the human race.

Someone has said that all sinners are either on the “muddy” road to hell or the “paved” road to hell.  People take for granted that people will commit “little” sins and these are considered the “respectable” sins of society—such as pride, greed, materialism, covetousness, lying, gossip, and lack of love.  They look down on those who travel the “muddy” road consisting of what society considers the “weightier” sins of murder, rape, child abuse, adultery, and sodomy.  But are we sure that people view sin accurately and according to God’s perspective?  You see, sin is sin, and all sin is in conflict with the holy character of our God and Creator.  All sin grieves the heart of God.  From God’s perspective, all sin leads to His judgment and eternal condemnation. 

Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).  He says that we were “dead” in “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and that we were “formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21).  Scripture plainly says, “Your iniquities [lawless deeds] have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

None of us can realize how grave is our sinful condition.  Paul says that the sinner is “separate from Christ,” and has “no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  He says that it was in sin that “you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (2:2).  He goes on to admit, “We too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desire of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath” (v. 3).  Later in the same book, Paul describes, with vivid language, the tragic plight of those who are in sin among the Gentiles: “Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (4:17-19).

In this graphic picture of those in sin, Paul shows us how God views those who go their own way and are alienated from the Lord and His life.  This is the “bad news” that is necessary before “good news” makes sense. This was part of our character as children of Adam, ones who sin and remain in such sin to the point of death.  The guilt of sin will bring death (Romans 6:23), separation from God (Isaiah 59:2), God’s judgment (Romans 2:3), and God’s righteous wrath.  Paul says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).  The apostle then charges the sinner, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (2:5).  Indeed the condition of those in sin is exceedingly serious!  The enemy of sin has pervaded society and none of us is exempt from its dreadful and lethal effects.

The good news is that God saw us in our sinful condition and chose to provide the remedy to the blight of sin.  “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).  “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). Amazing though it is, Christ “Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,” “the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).  Thanks to Christ, death is canceled and God gives us life (Romans 6:23). 

Sin is like a venomous snake that bites every person, but Christ provides the remedy to save us from its fatal effects.  Through our Savior, “death is swallowed up in victory” and the “sting” of death is removed (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Alienation is bridged since God reconciles us to Himself “through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  Eternal punishment is banished for the believer and he is given eternal life (Matthew 25:46), a “life” that “is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  Christ has solved the sin problem, through His sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and present heavenly intercession.  Christ “is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

The guilt of our past sin has thus been solved by God through Christ.  Beyond this, God has also made provision for our release from sin’s dominion through His beloved Son and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  Paul describes this in Romans 6.  When we come to Christ, we “die” to sin and the “old self” is “crucified” with Him (vv. 2, 6).  Through this spiritual crucifixion of death to sin, “our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (v. 6).  Based on this past death to sin, Paul is able to say, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11).  This is an ongoing attitude on our part in which we turn away from all unrighteousness and deliberately choose to live a life submitted to the will of God. 

The apostle explains, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (vv. 12-14).  Although we were “slaves of sin,” we died to that sin and were “freed from sin” to become “slaves of righteousness” (vv. 17-18; cf. vv. 19-22).  Instead of being a slave of sin, we now are “slaves” of obedience (v. 16), of righteousness (vv, 18, 19), and slaves of God (v. 22). 

The Holy Spirit now dwells in the heart of the repentant believer.  Although sin is still in the world and the servant of God may yet fall into individual acts of sin, he does not “live” in such sin.  He now serves “in the newness of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6; cf. 8:11).  It is “by the Spirit” that we are able to put to death the deeds of the body that we might live” (8:13).  Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).  At the point of repentant faith, expressed in baptism, we receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39; cf. 5:32) and “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).  We now are able to conquer and overcome sin of thought, word, deed, and attitude through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Since we have been born of God through the Spirit, we are children of God and overcome the dreadful tyranny of sin!  John describes the transformation that living in the Spirit as children of God brings to us.  He writes, “Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29).  The characteristic of our life is righteousness—not unrighteousness.  It is holiness—not unholiness or sin.  He goes on to describe the believer’s relationship to sin:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.  No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother (1 John 3:4-10).

Although much is found in this passage, we can notice this:

    • The sinless Christ came to take away sins (as well as die for them).

    • If we abide in Christ, we do not sin (we do not make a practice of sin).

    • Although we do not live in sin, if we do commit an individual act of sin and sorrowfully, repentantly confess it to God, He will forgive us (1 John 1:7-2:2).

    • Although Paul emphasizes that we may be counted as righteous through faith in Christ and receive the imputed righteousness of God (cf. Romans 1:17; 3:24-26; 4:5; 10:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 2:16, 21; Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:7), John emphasizes that we must practice or live in righteousness, living a righteous life of freedom from sin.

    • John emphasizes personal righteousness that renounces sin.  He says that “the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-9).

    • The child of God may be known by his life: “Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9).

Throughout the new covenant writings, God has revealed to us the nature and character of both sin and holiness, of both unrighteousness and righteousness, of both disobedience and obedience.  He intends that we live a holy, pure, and true life of practical obedience and righteousness, and He calls on us to renounce sin and remain separated from all manifestations of unrighteousness.

This is the reason for the present study.  We want to determine what the Word of God says about many different sins.  Sins may be classified as inward and outward, internal and external, sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit.  Paul writes, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).  “Holiness involves purification of all aspects of life, including how believers treat and use their physical bodies as well as purity in the realm of their spirits, affecting their inward thoughts and desires.”[1] Thus, God is not One who is merely concerned about the external or outward part of our character.  He is also concerned about inner thoughts, motives, desires, and attitudes.  The Pharisees emphasized the outward regulations of the Law, but Jesus pointed out that the outward is not the only matter of concern: the inward is ultimately determinative of what happens outwardly (cf. Matthew 23:23-28).

Although we will particularly be focusing on sin as it relates to a Christian, much that we discuss will have a direct bearing on the sincere seeker who wishes to learn something about sin and salvation from sin.  Let’s approach this study with an attitude of inquiry, seeking to understand the truth of our own sin and how we can overcome this dreadful and deadly enemy of our soul.  Let’s pray to God for His mind on the meaning and expressions of sin and then side with Him in our opposition to it!

 



[1] ESV Study Bible, note.


 

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