Besetting sin is the one that keeps coming back. You return to it like a dog returns to its vomit, to borrow a phrase from the Bible. That may sound disgusting, but you are disgusted with yourself every time you recommit this particular sin. The problem is you try so hard not to. That is the problem; you’re trying not to instead of training not to.
It takes discipline to live a holy life. The Apostle Paul says we are striving for a crown. We are in a race and there can be only one victor. Victory over sin has already been won; Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross and leaving the tomb empty. So we need to live our lives in such a victory. Even though there can be only one winner in a race, we can experience victory in Jesus if we will commit ourselves to loving and obeying Him. We need to run the race because in the end we have an everlasting crown waiting for us on the other side:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
You know why we fail every time when trying to defeat our besetting sin? It is because we expect to. Either our flesh or Satan reminds us of our past failures and convinces us to just give in this one time. “You’ll do better next time,” Satan whisper in our ear, and somehow we find comfort in that. If we run expecting to lose, should we be surprised by the outcome? I want to run expecting to win and that takes discipline:
“Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
At this point you might be thinking, easy for the Apostle Paul to write all that, he was an apostle after all! How quickly we forget his struggles. Go back and read Romans 7 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. It is in our weakness that Christ’s strength is manifested in our lives.
You’ve heard the old saying, “It’s mind over matter.” That saying is attributed to an evolutionist and the ancient poet Virgil coined the phrase, “the mind drives the mass,” in his epic work Aenid. Our minds are indeed strong antidotes to many frailties we face in life.
However, there are some things that are more than just mental manipulations. We have a spiritual being and it is in the spiritual realm where the battle of besetting sin is won. We will have to make up our minds to stand with Christ, but when we do the Holy Spirit will stand with us:
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote that he disciplined his body. Now there are some religions that practice self-flagellation, which is whipping oneself as part of a religious ritual. This is not what Paul is suggesting. He is reminding us that we do not have to live the old lives from which we were rescued when we came to Christ:
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7)
Now your besetting sin may seem too big a dragon to slay, but understand the biblical promise of overcoming your flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though our spirits war with our flesh constantly, we can have victory over it by allying our spirit with the Spirit of God:
“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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14)
We can have victory over our sins if we will align ourselves with the Spirit of God.
This will happen when we stop trying and start training.
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Copyright © 2016 David Jeffers