23.10.16 – Victory Over Sin? Only Through The Gospel – Peter Cheyne

Last week I used a word that might have been misleading. It was the word “sinless”. Hebrews 10 says, “We have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus.” How can we possibly have confidence to enter the very presence of God when we are sinful and God is holy? Only by the blood of Jesus; if our sins have been washed way, in that sense we are sinless. As that passage says “having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed in pure water.”

OK, but maybe not the best word. Who of us would say that we are sinless?

1 John 1:8           If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If you do think you are sinless, you are in cloud cuckoo land. You are out of touch with reality. You are deceived… God says No, no, we sin.

So, is sin inevitable and we just need to live with it? Do we just say, “Oh well, we are all human. This is ‘the human condition’” and resign ourselves to the reality of sin?

Or, is it possible to have victory over sin?

I remember reading, when I was a young Christian, that the more we grow in our faith, the more we are conscious of sin in our lives. I was surprised by that. I thought that sin would be less of a factor in our lives – not more. The author wasn’t saying that we sin more but that we are more conscious of our sin – and more distressed by its reality.

That might be your experience too. You have been a Christian for goodness knows how long but, somehow, certain sins keep tripping you up. Sometimes we can absolutely despise ourselves when we fail yet again. We seem like the lowest of the low. Surely other Christians live more consistently godly lives than I do. How can I even call myself a Christian when I do these things? Will God give up on me when I let Him down so badly? Have I gone too far this time? Will I lose my salvation?

Our forefathers talked about “besetting sins” – areas in our life where we just seem especially weak; where we fail again and again. It might be a different sin for each one of us, but we each have areas where we are prone to repeated failure. You might know straight-away what that besetting sin is for you.

Can we ever have victory? Should we even worry or should we just accept the reality of sin?

Well, the gospel is good news in this everyday, practical aspect of life.

What is the gospel? Over the last two weeks, I have repeatedly used a sentence based on 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Can you remember it?  Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. I think we will see today that that gospel message is relevant to this question of ongoing sin in our lives.

READ Romans 6:1-14

Paul starts this passage as if he is answering an objection. Someone has suggested that if we keep sinning and keep experiencing God’s forgiveness then we experience more and more of God’s grace. In other words, the more we sin the more of God’s grace we experience. So sin is a good thing.

Look at Paul’s response! By no means! That is an abhorrent thought. How can a Christian even think such a thing? If we have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Crazy talk!

If we had kept reading, we would have seen that Paul addresses another argument for sin. We love to justify sin. Some were saying we are no longer under God’s law so we don’t have to obey it. Again, Paul says, “By no means! No, no, no. If you give yourself to sin, you will be slave to that sin.”

Christians, do not try to justify ongoing sin. But what do we do about it? Is it a case of “just try harder”?

As we said last week, the gospel is not about what we have to do but about what Jesus has done. It is not a question of us trying harder to resist sin; it is a question of what Jesus has already done for us.

We can think of the difference between “do” and “done” like this. If we think we have to do it, to brace ourselves, we take a deep breath, and everything is tense. But if we hear that it has been done, we exhale and we relax. If it is our responsibility, there is stress. If it has been done for us, there is relief, and peace.

In Romans 6, Paul refers back to the two things that are at the centre of the gospel – Christ died and rose again. But he tells us something quite remarkable. When we come to faith in Jesus and are baptised, we are included in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is a bit hard to understand but the Bible says that it is real. Christians are “in Christ”. Somehow, we are incorporated into Jesus. God sees us “in Christ”.

I cannot explain this. But we are united to Jesus. And so when Jesus died, we were included in that death. And when Jesus rose from the dead, we were included in that resurrection. The gospel is not only that Christ died for our sins and rose again but that we died (to sin) and rose again.

Does this seem strange? You might think I am talking complete gobbledygook. But think of some of the other terms the Bible uses. Jesus talked about being born again.

When we are born physically. a new human being entered the world; a new life begins. We had a granddaughter born this week. [I needed to be able to slot that into the sermon somewhere.] There is a new person in our family and a new life has begun. But Christians have been born a second time. Again, it is like there is a brand new person and a new life.

2 Cor 5:17           If anyone is in Christ [note that phrase] he/she is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.

Anyone in Christ is a brand new person. The old person has gone. God has created a new person.

This is a remarkable truth. If you are a Christian, you can say, “I am a brand new person. The old me died. God has created a new me. I am not the same person I was.” It is more than that some things about you have changed. You are not just a revised version of the same person. You are a new person. Same looks, same personality but a new person.

This is a miracle that happens when we become Christians and it has profound implications.

Now, here is the point. Dead people do not sin. Have you noticed that? Dead people do not sin. Sin has tremendous power. No human being can escape the power of sin. There has never been a human (other than Jesus) who has had anything like the strength to escape the power of sin. Everyone succumbs. Sin wins every time. As Paul expresses it in this passage, we are slaves to sin. We cannot help ourselves. We do not have the power to not sin. If sin says, “Do this”, we do it.

But death brings that to an end. Sin has no power over dead people. And so, when a person comes to faith in Jesus and dies with Jesus, the power of sin over that person is broken.

But we weren’t only included in Jesus’ death. We were also included in His resurrection. We were raised as new people to live a new life. The old person has gone. A new person has been raised, and the new person is not subject to the power of sin. Did you hear that? The new person is not subject to the power of sin! As Christians we start a new life. It is a different life altogether. It is a life in which we have a new relationship with God and a life in which we are no longer slaves to sin.

We are free! Breathe out. Relax. Say, “I am free from the power of sin.” You don’t have to summons up some super-human effort to defeat sin. It has been done for you. The power of sin over you has been broken. Before we were Christians we had no choice. We were slaves to sin. Sin called the shots; we followed sin’s orders. We had to. We weren’t strong enough not to.

But now, that power has been broken and we are free to not sin.

But real life is not quite that simple, is it? That might be absolutely true but there is another truth alongside it. Temptation remains a reality. That old person keeps trying to come back to life. Failure to resist that temptation remains a reality for all of us. We continue to do the things we don’t want to do and to not do the things we really want to do (as Paul said of himself in the next chapter). As we said at the beginning, if we say we are without sin… wrong!

So, is all of this of little practical value to us? Are we doomed to a life of failure? No! In vv.11-14 Paul gives us some instruction. The good news of the gospel is that the power of sin over us has been broken. A new life is possible but we have to live that new life. We have to put it into practice.

In v.11, Paul says, “In this way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Think of yourself as being dead to sin. The first step is to believe this truth. We could go around like Eeyore, thinking to ourselves, “It is no use. I am weak. I am stupid. I will never have victory over sin. I might as well just give up. Maybe it works for other people but it doesn’t work for me.”

But Paul says, “Believe what God says is true. Truly believe that you are dead to sin. Sin has no power over you. Believe not only that you are dead to sin but also that you are alive to God. Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” God says it; believe it. Say, “Because of Jesus, sin has no power over me.” That is the first step: believe it. God says that you are a new creation. Believe it.

Then in v.12 Paul says, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies.” Apparently there is the possibility that sin can still have control over us. If we let sin be our master, then we will do the evil that sin tells us to do. Apparently, even in this new life, that is possible. We can let sin reign. But we also have the possibility of not letting sin reign. We can say “No! Sin you will not dictate to me. You will not control me.” Paul says, “Use your new freedom. Stand up to sin. Say “No”. Do not let sin reign.”

If we are to have victory, part of it does depend on us. God has made it possible but we have to actually exercise the freedom that He has given us. We have to believe it and we have to use it.

Thirdly, we have to make choices about what we will do with our lives. In v.13, Paul says, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin… but offer yourself to God… offer every part of yourself as an instrument of righteousness.” What will you live for? Will you serve sin, or will you serve God? There can be no compromise here – a little bit of sin and a little bit of God. Paul says, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin. Offer every part of yourself as an instrument of righteousness.” Live 100% for righteousness.

What are you living for? Do you dedicate every day to living for God?

Some people here might not be Christians. You might not be interested or might be still exploring it. Can I just say that, if you know there are things you really don’t want to do but find yourself doing anyway, God offers to set you free? All you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again.

If you are a Christian, I suspect our normal strategy is to cry out to Jesus for help. Jesus will help but Jesus might be saying, “I have already set you free. It has been done for you. The gospel has set you free. I have given you new life. You are dead to sin. All you have to do to have victory over sin is to live the new life.”

  1. believe that you are free. Count yourself dead to sin but alive to God
  2. exercise that freedom. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body
  3. choose what you will live for. Offer every part of yourself to Me.

Other resources

  1. Three Principles For Walking In Victory Over Sin
  2. How To Find Victory Over Sin
  3. The Successful Solution For Lasting Victory Over Sin
  4. Are You Dead To Sin? (Continue to the subsequent articles to explore more of Romans 6)

The fundamental (but often overlooked) principle is that we have died with Christ and been raised to a new life. It is His work, and Hos work alone, that sets us free from the power of sin. However, we are called to live out that freedom and there are God-given strategies we can use to overcome sin.

  1. How Can I Overcome Sin In My Christian Life?
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