The Secret To Overcoming Your Sin

In 1899, a famous healing evangelist named John Alexander Dowie founded a Christian city north of Chicago, Illinois named Zion City. His desire was to create a modern-day Utopia by removing every temptation that could lead the city’s inhabitants astray.

In fact, in the city charter he outlawed sin. Really!

Zion City eventually grew to 6,000 people under Dowie’s leadership, but they were never able to achieve their goal of eradicating sin. Zion, Illinois exists to this day, but it resembles any other city.

The season of Lent tends to direct our focus to our sin. And why wouldn’t it when our sins were the reason Jesus was nailed to the cross on Good Friday? Traditionally, Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. So yes, Lent does expend a significant focus on sin.

Like all of you, I have spent a lifetime trying to rid myself of my earthier side. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much energy I expend, I often find that my efforts only make things worse.

Obviously, none of us will completely rid ourselves of our sinful condition until we pass through those pearly gates, but there is a better way to fight the ongoing battle with sin.

Abide in Christ.

Sounds overly simplistic, but it’s true.

The Best Way To Identify An Idol
When I make the focus of my life the eradication of sin, I make sin my focus. I’m actually abiding in my flesh—that part of me which craves sin. So it’s no surprise that I become further entrapped by it. Whatever we abide in, we become.

If I’m struggling with lust and trying not to think lustful thoughts, what am I focusing on, or abiding in? My lust.

Whatever I focus on becomes an object of worship. An idol. If I make finances the focus of my life—maybe I’m not making enough, maybe I just want to make more—then finances become my idol.

Ironically, it works the same way with love. If I focus on becoming a more loving person, who or what am I focusing on or abiding in? Ultimately it’s myself. And in the  end I simply become more self-absorbed and more frustrated because I’m not becoming a more loving person.

Jesus said, “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).

Anything good, anything fruitful that comes out of us isn’t the result of our efforts, but because Christ did it through us. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives. In other words, you can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit on your own.

Stop Working On Your Sin!
So what part do we play? It doesn’t come by struggling with sin or trying to be more loving. Making laws outlawing sin like Alexander John Dowie did with Zion will never be successful.

All we can do is abide in Christ.

The word “abide” means to remain, stay, live, or dwell.

Abiding is not a matter of reading your Bible and praying nor does it mean white-knuckled obedience. It’s a matter of being. Believing.

To abide means to make your abode, your home with Christ.  To live with Christ. You don’t have to always say something to Him. But you know He’s there. You acknowledge Him. You enjoy fellowship and communion with one other.

Abiding in Christ means I take my mind off myself and my problems and onto him.

Steve McVey writes in his book Grace Walk, “The Christian life is not about Christ. It is Christ. It is God’s purpose to bring every Christian to the place where he no longer lives for self, but where Christ is allowed to live His life through us.”

That’s the paradox:  You can’t become more loving by trying harder to love. You can’t become patient by trying to be patient. You can’t overcome your addiction to porn by focusing on overcoming your addiction to porn. You don’t become like Jesus by trying to become like Jesus. You might as well throw away that WWJD bracelet.

We become like Jesus by being with Jesus. By communing with Jesus. By allowing Him to live His life through us. Loving through us.

And that is what Lent is all about.


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9 responses to “The Secret To Overcoming Your Sin

  1. Georgie-ann

    “Amen to that, brother!”

    Colossians 1:12-14

    12 “Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.

    13 “[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

    14 “In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.”

    If we still continue to — (dare I say “stubbornly?”) — identify ourselves with the automatic / default nature of “flesh” and sin after “becoming Christians,” being born again of the Spirit, we are claiming that “condition” which satan has tricked us into (fallen flesh) still “as our own.” Satan’s most successful m.o. has always been to play “mind games” with us, and we all too easily “take the bait,” even to this day.

    We can easily observe the effects of fallen fallible flesh all around us and in ourselves, and this observable flesh is also going to “fall off” and die someday in all cases — (“rapture” considerations bypassed) — and our true nature (invisible?) will live on. But our Loving Father has ALREADY called us back to Himself, NOW, the Way being opened by Jesus, Who did His battle with satan, “the accuser of the brethren,” ON OUR BEHALF, where the sins with which he (satan) had contaminated the human race, “were nailed to the Cross” (to set us free — from judgment AND from their power over us!)

    Revelation 12:10 “Then I heard a strong (loud) voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now it has come–the salvation and the power and the kingdom (the dominion, the reign) of our God, and the power (the sovereignty, the authority) of His Christ (the Messiah); for the “accuser of our brethren,” he who keeps bringing before our God charges against them day and night, has been cast out!’ ”

    As is the pattern with all abusers, satan is known and recognized by heaven for “blaming the victim,” us. And should we agree with him, or with God, Who says He Loves us? Focusing on blaming ourselves, our guilt, “the flesh nature,” continual criticism of ourselves and others, calling ourselves helpless failures, giving up, is all playing “religiosity” by satan’s playbook, which is doomed to failure — of course. We can’t get where we wish to be from there, ever. We’re looking in the wrong places and at the wrong message!

    The following are “notes” I made the other day — I may not manage to re-write them very fluidly:

    God IS Love,…”For God so loved the world,…”

    Jesus Loves us, but SO DOES the Father,…functionally for us, it is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to LET GOD THE FATHER LOVE US NOW, TO RECEIVE HIS TOTAL LOVE IN FULLNESS, than to focus OUR straining efforts on trying to love God more ourselves or to “be better,”…

    satan is trying very hard to block us from receiving God’s (healing and restoring) Love, BY MAKING US FEEL GUILTY/UNWORTHY — (satan is the accuser of the brethren, and he tries to keep us focused on the wrong things, things that will un-enable us to receive/perceive/accept God’s Love) — sure, we ARE unworthy, but why should we let that stop us?,…

    imagine your beloved child hiding from you in fear when you call out to him in love,…

    John 3:16
    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    it is in receiving God’s Love that we can be healed, restored — we become His treasures “out of darkness,”…and,…

    1 John 3:14
    “We know that we have passed over out of death into Life by the fact that we love the brethren (our fellow Christians). He who does not love abides (remains, is held and kept continually) in [spiritual] death*.”

    *(by the deceiving power of satan’s lies and conceits)

  2. Thanks for your contribution, Georgie-ann. Navigating through our sinful condition is tricky–we need to own our sin (we can’t just blame it on our flesh) but we also must resist allowing it to define us. Guilt comes from the enemy, conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. Guilt drives us away from God while conviction drives us toward God. In the spirit of what you wrote, the key is in loving God and loving our neighbor–and not removing sin from our lives. But the only we we can love God is to receive and accept the love he has already given us and shown us.

    • Georgie-ann

      Dear Michael,…I hope you don’t mind continuing the conversation,…as usual, I do not feel that I disagree with you, just using my own words!

      I agree it’s tricky in application — (and I’m no fan of lawless “greasy grace”) — sometimes very tricky, because not only is satan tricky in blinding and influencing us, but each individual is walking a different walk and, from beginning to end, is “working out their own salvation with fear and trembling*,” or not. The Truth is not a head-game, but a heart realization and spiritual reality.

      I suppose that it would not be possible to experience/sense/be aware of our redemption/salvation from the/our “sin nature” and our restoration with God, while at the same time being too accommodating with the “offerings of the world,” which will have their own (“magnetic”) pulls and influences and ability to cloud our perceptions and thinking, whether desired or not.

      “Fighting the good fight of faith,” for me, usually involves continually dusting the effects of the world off — (as we are “in the world, but not of it” and will experience its vibes and friction and our thin-skinned vulnerabilities to its invading probes) — and refocusing on the clarity of the reviving Spirit, which by now (I’m old!) I will more easily recognize as Truth, by comparison. I have learned to be very selective by trial and error, and do not “assume” that anything functions automatically in this regard without prayer and intentional spiritual focus. I know that ALL good things come from God, and are of His nature and are His gifts to and through us, and so am very grateful for His generous and abiding Love and care for me — (perhaps one reason I love receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church so much.)

      But, whether or not I, as a serious Christian, or someone else, appear to be momentarily weakened or even overcome by conflict with the friction and temptations of this world — (our fallen flesh nature IS temporal and weak after all and subject to bullying and caving and craving) — this does not change the fact and Truth of God’s eternal Love for me, or them.

      Romans 5:8
      “But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.”

      *Philippians 2:12
      12 “Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).

  3. elna

    Really? Satan can only attack you as far as God allows him to… If I am still condemned, maybe there are still areas of my sin that God needs to show to me and deal with. I believe that it is far better to trust God that all good and bad comes from God (jeremiah 3:37 -42) and to trust Him that He knows all about you and therefor still allow Satan to test you. And, to trust God to heal you in the most gentle thorough way that your obstinate nature allows.

  4. elna

    that should be Lamentations 3:37-42 …sorry about the mistake

  5. Georgie-ann

    Hi, Elna!,…I think that as long as we are in this world, satan is going to attack and suggest and do anything his lowly self can to diminish our Light and Strength in God. For this reason we don’t want to make anything any easier for him by the choices we make. I’ve found that as soon as I can deflect him in one way, he or “something” will come up with another “challenge.” In this way, by default, we become better at and more knowledgeable about “spiritual warfare” — whether we wanted to or not — and more useful to the Kingdom (God’s) thereby.

  6. Georgie-ann

    Elna,…surely we’ll be hearing from satan on our journey of purification from many things,…but underlying all that is the Truth of God’s Love for us from the beginning,…

  7. Evan Roth

    I liked the post, Mike. I heard a friend say “what you focus on expands for you”. It seems to be true in my life and for most people I know. Thanks for the encouragement to abide in Jesus and make that the focus.

  8. Pingback: Where Is God In Our Pain? | The Neighborhood Café

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