Sin is a reality for every Christian. Which is why fighting sin is one of the most common topics a Christian thinks about, wrestles with, and seeks counsel on. However, many of us carry around 3 subtle lies about how to fight sin. If we want to kill sin in our own lives and help others do the same, we must speak truth against these 3 lies. Rewire your heart..
1. Avoid Temptation
When we talk about sin, we often talk about temptation. For most of us they go hand in glove.
The only problem is the Bible doesn’t teach that sin comes from temptation.
Instead, James 1:14-15 teaches us something extremely important about sin that we miss all the time: sin comes from desires.
We don’t sin because we are tempted to sin. We sin because we desire sin. In fact, without the desire for sin temptation cannot even exist.
Think about it this way. I can’t tempt you to eat a bowl of gravel. Why? Because you don’t desire gravel as food. Calling that a temptation would be ludicrous.
But if, somehow, there was something off inside of you that gave you an unnatural desire for gravel as food, then a bowl of gravel could be tempting.
That is how sin works. We have broken desires. Like the desire to eat a bowl of gravel, our broken hearts want all kinds of messed up things. This allows sin to come to us with all sorts of temptations. Sin’s effectiveness here is not based on how well we are tempted. Instead, its strategy is dependent upon our desires.
Trying to fight temptation without changing desires is pointless. However, the opposite is also true. If our desires change temptation will be pointless. So what we need is not new tactics on how to avoid temptation. What we need are ways to change our desires.
2. Just Say No
What do we say to people who struggle with a particular sin? If you strip down much of the messaging that Christians are receiving it came be simplified to the following: “Stop doing it! Stay away from it! Don’t even think about it!”
The only problem is, this sounds very familiar to a tactic against fighting sin that the Apostle Paul said would never work.
Colossians 2:20-23 breaks down a human teaching that has the “appearance of wisdom” but is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” That human teaching is all about just saying no to sin. It is all about “asceticism” and “severity to the body.” The teaching goes like this, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.”
Just saying no to sin, depriving ourselves of our desires, and trying to whip our bodies into shape will never work. That is because it cannot stop you from indulging your flesh. That’s because “no” isn’t powerful enough.
So what is?
Paul gives us the answer right after in Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above.” Know that you have been “raised with Christ,” that your “life is hidden with Christ in God,” and that Jesus is going to gather you home when he “returns in glory” (3:1-3).
In other words, don’t focus on sin, throwing no after no at it. Focus on Jesus and his gospel crying out yes after yes.
3. Fake it Until You Make it
C.S. Lewis, in his masterful work Mere Christianity, presented a way in which Christians can infuse holy living, like loving your neighbor, into their lives.
Lewis wrote the following: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this…you will presently come to love him.”
Basically, Lewis is telling us to fake it until we make it. Effectively, he says that actions produce affections.
However, as much as I love C.S. Lewis in general and Mere Christianity in particular, I have to disagree with him here. In fact, my entire book, Rewire Your Heart, argues the exact opposite.
The Bible teaches us that actions can’t produce affections. Only affections can produce actions.
Consider just the idea of loving our neighbor. “Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 Jn. 4:7-8). Love for neighbor is not created by acting as if we loved our neighbor. Love for neighbor only comes from God who loved us and gave himself up for us in Jesus.
You can’t fake it until you make it. You can’t do what you don’t love. You can only do what you love.
What does that mean for us? We must stop giving people actions to perform, but not using the Gospel to inflame in them the affections to perform them.
How to Use This Book
These lies and other permeate our assumptions about sin, how it works, and how to fight it. I’ve only been able to mention 3 of them, and only briefly. My hope is that you will explore these truths in more depth for the purpose of killing sin in your own life and in the lives of those you lead. If you want to go deeper into the wrong ways we fight sin and how to fight it with the Gospel, I’d encourage you to pick up my book, Rewire Your Heart: Replace Your Desire for Sin with Desire for God.