By S.C. Shaw
I wrote this for myself and whomever else struggles to hold every thought captive.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds. (Ephesians 4:22-23)
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 10:3)
There are many verses like these in the bible. In the next couple of words, I’m writing, I want to stress verses like this. The more I learn about God and the Gospel, the more I learn about others and myself in the human fallen condition. I mentor and see the struggles of many men and women fighting their sin at the head of their problem, not attacking their sin from the root. “Taking every thought captive”, “Be renewed’, “Waging war”, on and on the prophets, priests and our God in heaven stress over and over again the importance of our new life in Christ and how we strive for holiness. Working out our salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 4:12. Do any of these verses sound like we enter our new lives loosely, mindlessly, and flippantly, or anything that’s not fully and completely enveloped by God’s grace?
We are to be training our minds, hearts, and bodies like that of a professional athlete. What does an athlete do to prepare for their sport? Let’s talk MMA. I love Mixed Martial Arts. UFC is the only sport I watch. I’ve done a little of it. I could kick your butt, just not a professional’s :). The men and women that train is completely consumed by their next fight. There is nothing else happening in their minds, hearts, and bodies, that’s not about their next fight. They leave their comforts, family, homes, anything that would take their minds off of the goal. What’s the goal? To win! We are called as Christians to live for Christ with that same discipline. And how much more important is our holiness because we have an infinity more wonderful prize awaiting us at the end. Do you feel like you’re falling short? Ya, me too. But I’m working on it and towards it. I will never fully obtain it, not until Christ’s triumphant return, but I never stop striving by the power of the Holy Spirit for it. We, who are called by God are already declared holy and righteous before God by the work done by Christ in his life and on the cross. We are now heirs of eternal life with him. So as heirs and a receiver of the best gift anyone could ever receive, how do we respond to that? By living as we have already been declared to be, holy and righteous.
We aren’t working for our salvation, that’s not possible but think of our holiness as to save others to Christ. You have been saved, to save others. Too often we get so caught up in our own sin, we are no good to anyone, let alone, sharing eternal salvation with someone. Think bigger than you. You are always going to be messing up, wipe it off and get back to the Gospel! But I understand when you are stuck in a certain sin. You feel distant and helpless. It’s hard to just dust it off and feel motivated to move on. I’m hoping these couple of pointers will help you begin to practice a new control of your mind because that’s where all sin starts.
- First, you need to see the seriousness of your sin. Grasp the bigness. Begin to see sin as God sees sin. If you’ve grown numb to it, that’s where you need to start. Gaining back sensitivity to it. Prayer and being in God’s word will be the main way to help. Get involved, serving and attending a God fearingChrist-exalting, Holy Spirit lead, bible teaching church.
- Second, not only being aware and sensitive to it but protect yourself. We can’t blindly walk around in the minefield of this world. At every turn, there are temptations to turn your attention away from God. Sin that will one day destroy you if not cut at the root. Most the time the world is completely unaware of this. But we should be very aware. Become a trained military specialist in minefields. Walk ready to avoid every flaming dart the devil throws at you. In Ephesians and Hebrews, when the bible talks about the “armor of God”, it gives some of the most helpful truths to battling this flesh and world we are consumed by. We battle in the spiritual world to conquer the physical world. Again, Prayer and God’s word.
- We want to cut off sin at the beginning because sin starts to grow and fester with every thought. Whether your sin is addiction, pornography, pride, greed, gossip, whatever it is, it starts in your mind and grows until it must happen. And when we act on it, we are killing our fellowship with God and making us more and more distracted to others that the Holy Spirit is putting in your life. Yes, be thinking bigger than you, always.
- Treat your thoughts like a stranger breaking into your home. Depending on your beliefs, you either shoot them, call the police, or beat and restrain them. Whatever the response, it’s a very aggressive, intentional action. When bad thoughts enter, do whatever you have to do to destroy them. The easiest way is to fill your mind with something else. Don’t focus on what not to do. Focus on Christ and the things you should be focused on. Be more satisfied in Christ than you are in your sin. Quoting scripture is the best way to change your heart. But you’ll have to memorize it to do that. Which I highly recommend and the bible commands.
Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
That’s what I am talking about!
The reason I titled this “Residual sin” is, some of the most dangerous sins are the ones we’ve already committed. What better way to make you jump into sin than to remind you of the fun you’ve already had in it? The things that are done are done and forgiven. But be mindful of the next sin that’s creeping in. The sin you give into tomorrow will be the thoughts that make you fall into that same sin next week. There’s no such thing as one-time sin. Start knowing the damage that sin plays on you and others. Keeping yourself pure in the face of temptation will give you strength and confidence to deny yourself the next time around. Completely rely on God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit to do so. I pray you begin to pray for sensitivity to your own sin. Even the sins you are unaware of, it’s time to get rid of the “big” sins so that God can keep refining you in the “little” sins. Making you more like Christ every day.
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1) Amen!
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.