Hebrews 12:1 points to the fact that all Christians have “sin that so easily entangle us.” Experience tells us this too. Matthew Henry says it is “the sin that has the greatest advantage against us, by the circumstances we are in, our constitution, our company.” It may be lust for one, drunkenness for another, gambling for another, worry for some and doubting salvation for others. But all of us have at least one sin that seems to sneak up on us often.
Those who don’t know what this sin is are in grave danger. Those who don’t learn from their own personal history are bound to repeat it. But knowing what the sin is doesn’t address all of the danger.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Luke 4:1-13 shows that even the strongest, wisest, godliest man of all time, the literal God-man could be seriously tempted with sin. If He could, certainly we can as well. This passage also teaches that Satan is cunning in that he attacks us at opportune times. He attacked Jesus when He was hungry, alone, and tired. He often attacks us in similar times. It is helpful to not only know which area of sin Satan is most likely to attack you in but also to know when those sins are most likely to come.
John Owen taught that when sin seems to be silent in your life to beware. At best, sin is merely lying dormant, lulling you to sleep, waiting to pounce as it did with Cain in Genesis 4:7. We must not let sin gain our confidence. We must not live on cruise control. We must be prepared in season and out to fight indwelling sin.
KNOW THE BATTLEFIELD
When does Satan and sin seem to attack you the most? Is it when you are alone watching TV at night? Stop doing that. Is it when you go out with non-Christian friends to the bar for the purpose of “ministry?” There are better places to do ministry. Is it when you sit alone and ponder all the worst case hypothetical future situations that could potentially befall your children? Your time is better spent elsewhere.
Christians who are serious about growing in holiness will not only know their weaknesses and Satan’s strengths. They will also know the unique times and ways Satan and sin personally pursues them and be prepared to fight. Do you? Do all you can to avoid or minimize those times of temptation.
KNOW THE WEAPONS
In Matthew 16:23 Jesus said Peter lost the battle because he didn’t set his mind on the things of God. What are the things of God? The things of God are most clearly found in the Scriptures.
In Luke 4 Jesus beat back Satan three times with Scripture. So should we. Luke 8:12 tells us a favorite way of Satan’s to fight is to take away the word from our hearts. Martin Luther says, “as soon as I have laid hold of any place of Scripture and stayed myself upon it as upon my chief anchor hold, immediately temptation vanished away, without the word it would have been impossible to overcome.” Memorizing Scripture that directly speaks to our personal temptations that cling most tightly to us is possibly the greatest strategy to defeat sin.
It is amazing that Jesus so quickly had a verse memorized about bread when one of his temptations focused on bread. We should learn the major areas of our temptations and memorize verses that speak to those issues. If you are tempted to worry, memorize Philippians 4:6-7.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTH
In Romans 8:4-6 Paul teaches that Christians should be progressively beginning to obey God more and more. This is done by setting our minds on the Spirit or the things of the Spirit. Even as new creations in Christ, left to ourselves we will fail in the daily battle with sin.
But with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can make genuine progress in holiness though it may often be slower than we want. Galatians 5:16 is an amazing promise. Walk by the Spirit and you will not? Carry out sinful desires. Practically how do we walk by the Spirit? By walking by the Word.
John Piper teaches that Ephesians 5:18-22 and Colossians 3:15-18 are parallel passages based on the author, audience, time of writing and context. In Ephesians Paul commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t make it sound like a mystical experience but rather like something we are responsible to do. How do we do it?
In the parallel passage in Colossians, Paul says let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you. The primary way (not necessarily the only way) to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the Word. Meditating on the Scripture is the key to defeating sin in our lives.
KNOW THE APPLICATION
Imagine you are single and meet a beautiful, fun, godly Italian of the opposite sex whom you fall in love with. The Italian speaks no English and you speak no Italian. What must you do? Learn Italian as soon as possible! The language of the Holy Spirit is the Scripture. He can work in our lives apart from the Scriptures if He so chooses, but He promises to meet us there.
In high school my main struggle was lust. My father told me to memorize Romans 6 and every time a sinful thought came to mind begin quoting the whole chapter. Scripture has a cleansing effect that helps (John 17:17). But as I thought of the risen Christ, my Savior, loving me and empowering me to walk in newness of life, power did seem to invade my life at times. It was not a magic bullet, but it made a huge difference. What if we daily prepared to fight Satan with Scripture?
KNOW THE REASON
Why does God allow us to continue to sin? We don’t know all the reasons. But it does tend to push us to a deeper, more intimate experience of daily, desperate dependence on Him. Further, as we cling to Him for daily help, we also see and taste more of His beauty and power than we would’ve otherwise seen. We know Him more personally in His love, power, wisdom, patience and mercy. Hallelujah! What a Savior!