Spiritual warfare: Breaking the power of sin
Countless believers struggle with sin in their lives. It seems no matter how hard they try, they cannot seem to easily break the power of sin in their lives. Many of us are told to discipline our flesh, which isn't bad advice, but if we are already trying our best and not getting anywhere... keeping ourselves from sin seems like a chore for us!
The truth is, doing what's right should not seem like a chore for us! Did you know that doing what's right because we feel we are obligated to is legalism? Did you know that is how the Pharisees operated? Jesus came along and did away with the Pharisees' legal pride when He brought the law of grace on the scene.
Am I saying we aren't to try to do what's right? Absolutely not! All I am going to present is a better way to go about it... the law of the Spirit rather than the law of the letter. The letter killeth, but the Spirit gives life:
2 Corinthians 3:6, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
The law of the Spirit (grace) versus the law of the letter (legalism)
Grace says, "I want to!" Law says, "I have to."
Why? Because the law of grace sees God's love and the human spirit responds to it with a desire to do what's right, while the law (legalism) sees the rules and feels that if they do not fulfill the law, they will not gain favor by God or be loved by Him. The truth is, we were loved by God back before we even were reconciled with Him!
Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
What does this tell us? We were loved for who we were, not because we have fulfilled the law! God's Word tells us that Abraham did not gain favor with God because he fulfilled the law, but because He believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness:
James 2:23, "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."
What does God want from us? He wants us to know and believe the love that He has for us!
1 John 4:16, "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
What happens when we come to know and believe God's love for us? It changes us from the inside out. Our human spirits will respond to His love, and it will become natural for His love to flow through us! As our love for Him grows, we will want to do what's right, not feel obligated to do it, or feel like it's a chore for us.
Our love for God needs to exceed our love for sin
As we come to know and understand God's rich and deep love for us, our spirits will respond and our love for Him will grow naturally. When this happens, we will begin to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. We will be conformed to His image and become more like Him.
Romans 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
As we are conformed to His image, we will begin to hate sin, because He hates sin. When we realize the great love that God has for us, and yet find ourselves in sin, it will lay a great burden on our shoulders that will make us feel awful for what we've done. We will be quick to repent because we will feel awful for the things we've done that we were wrong.
We need to come to know and understand God's love for us if we are going to break free from the power of sin in our lives. As we grow in understanding of His great love for us, our human spirits will respond. They will begin to hate sin because of their love for God. Our love for God needs to outweigh our love for sin.
How do we increase our love for God? By learning of His love for us! Spending time with Him allows us to get to know Him and build a relationship with Him that will help us understand and realize the great love that He has for us. As we learn of His love for us, our spirits will respond and our love for Him will grow.
What about resisting the devil?
We are to resist the devil, but also draw near to God at the same time. What happens when we draw near to Him? We become more aware of His love for us, which in turn helps us resist the devil and his temptations. Somebody who's trying to lose weight may love chocolate, but if they think about losing weight, their ability to resist the chocolate becomes much stronger. James 4 speaks of temptations and how to deal with them, which can be nicely summed up in verses 7 and 8:
James 4:7-8, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."
One more element; demonic bondage
While this teaching has addressed handling the flesh, it is also possible to have a demonic spirit behind a person's almost un-winnable struggles against sin. If you try your best and apply these principals and are still struggling against it, then don't be surprised if there's an evil spirit behind your problem. In the Bible, when Saul came under demonic bondage, he became very angry and tried to kill David as he was doing nothing but playing the harp for him! I know of many cases where demonic spirits of pornography, anger, jealousy, etc. have been cast out of people. If you try to break free but just cannot move forward, then I would suspect a demonic bondage that needs to be addressed.
There is additional teaching on this subject of overcoming temptation in The weapons used against us: Temptation.