Last time I discussed the power of sin and why it is so difficult to disentangle ourselves from it. And yet Scripture is full of commands to do exactly that: lay aside every sin (Ephesians 4:22; 1 Peter 2:11). So how do we do it?
Clearly it is not an easy battle, and some of you who are reading this may not be fighting very well right now. Perhaps you are allowing yourselves to become more deeply entangled with sin. Even if you are a TMU student, and you’re in a good environment with many opportunities for accountability and plenty of right teaching, you may still be cultivating sins.
Know this: Today is the day to change. If not, you will look back later with great sadness of heart and say, “Why didn’t I deal with this when I was young?”
This is the time to fight. And in order to fight well, there is a truth we must first recognize. We must begin by knowing that the power and the strength to deal with sin comes from the Holy Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
To effectively fight sin, we can’t focus on the negative. It doesn’t do much good to sit around trying to discover and stamp out every sin as it happens. Instead, we must preoccupy ourselves with obeying the Spirit of God by understanding His will expressed in Scripture. When we consume ourselves with seeking obedience, we will find that sin has a way of disappearing. This is what Paul is saying in Galatians: If you walk in the Spirit, your sinful flesh won’t have the last say in what you do.
Killing sin is the work of the Spirit, and the Spirit influences your life through Scripture. In other words, walking in the Spirit means allowing the Word of Christ to dominate your thinking and walking in harmony with what it says.
If you haven’t already, commit yourself to memorizing Scripture. The more time you spend putting God’s Word into your heart, the less of a foothold sin will have (Psalm 119:11). The life of Paul is a tremendous example of this. Why was he so zealous and faithful? There wasn’t any magic trick; there wasn’t any supernatural secret unique to Paul that made him who he was. Paul was strong because he hid the Word of God in his heart.
How do we know he memorized Scripture? Read to Acts 17:2-3.
And according to Paul’s custom, he visited them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
What does that mean? It means Paul was pointing them to places in the Old Testament that show that the Messiah had to suffer and die. He was probably showing them passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. He might have gone all the way back to Genesis 3:15. Regardless, when he reasoned with the Jewish people on the Sabbath, he did it with Scripture. And it seems unlikely that Paul needed a scroll in his hand to remind him what Scripture said; I believe he had it in his heart.
Paul wasn’t the only one who knew Scripture this well, either. In Acts 2, Peter preaches a wonderful sermon on the day of Pentecost, and he quotes multiple passages from the Old Testament. And in order to quote these passages verbatim and use them to support his argument, Peter needed to have them memorized. Doubtless other heroes of the New Testament also had Scripture memorized — people like Timothy, Titus, Apollos and Barnabas.
In addition to these models, God’s Word also gives us several direct exhortations to memorize Scripture.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success. (Joshua 1:8)
Extend your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
So that they may be ready on your lips. (Proverbs 22:17-18)
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)
If we want to fight entangled sin, we must begin by harnessing the Word of God. If we are not dedicated to putting the Word of God to work in our lives — learning it, memorizing it, understanding it and applying it — we are never going to deal with our entrenched sinful habits. But if we resist cultivating patterns of unrighteousness when we are young, we will possibly save ourselves from lifelong fights with those habits, and we will prepare ourselves for greater power and joy later in life.
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