“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
Some of you will be shocked to learn that I had an addiction to pornography for nearly 30 years. There are a number of causes which kept me from putting that sin to death, but I won’t focus on those causes now. The only reason I have brought it up is to encourage those who are struggling by letting them know that I know their battle and that Jesus has shown me a way out. Rather than dwell on my sin, I want to show you that through the power of Jesus, you can put your sins to death as well.
You can’t put one over on God.
Before I start, I want you to understand a few things. The first one is to dispel any thought you might have about whether or not God sees your sins and hates them. If you claim to be Christian, then I shouldn’t have to go into any detail about this. First, God hates sin enough to send His only begotten Son to die in order to get rid of them. Second, you can’t put one over on God. He knows about your sins. ALL OF THEM.
If you keep your sins secret, you will continue to commit them.
If someone is watching you and holding you accountable before God, you will find a way to either hide them better or deal with them honestly. I struggled a dozen years longer than I needed to and lost a great deal more than I might have, because I found new ways of hiding my sins from those who were aware of them and who were willing to help me overcome them. Instead, I distanced myself from those people and continued my sins in secret.
Jesus will not allow any of His own to perish.
I do not glory in the fact that I was able to turn my life around. I glory only in the fact that Jesus would not let go of me and let me slip away. In His prayer for His disciples, Jesus repeats the phrase, “who you gave me,” (or a variation of the phrase) more than a dozen times. Through this, we are to understand that our faith is not something that we’ve chosen for ourselves, but something that God has ordained for us and something that will be perfected at some point.
What struck home the most is in John 17:12 Jesus said, “Those whom You gave me, I have kept…” Brothers and sisters, if Jesus is still after you to put away your sins, if He is still hounding you, bothering you, convicting you and making things tough for you, it is because He is committed to keeping you. Celebrate that patient grace by repenting and turning back to Him.
Putting your sins to death is simple, but not easy.
We are not without help for dealing with our sins. With Jesus Christ living within us, we have the power to mortify or put them to death. The process is simple, but its application is not easy. Applying these steps to your life requires a daily, hourly, and at times, a “by the minute” commitment to your faith in Jesus. When you have become serious about putting your sins to death, you will do it, and the strength you have in Jesus will increase in order to put them behind you.
Steps for Putting Your Sins to Death
Putting sins to death involves nipping it in the bud. You have to stop them at their moment of conception. If you do not learn to do that, temptation can rapidly advance past what little control you have. These steps are a systematic approach to eliminating ongoing sins in your life. I’ll give them to you in brief form and then discuss each individually.
· Rebuke Satan
· Flee from temptation.
· Flee to Jesus.
· Accept forgiveness.
· Focus on Jesus.
If you want to use the RFFRAF acronym, that’s fine. The important thing is to arm yourself with this tool and remain at the ready to use it when the moment of temptation comes.
We are engaged in a spiritual battle that goes well beyond what we understand. As Paul points out, in Ephesians 6:12, we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Jesus demonstrated this on several occasions when He used the phrase, “Get behind me, Satan.” (Luke 4:8, Mark 8:33, and Matthew 16:23) You were not left to battle it out with Satan on your own, you were given the power of the Holy Spirit to use in this battle.
The moment you feel temptation come upon you, the moment you are tempted to watch an erotic video, take a drink, pop a pill or indulge in whatever sin you face, you must bind Satan through the power of Jesus. “Satan, in the name of Jesus, get behind me.”
Flee from Temptation
Brothers and sisters, if you bind Satan and then hang around to see if He gets loose, you won’t accomplish anything. Basically, what he’ll do is convince you that it’s okay to untie him. It is essential that you flee from the situation. You cannot bind Satan and keep playing the porn video. You cannot bind Satan and twist off the cap of the bottle. You have to physically and mentally remove yourself away from the situation you are in.
I have been tempted by seeing a shapely woman walk down the street, on a billboard or in a television commercial. I had to learn to change the channel, take a different route or turn my eyes away. Sometimes, I had to turn away or remove myself several times in the space of a few minutes, because I was fleeing a little way and then looking back over my shoulder. (Consider Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt in Genesis 19:26)
Flee to Jesus
You can’t really flee from someone or something unless you have somewhere or someone to flee to. Even a secular counselor will advise their clients to flee to something that draws their minds away from the situation that they are in. As Christians, we have the most powerful advocate and protector in all of creation to flee to. Put your mind on Jesus. Put your mind on His holiness. Put your mind on His righteousness. Put your mind on His desire for you to have good things in Him. When you do that, you’ll not only have gotten away from the situation, but you’ll have placed yourself in a new frame of mind. (He is my refuge and my fortress in Psalm 91)
“It was Satan’s fault that I was tempted, right?” Wrong. It was your fault for not arming yourself against Satan’s attack and allowing him an opportunity to attack you. It was your fault for not mortifying your sins. It is the sinfulness that still lingers in you that is causing you to be led into temptation. Repent of your weakness of faith. Repent for having that moment when you actually considered listening to Satan. Repent of your desire to continue to have that which is sinful. (If we claim we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. 1 John 1:8)
Repentance has no legs if you don’t accept Jesus’ forgiveness. Lingering in repentance, lingering in how bad you are, lingering in self pity and continuing to wallow in those things is an affront to Jesus’ grace. Besides being an insult to your savior, not accepting your forgiveness in Him, opens you up to Satan’s lies and further temptation. If you don’t accept your forgiveness in Jesus, Satan will continue to point out how wicked you are and how hopeless things are for you. Before you know it, he’ll say, “You already screwed up, you might as well go ahead and…” Accept the forgiveness for which Jesus died in order to give you. (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins. 1 John 1:9)
Focus on Jesus
Accepting your forgiveness should lead you to focus on Jesus. Your first thoughts ought to be thankfulness to Him that He has the power to work through you to bring you to righteousness. You should not be congratulating yourself because you did not fall to temptation. It is critical that you recognize that it is Jesus who is binding Satan, providing a place for you to flee to, granting you forgiveness and winning the battle within you. Turn your focus to Him and rededicate yourself to a daily walk with Him and to strengthening yourself through His Word and through prayer. Pray that He will increase your desire after His righteousness and increase your love for His Spirit living within you. (Think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8)
Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.
I am going to give you a warning. This is not going to be a McDonald’s solution. You won’t be able to order this remedy at one place and then pick it up at the next, having your sin put behind you. This solution will be more like a slow smoked rack of ribs. You might have to repeat this process several times in a day, several times in an hour or several times within a few minutes before Satan begins to flee from you (James 4:7). In fact, more than likely, you will have to commit yourself to doing this for the rest of your life on earth, but it will have some lasting effects on you if you let it. Here are just a few of them:
· Sharpens your ability to recognize temptation.
· Makes you dependent upon grace.
· Makes you more grateful toward Jesus.
· Causes you to see how powerful Jesus’ Spirit living within you really can be.
· Puts your focus on the great worthiness of the Lamb of God.