The following is taken from a message I gave. It provides some of the practical and necessary steps to overcoming besetting (deeply rooted) sin in the life of the believer.
Sin is serious business and when we deal with it seriously we can overcome even besetting sins in the power of Christ.
I want to give you some specific and practical steps to overcoming besetting sin, that stuff that is deeply rooted and seems so impossible to be free from:
1. Stop Making Excuses!
We all do it. One of the reasons why sin is so difficult to dislodge is because it is so deceptive, and we each become masters of deceiving ourselves.
· It’s no big deal.
· It’s not hurting anyone.
· I deserve it.
· It’s just who I am, I’ve got to stay real.
· If God wants me to stop… He can just take this desire from me.
· I can just confess it afterwards and be forgiven.
· Everyone else does it.
· That’s an impossible standard. Nobody can do that, so why try?
· It’s not my fault if it offends you (you’re the one with the problem not me).
· That’s not sin, it’s just your opinion and I don’t agree with it.
· I’m just really tired and vulnerable right now – so cut me some slack.
· I can’t help myself.
· It’s what I grew up with.
None of these, or any other that you might care to throw into the mix are legitimate – sin is serious business, quit making excuses.
2. Call it what it is!
We tend to soften sin not just by making excuses for it but by watering it down.
· I messed up.
· I’ve made a mistake.
Give the sin it’s proper name:
· Pornography, masturbation, lustful thoughts isn’t just watching stuff or thinking about stuff that I shouldn’t it is adultery in my heart and mind.
· Cussing someone out or getting mad and calling names isn’t just speaking to someone inappropriately - it is hatred and devaluing and even murderous thoughts toward someone who God loves and who is created in His image.
· Taking office supplies for your own use isn’t just – retasking – it is stealing.
· Ignoring God’s commands isn’t just “doing my own thing” it is rebellion.
We will never take sin seriously while we make excuses for it or try to water it down. It’s like dressing up the prize pig.
3. Ask God to give you a holy-hatred for your sin.
Ask God to help you to see your sin as He sees it, to hate it, to weep over it and to desire it no more.
The truth is that we love our sin, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t so we ask God to turn the deceiving love for our sin into a holy-hatred of it.
4. Make your sin a subject of a devoted time of prayer and fasting.
John Owen the great puritan in his book the Mortification of Sin says, “Assure thyself, unless thou longest for deliverance, thou shalt not have it.” (p125.)
Set aside a day, several days, a week or if the Lord leads even longer and pray and fast and confess and beseech the Lord. Get serious about sin and deal with it seriously.
“But that sounds like hard work, that’s not easy for me to do.” Yeah, and your point is?
Nobody ever said that the Christian life is supposed to be easy – in fact if you’re not breaking a sweat in your walk with Christ you aren’t growing!
5. Equip yourself with Scripture with which to confront temptation.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, at each point of temptation he responded with the Word of God. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 tells us to daily put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the fiery darts of the enemy – because we are in a very real battle. I encourage you to go away and read Ephesians 6 and look at and think on the armor that it speaks of, but one thing you will notice is that the only offensive weapon in our arsenal is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. It’s called the Sword of the Spirit because when we plant the Word of God in our heart the Spirit of God brings it to mind and wields it masterfully in the fact of attack and temptation. So memorize Scripture…
A lot of Bibles have section in them either in the front or the back with a list which says something like, When You are feeling… discouraged, tempted, afraid etc. and then it will list a couple of verses that you could go to in order to find encouragement. If your Bible doesn’t have that then grab a concordance or ask a friend or just get reading and jot down passages that speak to your temptation or trial.
6. Confess your sin to 1 or 2 trusted friends in repentance and for accountability.
This may sound pretty daunting, and I stress that you ought to choose another believer that you can trust. If you are a guy, choose another man, if you are a woman make sure it is another woman. You may think, but I don’t want anyone knowing about this sin. Yes, this does take some courage, but you’ll be amazed, first of all you’re not the only one who struggles with sin and your stepping into this may well be powerfully used of God to not only help you but the other person too.
Also, James 5:16 says, Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.
When we confess our sin to another person, we begin to cut at the root of the hold that it has over us, we solicit their prayers, accountability and challenge and their help, and what’s more, God honors it.
You cannot overcome sin in your own resources, but one of the resources that Christ gives to His people, are His people!
7. Set-up safeguards.
An accountability partner can be a part of this, either by suggesting practical ideas or by simply being available saying, “hey if you are feeling really tempted pick up the phone right there and then and call me and we’ll be pray.”
A safeguard might be moving the computer into a public room in the house or installing filters which you don’t have the password to, or it might be getting rid of the computer or cable tv altogether and ditching the data plan on your phone.
The safeguards are probably going to be different depending on the besetting sin, but deal radically with your sin, take it seriously. John Owen says, be killing sin or sin will be killing you. He goes on to say:
“Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions…If it have allowance for onestep it will take another.” (p129).
In other words deal with temptation before it starts, don’t allow yourself to even entertain the thought of the sin.
8. Renounce sin, turn from it and seek God for daily strength to walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5 tells us that if we walk by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. So begin each day by reporting for duty, asking that God will lead and guide and direct your every moment and interact with Him in prayer throughout the day.
9. “Think greatly of the greatness of God” (Owen)
Ponder, worship, give thanks, fill your mind with thoughts of God and of His greatness and His mercy. As the Psalmist says, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him.
When we think rightly about God and allow His truth to fill our minds, so we will experience the renewing of our minds that Romans 12 talks about and we will be led to hope even in our battle with sin, because when we think on the greatness of God, when we think on the power and the work of Christ we will confidently and with full expectation discover He is able and willing to grant us freedom and victory when we entrust ourselves to Him.
What’s more when we think greatly of the greatness of God, the deceptive and empty pleasures of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.