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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Monday, October 31, 2011
Overcoming Sin By Faith.
You've probably heard it preached or said that we, as believers, overcome sin by faith. As true as that is, it isn't very helpful because such a statement is too vague. How does one overcome sin by faith? What should this faith be trusting in?

Faith requires conviction, but faith is more than mere conviction. To give a biblical example, we are told that the demons "believe" (that is, they have a convicted that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) - but who in their right mind would confuse the conviction of demons for saving faith? No. Faith isn't conviction by itself, faith is casting your hope entirely upon your conviction. Thus faith requires the conviction that something is true, and then requires one to place themselves entirely at the mercy of that conviction.

The problem with saying that believers overcome sin by faith is that it doesn't tell us what believers are supposed to be believing in. So I will spell it out for you, and may the Lord be merciful and open your heart to receive this truth.

If you are a Christian, you serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can I say that another way? If you are a Christian, you are Christ's slave. You have no rights, you have no say. What Christ commands, you obey, and you obey because you are Christ's slave and because Christ is your divine Master.

Though this may be a riddle to some of you, I tell you that this is what you must believe - that you belong to Christ; that you are His slave.

It is one thing to believe that Jesus is 'the' Lord, and quite another to believe that Jesus is your Lord.

Let me make this practical. Consider the man who is a womanizer, a substance abuser, and a liar. He becomes a Christian, but soon finds himself overcome by the lusts of his own flesh. Years of empty teaching, have left him confused about how to overcome sin in His life, and so he finds himself in a never ending cycle of sin and confession. The Spirit within him provokes him to repent, but he finds no strength in what he believes, and so his misery, alongside his sin, increases year by year. He is on his last rung, when he comes to you and asks how he can be set free from these things when the root problem is that he loves them more than he loves Christ.

Your duty in Christ is to instruct him in how he can be truly set free by God's power, and not by his own ability to suppress these things. What do you do?

Here is what you do. You inform Him that He belongs to Christ, and as Christ's slave, he is no longer free to pursue his own lusts, but must surrender himself to Christ's rule.

He objects, naturally, because he truly wants to be free from these sins, and simply believing himself to be a Christian has never freed him from the lusts that provoke these sins in him.

You interject at this point with the truth. If he were Christ's slave, he would not do these things.

He is offended. You seem to be saying he is not a Christian! He knows he is a Christian, having given himself to Christ in such a way, and he supplies you with ample evidence to support his claim.

You firmly explain the truth. If he was Christ's slave, he would obey Christ instead of his own lusts. The problem, you explain to him, is that he doesn't really believe he is Christ's slave.

He is confused by this, and wants to know what you mean?

You explain: The reason he is not overcoming sin is because for all his profession of faith, he truly doesn't believe that he is Christ's slave. He believes that he is supposed to be Christ's slave, but "knows" that he really isn't. This unbelief, you explain, is the root of his sin. He simply does not believe that He is actually Christ's slave. He is waiting for obedience to overtake him and prove to him that he is Christ's slave, but you explain, that one apprehends the evidence of this truth the moment one begins to walk by faith in the fact that one is Christ's slave.

I could go on, but you get the point. You overcome sin by exercising faith in the reality that you are Christ's slave. Practically speaking, when the temptation comes, you remember that like the Prophets and the Apostles before you, you are a servant of the Most High God - you are Christ's slave, and as such your own lusts cannot supersede the commands of your Master. You obey --because-- you truly believe you are His slave, and that He is your Master.

This isn't positive thinking, it is standing by faith on the truth.

There are Christians today - and you may be one of them - who wonder why their Christianity "isn't working". This is because they have unbiblical expectations when it comes to overcoming sin. They understand that sanctification is a spiritual work, and they may even understand that it is accomplished by faith (as you received the Lord Jesus so walk in Him), but they don't understand how to apply faith to their problem.

The purpose of this post is to but some meat on the skeleton of sanctification. You are sanctified by faith - by trusting in the fact that you really are a Christian, that is, trusting in the fact that you truly are Christ's slave - and then walking in that truth. When you walk in this truth by faith, you will overcome whatever sin is tempting you. It is one thing to try and obey Christ because you know you should, and quite another to obey Him by faith in the fact that you are His.

Ask anyone who has truly overcome some sin, and you will find that at the heart of it was the teaching that they were set free from that sin the moment they stopped telling believing that the sin owned them, and began to trust in the fact that Christ owned them. It may come out differently in their description, but you will find that this is at the heart of their deliverance - putting their trust in what is true of them as Christ's servants.

Let me know if it helps.
posted by Daniel @ 7:52 AM  
14 Comments:
  • At 1:34 PM, October 31, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Happy Reformation Day by the way.

     
  • At 1:49 PM, November 01, 2011, Blogger Celal Birader said…

    sin is overcome by "mortification" which is, yes, accomplished by faith. there is, however, no clearer instructions on how this is accomplished than the Word of God itself -- see Romans 8:5-7, 12-13

     
  • At 6:23 AM, November 02, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Celal,

    After reading your comment I feel I should have spent some time in the post connecting the dots as it were. Scripture makes it plain that we are to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, that we are to walk in love, and to walk in the Spirit, to put off the old man, and put on Christ, etc. What I find however is that believers who are immature in knowledge and obedience tend to know these things are true, but not know how they are to do them.

    To that end, my post is intended to be practical - as in laying out a practical example of how one puts to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit through faith. Sadly even as it was in Paul’s day, many of the same people who have received the Spirit by faith, now are trying to be perfected by the flesh - that is, they attempt to become sanctified apart from faith, and that is why they fail.

    A secondary problem is that even if they do understand that sanctification is by faith, yet they fail to understand what they are supposed to be exercising faith in - and conclude that they are sanctified by having a very general faith “in Christ” rather than, as I have laid out here, a specific trust in the truths of their identity in Christ.

    Notwithstanding, I don’t disagree with you in any sense, I am just coming at this not so much from the “what” perspective as from the “how”. If I were to re-write the post, I think I would have spent a little time showing that this is in fact the way we mortify the flesh.

     
  • At 7:22 AM, November 02, 2011, Blogger mark pierson said…

    So you are saying that walking in the Spirit and walking in the knowledge that you are Christ's slave are one and the same thing?

     
  • At 8:17 AM, November 02, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    That is an excellent question Mark, and one I should have anticipated, but didn't (I must be getting absent minded in my old age).

    No. I am not saying that, at least not in the way you have expressed it.

    Let me be clear: No one walking in the Spirit will deny Christ their obedience, but that is not to say that walking in the knowledge of Christ's Lordship is another way of saying, "Walking in the Spirit". The two are very closely tied to one another, but they are not interchangeable. It's one of those "All Canadians are human, but not all humans are Canadian" things.

    Don't get me wrong: no one can walk in/by the Spirit apart from utter surrender to Christ. The moment a person sets aside that surrender, he or she is no longer walking in/by the Spirit.

    What I am saying is that there is a difference between obeying Christ because you believe you are His servant, and obeying Christ because you want to be Christ's servant. The one is obedience by faith, by love, by the Spirit, the other is obedience by fear, by the flesh, and by works.

    How does one overcome sin? They overcome sin by faith in what Christ has done in them. That is Paul's argument in Romans 6 - the old man has been crucified, in order to do away with the body of sin. These things are true, says Paul, so walk in them. How do you walk in them? You walk in them by faith.

    But that can get rather vague when one tries to put it into practice. I often see sincere, honest, and sober believers struggling with this concept. They know these things are supposed to be true, but in their own experience they are not true, and they end up trying to find the magic spiritual formula to "make" these things true for them, when in reality, their problem is that deep down, they don't believe these things are really true of them. Like Peter looked to the waves and faltered on the water, so these look to the evidence in their flesh, and falter. They see themselves still desiring sin, and imagine something is "wrong" with them, and through this deceit, their faith is held captive.

    The point of the post is to instruct those who are thus bound, in the fact that sin has already been overcome, and that we appropriate that victory by faith. Not by some general and vague faith mind you, but by standing on something that is true.

    Christ -is- our Lord, and we -are- His slaves. That is a truth that can be stood upon. It isn't the only truth. One could just as easily stand on another related truth and experience victory just as certainly. It isn't like our Lord has only given us one verse to stand upon, but all His word points us in the same direction - faith; that is, trusting in what He has said, done, and will do.

    Does that make any sense?

     
  • At 10:50 AM, November 02, 2011, Blogger mark pierson said…

    Daniel, thanks; But I think I must still deal honestly with the fact that at some points in time that very sin I am being tempted to commit, well, I love it more than Christ. At that moment I must see myself begrudgingly acknowledge Christ as my Master,considering Romans 6, and taking up the cross, denying self, and following Him. My flesh hates the whole thing, but my spirit rejoices that I have not grieved Him.

     
  • At 11:34 AM, November 02, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Mark, I agree that we must deal honestly with our own sinful desires.

    If we imagine that sanctification is accomplished by following the Holy Spirit's leading, rather than the leading of the flesh, we get the "what" right, even if some get the "how" wrong.

    The girl who sits on command but proclaims that even as she is sitting with her body, she is yet "standing in her heart" illustrates what I want to avoid. To overcome sin one must surrender both externally by choosing to deny self and obey the Spirit, and again internally, by doing so because we believe we are whom we claim to be.

     
  • At 12:04 PM, November 02, 2011, Blogger mark pierson said…

    In this case the Spirit's leading is the acknowledgement of Christ as my Master. 1 Cor.9:24-27.

     
  • At 1:00 PM, November 02, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Well said, and thank you.

     
  • At 8:25 PM, November 03, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    "Like Peter looked to the waves and faltered on the water, so these look to the evidence in their flesh, and falter."-Daniel

    ".... and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

    Jesus also said to His disciples, (and us), "If you say to this mountain, 'Be cast into the sea', and don't doubt, it shall be done."

    "Have faith in God."-Jesus

    And yet, bottom line is His will be done, not ours.

    This same Peter was healing sick people with his shadow. His faith was working in greater ways than Jesus did, even though it was his Lord doing it.

    I find it very comforting that Jesus grabbed Simon Peter when he was sinking. He loved this fisherman didn't He. And he loved him, and called him His friend. We can have this same relationship with Christ. Though He will always be Lord first, and Savior and Friend second, He is a genuine Friend for ever to us.

    Thanks for your teaching Daniel. you are one of the best teachers I learn from; and hopefully am growing stronger & more mature as i eat His Word.

    Have a terrific Lord's day. May Jesus return soon! Come soon Lord! Hallelujah!

    (Matthew 14:30-31 ESV)

     
  • At 7:19 AM, November 11, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It truly grieves my heart to say that I know more people who profess to be Christians who never engage in the struggle with sin of which you speak. Family members dear in my heart who say they are Christian and never seem to struggle with their sin, even if they recognize it as sin. They are comfortable in it. It's a deep sadness in me, and I have prayed for years for them (one in particular), but no change. Even though we discuss these things (even using this post of yours), but all I hear is justification and self-righteousness. I fear it's all too common among some professing Christians.

     
  • At 8:37 AM, November 11, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon.

    My own heart shares this grief. Every child of God is indwelled by the Holy Spirit whose work it is to convict that believer of sin. I know the motivating anguish of this work within me coupled to that compelling desire to be pleasing to God. When I was newly surrendered I was ignorant of the scriptures, and in the infancy of my faith I groaned daily over my sin and my inability to overcome it. As I began to study God’s word, the one thing I was driven to understand was how a Christian overcomes sin.

    I fell into perfectionism - the teaching that you can become so sanctified, that you no longer sin. Man did I ever want that! I pursued that for months until the study of scripture began to show me that our flesh is never made perfect in this life, that instead we are to walk in the Spirit so as not to fulfill the lusts of our flesh.

    Yet even as I matured, and began to deal with my sin biblically and with faith, I was not seeing this across the broad spectrum of Christianity. At first I felt like I must be the worst Christian ever. But as I began to grow out of infancy, I began to see that others were living their Christian lives on a sort of default setting. They went to church, talked some talk, but when it came to surrender, they were slippery as eels.

    At first my zeal for the truth made me very bold, but not in a good way. I would tell people to their face that I saw no evidence of Christ in their life and that their profession of faith was quite likely a deceit that they weren’t even able to understand. Yeah. A little knowledge is a shameful thing in the hands of some. As I grew, I became less abrasive, and more open to the possibility that these were genuine believers who were trapped in sin because of bad theology, and because they were surrounded by other “enabling” believers who were likewise confused.

    So, like yourself, I pray for them, and I teach when I can. I challenge them and in some cases even oppose them from the scriptures. In the beginning my goal was almost carnal in that I wanted to show that “I was right”. As the years go on, it is not about being right, it is about allowing myself to be used by God to feed His starving lambs.

    Thanks for your comments.

     
  • At 10:25 AM, November 12, 2011, Blogger mark pierson said…

    Walking in the Spirit, and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh...In the middle of the temptation to back-bite my boss and co-workers, to look at the pretty girl, to vent my anger and rage-at those moments do I desire to refrain from grieving the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit? Do I wish to see Christ glorified? The choices are there, and all too often I fail. At times like these I must acknowledge Christ as my Master-would He want me to do the back-biting, the looking, the venting? NO!!! I must walk with my Master, in His footsteps...by the power of His Spirit.

     
  • At 3:09 PM, November 14, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    I saw over on Phil's blog today: "Remember Lot's wife." And it is a dynamite teaching from Phil Johnson.

    Now I'm thinking on this here and I'm thinking: "Remember Lot". As messed up as this man was, hewas a child of our Lord.

    Jesus came to die for our sin, and Lot's sin. He loves us, even though we are all unlovable. And we love Him now, because He did love us with such a fullness, that is everlasting love and kindness that we can never comprehend, but when we do, then we will fulfill His law in our daily lives as well, for the fulfilling of the law is love.

    And there will be immature children, and mature children, and in-between mature, and so on. And all this is our heavenly Potter molding us in the vessels He desires.

    And we do have our responsibility to, don't we. But it better be understood through a heart of grace and love for Christ, and total disdain for ourselves. Let God love us, and not ourselves I always say. And let us love God from our hearts, by loving "the least of these."

    It's always good to visit you Daniel, and to see Mark here.

     
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