Do you ever feel like you see your sin, want to stop, but just can’t? In desperation you keep asking, ‘What can I do?’ The most common response I hear is a combination of self-discipline and hard work. It’s the all-american gospel: pick yourself up by the bootstraps, just do it, 12 easy steps to kill your sin. I’m surprised no one’s offered a pill or magic bracelet yet.
In the bible many tried to kill sin on their own, but all failed. The Israelites failed (Is. 64:6), Moses failed (Num. 20:10-13), Peter failed (Mk. 14:72), Paul failed (Phil. 3).
We can do nothing by ourselves to kill sin. Every fleshly attempt we make fails (Rom. 8:13).
Why? Our human methods only deal with surface level behaviors. Our sin is like an apple tree. Lust, anger, and selfishness are it’s fruit. When we only deal with sinful behaviors, it’s like picking all the apples off the tree and expecting it die. It never dies, it just produces more fruit. After years of picking we get exhausted and frustrated. We need someone to put an axe in it’s root.
Paul says only the Holy Spirit can lay an axe in the root of our sin, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13).
When we trust in Christ, he takes out old heart that loved sin and gives us a new heart that desires him. He also gives us a new Spirit, his Spirit, that empowers us to follow his law (Ez. 36:26-27). We share both in Christ’s slaying of sin on the cross, and his victory over sin in his resurrection. So when you struggle with sin, don’t think “I need to try harder.” Instead, take confidence in the fact that God has transformed you, and through Christ there is victory. Ask him kill your sin and help you to live out of your new heart.