A few weeks ago I was working through some personal sin issues with a friend. At that point we were thinking through how I could limit temptation, and create increased awareness about the ugliness of my sin. We began considering the creation of a few ‘personal rules.’
But before we created these rules, my friend gave me a serious look and said, “Rules can’t save you. Write it down. Remind yourself every day.” It was a wise recommendation.
The truth is, I am continually tempted to deal with my sin issues by will power, rather than Christ’s grace. If I use sarcasm recklessly, I try hard not to. If I tell a white lie, I resolve to do better next time. Whatever the sin, I feel like I can handle it… until I fail.
Ask yourself: did you begin this Christmas break thinking, “This break will be better than the last, I won’t _______ this time.” Maybe for a few days your willpower worked, but then you messed up (leaving you defeated and devastated). Perhaps it’s because we are doing what the Bible calls, putting sin to death “by the flesh” (Rom. 8:13).
In any battle with sin we have two initial choices: ignore our sin or deal with it. If we chose to deal with it (the right choice) we face two new options: fight sin “by the flesh,” or fight sin “by the spirit.”
In Galatians 3:4 Paul deplores putting sin to death by the flesh, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” The train of logic is simple: Christ already put death sin in your life by His Spirit, so why turn to an ineffective method like willpower?
Sometimes we think that by setting up rules we can save ourselves from sin, but the truth is that rules apart from the Spirit’s work are useless. So take some time to reflect and ask if you set up ‘personal rules’ wisely, to faithfully join the Spirit as he fights sin in your heart, OR if you set up rules because you doubt that God can (or will choose to) join you in the battle with sin. God ended the war against sin by crucifying his son in our place. Continue to trust in him, and he will save you again and again.