by Dave Hintz
In an effort to help the body of Calvary Bible Church realize their New Years Resolutions, I have written a series of articles outlining how to develop discipline in your own life. After introducing the importance of discipline in the January issue, I spent time last month detailing the enemy of discipline, laziness. Such an enemy has lulled many into a spiritual stupor, causing many frustrated Christians to concede defeat in their fight against sin. However, in this month’s article, I hope to encourage you all with the promise of spiritual success: true victory over sin can indeed be found through the power resident in all believers, the Holy Spirit.
World War II provided us with some tragic illustrations of theological truth. When Nazi Germany attacked Poland the battle was essentially won within a week and was virtually over in a month. Winston Churchill described the valiant effort of the poorly armed Poles:
“They were heavily outclassed in artillery, and had but a single armoured brigade to meet the nine German Panzers, as they were already called. Their horse cavalry, of which they had twelve brigades, charged valiantly against the swarming tanks and armoured cars, but could not harm them with their swords and lances.”
The moral of the story is this: When going into battle, make sure that you fight with the right weapons. When we fight against our adversary of sin, we must make sure that we don’t feebly fight with the BB gun of the flesh, but rather strike decisively with the nuclear warhead of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 gives us a stunning promise: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, promises that when believers live a life directed by the Spirit, they will not carry out their sinful desires. The third Person of the Trinity, whose omnipotence equals that of God the Father, lives within you and desires to make you holy. As we see in Galatians 5:22 the Holy Spirit who produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness, also gives us the stupendous power of self-control, the bedrock of discipline, when we live according to the Spirit.
As believers, we initially come in contact with the Holy Spirit when we become born again. At this point, the Spirit makes us a new person (John 3:5-8) and dwells within us forever (1 Cor. 6:19). Through His indwelling, He convicts us sin (John 16:8), gives us the ability to understand Scripture (1 Cor. 2:13), and helps us to pray (Rom. 8:26). Yet in spite of all of the Spirit’s power, His work can be frustrated. Just as sin separated us from God before we were born again, sin can still separate us from the power of God even after we have become His children. Consider Psalm 66:18: “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” The author, presumably a follower of Yahweh, makes it clear that the Lord would not listen to his supplications if he cherished his sin. Similarly, Peter commands husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, otherwise their prayers will be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7). Although believers’ sin against God does not impact their relationship with God—they are still children of God— it does impact their fellowship (i.e. their level of intimacy) with God.
So how do you restore this fellowship with God? The same way that you were first reconciled in your relationship with God: repentance. The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All Christians will sin; yet, when you do sin, in order to restore fellowship with God you must confess your sins to Him, acknowledge your shortcomings, and ask for the grace to change. Consider the following situation:
You had a lustful or critical thought.
Step 1: Admit: “God I have sinned against You with this impure thought. This is contrary to Your character and a violation of Your commandments.”
Step 2: Repent: “Lord, I repent of this sin and ask You to help me to be obedient” If you have offended a brother or sister, at this point you must make things right with them.
Step 3: Pray: “God, I pray that You will transform my mind. Help me to think of “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8).
Step 4: Thank: Lord, I thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me the grace to change.
Once you have gone through this process, your fellowship with God will be restored and you will be walking in the full power of the Spirit. One should note that this is not a one-time event; a Christian who desires to walk in the Spirit will find himself doing this many times throughout each day. Over time, you will become more and more sensitive to sin, and more eager to deal with it quickly, for you long to drink of the cool water of fellowship with our Lord.
During the next month, practice this procedure until it becomes a habit, and then in the next article we will discuss the formation of other righteous habits.