Waging "War" on Sin?
I have recently found myself reflecting upon how often I have heard my peers and Christian brothers reference their "battles" and "fights against sin” in their lives. On the surface, this warfare seems a noble calling – one grabs their largest sin-cleaving weapon and dives internally into their heart, carving out all that is evil and unwholesome.
Unfortunately, this isn’t ever the case. I don’t know any one person who was able to successfully cleanse themselves of sin through sheer willpower and determination, nor through a swift and relentless military campaign against the infection of body and mind. That’s just not how sin works.
Lewis’ The Last Battle, and Tolkien’s Return of the King promote powerful metaphors about spiritual warfare that have stuck in our minds since our formative years. These romantic battles and underdog victories against the hordes of evil, though epic and powerful, may not be entirely helpful in realizing what the battle against sin and darkness truly entails.
Our heart is a factory for sin. All day long it rhythmically pumps out evil. Sinful thoughts are manufactured day in and day out, and like a cancer of the soul it has spread into the very fabric of our nature. It has been so from the dawn of humankind, when man and woman dove headfirst into sin.
And as much as we’d like to believe we do, we lack the tools for removing sin from our lives. “Sin management” is something we simply cannot practice alone.
There is good news for the sinner. It’s actually the best news ever given to anyone ever. We don’t have to beat sin. We don’t have to combat our fallen nature. Christ can. He did. And He is more than willing to for us.
Oswald Chambers writes, “The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin: Jesus Christ deals with sin in Redemption. The conflict is along the line of turning our natural life into a spiritual life, and this is never done easily, nor does God intend it to be done easily. It is done only by a series of moral choices.1"
Freedom from sin comes from Christ’s salvific work on the cross. He died so we may live. Our job now is not to continually fight the sin that has already been overcome in Christ, but to endure the sanctification process in which we become more like Christ and become vessels through which he can do His work, each of us pouring out a powerful river of living water.2 Sanctification should be our process for removing sin from our lives.
Spurgeon writes, “There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate presence of God.”3 And that’s just it. The closer we draw to Christ, the more we desire to be like Him, the more our inclination will be to abandon that sin which separates us from full communion with Him. We will flee from unrighteousness when we seek a close relationship with Christ.
Spurgeon actually uses the warfare imagery as an encouragement to believers. The important distinction is that the power does not come from somewhere within our sinful selves, but flows freely from Christ. He writes, “Do you ask how you are to accomplish this [victory]? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end." 4
Only Christ can heal us and break down those walls, freeing us from our perpetual enslavement and bondage to sin. Even more so, He grants us a new nature, free from sin, transformed and made new.
I’ll leave you with a summary from a man much more eloquent and insightful than I:
"The Lord knows very well that you cannot change your own heart and cannot cleanse your own nature. However, he also knows that he can do both. Hear this and be astonished. He can create you a second time. He can cause you to be born again." 5
- C. H. Spurgeon
1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for his Highest. Sept. 6 reading.
2. I John 4:14, John 7:38
3. C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening. July 17 evening reading.
5. C. H. Spurgeon, All of Grace. 55.