(Again I want to remind the readers that this blogpost is for those who are truly Christians. If you are not a Christian, your first course of action is to repent from your life of sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ first. Here is a link to help you understand the importance of this act of faith.)
Two weeks ago I began a series on how a Christian can overcome sin. Yes, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), but just because we are free from the penalty of sin does not mean we are completely free from its power and influence. Our hearts are still deceitfully wicked (Jer 17:9) and still capable of causing us to look like we were never saved to begin with (Eph 4:17-19). We are, in fact, working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), constantly putting off the old man of sin “which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:22-24).
So how do we do this “putting off” and “putting on?” Last time we looked at (1) Practicing the Presence of God and (2) Study/Memorize Scripture. Today we look at the next two.
3) Surround yourself with God’s People
The Bible has a whole lot to say about the influence of others. Negatively speaking:
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor 15:33).
“The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them” (Prov 11:3)
“The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov 12:5)
“The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov 12:26)
From these verses, it might be easy to think that we need to stay isolated, far away from any bad influence. But this is not how God wants Christians to be. Rather, you need the church’s wisdom!
“He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom” (Prov 18:1)
The writer of Hebrews was explicit about this. In Hebrews 10, notice how all the personal pronouns are “we” or “us,” pointing to the fact that your growth in your Christian walk is a community activity with other true Christians in the church-life.
“19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10:19-25)
This verse could not be clearer for the importance of the regular, intentional interaction with other true believers. Yes, this happens on Sunday morning (“our own assembling together”), but this needs to be a daily part of our lives. What is your daily interaction with true believers? Is Sunday the only day? If so, find a small group Bible study and join. If you don’t have any small groups, then make some friends in the church and have them over to your home weekly. Get with other godly people regularly and habitually. By doing this, your fight against sin will increasingly stop being about your personal fight and more being a part of the holy, blameless church which Christ cleansed (Eph 5:25-27)
John MacArthur: “People who think wrongly invariably behave wrongly. Wrong behavior comes from wrong thinking, from wrong beliefs and wrong standards. It is impossible to associate regularly with wicked people without being contaminated both by their ideas and by their habits. (1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Moody Publishers], 429)
4) Repent and Rest in God’s Forgiveness
Again, theology meets practical application. When you repented of your sin and made Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord of your life, you were, at that moment, justified. Justification is a legal term, painting the picture that though you stood before a holy Judge (God) as a guilty sinner, deserving a just punishment, God declares you “innocent” based upon the death of Jesus Christ. Your sin-ladened account was placed upon Jesus and His righteousness was set upon you (for you theology nerds, this is the imputed righteousness of Christ to Christians). This is why the Apostle Paul can claim “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). From this point on, all Christians are being sanctified, that is, you are being made more and more righteous in this life.
Now in this process of sanctification, the power of sin is being slowly eradicated from our daily lives. However sin remains. Remember 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins…” As I said above, sin is still attached. So what do we do when (not if) we sin?
First, repent! Remember 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.” The Apostle John is writing to believers to remind them that when sin occurs in the Christian’s life, don’t ignore it. Repent! This truth is why Martin Luther started his famous 95 Theses with “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Second, rest in justification theology above. If you have truly repented from sin and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, then there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You must rest in this truth. God is not a liar and is faithful to keep every promise, including keeping you in His salvific arms (John 10:27-28). J. C. Ryle: “His work, and not our work, is our only title to Heaven.”
Next time, we’ll look at the next two ways to overcome sin.
 J. C. Ryle, Holiness, abridged version (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010), 57.