How To Gain Victory Over Sin – Second Edition

Cover image for book Victory Over SinIt’s been two and a half years since I published my book How To Gain Victory Over Sin. Since that time, I’ve been working on updating and expanding it. The second edition is now virtually complete and I’ve received my proof copies from Amazon to look over. Aside from tweaking the cover and correcting any last-minute typos, the book should be available within a month.

While the first book hasn’t been a best seller (I don’t have a big company doing advertising for me), it has done well. Google Play currently shows a 4.7 star rating, and GoodReads.com a 4.6 star rating. The e-book is free through Google Play and Smashwords. Kindle charges 99 cents over which I have no control. The printed book is 6 dollars. The second edition will also be a free e-book, and the printed edition might go up a dollar since the book is bigger.

Here’s a short excerpt from the second edition…

Two thousand years ago, a couple of missionaries established some churches in what is now central Turkey. The region was then a Roman province called Galatia, and the missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, were on their first missionary journey.

The first city in the province they came to was Antioch of Pisidia. When they arrived, Paul preached the message of justification by faith apart from works of the law of Moses. Many Jews and Gentiles gladly heard and believed the message, but some Jews who didn’t raised a persecution against the missionaries and ran them out of town.

In Iconium, Paul again preached the gospel. As before, many believed, and many didn’t. The Jews who didn’t believe stirred up the people to violence, forcing Paul and Barnabas to flee from that city as well.

In Lystra, they proclaimed Christ to the people again, but the Jews from Antioch and Iconium followed them there and moved the crowds to stone Paul to death. Thinking he was dead, they dragged him out of the city. But Paul survived, and, ignoring the danger to himself, he revisited those same cities, urging the new believers to continue in the faith and endure the persecutions that would result. But it wasn’t long after Paul and Barnabas left the region that the young believers allowed the enemies of the gospel to come in and teach a different “gospel,” and this is where the letter to the Galatians comes in.

The epistle to the Galatians is somewhat unique among Paul’s letters to the churches. It is the only one where Paul did not give thanks to God for his readers. Instead of thanksgiving, Paul expressed his alarm:

I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different “good news”…

This church had some serious problems…worse even than that of the carnal Corinthians. Only in this letter does Paul warn his readers of a curse, and only in this letter does he come close to losing his temper. After all the suffering he went through to bring the gospel to them, Paul was frustrated to see them falling away so quickly. Why was this happening?

When Paul departed from Galatia, he not only left behind new believers, he left behind the Jewish legalists that persecuted him. With Paul gone, they were able to freely attack the churches with the Law of Moses.

But Paul didn’t abandon the young Gentile believers. Having witnessed the same problem in his home church as well, he traveled to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus to address this very issue with the other apostles.

Identifying True Christians

Once upon a time there was a great, big wolf, and he hadn’t eaten in days. His last meal was only a couple of small mice… not even enough for an appetizer. You can be sure he was on the lookout for some serious grub!

Suddenly, a flock of sheep caught his eye. As he looked at them grazing peacefully in the distance, immediately his mouth started watering uncontrollably, and his stomach growled expectantly at the thought of fresh mutton. But he was so famished and weak from hunger, he didn’t have the strength to chase down even one small lamb. What was he to do?

Then it came to him. “I know how I can get a plump, juicy sheep! I’ll dress up like one! I’ll put on a sheep skin and calmly walk in among them. They won’t even know! Then I can take my time to pick out the best!”

So the big, hungry wolf put his plan into action. He (conveniently) found a sheep skin in reasonably good shape, and spent a few awkward moments putting it on and adjusting the fit. Then he walked nonchalantly down to the flock. As he approached, none of the sheep raised the alarm. Some even greeted him and welcomed him as a new member of the flock.

It wasn’t long before he had found his sheep – a nice, fat one, more trusting than the rest. (This sheep happened to be one of the first to greet him when he arrived.) In less than a minute, he turned on the helpless creature and started devouring greedily.

At the sight of the behavior of the strange “sheep,” some of the flock were greatly alarmed and tried to warn the others, but those others just said, “He’s new to our flock. He doesn’t know our ways. Give him time to change. You’ll see.”

But the wolf, encouraged and strengthened by his success, and relishing the taste of fresh blood, began attacking other sheep at random, causing them to run this way and that.

Meanwhile, some other wolves happened to be walking by. Seeing what appeared to be one sheep attacking other sheep, one of them said, “I hate sheep! Look how violent they are, attacking each other! Peaceful creatures? Bah! What hypocrites!” So they also ran down into the flock and started harassing the sheep as well.

And so the world looks on Christians today with distain and hatred, because they see the actions of false Christians and think that’s what Christianity is all about. The lies of Satan, the great Deceiver, spread freely, and persecution results.

Real Christians are not those who say they are Christians. You can’t tell a genuine follower of Jesus by which church he goes to, how much he puts in the offering plate, which political party he subscribes to, etc. Real Christians are those who do what Jesus said, and He said things like…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13:34-35 (ESV)

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

– Luke 6:35 (ESV)

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

– Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

True Christians are identified by love in action. This love includes doing tangible good to others, as well as warning the lost of the coming judgment, and pointing them to Jesus as the only savior from sin and hell. Some will not listen; others will slander and harm us. But when mistreated, a follower of Jesus does not respond in kind. A true Christian continues to love and do them good anyway, just as our heavenly Father continues to do them good. A Christian can do this only because he submits himself to the Holy Spirit Who enables him to do this. (Without such submission, the true Christian will have difficulty loving as he should.)

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

– Galatians 6:10 (ESV)

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:13

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

– 3 John 11

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

– 1 Peter 3:17

Holistic Bible Study

For I have not shrunk back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

– Acts 20:27 (VW)

Biblical illiteracy is epidemic in the church today. Unlike any other time in history, we swim in an ocean of Bibles, but we don’t make an effort to study them for ourselves. We prefer to trust others to tell us what the Bible says and means. As a result, we’re ignorant of even the basics, and we let every wind of strange and corrupt doctrine sway us.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the rudimentary principles of the Words of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is without experience in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their understanding exercised to discern both good and evil.

– Hebrews 5:12-14 (VW)

Just as with those Hebrews, the typical western Christian is spiritually under-nourished and doesn’t know it. We don’t have a famine of the word of God. We have a famine of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11).

In the secular world, there are those who are truly health-conscious, and there are those who only think they are. The difference is in how far health awareness affects that person’s way of life and thinking. Those who think healthy do so holistically: eating right, getting plenty of exercise, etc. Those who only think they do limit themselves to one or two healthy habits, if any at all. This is also true in the spiritual realm.

A healthy spiritual life is one where you love God with your whole being (Matthew 22:35-40), you trust and obey Jesus in all areas, you do everything you can to know Him more, you’re constantly on your guard against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and so on. You don’t dabble in worship, or pick and choose when you want to obey. You’d be fooling yourself if you think you’ll make any progress in overcoming the flesh and becoming like Christ if you do so in an only half-hearted manner.

An essential part of a healthy spiritual life comes through regularly reading and studying the Bible for yourself. When you open your Bible, don’t just read your favorite parts, or the parts that seem more important to you. That’s like taking an excess of one vitamin and ignoring the rest, or eating only bread and nothing else. It doesn’t work. Instead, study the whole Bible. This is especially important if you’re a preacher or teacher.

All Scripture is breathed by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The early church rapidly grew as the apostles proclaimed Jesus Christ. All they had was the Old Testament and their experience with Jesus. Even though they used the Old Testament scriptures, they didn’t teach the Mosaic Law – that was not part of the New Covenant. But they did teach about man’s character and nature, about God’s character, nature, and will, and about Jesus Christ from those scriptures.

Now we have the New Testament as well. It contains not only the four gospel accounts, but also much apostolic doctrine and practical instruction. It’s tempting to focus primarily on the gospels. We want to hear what Jesus said more than what the apostles said. Somehow we feel those “letters in red” are more inspired than the rest of the Bible. But all of scripture is God-breathed. What Peter, James, and John had to write is just as inspired as what Jesus directly said. (The same is true of the Old Testament writers.) Just as Moses pointed to Jesus, the Prophet that was to come (Deuteronomy 18:15, Acts 3:22), Jesus pointed to the Holy Spirit who would teach the disciples things they were “not able to bear” at the time (John 16:12-14). Those are the things that the apostles wrote about in the rest of the New Testament. If you focus only on what Jesus said in the gospels, you’ll be missing out on important truth.

It’s very important to read and study your whole Bible. Don’t become fixated on your favorite part or doctrine. Don’t limit yourself to just the basics, otherwise you won’t reach spiritual maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3). Study both doctrine and application. At the same time, pay attention to context. Be aware of the differences between old and new covenants so you can understand what applies to you and what doesn’t. Put your whole heart, mind, body and spirit into becoming a mature Christian.

Zombie Ants and the Flesh

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I do not wish to do, that I do; moreover, what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I doing it, but sin that dwells in me.

– Romans 7:15-17 (VW)

Paul struggled with sin, even after he was saved. He wanted to do good by obeying the Law, but he found he was not able to. No matter how hard he tried, he kept doing what he didn’t want to do. It was like he had two natures: one that rejoiced in God’s law, and another that held him hostage to things he now found abhorrent.

Paul was not making excuses for his sin when he said, “It is no longer I doing it, but sin that dwells in me.” He was admitting there was something in him that prevented him from obeying God. It was like he was possessed, …not by an evil spirit, but by his old sin nature. There’s an interesting picture of this in the life cycle of the lancet fluke.

The lancet fluke (dicrocoelium dendriticum) is a parasite that infects different creatures at different stages in its life. Adult lancet flukes live in ruminant animals such as sheep or cattle, but how they get there seems like something out of a budget horror movie.

An adult fluke lays eggs in the bile ducts of its host. The eggs move to the intestines and then leave the animal in the droppings. The eggs remain unhatched until a particular variety of snail ingests the droppings. Once inside the snail, the hatchlings (mericida) replicate into many more sporocysts, and then into larvae called cercariae. These larvae eventually migrate to the snail’s respiratory system where they produce slime balls. The snail sheds these slime balls and larvae as they move along.

Now remember, the adult lancet fluke lives in a cow or sheep. How do the larvae make their way back into these animals so they can complete their life-cycle? I’m glad you asked!

Along comes a particular variety of ant looking for a source of moisture. It finds a larvae-infested slime ball, and eats it. And this is where things get weird.

Inside the ant, the larvae again transform into hundreds of metacercariae that live in the ant’s gut. But after living there for some time, a single metacarcaria leaves its siblings and heads for the ant’s sub-esophageal ganglion where it takes control of the ant’s actions. The ant is now a zombie, unable to function as a normal ant.

During the day, the zombie ant appears to act like a normal ant and works with the other ants. But in the evening, the zombie ant leaves the others, climbs to the top of a blade of grass, and holds on to it with its jaws all night until morning. It then returns to its fellow ants for the rest of the day as if nothing happened. The next evening and the next, it climbs to the top of a blade of grass, until a chance cow or sheep comes by, eats the grass with the ant, and returns the parasite back to a large host. It then fully matures, mates, and produces eggs, closing the cycle of life.

Does the zombie ant truly want to get eaten? Of course not. But it can’t help itself. It is no longer the ant doing what it wants to do, but the lancet fluke that dwells within dictating what the ant’s actions. (Here’s a cartoon version of this cycle.)

I see in these zombie ants a picture of ourselves when we allow our fallen nature to control our thoughts and actions. The illustration isn’t perfect, as the whole human race has been infected since the fall, but it’s close enough. When Jesus saved us, He gave us His Holy Spirit to overcome our sinful fallen nature. But we need to give Him control instead of letting our little parasitic nature run our lives. Like the lancet fluke’s control of the ant, allowing our sin nature to run things leads to death, but letting the Holy Spirit run things leads to life.

Living For God’s Glory

George was not happy with the way some churches in his area were supporting themselves. Some were renting pews to the wealthy and asking non-believers for money. George thought this was wrong. He felt the church should trust in God to supply its needs without having to ask the world for help, because he believed his heavenly Father could be trusted to support His people and His work.

So in 1830, for the benefit of believers and unbelievers, George started an experiment in faith. He gave up his pastoral salary, sold all he possessed, and trusted in God alone for his support. He made it a point never to tell anyone else of his needs, because he believed that God would honor his trust by supplying everything he needed.

To document God’s faithfulness, George kept a diary. In it he recorded his needs and prayers . For almost seventy years George Müller lived this experiment, and God honored his faith, supplying not only his basic necessities but enough to run a Bible school and a large orphanage for over 2000 children 1. The example George set influenced many of these children to become men and women of faith themselves, and even such outsiders as Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon and D. L. Moody were greatly influenced by his example.

By his own admission, George was not a great man of faith, but he was a man who trusted in a Great and Faithful God. His experiment was not to show what great faith can accomplish, but to show what God can accomplish when we trust in Him. By trusting completely in his heavenly Father to supply his most basic needs, George Müller’s life was used to reveal something of God’s character: His love, His power, His faithfulness, in a word: His glory.

This was George’s lifelong quest – to show God’s glory to the world. It should be ours also, in everything we do.

Giving Glory To God

Notes:

  1. This is a ministry that continues to the present day (www.mullers.org).

How To Gain Victory Over Sin – Additional Notes

Here are some additional notes that didn’t make it into the book, but may appear in a second edition. How To Gain Victory Over Sin was intended to draw attention to the most neglected, yet essential part of resisting temptation, but it isn’t the only important part. You should also spend time with other like-minded believers where you can share each other’s struggles and burdens, pray for, and encourage one another. Each member of the Body of Christ needs the others to grow.

Book location Notes
Page 4
“He begins with our need for salvation…”
Our need can be seen in Romans 2:1-6, our inability to save ourselves in Romans 3:9-20, and God’s solution to our problem in Romans 3:21-26.
Page 6
“Only after salvation…”
Another clue that Paul is saved is in verse 17: “So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.” It used to be Paul sinning, but it was no longer. This can only be said by the regenerate.
Page 7
“We all need…”
Some believers, by God’s grace, recognize from the beginning of salvation the futility of living in the flesh. They rely on the Holy Spirit right away. But this is not true of most believers. It wasn’t true of Paul.
Page 8
Footnote 13
Also remember Paul wanted to do good, and chapter 6 shows it is God’s will that we do good. So this victory is a practical one.
Page 9
Footnote 15
Some translations include an additional phrase in verse 1: “…who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” This verse begins with the word “therefore,” which always looks back to what has already been said. Paul refers back to the last time he mentioned the Holy Spirit in Romans 7:6. The verses between there and here contain a parenthetical argument showing the insufficiency of the Law to restrain sin, and hence our need for the Spirit. Also, remember this condemnation is self-condemnation (as in 1 John 3:20). Paul had just spoken of his sense of wretchedness in conquering sin, not about God judging him for his sin. Walking in the Spirit has nothing to do with justifying us in God’s eyes. That only happens through faith in what Jesus has accomplished.
Page 10
“He condemned sin in the flesh”
I take this to mean Jesus condemned sin in His own physical body. He kept Himself from sin.
Page 10
“The Mosaic law… empowers sin…”
The Law empowers sin like food empowers cancer. Food is always good, but if you have cancer, those cancer cells feed off the same nutrients as your healthy cells… and the cancer cells eventually take over the healthy cells – never the other way around. The Law does not cause sin, just as food does not cause cancer, but it does empower it. That’s its purpose, so that sin might become “exceedly sinful” (Romans 7:13).
Page 10
“…this law of sin and death that is already in us…”
Justification does not remove the sin nature. Suppose you are a kleptomaniac – someone with the urge to steal things. You go to court because you got caught stealing. If the judge pardons you, you have been justified from the crime… but you still have the urge to steal. In the same way, you still have sinful desires even though you have been justified of your sins. The Holy Spirit was given to enable you to overcome those wrong desires.
Page 11
Footnote 23
As much as we would like, the Spirit usually does not remove the lusts of the flesh. But it is sufficient that He enables us to resist them.
Page 11
“…because the mind of your natural self is an incorrigible rebel against God…”
This will seem shocking to those not familiar with Romans. The flesh will revolt against this! I’m uncomfortable with this! But that is what the following scripture (Romans 8:7-8) says.
Page 12
Footnote 24
Romans 7:18 is the point I’m getting across: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing…” Also, in Romans 7:23, Paul writes: “I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.” (Some translations say “carnally minded” in Romans 8:7. “Carnal” is the same word elsewhere translated “flesh”. Unfortunately, translating the word differently here tends to obscure the meaning.)
Page 12
Footnote 26
Be careful that you don’t view the Holy Spirit as a tool in your hands. The Holy Spirit is God. You don’t wield His power, you submit to Him.
Page 13
“While it’s certainly better…”
Resisting sin deals with the manifestations of the flesh, while sanctification deals with the flesh itself. Both are needed, but in terms of sanctification, we must place all our hope in God’s power.
Page 13
“…unless the root is dealt with, sin will keep coming back.”
James 1:14-15 says the lust (desire) of the flesh leads to sin, but sin when it has matured leads to death. This is why Paul says if you live by the flesh, you must die. It is the end result of this natural progression.
Page 13
“Just as…”
And both are appropriated through faith.
Page 13
“Your sanctification is God’s on-going work”
See Philippians 2:12-13 “…For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” Also, Colossians 1:29: “…according to His working…” Following Jesus is both easy (Matthew 11:28-30) and difficult… the difficulty lies entirely in the struggle with the flesh – putting it to death. But this the Holy Spirit equips us to do (Romans 8:13).
Page 13
“We’ll look…”
Another shocking paragraph. The “Don’t beat yourself up…” sentence is probably the most of all, but it is the logical conclusion when you consider God is the one who sanctifies us.
Page 13
“I’m not against works…”
We must learn to recognize the source of each of our works. Whatever we do, we need to ask ourselves: “Is this of the Spirit or the flesh?” If it is of the Spirit, then don’t quench or down-play it. But if it is of the flesh, it needs to be put to death by the Spirit.
Page 13
Footnote 27
Again, Paul not interrupting his topic with something totally out of the blue, i.e. the resurrection of our physical bodies. “Mortal bodies” means the bodies we are living in right now. Our resurrection bodies are immortal.
Page 14
“A chapter 6 believer…”
Some believers never even make it to chapter 6. They are the ones who presume on grace, and live like the world. Works of any kind are seen as unnecessary – even wrong. Yet, God saved us so that we could do the good works He has planned for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works do not lead to salvation, but they do procede from it.
Page 14
“A chapter 7 believer…”
If you think lawkeeping is easy, read Matthew 5:17-43. The Law primarily deals with the heart, which is desperately wicked.
Page 14
“A chapter 8 believer…”
This believer is also enabled to live up to the Chapter 6 standard. Real victory happens for him. He realizes we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, compare with Romans 7:24-25).
Page 15
Footnote 35
You will always serve a master – either the flesh or the Spirit. If you are not submitted to the Holy Spirit, then you are in slavery to the flesh. You cannot make the flesh your slave or make your fleshly mind serve you.
Page 16
“If your focus is…”
Not that trying in general is bad. It is the law-focused variety that is bad for believers because we live by faith. But law-focused trying for non-believers can be good if it leads to conviction of sin and the realization that law-keeping is impossible. Romans 3:20 says, “…through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” This is not just the knowledge of what sin is, but the revealing of the sin that is in ourselves. The Law is an essential part of the gospel (Galatians 3:24, 2:19, Romans 7:7).
Page 16
Footnote 37
“Flesh” here is easily seen not to be our carnal desires but simply our natural power, will, ability, etc. The flesh is what I can do, as contrasted with what God can do.
Page 16
“…there’s a war…”
Remember Romans 7:23 (“I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind…”). Also, Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire.” (This ties with the earlier note for page 12.)
Page 17
Footnote 38
The next verse is also important to remember: “Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.” We do not reap what we sow right away. This principle works both ways. We think because we haven’t suffered any consequences of living in the flesh right away, we got away with it, but that is not so. Sowing to the flesh will eventually come back to bite us. And as is with nature, the harvest is always greater than what was sown. (Remember these three principles of sowing and reaping: you always reap of the same kind, there is a gap in time between sowing and reaping, and you reap more than you sow.)
Page 17
Footnote 39
It is easy to focus too much on grace or too much on the Law. The Bible must be understood as a whole, without focusing on pet doctrines. For example, Jesus said not the slightest part of the Law would pass away until the end. Paul said the Law has been abolished. Both are correct, for Paul was speaking of the Law in relation to living for God’s approval – for salvation. The Law is the standard, but it is not a means. Arguments arise when each party looks at only a portion of scripture instead of the whole. You must understand that no biblical doctrine conflicts with another, so don’t set one passage against another. Instead, study to understand it so that it all harmonizes together.
Page 17
Footnote 39
Also see Galatians 2:19, 5:18. The Mosaic Law applies to the flesh. When the flesh dies, the Law is no longer needed to control it.
Page 17
Footnote 40
The effort we expend in sanctification is focused not so much on keeping commands as on denying ourselves and crucifying the flesh through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13). Without this, we won’t be able to keep His commands. Sin is the outward manifestation of an inner problem. As long as we allow the mind of the flesh to operate, sin will result. To gain practical victory over sin, the fleshly nature needs to be addressed. Otherwise, we’re just attempting to cover up the symptoms.
Sanctification involves active dependence upon the Spirit to become aware of the fleshly mindset behind the sins in our lives (like Psalm 139:23-24). It includes confession of those areas as they are revealed, and trust in God to not only forgive those things, but to sanctify us (1 John 1:9). It involves relying on the Spirit to be able to say “No!” to the flesh – to put the flesh to death. It involves the ‘reckoning’ of Romans 6:10-11, and the ‘presenting’ of our bodies as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13, 12:1). It involves relying on His power to obey. All of this requires some effort on our part, but it is the Holy Spirit who grants the success in these efforts. As such, keeping Jesus’ commands is the result of walking in the Spirit, not the means to walking in the Spirit.
Page 18
“It is the Spirit of Christ actually living through us…”
The Greek word for actor is ‘hypocrite’. Don’t act like Christ. Be real: Let Christ live through you by His Holy Spirit.
Page 19
“Fruit is the evidence…”
You cannot fake this fruit. No amount of self-effort will produce it. But you can produce counterfeits that might convince yourself or others.
Page 19
“We can’t do it on our own.”
Our dependence on the Spirit to live as Christians is sprinkled throughout the New Testament. Many of us (myself included) tend to gloss over the phrase “in the Spirit” or “by the Spirit” is superfluous in passages such as Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 1:8, Philippians 3:3, 1 Peter 4:6, and Romans 8:13. But we need to realize we can’t do it on our own. This takes mental discipline, which comes in the continual, conscious reliance on God’s power in us to live holy lives. There’s awareness that without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can do all things. We must continually look to God to daily provide what is needed in us to live in the manner He desires. We never come to the point where we think we’ve matured enough to obey on our own. And we seek to avoid whatever hinders (grieves) this dependent relationship with God.
Page 20
Footnote 51
It is possible to think we have let go of the flesh when we haven’t really. Sometimes God lets us struggle on in our own strength until we truly give up on our flesh before He empowers us with the Holy Spirit. It is dishonest to intend to give credit to God for what you attempt in your own strength (Luke 18:11-12).
Page 22
“Romans 6 will no longer appear to be full of impossibilities.”
Romans 8:20 says the creation has been subjected to vanity. As a result of man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse (Genesis 3:17-19), we find our efforts in bettering and preserving ourselves continually frustrated, and ultimately unsuccessful, especially in regards to spiritual matters. (This ties with the condemnation of the Law in Romans 3:19 and the curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10.) But now we have received the “first-fruits of the Spirit” (verse 23). The Holy Spirit undoes the work of the curse, and our effort is no longer subject to frustration as we walk in the Spirit. It is now possible to successfully resist temptation. This benefit is only the beginning of what we will eventually receive, leading to the redemption of our bodies (verse 23).
Page 23
Footnote 58
A sacrifice is always of something good, not of evil. This sacrifice is not just the giving up of one or more sins, but the giving up of what you want to do to God.
Page 24
Step 1.c and 1.d
When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Outside of Christ, I can do nothing (John 15:4-5). In Christ, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Page 24
Step 3
“You don’t have, because you don’t ask.” (James 4:2)
Page 24
“God always provides a way of escape from temptation.”
Jesus told us to ask our heavenly Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Some translations say “evil one”, but “one” is not in the original language. We need God’s help to protect us, not only from the evil that can happen to us, but from the evil we can do.
Page 25
“…real fellowship with God…”
“the Spirit of truth … You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17)
Page 26
Footnote 64
If you have been born again, there should be evidence of the Holy Spirit in you. What evidences do you see in your life? Do other people notice you are becoming more like Christ? (Don’t be self-deceived into thinking you are making progress if nobody can see it.) There should be spiritual fruit developing, progress towards Christ-likeness, an increasing grief and abhorance of personal sin, and increasing love, trust, and obedience for Jesus Christ. The world should have less of a hold on you, and there should be an increasing burden for the lost. There won’t be perfection, and you may have occasional setbacks, but there should not be stagnation.
You should be able to perceive the Holy Spirit in you, just as you can perceive you are alive. One purpose of the Spirit is to testify that we are children of God (1 John 5:10, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19). The word for “know” in that last reference is eido, which means the knowledge of perception, not the knowledge of doctrine or learning. Eido means to see. You should be able to detect the Holy Spirit in you, not as a feeling, but through His work in your life.
If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, but you think you should, are you truly saved? Were you ‘saved’ as a result of something you did (i.e. agreed with a doctrine, asked Jesus to come into your heart, etc.), or because of something God did in response to your faith? Are you born of God?
Page 46 Taking on Christ’s yoke and carrying His burden implies effort on our part. However, the thing about His yoke (as with any yoke) is that it makes the work we are to do easier. Many Christians act like the yoke or burden is the Law. But Peter basically ruled this out in Acts 15:10. I understand His yoke to be the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness, and the burden to be the work God has for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
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Footnote 147
The things these people did was not how they came to be Spirit-led. It was the result of being Spirit-led.

If you get a chance, I recommend some other books that may be more helpful to you in your walk with Jesus and struggle with the flesh:

Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

The Calvary Road and/or We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

– Luke 11:13

The Blessing of Leaving All

And Jesus again answering says to them, “Children, how difficult it is that those who trust in riches should enter into the kingdom of God! … Verily I say to you, There is no one who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, that shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time: houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the coming age life eternal. But many first shall be last, and the last first.”

– Mark 10:24,29-31 JND

How rich is too rich to enter the kingdom of God? It’s easy to look at the story of the rich young ruler and think he was over the limit, but it’s not a question of how much he had, but of how much his possessions had him. You don’t have to be in the top 1% of the wealthy for it to be difficult to go through the ‘eye of the needle’. Anyone, even the poor, can be hindered from coming to the Lord by their possessions. Whatever you are unwilling to freely give up can be your downfall. You don’t even need money to reap the evil that comes from the love of money.

The things listed in verse 29 are temporal. Yes, they’re important, but not as important as Jesus. It’s a matter of priorities. We are to love the Lord our God in a higher way than we are to love others (Mark 12:30-31). We show this love, not by what has been taken from us, but by what we have freely left to follow Jesus. James and John left their father to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20). The rest of the disciples also left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28). No, they didn’t ‘divorce’ their family… but they did obey Jesus’ call when it came. They put Him first.

Jesus promised that those who left family and possessions for His sake and the gospel would receive 100 times more in this life (…not as possessions, for we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth). Among those blessings we receive when we leave our temporal belongings is something that seems out of place: persecutions. It’s easy to think of mistreatment as a downside to our following Jesus, but it’s not. Elsewhere, Jesus said we are to view persecution for His sake as a blessing, and we are to leap for joy when it happens to us… because it means we have great reward waiting for us in heaven.

“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as wicked, for the Son of man’s sake: rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in the heaven, for after this manner did their fathers act toward the prophets.”

– Luke 6:22-23 JND

Persecution isn’t something to fear. Jesus didn’t fear it, and neither did the apostles. Don’t you fear it either.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to go through anything His didn’t go through first. Jesus gave up all when He came to earth. He was first, but placed Himself as last, serving sinners. He was persecuted and ‘lost’ His life for the sake of the gospel. And now God has raised Him higher than all and put Him over all, and His name is blessed above every name. Let us follow Him.

Beware Of Leaven

… When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” … Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

– Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV)

The Pharisees and Sadducees are no longer with us, but their leaven is. You can’t see it, but you can see its effect.

Most bread today is leavened with plain yeast. But yeast in packets or jars was not available until relatively recently. Leavening in Bible times was accomplished by using a bit of dough from the previous batch to seed the next batch. We know this today as sour-dough. Chametz is the Hebrew word for bread made this way, which means sour, fermented.

Sourdough starterBread dough is inflated through the action of yeast and bacterial spores which produce carbon dioxide by converting the sugars in the flour to alcohols. Yeast is a living organism, and as it reproduces, it takes over the whole lump of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6 “a little leaven leaves the whole lump”).

In the Bible, leaven is first mentioned in connection with the Passover. God told the Hebrews to bake unleavened bread, because in the rush to leave Egypt, there would not be enough time to let the bread rise. 1

Once a year at Passover, the Jews got rid of the old sour-dough. God had commanded Israel to do this, but He gave no such command to the Gentiles. Today there are some famous sour-dough cultures that have been alive for tens or hundreds of years. The most famous is probably the one used to make San Francisco sour-dough bread. There are also well-known cultures from Naples that upscale pizzerias use.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was not condemning physical leaven. He was using leaven to represent teachings that ‘infect’ our thoughts – that start out small but eventually take over our whole mindset. The leaven of the Pharisees was one of hyper-legalism. It probably began hundreds of years before Christ with a few small commands intended to help people avoid sin, but it quickly expanded to the point where it virtually replaced the Law. Similarly, even today with our secular law, we see it is very easy to add more and more laws and regulations to the system, but very hard to remove them. (And the laws we add seem powerless to reduce crime.)

Natural leaven comes from the air. You can make leavened dough by mixing equal parts of flour and water, then leaving it out in the open for a while. The air is full of yeast spores, and eventually some will take residence in the dough, causing it to ferment. (For this reason, today’s Jewish dietary regulations consider dough to be leavened 18 minutes after it comes in contact with water.) But bread made with this dough might not taste good, depending on what variety of yeast takes up residence. Not all ‘wild’ yeast is the same. Some is good for baking and some is not.

Jesus compared the growth of the kingdom of heaven to leaven in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21. But most of the time leaven is used in the Bible to symbolize sin. I think there’s an interesting analogy of yeast coming from the air. Satan is called the prince of the power of the air. In a spiritual sense, his bad “yeast” is all around us, and if we’re not careful, it will readily take over our hearts and minds. We must not let it do so. We need to remain unleavened…

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

– 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV)

Christians have a Passover to remember. When we share in the Lord’s Supper, we remember what it cost for Jesus Christ to free us from our sins. But we should also examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28) for the leaven of malice and evil, hypocrisy and fleshly regulations, and so on. Let’s cast out the old leaven of sin, and not follow the Pharisee’s example of adding to what God has said.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

– Colossians 2:16-23

Notes:

  1. You can also see this as a picture of separation from life in Egypt.

Be Holy

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts in your ignorance; But as He who called you is holy, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16

The command to be holy is one God always gives to His people. In the Old Testament it was given to Israel. In the New Testament it is given to us believers. We are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), God’s people, and we are to be like Him in this way. To understand the call to holiness, we must first define what holy means.

Many people have a vague idea of what holiness means. In art, it is portrayed by a halo or glow around a person’s head, and sometimes a particular pose. (Whenever I see a painting of Jesus, I have this silly mind picture of Jesus posing for the artist as he paints the picture… perhaps two fingers pointing on his upraised hand… eyes focused upward… holding this supposedly “holy” pose for an hour or two until the painting is finished.) But this is man’s idea. Holiness is not about appearances. You can’t sense it physically.

There are various definitions of the word ‘holy’. Among the more well known are to be set apart to God, and to be morally perfect. These are good definitions, but neither one of them applies to all usages of the word. It is somewhat meaningless to say that, because God is holy, He is ‘set apart’ to Himself. And moral perfection can only apply to people, not to inanimate objects like the holy anointing oil used in the Old Testament temple.

While these two different definitions are adequate in their proper contexts, I think there is another way to understand holiness using a single all-inclusive definition, summed up by the phrase “No compromise.” We can see how this applies to the holiness of God, His people, and objects.

God is holy. He has absolute integrity. He will not compromise His character in any way. “Holy” describes the degree to which God is who He is. God is 100% righteous. He is 100% just. He is 100% loving. We think of the holiness of God as something to be afraid of, but it is also a source of great comfort. Because God is holy, we can trust Him to be 100% faithful to His promises. He will not deny Himself (Malachi 3:6).

The Old Testament tabernacle was made up entirely of holy things. Not only were the prominent items like the ark and the altar holy, so were the accoutrements such as the wash basin and various utensils used in the service. Every item was to be used only for the worship of Yahweh, and only in the way that was prescribed to do so. You could not borrow a pan from the temple to make a cake for your friends. That would have treated the item as common, compromising its purpose.

As Christians, we are God’s people, set apart for Him. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and we must not compromise ourselves, living for the world, our friends, or ourselves – even the slightest. We have been bought with a price, and we are no longer our own. We are no longer common. Let us not compromise ourselves.

Praying For Patience

Take thy share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

– 2 Timothy 2:3 (JND)

It is not our purpose to seek out suffering, but neither is it to avoid it.

It is jokingly said that one thing you should not pray for is patience, because if you do, God is going to send all sorts of calamity to try what little patience you do have. However, patience is a virtue that we need to have. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a good, godly thing, and the only way to acquire it is to have it tried. To say, even jokingly, that you should not pray for patience focuses on the suffering rather than the goal. It cheats you out of Christ-likeness.

It is good to pray for patience, for that leads us to a greater likeness to our Master. To live as a Christian means we will suffer for Christ, and to suffer for Christ is to know Him better. Does our desire to avoid suffering exceed our desire to know Christ?

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, …

– Philippians 3:10 (JND)