Skip Heitzig - Winning the War with Sin
This morning would you please turn in your Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 6. Romans chapter 6. The Italian sailing team traveled to Australia to compete in the America's Cup race. They were outfitted by Italian designer, Gucci, with the latest sports fashion. They decided to go to Australia a little bit early. They wanted to go rent a car, and go out into the Outback, and they wanted to see kangaroos. Who doesn't want to see kangaroos when they go to Australia?
So they're driving along the road out in the bush. Not only did they see a kangaroo, they ran into a kangaroo. So they stopped the Land Rover, got out of the car, the kangaroo is lying on the side of the road, and they decide to take pictures. So they take pictures. And one guy gets the bright idea of taking off his nice Gucci jacket and putting it on the limp kangaroo to take photographs. So he does. And just then, as he stepped back to take the picture, the creature came to life, he wasn't dead, he was just dazed, and hopped away, ran away before they could catch him off into the bush. So somewhere in Australia Outback is a very fashionably dressed kangaroo. He wears a Gucci jacket, and in the pocket are the keys to a Land Rover, and the team's credit card.
I use that little illustration because I fear we can make the same mistake. We have a false assumption that our old temptations are long gone, maybe even dead. But they can seem to spring back to life when we least expect it. The apostle Paul framed the very unique battle we find ourselves in in the book of Galatians, when he said, "The flesh wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh." The old nature that is prone to do evil wars against the new person we are in Christ. Every one of us knows that battle.
Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote a book in the 1800s that has become very, very famous and been made into several movies since then called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's a story of a medical doctor named Dr. Henry Jekyll, who develops a potion that lets him become another man, Edward Hyde. Dr. Jekyll himself is a very nice, compassionate, even-tempered individual, whereas Mr. Hyde is this cold blooded killer. So the story revolves around this battle between two different characters trying to control one body.
Somebody asked Robert Lewis Stevenson, "Where did you get your inspiration for your characters?" He said, "I looked inside myself." He said, "I find there's always a struggle with the beast that lives within me." Now, this struggle between two natures is the struggle that every child of God, even the best of the children of God, are familiar with. Even Paul the Apostle struggled. Even Paul said, "Oh, wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" I don't do what I know I should do. I do what I know I shouldn't do. And even he struggled.
I was reading an article about a very unusual lizard, at least to me. There's a type of lizard called a skink. S-K-I-N-K. It's a very shiny, glossy-skinned lizard. It has between 1,200 and 1,500 different varieties and sizes. Some are very, very colorful. But the most unusual skink ever found was found by a homeowner, a house owner, down in Jacksonville, Florida because this skink had two heads, one at each end of its body. So talk about frustration, right? Whenever it tried to run, the legs would move in opposite directions. That is a struggle. Now, sometimes you might feel like you are unique, and you might be thinking, "Nobody knows the struggle I have."
Here's the truth. Everybody knows the struggle you have because every one of us has it. It might be different than yours, but it is definitely a struggle. It is a battle that never stops. It is a battle we all want to win. It is a battle we all must win. As General Omar Bradley, who is one of our military generals, leaders during World War II, stated, he said, "In war, there is no prize for the runner up." You don't get second and third prize in a war. You either win it or you lose it. And so we find ourselves engaged in a battle. And we have not just an enemy, but we have three enemies who are allies against us. We have the world, the flesh, and the devil.
First of all, we have the devil. And the Bible says the devil isn't a myth with little horns and a pitchfork. He's a real spiritual, powerful entity, and he's got lots of help in the form of demons. Then, we have our flesh. And the devil wouldn't be powerful unless we had an old nature that can be lured away, and pulled away, and susceptible to his temptation. But then we have a third. And unless we had the third, those two would not be powerful, and that is the world with all of its values and allurements that Satan uses to attract our flesh toward his cause. So we have the world, the flesh, and the devil. Three allies that form the perfect storm, all exploiting our weaknesses.
You know you've heard the old saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Isn't that a wonderful thing to note? It is true. God loves you, and He does have a wonderful plan for your life. But the opposite is also true. Satan hate your guts and has a miserable plan for your life. So the question is facing this battle, how do we win the war with sin? Well, fortunately we are given a battle strategy in Romans chapter 6. And I want to give you a four step process in winning the war with sin. It's in your worship folder. I've given you four words that take you through these steps. We reason, we reckon, we resist, we replace. Those four steps will ensure that you win the battle against sin.
Let's begin with the first, we reason. Now I know that the texts that I am looking at begins in verse 11 where he says, "Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead." But that is not the first step. The first step begins in the mind. It begins with your reasoning. Begins with knowledge. In fact, if I take you back to verse 3 of chapter 6, note the word a few words in, "or do you not know?" Mark that. "Do you not know?" Then go down to verse 6. He says it again, "Knowing this." And then look at verse 9, first word again. "Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead." So this is where victory begins. There are certain things you need to know. If you want to grow, there's things you need to know. That's where it starts.
And that's true with anything in life. If you do anything in life, you need to first learn about it. So if you want to work on cars, you need to know about engines. If you want to be an artist, you need to know about different mediums to present your art with, whether it's paint, palette knife, watercolors, sculpting. There's certain things you need to know. If you want to be a surgeon, please, please know. Learn. Get all you can before you cut into us and operate. So in doing anything, you must first be learning something. Learning always precedes living. Doctrine always comes before doing. So it isn't a battle. You just don't go out and fight a battle. Armies think it through. They plan a strategy. They assess their assets. They assess the enemy and tactics that they're familiar with before they engage in a battle.
Several years ago, I had this Bible signed by one of my heroes in the faith, J. I. Packer. And in it, he writes, "James Packer," and then afterwards, "Second Peter 3 18." Well, I didn't know what that was at the time, so I looked it up. And I now know second Peter 3 18, "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." We need to grow in knowledge. The prophet Jose has said, "My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge." Not lack of commitment, not lack of dedication, not lack of love. They're destroyed because they don't know. Jesus said to the leaders of his day, "You are erring because you don't know the scriptures nor the power of God."
So we begin with a knowledge base, begins in the mind. Well, what are we to know exactly? Well, first of all, go back to verse 3. "We are to know that our old life is over." It's past. Or do you not know verse 3 that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Even so, we also should walk in newness of life.
The old Skip was publicly executed in an event called baptism. I stood in front of people one day years ago, before I was baptized in that swimming pool in a friend's backyard, and I declared to everyone by my baptism, "The old me is gone, and the new me is about to emerge." That's why baptism is so important. I don't know why people wait so long to get baptized. Sometimes we'll baptize people in and we'll say, "Well, when did you come to Christ ago?" "20 years ago." Well, OK, I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're getting baptized. I'm glad you're making this affirmation, but baptism in the New Testament and in many other places happens immediately or very quickly after salvation because it is the public declaration that things have changed.
I've gone to India, and it's interesting. When a person comes to Christ in India, because of the Hindu background they will often, within a few days, march with a group of believers getting baptized, march through their town singing a song to get everybody's attention looking down on the streets because they want to, by their voices, say, "I used to be like you, but now I'm different. I'm identifying with Jesus Christ. I'm doing it publicly. I'm making a lot of noise. I want you to know what's happening." So baptism is like that public execution. The old way of life is gone. That's what you need to know.
A second thing you need to know is that not only is the old life past, but the old lifestyle is powerless. Now some of you are thinking, "It is? I don't think it is. I think it's very, very powerful, that old lifestyle." Well, let me put it another way. You need to know that your old lifestyle has been rendered powerless. Look at verse 6. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For He who has died has been freed from sin." OK. First of all, whenever you read the word "old man" in the Bible, does not mean your dad.
That's a term from the 1960s. I remember people used to say that phrase along with, "far out," "groovy," "what's your bag?" they would talk about the old man and the old lady, and they meant mom and dad. But in the Bible, the old man is the old you identified in Adam before you came to know Jesus Christ. So what has happened? What has happened is this. Our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with. Is the Greek word. It means, "to be put out of business."
So Jesus went to Satan's headquarters, so to speak. And there you were, working for the devil, until Jesus handed Satan the certificate announcing His crucifixion and His Resurrection and basically said, "OK, buckaroo. It's time for you to close up shop in terms of this individual." Which means I am no longer an employee of the devil. I don't work for him any longer. The wages of sin is death. Thank God we can quit before payday. So we have Jesus hung out the sign "Out of Business" over my life. God help us to hang up that same sign. That's something we need to know, that the old lifestyle has been rendered powerless. We need to hang up that sign.
Maybe you can relate to this prayer. Dear God, you're really going to be proud of me. I haven't gossiped, lusted, or lost my temper today. I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent, and I'm very thankful for that. But, Lord, in a few minutes I'm going to get out of bed. And from then on, I'm going to need a lot of help. Amen. That poor boy just started.
So we need to know that our old life has passed, our old lifestyle has been rendered powerless, and also we need to know that with new life comes new power. Verse 9. "Knowing. Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him." He's a dethroned monarch. "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all. But the life that He lives, He lives to God." Jesus conquered death by what? Resurrection. He got up again. He lived again. So Jesus' Resurrection becomes the battery, the power source for my victory over sin that brings death.
So what that means is I am both dead and alive. Remember the old westerns, the posters "Wanted dead or alive?" Here's God's poster, "Wanted dead and alive." Dead to the old you alive in Christ to serve Him. Dead to sin, alive to Him. The problem is many Christians live in between lives, in between death and Resurrection. In between Good Friday and Easter. Yeah, Jesus died for them, but there's no real advancing, life-giving life transformation that takes place. So the first step, then, in winning the war with sin is we need to know certain truths. To know is to grow.
Dwight L. Moody used to hold his Bible in front of his congregation and say, "This book will keep you from sin, but sin will keep you from this book" I like the way David put it. He said, "Your word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against you." That's where it begins. Begins reasoning, thinking, knowing the truths of God's word. That's the first step. The second step after we reason is we reckon. That's verse 11. "Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Now, verse 11 proves that Paul was a Texan because he said reckon. Or, at least, he's from southern Tarsus. I don't know. You know, the term reckon is not a word we used a lot today. Of course, in the South it is a word that means to guess or suppose. You ask a person, "Well, how you doing? You doing OK?" And they say, "I reckon so." Means I think so, I suppose so.
But the word means something much stronger than just "I think so," or "I suppose so." It's the Greek word, "logizomai," we get our word "logic" from that word. It means "to calculate," or better yet, "to estimate something to be true." It is a word of conviction it is a word that basically means I believe that what God says to be true in His word is true in my life.
You know, there's a big difference between knowing something and believing something. Just having knowledge or having the conviction, the deep-seated heart belief that it is true. Somebody once said the longest journey you'll ever make is the 18 inches from your head to your heart. Where something is just really a part of you. So our theology must become our be-ology. We need to be convinced. And convicted of these truths. We need to turn our knowledge into conviction.
Let me give an illustration of what it means to reckon. In a Jewish family, in an orthodox Jewish family, if let's say a son or a daughter converts to Jesus believing in Christ to Christianity. There's such an uproar in that family that the Father will declare, "My son is dead to me." Now that does not mean his son physically died, but what it means is relationally I am reckoning, I am counting, I am supposing. My conviction is he has done something that separates him from me, and my son is dead to me.
So we are to reckon ourselves to be dead in that same manner, sort of like endorsing a check. Somebody write you a check for $100, if you actually believe money is in the account what do you do? You sign your name to it and you cash it. So you're dead to it. You're saying, "Well, if sin is dead in my life, I wish it would just lie down because it sure gives me a lot of trouble." Here's what you need to know. Sanctification, that's what we're talking about, becoming holy, being set apart by God. To be sanctified does not mean you never sin, but it does mean you never have to sin. There's a big difference. John Stott put it this way. "Sin is inevitable, but it is never necessary." You don't have to do it. You can't keep saying, "The devil made me do it. I couldn't help myself. It's just who I am."
What it means is when you are attacked, when you are in this battle and the temptations come, you reckon. You say, "I don't have to be a slave to that any longer." Notice that Paul did not say, "Feel as if you are dead to sin." Because we don't. He said, "Reckon yourselves to be dead to sin." Understand it, and then act on it. So after knowing certain things, the knowledge becomes a deep conviction. So far I think you can see that the steps are all inward, right? They're all going on in our thought process, in our heart. Like the Bible says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." That takes us, now, to the third step. We reason, we reckon, and third we resist. Verse 12. "Therefore," and whenever there's a therefore, find out what it's there for. All right? So it's tied to a previous thought.
The fact that you know certain things and you suppose as true, those things are true in your life. "Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lust." Notice the wording the very fact that it's worded this way, that Paul says, "Don't let sin reign in your mortal body," it shows me that there's an element of personal control involved. Oh, it wants to reign. Oh, I am tempted by it. I don't have to let it take over. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body. There was a pastor who was pulled over by a police officer, a pastor pulled over for speeding. It wasn't me.
It could have been, but it wasn't me. And this pastor decided to pull out, to play the minister card. So he turned over his license and registration and as he gave it out the window to the police officer, he looked up and he said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Police officer smiled, didn't even bat an eye, handed him a citation and said, "Go and sin no more." You don't have to do it. So don't let it happen. Don't let sin reign. Sin is a dethroned monarch. It makes its claim on you. You don't have to let that happen.
Now let me just add a side note to that. I understand that some people struggle with besetting sins. I understand that people deal with habits from the past or addictive behavior that might need support from a group or a counselor to get them through that. I understand that. But here's the point, don't let sinful impulses call the shots.
What does James chapter 4 say? "Resist the devil and", what will he do? "He will flee from you." "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." so once we're plugged into this power source, the Resurrection power, we can stop. We can stop being servants of sin. So if knowing has to do with the mind, and if a reckoning has to do with the heart, that deep conviction, then resisting has to do with the will. So we're at the mind, the heart, and now the will. Now you're hearing this. Some of you heard this before many times, and you're thinking, "Well, Skip, these are nice thoughts that you're bringing, but how do you implement this practically?"
Well, let me give you some practical things to do to implement this knowing and reckoning and resisting. Practical thought practical tip number one. Proximity. Maintain proximity. Don't get too close to that sin. Don't let that sin get too close to you. Stay away from temptation. If you get so close to being tempted, you're going to go over that line every time. If you try to sail so close to the lake of fire, your sails are going to get singed. Stay away. Maintain proximity.
Remember that news story that broke three years ago? There was a four-year-old boy named Isaiah Dickerson in the Cincinnati Zoo who climbed underneath the fence to the gorilla enclosure? So here's a little boy. He gets in the gorilla cage, his parents are horrified, the officials are called in, and they have to make an immediate decision. And they did it. They shot the 17-year-old gorilla, Harambe was his name, and killed that gorilla to save the boy. It caused public outrage and a lot of debate. It made the news.
But here's the deal. Sin is a lot like a wild animal at the zoo. Those animals are dangerous. They can harm you. But as long as you stay behind the barriers that are put there for your safety, they cannot hurt us. It's only when we go around the barriers, or crawl over the fence or under the fence and get in that cage with them that we are in danger. Martin Luther put it this way, "You can't stop birds from flying above your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair."
Maintain proximity. That's tip number one on resisting. Tip number two in resisting, not only maintain proximity but cut off opportunity. Because, you see, even when you put distance between you and temptation, that temptation likes to follow you around and just poke its head in your way and say, "Here I am." Present itself to you. So what do you do? Well, let me give you another illustration. We have a piano on stage. I'm going to just go over to it. Don't worry I'm not going to play a song. So on this piano there are pedals on the bottom. One pedal makes things softer, one pedal is the sustain pedal. So if you hold a chord and you have the sustain pedal, it just keeps ringing. Take it off, it stops. Now, if I push the sustain pedal and I sing a note into the piano, do you mind? OK.
You heard my voice sustained, right? You know why? Those strings vibrate in response to my voice. That's not how a piano is designed to work. A piano is designed to have the strings vibrate not by a human voice, but by a hammer hitting it. That's how temptation works. Satan calls, and you vibrate. You do. You want to respond to his voice. Ooo, you're allured. So when Satan calls, you know what the right response is? The right response when Satan calls like that, close the top.
Close the top. So you're being tempted. "I hear that voice." Close the top. That might mean you need to actually run away. That's how you close the top. Joseph did that when Potiphar's wife grabbed that young man and said, "Let's go to bed." He didn't say, "Well, I'd like to negotiate." He just said, "I'm out of here." Right? He actually streaked out of the house naked. She was holding his robe. Best thing he could have done. The Bible says, "Flee temptation." Don't negotiate temptation. Get out of there. Maintain proximity, cut off opportunity. Close the lid.
Here's a third practical suggestion, foster accountability. Sometimes you need people around you to help you and support you in this struggle. And I've discovered just telling another brother or sister about your temptation, the things you struggle with, often causes that temptation to lose its power and its grip over you. This is why Solomon said, "Two are better than one." Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. Just having that group, that brother, that sister, that counselor, that accountability can give you the extra courage to walk away from the temptation. But there's the final step. And this final step is really the coup de gras in the battle. This final step is what cements the victory for you.
So we reason, we reckon, we resist, but finally, number four, we replace. We replace. Verse 13 says, "Do not present your members as instruments of righteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members", that is your body parts, "as instruments or weapons of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace." Now, this turns the battle from a defensive position into an offensive position. You know the best defense is often a good offense.
The best way to deprive my old nature is for me to cultivate my new nature, feed my new nature. So if knowing has to do with the mind, and if reckoning has to do with the heart, and if resisting has to do with the will, then this has to do with my walk. That's the final step. I replace it. That is, I can get so focused on the temptation that's bothering me, and I'm dealing with it, and I'm being tempted, and I'm struggling; or I can get so busy with serving God, sharing Christ, fellowship with other believers, reading the Bible, praying, expanding the Kingdom of God, I don't have much time left over for doing anything else but that. I'm cultivating the new nature.
There's a great old song. It says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." It's true. That upward focus, maintaining that pursuit of God, seeking first the Kingdom of God, makes the things of earth grow dim." There was a little girl who fell out of bed one night. She cried out, her mother rushed into her room, picked her up, held her tight, then put her back into bed, tucked her in and said, "Sweetheart, why did you fall out of bed?" She goes, "I don't know, mommy. I think I stayed too close to where I got in."
That's our problem. We get in Christ, but we just sort of stay where we got in. We just sort of stay on the edge, stay on the border. We need to move into the grace of God, move into the love of God, grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How do we do that? We do it by presenting ourselves to God. That's the word he uses is here. "Do not present your members who are parts of your body as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead?"
It's saying, "God, here's my body. I'm giving it to you." Right? Romans 12, "I beseech you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your reasonable servant." So you say here I am. I'm yours today. I want you to use my mouth, my ears, my eyes, my mind, my hands, my feet for your glory.
By the way, that word instruments can be better translated "weapons," since he's talking about a battle here. And that sin is a dethroned monarch. It doesn't have to reign anymore, so you win by presenting your body parts for God's purpose. Instead of letting the devil use your mind, your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your hands, you present your ears, your mouth, your hands, your feet, your mind to God and let him use it.
That's basic military strategy right there. Basic military, don't give your weapons to the enemy. Right? Isn't that basic? Would a soldier ever go up to an enemy and go, "I got to tie my boot. Would you hold my gun for a minute?" Stupid.
So don't be stupid in the battle. Don't give the devil your weapons. Don't give the devil the use of your mortal body.
Let's start up at the top. Our mind. Did you know that you can offer your mind as an instrument of wickedness to think unwholesome thoughts? That's where the problem, the battle begins in the mind. Move down a little bit to the eyes. You can offer your eyes to look at unholy things, impure things, wicked things like pornography or the wrong kind of literature, the wrong kind of movies, the wrong kind of television.
Let's go a little bit further south. Your mouth. Anybody here ever have problems with their mouth? Yeah, we all do, right? But James said it's like a forest fire. It can destroy things. We've definitely gotten into trouble with that part of our body. Our ears. Listening to evil reports, listening to gossip without substantiation. I'm not going to move any further south than that. I think we can all realize that every single part of our body can either be used for good or for bad, for righteousness or unrighteousness. But what we need to learn is the lesson that dogs learn. If you've ever trained a dog, I have tried in the past, and it's worked on occasion. But so so you take a little goodie, a little treat. You put it down on the floor like this, and then you tell your dog, this is what I've done, "No." And they sit there.
Now, the dog will do something. The dog will not look down at that little treat because the temptation is too great if it's focused on that little treat. So I put it down and go, "No," and the dog looks right up at me. And then I say. OK. Right? What's the secret of the dog? It's looking at its master's face. It's focused on the master's face. It's waiting for the master to say yes or no. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. That's a truth. So in summing this whole section up, it's pretty obvious that God is aiming in our lives as believers, and this is a sermon for Christians, He's aiming at righteousness, transformation, what we call here life change. He's aiming at holiness. He wants all of you.
There was a man, a painter, who was hired to paint a church a different color. The painter came to the job, but he realized he did not have enough paint to finish the job, so he added paint thinner so he could go further. And he started painting the walls of the church on the outside, but he was running out so he added more thinner. And he kept painting, and he was running out so he added more thinner. And he kept painting.
The next day, like last night, they had a rainstorm in that town. And the paint was completely washed off the building. The pastor was so angry, he went to the painter and said, "Repaint and thin no more." That's good advice, right? Sort of like repent and sin no more. Repaint and thin no more. Could it be that you have just covered over your life with a thin layer of morality, or religiosity, or ceremony, but there's no conversion? God wants all of you, and he wants you to win this war with sin. And it's possible. It's doable. You don't have to let sin rain any longer. It's been dethroned. Know it, reckon it, resist it, replace it.
Father, how we thank you for the practical steps that we find in scripture to do exactly that. We all know this battle. And we who have become believers and follow Jesus know this battle more acutely than anyone else. We know the pull of the flesh, and the world, and the devil. We know that he is very strategic. Paul said, "You're not ignorant of his devices. He has devised a strategy against us." Thankfully, you have given us a strategy to counteract that terrorism on a spiritual level. I pray, Lord, that we would be given to knowing and rediscovering Bible truths that we can then internalize, believe, count on, suppose are true. And being tied to the Resurrection power of Jesus, resist by your power, your strength, your enablement, resist the temptations that come in part by replacing the energy we spend in that area with serving you, glorifying you, spreading around your truth, seeking first the Kingdom of God. May we, Lord repaint and thin no more. In Jesus' name. Amen.