If there was something that I could point out to our believing youth of today it would be that there is too much "us" in Christianity and not enough Jesus. It is sometimes a hard thing for us to understand how it is that we are suppose to live and operate under grace. We are a people who are fiercely independent and prefer to do things for ourselves. It is so ingrained in us that we do not even realize we are doing it and it permeates the Church of this age. Our attitude is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in word and song but it is me, me, me in action.
As a young person, how do you stop the habit of sin? Is it any different when one get's older? Too often we do not know how to allow the Spirit to work in us so we treat sin like a bad habit. We change our behaviour, turn our back on our action, clean house and think we are okay. But in truth, if it were possible to do this, to turn our back on sin, Jesus would not have had to go to the cross for us. It is the difference between every self-help book on the shelf and the work of the cross.
A powerful thing happened on that cross. The slavery to sin came to an end. Where there was no way, Jesus made a way. What Jesus did on the cross enabled God to enter in and transform us and by returning to the Father, Jesus was able to send the Spirit to enter into the children of God, allowing for the work of transformation. The whole thing is the work of God, and all we do is receive. It is a powerful work of grace, done by the love of the Father.
When we treat sin as a bad habit we are saying to our Father, "It's okay, I've got this one". We are telling him we don't need his help. We may pray the prayer and sing the songs but we are still trying to do the work. There is a big problem with this and Jesus warned us about it:
When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when the demon doesn’t find a place, it says, “I will go back to the home I left.” When it gets there and finds the place empty, clean, and fixed up, it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and the person ends up in worse shape than before. (Matthew 12:43-45)
Sin is not a bad habit; it is a very powerful, destructive nature that we have no power over except through Jesus Christ. If we treat it as a habit we will see no need for any help against it. The fact is that sin no longer has any power over us due to the power of Jesus in us but we need to allow that power to fully transform our hearts in order to see sin destroyed in us.
The way to beat sin is to allow Jesus to have full occupancy. Don't clean house, leave it empty and allow it to return with friends. Every day surrender all of the control to Jesus. Make it your heart's desire to know him more, to love him more, to walk in obedience more. As you do there is a displacement that happens. Because of the cross sin has no power over us and as we allow God to fill our house with the Spirit there is no place for that sin to remain or to move back in.
Getting rid of sin is often treated like how we try to get rid of fat. We try the latest diet and at first it works but our old habits are hard to break. The only way to deal with our health is a complete transformation of our lifestyle. It doesn't mean diet but a complete change of eating habits. It also includes a healthy, active lifestyle, less television and video games and more walking, cycling, hiking and any other activity we enjoy. Our spiritual transformation is the same way. It is not a conforming of behaviour that flip flops but a complete re-birth transformation into something new.
You speak to anyone of any maturity and they will tell you that the times they have failed are the times when they became selfish and self-centered, when they returned to the old nature. We cannot afford to be self-centered because, as followers of Jesus, warriors of the Kingdom, servant's of the King of glory, all we can afford to be is Christ-centered.
That is what it comes down to as a young person or a person of many years; what do I want today? Do I want to feed myself on my selfish desires or do I want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength? Do we hear Jesus' words when he said, "If you love me you will do what I have asked"? It is hard every day, no matter your age, to set aside the attractive desires of this world and to choose Jesus over everything else, but that is how you beat sin, by loving Jesus more than everything else in your life. Then there is no room for sin.
Recognize that you have no power in yourself and that you are totally dependent on the power of God in you. It doesn't mean you are powerless; far from it. It means you are more powerful than you can possibly understand at this moment. When you are operating in the power God has given you, his power, nothing is impossible. It is why you are more than a conqueror; you are an overcomer, because Jesus has overcome. Let's set aside our feeble attempts at self-improvement and allow Jesus to complete the work he has begun in us. Let's get Jesus back into everything to do with Christianity. To God be the glory!