6 Ways to Stop Sin at the Front Door

Do you know the first thing God ever said about sin?

He was warning Cain because Cain was about to make a very big mistake. In the moment of temptation, God said, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7)

Sin is crouching at the door.

But how in the world can we master it? Those long engrained habits. The attitudes we catch ourselves having. The ways we react with anger or apathy or judgement. And, perhaps more importantly, do we want to?

Over the last few years I’ve invited God into an area of personal struggle with sin. The first year I spent wearing myself out trying to change myself. I thought if my will was strong enough, I could overcome. I was missing the key to the power of the gospel. Thankfully, the Lord showed me the truth of His Word as I earnestly sought Him.

Here are the six keys God gave me to overcome sin and know what victory in Christ can really look like in our daily lives:

Confess

Acknowledging neediness is perhaps the most important step in receiving help. Jesus came for sinners. That’s good news today! He came for me! He came for you! Have you ever confessed out loud to the Lord, “I confess I am a sinner in need of a Savior?” Have you ever confessed a specific struggle to God that you really thought you were hiding? Confession brings our raw, real, authentic selves into the light. There is no better place to sit. God is gentle and loving. Go ahead and say out loud that you need help. Name the sin. Put it out there. You must decide it will not stay in hiding any more.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Cleansing comes with confession. But that sin will still knock at the door. So we must now press into the power of the gospel.

Believe in the Power of the Gospel

The gospel is more than a story written a long time ago. When you came into Christ, you entered a living, ongoing story. The power of the gospel is seen in the redeeming work Christ does in the life of a believer. It is real. It is tangible. It is how the kingdom is advancing on earth.

story

We must believe we were meant to become more like Christ and – with His help – we CAN. If I focus on my weaknesses or past sins, I can become despondent. But if I truly believe the gospel, I cannot turn to discouragement because everything about the gospel speaks hope. For me, I focus on three beautiful truths:

  1. There is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) When condemning thoughts come into our minds, they are not from the Lord. He is for us in every way. When we confess our sins, he separates them from us as far as the east is from the west. Believe it.
  2. Where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20) The gospel tells me that my sin will always be met with GRACE when I confess and turn. We all fall, and we all get back up. Grace. Grace. Grace.
  3. The mystery of the gospel has been made known to us: It is Christ in you and Christ in me! (Col. 1:27) I don’t do the changing. Christ in me does. Every time I pray, Christ prays through me. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” The believer takes the power of Christ with them everywhere they go. Your circumstances may not change, but Christ in you can change how you live within them.

Plug Into the Power Source

When you have given your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is not just a subject matter for Sunday sermons. He is a person living inside of you. But just like your friendships grow in intimacy through time together and conversation, we must nurture our relationship with the Spirit. You may know the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. But did you know one of his main jobs, according to Christ in John chapter 14, is to remind us of everything Jesus has said to us. This is HUGE.

When you have hard days, who brings a worship song to your mind? The Spirit. When you need hope for the day and you wake up with a verse on your mind…who did that? The Spirit. He is moving in ways we don’t even recognize. And if we don’t recognize Him at work, how can we press in to what He is giving or showing us?

Have you every invited the Holy Spirit to give you power to overcome that habit? Are you listening and looking for ways in which He is speaking to you? If we will lean into that nudge to pull near, the Spirit will strengthen us in ways only He can.

Retrain your Mind

If you have ever read The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, you will be saying “yes!” to this key. That is a great resource to see the power our thought life has over our actions. But it all comes down to one very good verse in Romans 12:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This one truth can change your whole life if you really apply it. We are (meaning, yes you CAN BE) transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. How do we do that? We’ve got to get in the Word of God and replace lies, attitudes and hurtful thoughts with truth. God’s Word renews our minds. Scripture even tells us that only after that can we really understand the will of God. Understanding of His will comes after we have given Him full reign in our thought life.

Practically speaking, if you have struggled with negativity your whole life, you can rewire your brain to think differently. You can choose to change your thought life and memorizing Scripture is one great way to do that.

For struggles with sin, we begin by casting out tempting thoughts the moment they enter. We choose to turn from evil thoughts and immediately ask the Spirit for help. I have to quickly rebuke some thoughts out loud and invite the Spirit to remove them from my memory.

Thoughts lead to action, so we pay close attention to the thoughts we let roam through our minds. Another great resource for this area is Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book, Switch on Your Brain.

Combine Forces

I noticed my struggle with frustration often occurred in the mornings. I didn’t want to live frustrated any more. One morning I told my husband to notice when I started to show frustration so he could gently tell me four words: “you can do this.”

Do you want to know why that worked? Because we need cheerleaders in life. And he wasn’t just cheering me on; he was affirming to me what I knew I had already decided for myself. When he said those words, my mind then said to me, “you DO want this. You want the better part of yourself to come forth.”

And I did. But when it comes to long engrained habits, perhaps that we have seen modeled or have ourselves practiced for years, we need help to overcome. That help is called accountability.

There is power in sharing your specific struggle with another trusted person. Confession to God brings forgiveness, but confession to another person brings healing. You are saying, I’m human and I can’t do this alone.

Do you have a friend, pastor or relative you could invite into this journey with you? Community was God’s idea. He never meant for us to walk alone.

Address the Root

Invite God to change your heart. See, I cannot change my own heart. It is the seat of my emotions and from it flow wellsprings of life. God is both the maker and the changer of the heart. But we must choose to give Him full right and reign to make those changes. We can do that in three specific ways:

  1. Meditate on or memorize verses such as “I desire to do your will, Oh, God. Your law is in my heart.” (Ps 40:8) By doing so, you are soaking your mind with the truth you need your heart to receive. The longer we think on something, the more deeply it will sink into our belief system. Though you may not truly want His will over yours at first, you may be surprised to see how speaking this verse over time can change you.
  2. Pray specifically for the desires of your heart to change. It’s where the root is. The mind may be the battlefield, but the heart is where that battle was conceived. Should your area of change be in an attitude or habit, pray that you would be quickly turned off by the bad attitude and lack any desire for that habit. When you truly desire virtue over what you have long fed your flesh on, the fight can begin.
  3. Worship. We were made for worship. But worship is not only a set of songs during a service. To worship God is to adore Him. And the more we adore our Creator, the less we love the ways of the world. How do you adore Him? Have you sat in creation lately and thought on God alone? Have you gone over a favorite lyric of a hymn in the car on the way to work. Have you ever written a love letter to God?Worship will root out hate, discord, bitterness and long engrained sin. Turn your heart to adore Him and let His agape love sweep over everything else you thought you wanted.

I pray you are encouraged by my weekly posts on living out the faith. Find more encouragement by downloading a copy of my new release, Therefore Christ – A Commentary on Romans 8, available on Amazon. Or subscribe to my podcast via iTunes, After Sunday

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus Christ and you desire to have a relationship with Him, He is ready and willing to welcome you today! Romans 10 tells us that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.

Simply pray from your heart confessing you believe He is Lord, you are a sinner and you want to give Him your life. The Spirit will come to live inside you and you will never be alone. If you give your life to Christ, I’d love to hear about it and encourage you. Find a church family and download the Bible App on your phone or pick up a Bible today.

God is for you! He is Mighty and Able to do more than we can ask or imagine! Have a great week,

Ginger

Keep Your Servant From Willful Sins: A Prayer From Psalm 119

Keeping our hearts on track today, Lord….we come with joy to your decrees…

 

keeper

 

Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying you, sweet Lord.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you, lover of my soul.

Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. Counsel me, Oh God, in your truth. Sanctify me: Your Word is truth.

Oh that you would be gracious to me through your law and keep me from deceitful ways.

 

Turn my heart….oh TURN IT, GOD

 

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes – yes, those wandering eyes…. away from worthless things;

 

Like Job, I have made a covenant with mine eyes – to sway them back to you at every turn. Shut them fast – yes so fast –  at evil, give sight only to you.

 

Preserve my life – this life you give – according to your Word. Preserve me in your righteousness, for you are the life within my life – this light of glory…shining, glowing unto eternal places.

 

Oh, yes – this…..

I will hasten and not delay…to obey your commands. Hasten my Spirit, oh Spirit Divine.

 

Move within me, oh Spirit, quickly….quickly towards the Lord.

 

———————-> Move now. Closer. Nearer.

 

Oh for a blameless heart, dear God. And a path steady for these feet, walking your road alone. Stay me from evil…within and around and coming after me.

 

Your statutes, these written down morsels of life – they are my heritage forever. Mine and my childrens’ and all the worlds.’ They are the joy of this heart of mine. That heart, this beating deceitful thing….is set – yeah I will SET IT on keeping your decrees to the very end.

 

And when this soul, this flesh of mine has turned off, Merciful God, I thank you that you do not treat us as our sins deserve. Your mercies are new – so new and fresh and refreshing. Great…so beyond understanding and great is your faithfulness.

 

Your Word – the deep soul bread – tells me that anyone – ANYONE – who tries to conceal their sin does not prosper and that all things hidden in darkness will come into the light.

 

And that same ANYONE who confesses their sin – yeah, you are still faithful – again and again and again – to forgive – that blessed word…. our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Search my heart, O God, my King. Be my everything. May the words – the thoughts – the meditations – the movements and ways of my hands…and yeah, those eyes – be ever pleasing to you, my ROCK, my REDEEMER, my HOPE of everlasting LIFE.

 

Keep your servant from willful sin, O God. Those cherished ones I hold closer than you, tightly. Keep, me now, dear Spirit for you alone. Uproot, tear out all deep loves not abounding in your grace. No more willful sin here, God. No more.

 

I choose you. My heart is steady upon your Word, your grace, the fountain of love I cannot see but live within.

 

Keeper – my Keeper – Keep me ever close…for I am stayed by you.

——————–

This is part of a series on PRAYER. May we hold fast to Him today. Blessings!

The Cloud of Unknowing: When God is Nearer than you Think

dark cloud

 

“He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky.” – Psalm 18:11

My son Josh likes to play hide and seek. The other day he pulled the covers up in bed and asked me to hide. But when he looked towards the hole, he said, “dark.”

I responded with “Yes, we hide in the dark.”

The hurting, lonely dark. We sometimes hide in the most unsafe places.

Two days later I was reading to my daughter, Annie, before bed. She pointed to a lantern and said “light.” I said, “yes, we need a light to see in the dark.”

We don’t think of darkness as a place we would find God.

Darkness comes in many forms. TRUE light comes in only ONE.

So many are sitting in the dark today. Unanswered questions and weary, knee sore soles aching with a parched mouth hoping they don’t have to keep praying that same prayer today. The medicine’s not working, the relative is not relenting and the sky seems closed to the cries in the night. They keep hoping, somehow, that the next day will be easier.

And my son, Josh, asked me why the monster in his book is scared of the dark.

Because when you can’t see two feet in front of you and your circumstances start to crowd, strangle the WORD you thought you believed – the darkness is smothering.

We are always most afraid of what we do not understand.

There is much we will not understand.

But there is much we can. When we begin to see in the light of His Spirit that – in fact – His WORD defines our circumstances. Not the other way around. When it doesn’t feel like He is “close to the brokenhearted” – He still is. Does that change things for us?

The Lord is so close. In the clouds handing over our heads.

“He spread out a cloud as a covering and a fire to give light at night.” Psalm 105:39

On your darkest day, He is covering you.

And the friends of Job, the scoffers around us will point to hopeless things.

We are crowded in and pushed back and that was Satan’s goal all along. It’s his MOA.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:8-9

Crushed here? Is Stenochoreo in the Greek…..”to crowd into a narrow space. To be unable to express oneself.”

And God is telling us to praise Him and the words JUST CAN’T COME OUT.

We feel in despair and we feel abandoned and we feel crushed.

Just as Jesus felt spiritually, emotionally on the cross.

What if we are nearer to Him now than ever?

“knowing Him in his death”

What if – now – He is the only one who can truly understand our cry:

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

What if this –THIS — this trial, this suffering, this unanswered question – is how we will “carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body?”

And though we can’t see it, we can’t feel it – we don’t understand it – there is God.

Riding down to help us.

‘There is NO ONE like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” Dt. 33:26

He is riding on those dark clouds – coming after you and your heart.

But there is a work to be done there. In the heart. A gift. Paul called it a treasure.

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:5

There is a light of truth we can only find when we have faced the suffering of Christ.

And when you get that light – that true, authentic real-deal light – your bulb won’t run out again. He wants to shine through you. So He is shining His light in your heart, holding you steady as you question Him.

Because those who have walked the rough patch of faith and come out shining will hold out their torch to the world.

It’s a treasure we never ask for. Suffering. Feeling the weight of abandonment. Doubting the faith that we know deep down in our chest.

But it is the treasure we want. To Know Him. To know the break-through praise that shakes the prison walls. To glorify Him when Satan thinks we will surrender.

He calls us to believe, to hope again, in the Light of the World come alive in us.

He “covers us in the shadow of His wings.” Calling us, Rest here.

And underneath…..are the everlasting arms.

 

 

Man of Sorrows: Our Best Defense

 

Isaiah 53….

“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Yahweh was watching. Jesus grew up before His Heavenly Father like a tender shoot. Tender in this vulnerable state of humanity. Mary handled the late night feedings while God watched on, tenderly. He came out of dry ground. A ground of sin waiting for the water to cause new life the earth had been missing for so long.

He came with no desirable trait – that He might turn upside down our understanding of true beauty. Did Christ feel the world’s watchful eye? Yes, He did in full.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

A man of sorrows. While we read books entitled Ten Steps to Happiness. Is happiness overrated? Where is the sorrow? The heartache for a people, for our God? When we tire of the work, the call – let us remember our Lord. When we desire the easy life and wonder where God is in suffering, let us look to the Son. He chose suffering for us.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Have you felt smitten by God? Go to the cross.

Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Right here….Jesus experienced the very first “dark night of the soul.”

He was crushed….so that we would not be. “For we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed..” 2 Cor 4:8

Look upon his pierced side and ask, “what sin is greater than this?”  Where, oh death, is your sting, now?

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

What burden can our Lord not handle? What heaviness do we fear give him? He has carried the whole world…on his very self.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

He did not open his mouth. Can you see him? The lamb, walking to his death for us. How many times do we defend ourselves? Our motives – our good intentions. To God and others. How defensive are we? To protect how others perceive us. To protect our lives.

He did not open his mouth. So that now He is our great defender. He gave up defending Himself so He could defend us. He traded himself in. Do we allow Him to be our defender? To “work all things out.”

“By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of  my people he was stricken.”

Oppression did not miss our Christ. He has felt the heavy weight of the world. The deep waters have covered him, too. There is no darkness into which He cannot walk with you.

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”

He had an assignment – even to slay death. The word “death” here in Hebrew is actually plural. It has been suggested that is speaks of the magnitude of pain and violence Christ suffered, such that it would be like dying many deaths. For you.

Do I have any deceit in my mouth, Lord?

“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

Let us not miss this! Christ understands the suffering of our souls! Our mind, our emotions, our very heart pains. The stress upon him was unbearable, unto tears of blood. When you are stressed within, He can help.

So what is our best defense? Our citadel in a world not our own? The blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony. 

His blood is our testimony.

His death is our life.

His life – our defense forever.

 

 

 

Changing for Christ

Our Lord is always near by with the hammer and chisel. He is quite ready. Allowing us to see into our own shadows where we do not reflect His light. He is gracious in this.

Great courage is required for us to allow those chips to move into our character.

The need for confession should not lead us into despair, but celebration that we believe the gospel.

His conviction is His grace. Be more concerned if you feel it not.

The closer we follow Him, the more we walk in His shadow. It’s going to happen. The conviction. You cannot be in the presence of holiness and miss the reality of your sinfulness. Your neediness.

Truth is needed here. So that conviction leads us to fall into Him instead of away from Him.

You are safe here. He knows. He knows everything. The deepest part of your heart. All motives, good and selfish. You are safe here.

Don’t try to fix yourself before coming. He will work it out in you. Be quiet. Wait. Listen. Worship. He will change you.

The joy will surprise you. Catch you off guard. Because you are no longer guarding anything. Your own self, what others think of you. You are walking into glory…..from glory to glory.

When you are freed from expectations and empty pursuits and heavy sins and the watchful eye of man, He begins to “satisfy your desires with good things.” Ps. 103

The defenses come down. You don’t need them. The truth of your sin is no longer crushing. You praise Him first now – for showing you, yet again – you can be even more like your Lord, if only…

Whether you see the sin or another painfully shows you – you are joyful. You walk into the sculpting room with God. You’ve been here before. Sometimes it hurts more than other times. But the result is the glory of God.

And let us be careful not to pick up the hammer. For ourselves or others. It is a sacred work for the Lord to change us. He will finish what He has started in you. He does not tire as a master human sculptor would.

Let us not forget all of his benefits: one being that He does, indeed, forgive all of our sins. 1 John 1:9