But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)
When we accept forgiveness through Jesus Christ and God becomes our new master, we want to do what is good and right. But sometimes our desire to obey is not enough to overcome sinful beliefs, habits, and actions we learned under our old master, Satan. Instead of instantly removing all those, God has chosen for us to work together to change them.
Too often, we think the sin is the problem. “I need to stop overeating when I am upset. I need to control my compulsion go shopping after a bad day. I need to stop turning to erotic media or masturbation when I am lonely.” So we tell ourselves (and others) we are going to stop sinning…and we fail.
Sinful thoughts and actions are symptoms of an underlying belief about ourselves or God that is untrue. They reveal an area of our mind that is still being influenced by our old master. Far more life is not overcoming a specific sin, rather it is consistently being who our new master made us. Our new nature cannot sin. Conversely, our old nature cannot live righteously. Whenever we sin we are operating under a part of our mind that is listening to our old master.
But returning to the new nature is more than simply saying, “I am not going to do that anymore” or “I am going to listen to God instead of Satan.” The Apostle Paul instructs us to overcome sin in this way:
“…Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete.” (Romans 12:2, NTE)
Uncovering what we are feeling and thinking when we sin is the key to overcoming it. We can do this in the moment we catch ourselves sinning or later. The process is the same in either situation.
First, we must recognize what negative emotion we are feeling when or just before we sin. For example, “I am stressed.”
Next, we ask why we feel that, what we believe in that moment. “I have so many things I need to do and not enough time.”
This may be true or not true. Either way, we dig deeper by asking how that belief makes us feel. “Overwhelmed.”
Ask ourselves why we feel that way, what we believe about this. “I cannot do them all.”
Again we ask how that makes us feel? “I feel like I am worthless.”
We may have to go back and forth between what we feel and why several times. When we uncover a belief about our core identity or value that disagrees with God’s perspective, we have found the trigger Satan used to master us!
Holding up that belief, “I am worthless”, to God’s Word proves it false. The Bible reveals truth. “God does not see me as worthless. I am created in His image. He bought me with the blood of His Son. He is preparing a place for me in Heaven so I can live with Him forever. He loves me. I am valuable to Him.”
When we renew our minds with truth, we find far more life in our new master. Our old master’s influence is removed from that area. It is possible we will never be tempted to engage in that sin again. But it can take time to make new habits based on our renewed mindset. When we catch ourselves in that sin, we can thank God for helping us recognize we were listening to our old master. Then recalling God’s truth empowers us to say “no” to the enslavement of old beliefs, thoughts, and actions and “yes” to being a slave to righteousness.
Each area of our mind that is renewed deepens our understanding of our new master. But far more life is more than a logical understanding. Far more life desires a close relationship with Him. Far more life wants to experience His love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and more. Far more life grows in love, not just knowledge. Far more life recognizes that serving God and yielding to Him is a delight, not a decision.
Being enslaved to God is a blessing. It offers freedom we never dreamed possible. We find pleasure in righteousness rather than in sin. We find pain relief in God rather than in sin. He transforms our beliefs, thoughts, and habits so we are free to live reverently and righteously, enjoying rich fellowship and bringing God glory.
We live as slaves, either to sin or righteousness. Far more life recognizes that being a slave to righteousness is the best life possible. It embraces our new master and reaps holiness.
What emotions, thoughts, or feelings are warning signs that you are listening to your old master, Satan?
Take a minute to try the mind renewal exercise. Use a recent sin as your starting point.
Which list of words describes your relationship with Christ: “ideas, truth, choice, logic, decision” or “experience, treasure, relationship, love, delight”? What barriers keep you from embracing the second list?
Think of how you have been blessed as a slave to righteousness. Thank God for those blessings of far more life!
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jennifer Marsh