Jan 30, 2014
Let’s say you find yourself loving fame, seeking revenge, or pursuing lust.
You know this sin dishonors Christ, and you want to fight it.
But how should you fight? What should you do?
A Boiling Pot
Many of us seek to overcome sinful desires by our own efforts. We try to make ourselves stop loving fame, stop wanting revenge, or stop longing for lust.
But our own efforts don’t work. Because using our own efforts to stop sinful desires is like holding down the lid on a boiling pot. We might be able to hold it down for a while, but the pressure will inevitably lift the lid and the steam of sin will pour out.
But Jesus has good news. In John 8:31-32 he says he can free us from sin’s power —
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free [from being a slave of sin — John 8:34].”
This means Jesus can stop the boiling. He can change our hearts. But how does he do that? And how can we experience it?
A Fountain And A Cistern
What helps me answer those questions is the picture God gives of sin in Jeremiah 2:13 —
… my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Imagine that you are thirsty; really thirsty, with a parched mouth and dry tongue. And there in front of you is a fountain of cold, clean, refreshing water.
But imagine that instead of drinking, you turn from the fountain, take a hammer and chisel, and carve a cistern in the rock to catch rain water. You carve the cistern, but when the rain comes, the water leaks through a crack, and you are left thirsty.
This picture helps us understand our sin.
We all have heart-thirst for pleasure and satisfaction. So why don’t we turn to God, who is a fountain of all-satisfying living water? It’s because our sin deceives us, and says — That’s not the water I want; that water won’t satisfy me; I need to carve out my own cistern of fame, revenge, or money.
So there we are, thirsty, ignoring the fountain of flowing water, carving our cisterns, loving our cisterns, anticipating the drink we hope will come from our cisterns.
How To Fight Sin
This picture also shows us how to fight sin.
How can we stop wanting those cisterns? There is only one way — by turning to the fountain so our thirst will be satisfied.
It won’t work to try and stop thinking about the cisterns, stop desiring the cisterns, or stop craving the cisterns — because we are still thirsty, and still deceived that it’s only these cisterns that will bring us water.
The only way to be freed from the cisterns is by turning to the fountain and drinking. When we do that our thirst will be satisfied, and we will be freed from sin’s deceptions.
So how can we turn to the fountain? Let me suggest five steps —
First, Turn To God Just As You Are
Yes, your sin is deceiving you, and making you desire those cisterns more than God.
But don’t think you need to get free from sin BEFORE turning to God. You can only get freed from sin BY turning to God.
But how can you turn to God with sin in your heart? You can, but not because of anything good in you. The reason you can is because of Jesus’ shed blood and perfect righteousness.
By trusting Jesus, relying on his death to pay for your guilt, and his righteousness to cover your sin, you can come to God just as you are, and be assured that he welcomes you, loves you, and will help you.
By faith alone in Christ alone we can turn to God with confidence, and know we will receive mercy and grace —
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God … let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Second, Confess Your Sin To God
See your sin as dishonoring the Infinite Glory of the Universe, and deserving eternal punishment.
Confess it to God, without justifying or excusing it.
When you do, you will be assured that you are completely forgiven by God, not because of any righteousness in you, but because of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Third, Ask God For More Of The Spirit’s Work
You don’t have the power to overcome sinful desires. But the Holy Spirit does.
And God promises that when you ask, he will give you more of the Spirit’s work —
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
Fourth, Turn Your Faith From The Cisterns To Christ
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
You’ve had faith in the cisterns, trusting them to satisfy you. But it’s only the person of Jesus Christ who will satisfy you. Living water is only found by believing in him (John 7:37-38).
So turn from the cisterns, and look to Christ, trusting him to free you from sin and satisfy you in himself.
The best way to do that is by looking at Scriptures that describe who Jesus is and what he promises to do. Here are some I recently found helpful —
“What is impossible with men [changing our own hearts] is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32-33)
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)
Fifth, Pray Over God’s Word Until He Changes Your Heart
Pray over verses about Jesus Christ until the Spirit once again helps you see and feel Christ as your all-satisfying Treasure.
He promises to do that, in his perfect timing, in passages like Psalm 16:11; Psalm 73:25-26; John 6:35; John 7:37-38; 2 Corinthians 3:18; and 1 Peter 1:8.
So press in, with prayer and meditation on his Word. He will be meet you and satisfy you.
And when he does, you will drink living water, your heart-thirsts will be completely satisfied —
And you’ll have no desire for those cisterns.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- How Can I Overcome Temptation?
- How Does The Holy Spirit Empower Obedience?
- How God Helps You Overcome Sin
- I Don’t Feel Like Obeying God — What Should I Do?
(Picture is from Wikipedia; taken by Sergio Ensyukov.)