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Battling Sin with the Gospel

March 7, 2016

What does it mean to apply the gospel to my life? Like right now, as I am trying to get my kids out the door, and I struggle to be patient with them. What does the gospel have to say to my situation in this moment?

Like many Christians, I delight in the law of God and desire to obey it perfectly, but I can easily get discouraged by the indwelling presence of sin. It seems the more I crave righteousness, the more aware I become of the indulgence of my flesh. If I forget the gospel, I can be tempted to run to self-help and legalism to achieve the end I desire.

This was the battle the Colossian church was facing and Paul exhorted them:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

Paul is not telling the Colossian church that it is wrong to stop the indulgence of the flesh, only that they are using the wrong means to do so. But what is the right way? Paul reminds them that with Christ, they have died to this world. But what difference does the fact that I have died with Christ make in my pursuit of holiness? How does it stop the indulgence of the flesh?

Think back to the gospel. The gospel tells me that Jesus is Lord of all things and that I owe him my perfect obedience. However, I am a sinner, by nature and by deed, and I have earned his judgment. But, God sent Jesus to be my substitute, take away my sin, and give me life and the Holy Spirit so I have the power to obey him now and live with him one day. All of this is mine by grace through faith, not by works.

Paul is reminding the Colossian church to remember what they have gained in the gospel and to employ its benefits in their battle against sin.

So, going back to my battle to fight impatience with my kids, I have a choice to make. I can go the route the Colossians went and try to apply some “human precepts and teaching” such as counting to ten, snapping my wrist with a rubber band, taking deep breaths, etc.

Or I can meditate on the gospel which reminds me that:

  • Jesus is Lord in this very moment (Colossians 3:1).
  • Jesus sees all and knows my current situation (Psalm 33:13).
  • While on earth, Jesus was perfectly patient with everyone (1 Peter 2:22).
  • I am a sinner whose default will always be to indulge my flesh with sin, in this case impatience (Romans 7:21-23; James 1:19-20).
  • I desperately need a Savior to help me (Proverbs 20:9; Romans 3:23-24).
  • Jesus has become my Savior and calls me to repent of my impatience (Revelation 3:19).
  • Jesus is quick to forgive and cleanses me from all sin (1 John 1:9).
  • In being my substitute, Jesus has credited his perfect patience to me (Romans 5:19).
  • Jesus calls me to walk in his Spirit and be like him (Romans 8:4).
  • By faith, I can experience and then share the perfect patience of Jesus with my children (Galatians 5:21).

What a pleasant road to patience this is! We have a loving Heavenly Father who speaks to us and guides us through his Word, and his yoke is not burdensome. I can testify that it works. My moment of impatience has been transformed into one of worship and wonder at the glorious love of my Savior and his wonderful provision for me of his Spirit.

How blessed it is to be free from the bondage of sin! We are not called to joyless obedience to an impersonal law, but to a satisfying relationship of faith with a God who loved us so much, he didn’t spare his own Son. What a difference! The flesh is weakened when we desire Christ more, and we gain the satisfaction that only comes from seeing and savoring him, even in the nitty-gritty of life.

So, the next time you face a battle with the flesh, arm yourself with knowledge of who Jesus is, what he has done for sinners, and the blessed means by which his work has been transferred to you. And let your praises ring:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17-18)

In fighting sin, do you run to self-help or legalism instead of faith in the gospel?

The Author
Rachel Lehner

Rachel Lehner is married to Peter, has four children, and serves in women's ministry at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. Among other things, she loves helping with math homework and reciting Dr. Seuss from memory.

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