God calls us to a life of holiness. We cannot achieve this through our own strength, but by the power of the Spirit we can see genuine growth and victory over sin.
Understanding What Is Meant
Many Christians have a pessimistic view of what is possible when it comes to their own growth in godliness and speak of being able to identify with Paul’s frustration in Romans 7:20 of sin as an unconquerable reality of life.
This, however, is to misunderstand what Paul is saying. Through Romans 6 he has made clear that a believer in Christ is now dead to sin and that sin no longer has dominion. In Romans 7, Paul is addressing the situation of somebody living by the law. For such a person it is true that their best efforts cannot bring about the change that they desire. But now in Romans 8 we have the solution, it is by the Spirit that we can put to death the works of the flesh.
The Spirit transforms us and as we walk with him, we will see victory and growth in areas that we have struggled with. In prayer, he will highlight to us areas of our lives in which he wants to bring transformation, and by his power we can put to death the works of the flesh. This is not an automatic or an easy thing, but it is crucial that we realise that the Spirit in us gives us the power to be changed and see these areas of sin defeated.
This is not simply about external change (although the change will be visible externally) but something deeper. As we walk with the Spirit, he will uproot the misplaced desires of the heart, and see them replaced with a new affection that wants the things of God much more than it wants the things of the flesh.
We want to teach people to fight sin by the Spirit. This starts with a high view of both the holiness that God is calling us to and the power of the Spirit to give victory in these areas.
In particular, it would be good to teach the following practices:
- Repentance – The decisive active choice of turning away from sin and turning to God.
- Confession – Making a practice of regularly confessing to God where we have fallen short and asking for his help to change. It is also good to talk through our struggles with somebody else who can stand with you in the fight.
- Delighting in God – Thomas Chalmers once preached a sermon with the title ‘the expulsive power of a new affection.’ It is only when our hearts are set on God and we find greater delight in him than in sin that we will see those works of the flesh put to death.
It is important in a sermon like this to emphasise grace. It will bring up areas where people have fallen short and there is an important need for the reminder of forgiveness.
It would also be appropriate to offer prayer ministry for those who would like prayer for particular areas.