We are answering a question from a listener concerning combatting sinful desires. Specifically on how to respond when someone you are helping seems stuck in a sinful struggle.
It’s a good question, but it’s a broad question because the reality is people could struggle with a sinful desire in a number of different ways. I want to break this out into three different categories:
It is possible that someone could struggle with a sinful desire and not be experiencing the kind of progress you would like to see because they don’t have the kind of help they need. In Galatians 6:1-2, we are told that people who are caught in a transgression need spiritual people to restore them in their time of weakness. What this means is that people who are struggling with sin need a relationship. They need a wise and growing community of Christians to help them. If you are finding that you are stuck in a sinful struggle, you might need to look around and see whether you are in the right church. If you are not in a church that is committed to raising up other Christians to have advice or counsel for you that is full of truth and love, then you’re in the wrong place. There are a couple of things you could do about that.
First, in a commitment to your local church, you should attempt to find the help there. You should speak with your leaders and see if there is a way to grow your church’s commitment to providing that type of counsel. If you look around and can’t find that type of help, you are going to be duty bound to find another community of believers that can help you to grow in this way. We are simply not designed to solve our own problems on our own. We are not designed to solve our problems with others that don’t have the wisdom to offer us in our difficulties. One reason you or someone you care about might be stuck is because they need to be surrounded with a better, wiser, more loving community.
Another reason why you might be stuck is because you or the person you are concerned about is not trying hard enough. We believe as Christians that we need Jesus to change. Our change is not first and foremost about our efforts and exertion of moral energy, but about the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Yet the Bible encourages us to add work to our faith. This is discussed in 1 Peter; it’s in the gospel of John. One place the apostle Paul talks about this is in Romans 13:14, it says to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust. You have a theology of change right there. You have Jesus first, put on Jesus, look to Jesus and then make no provision for the flesh. If you are a person who is struggling with sin, it could be because you having come to faith in Jesus Christ you made provision for the flesh.
To think about Jesus’ words on this, he tells us when we struggle with sin, we are supposed to gouge out our eye and cut off our hand if it causes us to sin. We are to be serious and radical in shutting the door on sin and gauging out our eye and cutting off our hand. It could be that if you continue to struggle with sin or you know someone who is, then you have not been radical enough in uprooting this from your life. You need to go back to that community or the people you are walking with that I discussed previously and be more honest and earnest or eager and find those places where you have made provision and slam the door.
There is a third reason why you or someone you care about might be struggling with sin. It could be that you’re in a good community of people that know and want to help you. It could be that you are struggling with sin in the midst of that community and you have been honest and slammed the door on sin. You cut off your hand and gauge your eye you have made no provision, yet you are still struggling with sinful desires. This is where we have to be really honest and admit that we struggle with hard problems in this fallen world because some problems are hard. It’s important for biblical counselors to say this because we spend a lot of time talking about the sufficiency of the Bible for our problems and living. We spend a lot of time talking about the sufficiency of the grace of Jesus for our problems and living.
As true as those things are, none of them mean that problems are easy. We live in a world where there are a lot of hard problems. We live in a world where all of us will struggle with difficulties until the day we go to be with Jesus. For some of us, the problems are going to be the same consistently through our lives. That is not a statement that you don’t love Jesus, it’s not a statement that you’re defective in some way that makes you different than any other Christian. It’s a statement that we live in a fallen world. Our redemption is not yet the fullness of what it will be and it’s a statement that we need to keep pressing into Jesus Christ and looking to him. The idea here is 1 Timothy 6:12, says fight the good fight of faith, take hold of the eternal life in which you were called and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. This struggle that lasts until we arrive in eternity with the Lord is what the Apostle Paul calls here, the fight of faith.
I am not sure who you are and what you are struggling with, but I know there is someone who may have seen the podcast on iTunes or on social media and your thinking, “ugh, I have to hear that because I’m stuck and I want out”.
If you are checking the box, if your community is in good shape or checking the box that you have been earnest and eager to get rid of sin, then let me say that some of you need to be encouraged that you are fighting the fight of faith in Jesus Christ. You should not be discouraged, but encouraged. The Lord Jesus Christ with his resurrection power is giving you the ability that is not intrinsic to you to overcome difficulties that would cause you to buckle under the weight of that pressures were it not for the power that is in you.
I want to encourage you that this life is hard, but Jesus Christ has made provision for that hardship with his grace, life, resurrection, and ascension. Sometimes that grace is most clearly manifested not when the problem goes away, but when our faith endures in the midst of that problem.
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