Monday, December 26, 2011

Dealing With Sin In The Heart

Excerpts from John MacArthur's sermon:

So let me just suggest a few things. One, and these are what come out of Scripture, abstain from fleshly lust. I think this is so interesting. First Peter 2:11, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." Isn't that interesting? Peter doesn't say, "Go get therapy." Peter doesn't say, "This is really a long process and somehow we've got to put you through this process and it's a very difficult one." He doesn't say, "You know, you're a victim, there's nothing you can do about it. You're a fallen creature living in a fallen body, so there's really not going to be any way you're going to get over this. Just live with it, deal with it." He doesn't say that, he says, "Stop it...stop doing it, abstain from fleshly lusts...the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, stop it," he says. That assumes you have the capability, right? That assumes Romans 6, "Sin no longer has dominion over you. You once were the slaves of sin, you're now become servants of righteousness." First Corinthians 6, "Flee immorality," which assumes that you can do that. Peter just says, "Stop! It's not an addiction for which you're not responsible. It's not something overwhelming, stop! You can do it. It cannot be done for you, it cannot be done by somebody else, there's no some kind of formula here, just stop and stop now cultivating sin in your heart, stop! Just remember that you're dead to sin." Just like James, "Resist the devil and he'll flee. Stop sinning, resist the devil."...

You say, "Well how do I do that?" Well here's the number two, "Make no provision for the flesh...make no provision for the flesh." Romans 13:14 Paul says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust." If you're going to stop these evil desires, desires for evil, any kind of evil, if you're going to stop it, you can't accommodate it. You can't feed it. Stop reciting what makes you angry about a person. Stop reciting all the offenses that that person has rendered against you. Stop keeping a record of the wrong that they've done. Stop all of that. Stop exposing yourself to lurid images and pictures, stop exposing yourself to those things that appeal to the flesh. Stop exposing yourself to those things making you a proud individual. Stop. Stop feeding your own ego. Stop. Because you'll never be able to abstain from fleshly lusts if you don't stop making provision for it. If you feed the monster, the monster lives. If you starve the monster, the monster dies. So refuse to furnish your mind the things that excite your desires.
And then on a positive side, fix your heart on Christ. Fix your heart on Christ. "We all," 2 Corinthians 3:18, "with unveiled face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit." That says it. As we gaze at the glory of the Lord, we're transformed from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next more and more like Christ. But you have to fix your heart on Christ. Be focused on Christ. You can't be focused on Christ and focused on sin at the same time. If you focus on Christ, 1 John 3 says, if you have that hope in you, then you purify yourself. It's a spiritual axiom that you become like what you worship. You become like what you worship. If you worship money, you literally become like it...shallow, trivial, easily bought, easily sold, relationships dictated by economics. If you lust for popularity and fame and a career and whatever without regard for what is right or what is the purpose of God, it will really define who you are. Whoever you worship you become like. As we fix our hearts on Christ, we discover our preoccupation with Christ is a process by which we are conformed to Him. So if I want to abstain from fleshly lust, then I can't accommodate those lusts. That is to say I can't focus on anything that feeds them. On the other hand, I focus everything on Christ. I become completely preoccupied with Him. There's no one like Him. You know, it would be a good thing for you when you're driving, instead of sitting in your car and getting angry, put in the Bible on tape or the Bible on CD and listen to the gospels and rehearse the story of Jesus Christ. Let Him occupy your thoughts.
The next thing, meditate on the Word of God. Meditate on the Word of God. "Thy Word I have treasured in my heart," said David, "that I might not sin against you," Psalm 119. "We are to meditate on it day and night," Psalm 1. "Meditate on it day and night, do what's written in it,Joshua 1:8. "It is a lamp unto our feet, a light to our path," it confronts sin, it attacks sin. Fill your mind and heart with the Word of God. Jesus said, "Sanctify them in Thy truth, Thy Word is truth." Fill your heart with it, load your mind with it, ponder it carefully. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there's any excellence or anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things," Philippians 4:8. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," Colossians 3:16. I mean, you can stop if you don't accommodate the lust by feeding it and if you focus on Christ and focus on the Word.
Another practical point, pray without ceasing. Prayer is a preemptive strike. Luke 22:40, Jesus said, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." Do you ever pray like that? Lord, please lead us not into temptation. It doesn't mean that He's going to willfully lead you into a tempting situation, all you're really praying is, "Lord, please order the steps of my life so that I am not led into such a place." In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said, "Keep watching and praying so that you may not enter into temptation." Constant prayer. Psalm 19, "Who can discern his errors?" And then the psalmist prays, "Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins. Let them not rule over me." Lord, please protect me from sin...that should be at the very heart and soul of your prayer life.
And then another very practical, an obvious thing, exercise self-control. Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5, "Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control." Self-control is essential. We...says Paul...need to beat the body into submission, making it our slave rather than our master. This is discipline. This is the desire for self-control. And I have said this through the years, and I think it's true, you have to exercise self-control in general in your life to have it really work in the spiritual realm because basically everything in life is a spiritual issue. And if you're having problems with self-control in some areas of your life, you're going to have a very difficult time having self-control in the spiritual dimension of your life. He's not talking about punishing your body. He's not talking about flagellation or bodily neglect, not advocating anything that would weaken or injure the body. ... But you need a watchful self-discipline that refuses to pander to every appetite of the body. Your body doesn't need to be given everything it desires.
All of this sums up in one thing, be filled with the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit.
And what are we saying here? We're saying...Look, the Bible doesn't make this some kind of therapy. It doesn't make this some kind of long, drawn-out process, doesn't treat you as some kind of a victim. It simply says stop doing it and stop it by stopping the accommodation that panders to your sin, fix your eyes on Jesus Christ, focus on the Word of God, pray without ceasing, exercise self-discipline, and be filled with the Spirit. This is what Paul was talking about in Philippians 2 when he said, "Work out your salvation. God worked it in, you work it out and when it's done, it is really God who is at work in us to will and to work for His own good pleasure." ...
Just some reminders and I'll close. Sin is not killed when it's just covered up. In fact, if you're good at covering up your sin, you are feeding a monster. It's not good just because people don't know it's there. It's not good just because it's inside. It's not been killed just because you don't do it. If you're feeding it on the inside, it is strong and getting stronger. Proverbs 28:13, "He who conceals his transgression will not prosper."
Sin is not killed when it is only internalized. If you forsake the outward act of sin but feed it on the inside, it's only a question of time.
It is not killed when you exchange one sin for another. When you say, "Well, I'm not doing that anymore, but unfortunately I am doing this." That's not progress. A lateral move in sin is not progress. Just because you gave up drunkenness for covetousness, that's not advancing. Sin is not killed until the conscience is appeased. The goal is a good conscience. The goal is to sit in that quiet moment at peace, tranquil, resting with no accusations rising up in your heart to torment you. As long as your conscience is defiled, the battle rages. You want to pursue what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:12 when he said that he had a clear conscience. That he had conducted his life in holiness and godliness because his conscience was clear. You win the battle on the inside and you will enjoy a clear will enjoy the peace, the quietness, the rest, the rejoicing, the deep gladness of a quiet conscience. And when you come up to minister, to speak of Christ, or to serve Christ, you will not be assaulted as a hypocrite by your own conscience for the sin that flourishes inside. You've got to get beyond just pushing it down, that just strengthens it. That incubates it longer so that when it finally breaks loose it's more formidable than ever.

1 comment:

seventh son said...

Great post. I needed to hear that today. Thanks.