The Wrong Way To Fight Sin

When you want to stop doing a sin, what do you do? 

Do you try to deprive yourself of something, keep away from tempting situations, or try to distract yourself with more innocuous activities? 

You have probably already learned this through practice, but none of these techniques will ever work. You cannot deprive yourself, ignore your desires, or beat your will into submission. Why? Because your mind and will aren’t the center of your decision-making process. Your heart is. If you don’t love something you won’t do it. If you don’t hate something you won’t leave it alone. 

Yet in so many of the self-help books and even sermons today, people are preaching this strategy. There is always some new “wisdom” for how to stop bad habits and start good ones. Many of them treat sin like a diet. Starve out the bad. Feed the good. But sin doesn't work like this. 

In our passage for today, Paul is going up against similar religious tactics of his time. He is trying to help his audience fight the indulgences of sinful flesh (Col. 2:23) and what is earthly (3:5). But before he tells them how to do it, he tells them how not to do it. 

People in Paul’s day were saying that the right way to weed out sin was deprivation. “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:21). They formed a man-made religion around depriving themselves of basic goods - “asceticism” (2:23) - and inflicting themselves with wounds - “severity to the body” (2:23). The way to fight sin was to beat it out of yourself and punish yourself when you don’t. 

This is an extreme version of what we do. For instance, if someone struggles with pornography, they might deprive themselves of the internet and technology. And when they fall into it, they inflict themselves with guilt and shame. The problem is deprivation cannot change the heart any more than starving yourself can get rid of hunger.

Maybe this sounds wrong to you. Maybe this is how you thought you were supposed to fight sin. It’s no wonder that Paul said, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom” (2:23). However, it will never work. Such sin tactics “are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (2:23). 

So if that’s how not to fight sin, how should we fight sin? 

Paul has our answer. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above” (3:1-2). 

How do we fight sin? We set our minds on Christ. You can’t change your heart by saying no to your desires. But you can change your heart by setting your mind on Christ.   

When you remind yourself that you “have been raised with Christ” (3:1), your heart is filled with great affections. These affections will rewire your heart to do what deprivation never could. Setting your mind on Christ and his Gospel will kill sin in your life.

Rewire Your Heart: 10 Days To Fight Sin: Day 2 • Devotional |

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