By the "Law of sin" we mean an indwelling commanding ruling principle which regulates the mind and will and emotions. By "indwelling" we mean it is "in the members of my body" (Rom. 7:23) - it always is present in the soul - Mind, Will, Emotions, it is always ready to apply itself to every situation. "When I would do good evil is present with me" (Rom. 7:15). It is easily able to express itself because it lies in the mind - it controls the will- it is embraced by the affections, i.e. it is intimately at home in the soul. It is "the sin which so easily entangles us." (Heb. 12:1) It includes all the inner activities of the soul which are opposed to the mind and character of God.
Since there is a "law of sin" in our very soul - our center of life - it is imperative for us to understand and deal with it. Our very walk with the Lord depends on our dealing with it. Ignorance of the principle of "indwelling sin" will breed:
- Self-sufficiency and pride,
- carelessness, and
- a miserable failing Christian life.
The Nature of "Indwelling Sin"
- Sin is camouflaged - (Jer. 17:9,10) "unsearchable" - it is the Lord alone who understands and sees it.
- Sin is deceitful - it is full of contradictions which defy logic - the way we rationalize our sins doesn't even make sense. It is full of false promises - sin promises us to do this or that and it appears good, but never is. It never delivers what it promises.
The Power of "Indwelling Sin"
- Sin is at "enmity with God" - it opposes and hates God and His Grace - sin attacks holiness and God's authority in our lives "it is not subject to the will of God nor can it be." (Rom. 8:7)
- No area of one's life is free of sin. The mind is darkened and full of vanity. The will wrestles with its stubbornness and willfulness. All our affections deal with sensuality and aversion to God. Therefore, our knowledge is imperfect. Our obedience is weak. Our love is mixed and impure.
- Sin allows an outward appearance of serving God, but keeps our heart far away (e.g. Pharisees were serving God, but had no relationship with Him). Satan blinds people by religious performance without a personal relationship with God.
- Sin opposes God by warfare, it deliberately attacks Him (I Peter 2:11, James 4:1, Rom. 7:23). It usually captures our affections first - (Col. 3:5, Gal. 5:17), and when it controls our "loves" (i.e. we love our sins), then sin can capture the soul. We fall into sin and are held captive by it.
This is true only of Christians who do not want to sin. Unbelievers don't fight sin, but believers really want to follow Christ and live for Him. So sin works to make us desire a sin and become its captive over and over again.
The Deceit of "Indwelling Sin"
In Heb. 3:13 we are warned not to allow ourselves to be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Deceit is most often the origin of sinning (I Cor. 6:9, Gal. 6:7, Eph. 5:6).
- Sin deceives our minds by:
- proposing immediate gratification of some desire
- sin deceives the mind into making a false judgment.
- deceit also operates little by little - manipulating our mind by a series of steps towards it's goal of sinning.
- Sin deceives by emphasizing "cheap grace". The deceit is to separate grace from its purpose (i.e. sin says since we are totally forgiven why worry about sinning? Rom 6:1-2). The real effect of grace, properly understood and applied, is to make us hate our sins and be more sensitive to them, and walk more closely with the Lord.
- Legalism is another way sin deceives us - we try to make laws to keep ourselves out of sin, but the law causes more sin. (Rom. 5:20)
- Sin takes advantage of weariness, business and specific duties to keep us from obeying God. When we fail to watch for sin's deceit we become spiritually lazy (i.e. our attitude towards God and spiritual growth and activities will be an attitude of carelessness). We will gradually be diverted from glorifying God and enjoying Him to following our own plans and purposes. Our efforts for Christ are ineffectual with mixed motives, we lose the joy of our walk, and our life for Christ grow cold. Then we usually begin to lie and live double lives.
The Effects of "Indwelling Sin"
Sin continually obsesses our imaginations with images and objects of lusts. i.e. (a). Things we want, (b). women we desire, (c). money and position we want. In our mind we paint these obsessions as something necessary and satisfying. When they obsess and consume us, we lose our love for Christ and His Kingdom. This is an abuse of grace and the end result is the removal in our minds of the evilness of our particular lusts. We rationalize them.
Grace not only means we are totally forgiven and in a love relationship with Christ. Grace is also the means of becoming more like Christ in a continual closer walk with Him; He is to be the center and focus of our life. Christ himself said, "You cannot serve God and mammon." You can only have one center to your heart, and a love relationship with Christ convinces us to allow him to fill our heart instead of our sinful lusts.
Steps in a Declining Spiritual Life
- Careless indifference and neglect of God's grace. (Gal. 5:2, Is. 17:10)
- Loss of reverence for God (II Cor. 3:18)
- Losing the "simplicity of the gospel" (II Cor. 11:3) - will result in loss of faith, love and obedience to God.
- Lack of vigilance against Satan (I Peter 5:8)
- Enjoyment of some secret lust in our heart - it darkens the mind and hinders the relationship with god.
- Neglecting regular communion with God through prayer and meditation in the Word.
- Increasing in knowledge without practicing the word (II Cor. 8:1)
The Power of Temptation
How does Temptation play it's part in our struggle with "Indwelling Sin"?
All believers face temptation - as long as Satan has his power, as long as the world with its lusts exists, we will face temptations. When we face temptation without falling into it or entering into it we are in I Cor 10:13 or II Peter 2:9 -"delivered out of temptation".
But we need to learn about the Power of Temptation in order to avoid it.
Again, keep remembering we are dealing with a very powerful Satan, a completely corrupt world, and our own sinful heart. Self-confidence is the worst form of weakness. Do not flatter yourself that you can hold-out against temptation's power without the power of the indwelling Spirit.
- The power of temptation to darken the mind is phenomenal. (II Cor. 4:4) If we fall it distracts us from thinking as God would have us think. We become confused, our judgment will be weakened, the sense of Christ's presence and His love will leave us, and depression quickly follows.
- Temptation fuels our lusts by inciting them so we become involved with an endless turmoil of activity in the world. The activity becomes an obsession. Our defenses break down and sin results by becoming world system oriented in our loves and lives.
- Public widespread temptations overwhelm a whole country gradually and spread infectiously "because sin will abound, the love of many will grow cold." (Mt. 24:12) Even Christians adjust their lives to the culture of the country, especially when it is a "professing Christian" country. The music, the education, the amusements, the prosperity. We take them all for granted. All are powerful temptations from Satan himself.
- (I Jn. 2:16) "Pride of life" - success in profession or ministry, approval of those in high places, can tempt us to do "good" things with the wrong motive. We will gradually abandon our walk of depending on the Lord, following His lead, and develop an attitude of self-sufficiency and a lack of spiritual sensitivity.
God's Part in Our Sanctification
How do we "put-to-death the deeds of the flesh?" (Rom. 8:13) "By the Spirit" - the Holy Spirit is the only One who is powerful enough to put to death the indwelling sin principle or "law of sin" in the "members of our body." If we try to do it we will either become defeated and depressed (Rom. 7) or lead a double life and become self-righteous.
How does the Holy Spirit do this? By making real to us our "crucifixion with Christ" (Rom 6:6) so that we can "count as true" that we are "raised into New Life" - "made alive to God." (Rom. 6:11) The Holy Spirit by His Power and renewing life triumphs over the principle of sin in the "old man". "Putting-to-death" involves pruning sin (John 15:5) and allows the grace of God to grow with vigor and new life within us.
The Holy Spirit is conforming us to Christ - He works to convict, discipline, empower, direct us into all truth, helps us and prays for us. He applies God's renewing Grace to our heart as He conquers sin and puts the flesh to death.
What this death to the old sin nature is not:
- It does not mean the elimination of our sin nature - we cannot zip ourselves out of our "body of sin".
- It does not mean pretending sin is removed - that only adds hypocrisy to sin.
- It does not mean occasional conquests of certain sins, or exchanging some external sins for other internal ones - and vowing not to commit certain troublesome sins.
Our Part in the Process of Sanctification
There are several steps which the Holy Spirit takes us through - and we need to be aware of them because our free will - "presenting the members of our body" is an integral part of the process.
- Crucifying our "old man" - our "body of sin" with Christ must be accepted as a judicial fact - God says it is so. (Rom. 6)
- We belong to Christ and must "crucify the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24)
the "cross of Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." (Gal. 6:14)
- Because these crucifixions are spiritually true "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Rom. 13:14)
We can have conquest over "indwelling sin" by:
- our pride being replaced by growing humility,
- our lusts washed away by purity of mind and conscience,
- our anger neutralized by patience.
- The "love of this world" replaced by loving Christ and His Kingdom in the Body of Christ.
Mature believers who are having victory over "indwelling sin" make it their daily habit to (Col. 3:5) "Consider the members of their earthly body dead to immorality, impurity, passions", etc. for they have "died and their life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) (II Cor. 4:16) - We are to "renew our inward man day by day."
- To leave the "indwelling sin" alone is to let it bring forth it's fruit
- To neglect this daily responsibility is to reject the help the Holy Spirit is willing to give us.
- To neglect this help is to allow your heart to become hardened by sin.
It is also our responsibility to "Grow in Grace (I Peter 3:18), and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (II Cor. 7:1). The Holy Spirit causes us to "Grow in Grace" and holiness as we obey Him - we must work with Him willingly and with our whole mind and affections - He works in us and with us. He seeks our willingness to cooperate with Him. Obedience without reservation is the key to this whole process of dealing with indwelling sin and overcoming temptation.
Live in Christ - in your position, believing and using all the provisions available in Him - "Abiding in Christ" makes His strength available. We are "strengthened with power in our inner man" (Eph. 3:16-17), and "Christ dwells in our hearts" - "in Him all fullness dwells." (Col. 1:19). He intercedes for us - tenderly watches over us - never leaves us - is always faithful.