Struggling in the Flesh: Getting out of a muddy rut

Memory Verse

Psalm 119:133 “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”

Introduction

Why do we struggle with sin after we are saved through Christ?  If we are immediately forgiven and have the power of the Holy Spirit, why is it so hard to do avoid sin?

I lived in Japan for three years and learned to drive on the left side of the road.  Adjustment wasn’t easy, but I got the hang of it.  What surprised me more than anything was how much I struggled to make the switch back to the right side of the road when I came back to the U.S.  I thought that it would have come back to me naturally.  But because I had been driving on the left for three years, I was trained to think that way.  It felt more “natural” to drive on the left side even though it was suddenly wrong.  One day I found myself on the left side of the road, driving into traffic!  This was going to take more effort than I had thought!

I knew it was wrong to drive on the left.  I knew that I had to change.  I knew that it was dangerous for me to do what felt “natural.”  But knowing and acting on that knowledge were two different things.  I can’t help but think that our sin nature acts the same way.  For those of us who have decided to follow Christ, we are eventually faced with the decision to give up some sinful habits.  But they’re called habits for a reason:  We’ve become used to them.

Discussion

What kinds of sin do you still struggle with?  How have you tried to deal with this?  Is there any sin that you no longer commit, or maybe not as consistently as before?

Reading and Questions

Read Romans 8:5-9,

Verse 5 says that when we live according to the sinful nature, our ___________ are set on what that nature desires.  But when we live according to the Spirit, our __________ are set on what the Spirit desires.  What is the main point here?

According to verse 9, we can be controlled by the Spirit if _________________________________________.

The order of actions to take is listed in reverse in these verses.  The first step is to believe in Jesus as our savior from our sins, and then he will send the Holy Spirit to guide us and live in us.  The next step is to have our minds set on what the Spirit desires.  But how do we do that?

Let’s put it into different terms:

Hypothetical situation:  Let’s pretend that you love coffee.  But one day, while you are pregnant, you read that caffeine can have negative effects on your pregnancy.  You decide that you don’t want to drink caffeine anymore.  So what do you do?  You research this issue.  You get rid of the caffeine in your house.  You initially spend lots of time studying about how to avoid caffeine withdrawals and what types of non-caffeinated drinks are available.  You’re hesitant to go out with friends to your favorite café, afraid that you might be tempted to order your favorite coffee drink…fully caffeinated.

The more you absorb the information, adjust your life and live by the new diet, the easier it becomes.  Soon, you are able to handle going to the local cafe and sipping on the decaf latte with little temptation for the full-strength.  You’re even willing to share with your friends about why you are drinking differently and how it is beneficial to your life.

Walking with Christ can use the same concept.  When we’re struggling with sin, it’s because we are 1) living in a sinful world and 2) used to participating in the sinful world.  Earlier we asked the question of how we are to set our minds on what the Spirit desires.  The answer is that we need to surround ourselves with God’s ways so that we are not only knowledgeable, but also able to apply it to our lives.  This means reading God’s word, studying it, asking people who know more about God’s word than we do, and maybe even changing some of the other non-Christ-like habits along the way.  Music, books, movies—these are all things that can be used for good or bad, it’s all in how we use them.

Read Proverbs 6:20-23

Proverbs 6:20-21 talk about absorbing oneself in God’s commands.  What is one of the metaphors used?

Verse 22 says, “When you walk, they will _______________ you…”

Verse 23 compares God’s commands to a ______________.

Verse 24 is clear, that God’s commands keep us from an ______________________ woman.  In our case, God’s commands keep us from joining in with an adulterous world.

Conclusion

It has been said that you can’t teach someone to swim if you can’t swim yourself.  Most of us want our children to have good habits, so we need to learn good habits in order to teach them.

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”  By absorbing ourselves in godly things—church, the bible, prayer, etc.—we will be blessed, and find that we are able to use the power of the Holy Spirit to avoid temptation in our usual struggles.

Life Application

Take out the bad, put in the good. Think of one thing (e.g. a material thing, activity, habit) that is causing you to struggle.  Get rid of it.  This is much easier said than done! But here is the key:  Replace that thing with something better: a church activity, a new friend, a better TV show, reading the bible.  There are plenty of Christian fictional authors and some amazing Christian musicians today in all different genres—contemporary, gospel, and alternative rock, to name a few.  Exchange your habits—take out the bad, put in the good.

Further Reading

1 John 3:4-10

Psalm 119:97-104

Psalm 119:105-112 Pray this as a prayer to God.

To view a printable version of this document, click Struggling in the Flesh PDF.

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