I love video games. In fact, the only reason I decided to study engineering in college was because of video games. I was so fascinated with how the hardware worked together to achieve scenic environments and cinematic graphics.
One of my favorite games lately is Battlefield 5. It is set in the time period around World War 2 and has historic locations, equipment, vehicles, and uniforms from that time. While playing the game I thought it was such a tragic event that so many people lost their lives in a devastating war.
But what was the purpose of fighting?
Did they enjoy the killing?
Did they want to lose their friends and families?
No, that’s not it. They were fighting for a cause. There were certain freedoms and ideals that they were striving for. They felt it was a worthy sacrifice to risk their lives to gain these freedoms. It wasn’t just fought overnight or over a couple of days. For some soldiers, it was day in, day out for eight years straight! Can you imagine that—being in the heat of war, not having food, not having shelter, suffering bodily injury, losing your closest friends—for eight years?
Our Christian walk is the same in so many ways. As 2 Timothy says, we have been recruited as soldiers for Christ, to fight and even suffer for him:
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. | 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Does that mean for one day or just when it is convenient? No. It is a day in, day out fight for as long as we live in this world.
Let’s take a look at what James has to say about our Christian walk and the war against worldliness:
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. | James 4:4-10
I was thinking recently about habitual sin in a believer’s life. Scripture describes those as “besetting” sins. These are often sins that a believer has struggled with prior to salvation, and due to the effects of the sin or the desensitization of it, the believer continues to struggle with it even after salvation. We all have besetting sins that we struggle with. For some it is anger, lying, gossiping, for others it may be addictions to drugs, alcohol, or lust. Guess what?!
Sin is sin in the eyes of God and it is all equally devastating and dishonoring to Him.
Certain sins may have more serious effects in a worldly sense, but anything we think, say, or do that breaks His law is hostile toward Him. That is what is considered as worldliness or friendship with the world. It is not social interactions or how well you get along with your community—it is conforming to the image of this world.
The good news is that
his grace is sufficient!
The faith that saved us (justification) is the same that continues to save us (sanctification), which is also the same that will save us (glorification). That means that yes! We can have victory, even over the besetting sin in our lives! For some that may take a couple years and for others it may take their whole life. The important piece of the puzzle is identifying the pattern of your life. As it says in Titus 2:7:
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works. | Titus 2:7
What does the pattern of your life identify?
Are you living more victoriously every day and conforming to the image of Christ?
Or are you letting the world take control and the culture around you run the way you live your life?
When others look at our lives as believers, they should be able to see a clear difference between us and those around us. We are called to live in the world but not to be of the world. Often, a lack of understanding and practicing that difference is the reason we are unable to live victorious Christian lives.
Examine yourself (and I am talking to myself too when I say this).
If there is any aspect of sin in your life that you consistently struggle with or have not been able to achieve victory over, that is often due to pride and not realizing how great our sin was in comparison to how much greater Christ’s sacrifice truly was. Pride comes in the form of self-righteousness or thinking we are capable in ourselves, even to the point that we think we do not need God. That is why James says in verse 6 that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
So if we know that we consistently struggle with a certain sin, what is the solution? James tells us clearly in verses 7-10:
- Verse 7: “Submit to God”—We have to understand how devastating our sin truly is in the eyes of a Holy God!
- Verse 7: “Resist the devil”—Every avenue of life that causes us to fall to that sin needs to be removed and dealt with.
- Verse 8: “Draw near to God”—Spend time with the Lord, in His Word, in prayer, in fellowship with Him every day.
- Verse 8: “Purify your heart”—We have to cleanse our hearts and renew our minds. Every aspect of that sin that had a stronghold in our life needs to be replaced by the filling of the Spirit.
- Verse 9: “Be wretched and mourn”—We must be truly repentant and contrite of making the choice to sin against God and knowingly break His law.
- Verse 10: “Humble yourself”—Understand that victory is not attained by you, it is the power of God thru the Holy Spirit in your life that gives you victory!
In World War 2, over 61 million people died on the Allied side and over 12 million people died on the Axis side. That is a grand total 73 million people who lost their lives over a span of eight years. It was one of the greatest tragedies in human history. But it did not come without purpose—those soldiers on the Allied side fought for a cause. Though many lives were lost, many friends and families separated, and many battles ended in retreat, the war was won!
That is what our Christian walk is! We will have sin throughout our lives that we struggle with, but it is making each battle count.
Some battles will be lost, but many others will be won and end in progression of our faith.
The good news is that God has already won the victory! We know how the story ends! We know where we will be eternally! We are victors in Christ because he has overcome the world! It is our responsibility to live for Him daily and reflect Him through all we do in our thoughts, words, and actions!