For the past six years, I have served in ministry with high school and college students. Throughout this time, I have walked with students as they seek to overcome sin in their lives and obey the commandments of the Lord. A year ago, a friend and I ambitiously decided to memorize the book of James. Over the course of about six months, we committed the book to memory.
Within the first few weeks, we came across verse fifteen of chapter one. In this verse, James writes, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Growing up in the church, these words were not new to me, but as I memorized them, I was forced to slow down and think about this progression. Desire leads to sin and sin produces death.
As I thought about this verse, I reflected on the way that I responded to sin in my life. Typically, I would fall into sin and respond by turning to God, confessing it to my accountability partners, and committing to trying harder next time. This approach is far too reactive and not proactive enough.
Defining Personal Holiness
When I say personal holiness, I am referring to the active desire to fight the sin in our lives. Sin is prevalent in all of our lives and we must fight it remembering that Christ has purchased our salvation. My desire is to love Christ so much that my sin tastes bitter.
Personal holiness is not limited to merely avoiding sinful actions. Personal holiness is putting our joy in the Creator rather than in created things, including ourselves. I believe that the root of all of our sin is unbelief. When we sin, we are displaying a lack of belief that Jesus is better. That’s not a small thing, and we shouldn’t be content to let it go unaddressed.
A Three-Step Plan To Fight Sin
Far too often, we don’t recognize the weight of our fight against sin. In order to overcome the sin in your life, you need a plan. Here is the three-step plan that I use as I seek to obey God and glorify Him in the way that I live.
“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:15)
Experiencing victory over sin starts with preparation. The best way that I have found to prepare myself for the battle ahead is by reminding myself why I choose to submit to God rather than submitting to the temptations that arise. This begins with understanding the devastation sin brings and it includes any preventative measure that I take in order to avoid sin. For me this means starting my day off with the Word and prayer and joining an accountability group.
“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.” (James 4:7-8)
In order to overcome the temptations of the flesh, we ought to seek God in prayer, text an accountability partner, and remove obstacles. When we seek God in prayer, we rely on Him to give us the strength to overcome sinful temptation. When we text an accountability partner, we expose the darkness and bring fellow believers into the situation. When we remove obstacles, we remove ourselves from situations that may cause us to fall into temptation.
In his Confessions, Augustine writes,
I began to search for a means of gaining the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I could not find this means until I embraced the mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ.
We can try harder and harder to overcome our sin, but if we do so without embracing Jesus Christ we will fail over and over. In order to overcome temptation, we must rely not on our strength but on the Spirit of God within us.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Fighting for personal holiness should include sharing the result with others. Every time you are tempted, you have an opportunity to confess shortcomings and celebrate victories with those you walk in accountability with.
When we fall into sinful temptations like gossip, lust, or anger, we have an opportunity to be vulnerable with others and pray with one other. Remember, we confess sins to each other in order to be healed. We don’t confess sins simply to feel better, but in order to experience transformation.
When we, through the power of the Spirit of God within us, overcome temptation, we should respond by celebrating victories with one another. By simply sharing God’s sanctifying work in your life, you can encourage others to do the same in their fight against sin.