How to Win over Sin
Psalm 19: 12-13
“The good fight of faith is at the root a fight for delight. It’s a fight to maintain satisfaction in God against all the enticements of the world and all the deceptions of the devil. The fight for faith in future grace is a fight for joy. Knowing this will help us understand what is happening to us when the temptations come. Diminishing delight is a summons to war.” John Piper
Psalm 19 is an awesome description of how God speaks and reveals his glory. Through creation he declares his glory by the work of his hands. Through the law he declares his glory as the work of his heart.
In general revelation [1-6], all men behold God’s “eternal power and divine nature.” [Rom 1:20] Every time we lift our heads to the skies, we see the intricate care and design that he has masterfully woven into his heavenly tapestry. Every moment his voice speaks of his greatness. Every place his voice speaks of his goodness. In the morning, we see the sun and we rejoice like a bridegroom who is about to receive the joy of his heart. Every day we see the sun and like a trained champion we rejoice at the race that has been marked out before us to win. Every man, from the rising of the sun until its going down, saint and sinner, experience the warm rays of God’s grace throughout his lifetime.
In special revelation, however, God speaks directly to his people. In the written law he speaks and creates his people. Where God revealed himself as the God over all in creation, in the Law he reveals himself as Lord over his people. Speaking through the law his people come to see his glory and know his holiness. The law separates his people out of all the earth to be his unique possession, to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light. [ 1 Peter 2:9]
Thus, the law, the written Word, is powerful. God speaks in creation and the universe is formed. God speaks in his law and “dead” sinners and rebels are transformed into “living” family and friends. So, we read in Psalm 19: the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; trustworthy, making wise the simple; right, bringing joy to the heart; radiant, bringing light to the eyes; pure, instilling eternal reverence in the soul; sure, a conveyer of righteous to godly. The people of the law find treasure that is priceless and morsels that are delicious, for it warns us of the pitfalls of sin and points us to the pathway of blessing.
The people of the law do not travel far before they are confronted by the spirit of lawlessness. In their nature, in their world and in the Devil, they face a wicked conspiracy that seeks to rob them of their holy joy. Determination, good intentions, struggle and tears alone cannot overcome the forces arrayed against them. So, they must cry out to God for the resources to win the daily skirmishes that are a part of this spiritual war. The psalmist will pray for two things: Pardon for sin and power over sin.
Perception: One of the things every follower of the law must know is what they do not know. None of us really know our hearts. Jeremiah says as much when he writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? [Jer 17:9] We have a builtin part of our fallen nature that will try to make us look better than we are and make excuses for the failures we do see. The things that are obvious we tend to label “mistakes” rather than calling what they truly are, sins and rebellion. We have a tendency to judge ourselves by ourselves rather than by the infinite holiness of God. Psalm 50 describes our problem like this: “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” Ps 50:21
We sin every day, and are not conscious of what we have done. By that, I mean we think, say and do things that go against what God has commanded and we are not consciously aware of the implications of what we have done. It is just part of our old pattern of living. But, the psalmist’s view of God in the law convinces him that though these things may not be fully conscious to him they still matter to a holy God. In other words, he does not take great comfort from the popular lyrics of the song which sings, “Though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he’ll always say, ‘I forgive.’” He knows his God takes sin seriously and so does he, so he prays: “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”[Ps 19:12]
Pardon: The psalmist does not take sin lightly nor does he take God’s grace for granted. He prays because there never is a moment that he doesn’t need God’s mercy. Although we are members of God’s family, we remain in constant need of his forgiveness and cleansing. [I John 1:9] The man or woman who reads and understand God’s word rightly, will have an awareness that he or she is still prone to sin and it becomes a constant source of humility and motivation for prayer.
Power: It is not just the hidden sins that threaten the psalmist’s joy. It is also the conscious and deliberate sins. Through the years we have heard various religious zealots claim to have reached some spiritual plateau that elevates them above the realm of temptation. Some claim “complete sanctification does it, while others claim being “spiritually filled” does it. They are wrong. In fact, they are in particular danger. That is why Paul writes, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! [1 Cor 10:12] There is never a moment or situation where we are not in danger of being duped into biting at the devil’s delicious looking bait and being dragged away into moral failure.
I remember a time when two very prominent preachers fell very tragically and publicly. Although, some took glee in their fall and others quickly condemned their sin, I was moved to take another action. I went on my knees and asked God, that no matter what, that he would allow me to die faithful to my wife. I recognized that the difference between me and those men was not so great that I could not do the same kind of sin, in a setting that at that time, I could not imagine. Their sin needed to be dealt with and it was, by God. But, it hit me that it was my own propensity to sin that I needed to deal with. My love for Christ, and my love for my wife, left no room for some false confidence in my own ability and willpower.
After saying that, I must add that there is room for some humble confidence. For, Paul goes on to add, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” We can never say that “the devil made me do it” or that we just could not stop ourselves. Our temptation is not unique. Somewhere, someone on this earth has gone through the same temptation, with the same intensity, same longevity and subject to the same subtlety of the enemy, and found the grace of God sufficient. The psalmist has that hope and so he prays and receives power to win over temptation.
Purity: Finally, the psalmist reveals why he loves the law and prays for help: “Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” The law opens his eyes to the holiness of God and the depth of his sin. But, it also opens his heart to the glory of God so that he wants God and his approval more than anything else. Sin and transgression are the enemies of the passion to be found acceptable in God’s sight. So, he devours the law, prays for grace, and builds walls into his life that keep him from those temptations that are a threat to this one overarching passion of his heart. May God help us to learn how to live with that same kind of deliberate and determined discipline.
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