Are You Fighting Your Sin Unarmed?
You cannot fight sin with your own strength. Your most disciplined version of you is helpless in the spiritual battles of life. No matter how good your intentions or how talented you think you are, you cannot beat temptation through works of you. This is the reason many Christians are caught in a never ending cycle with their sin. They are tempted by their own desires and respond by bearing down and trying to fight it off with their own good intentions. This time they will have enough willpower and determination to overcome, they are certain. Yet, they inevitably fail. Crushing shame and condemnation follow and leave them wrung out like a rag. They then pick themselves us and start the cycle all over again. They are determined to be stronger this time. The truth us each step drives them further into focusing on and relying on self rather than God. This is not the way to escape from sin. You cannot destroy the works of the flesh through the flesh. It is a simple formula: flesh + flesh = more flesh. It is only the Holy Spirit who can break this cycle. It is the power of God who frees you from the oppression of you.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Do you want to be free? Do you feel like you are enslaved of your own temptations and failures? You need the life changing power of the Holy Spirit. He is your cycle breaker. The Holy Spirit will free you from your own failure. He will fight for you in ways you never could. Will power, determination, and the right attitude do nothing on their own to vanquish your enemy. It is only God who turns your weakness into a weapon of God.
The Cost of Self Reliance
The Seven Sons of Sceva discovered these truths in a dramatic way in Acts. They were self proclaimed exorcists who saw Paul doing great works in Ephesus. The saw the great Apostle Paul drive out demons and heal many right before their own eyes. He defeated evil and sin of every kind like it was child’s play. You and I know it was only God working through Paul who did these miracles. Yet, the Sons of Sceva missed this important point entirely.
History tells us exorcists like these had a ritual they created. They called upon powerful figures from Jewish history in incantations to try to drive out evil spirits. They ordered the demon to depart in the name of David and Solomon or Aaron and Moses. They then crossed their fingers, hoped it would work, and got quickly out the door. They were unsuccessful but it made the families of the poor demon oppressed people feel better for a while.
The Sons of Sceva saw Paul’s success and decided to up their game a bit. They observed Paul’s successful exorcisms and detected a pattern. He called on a name just like they did. It was just a different one they had overlooked – Jesus. That was the secret! So they added the name of Jesus to their already established method thinking it would work for them as well. They threw in Paul’s name as well for good measure. What was their error? They did so without understanding who Jesus is. They relied on an empty ritual of man with God’s name plastered on it. They tried to use Jesus for their own purposes with being born again. Jesus was their co-pilot and not their Savior.
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Acts 19
Who Are You?
You may know this story, but really think about what happened. It is amusing in a lot of ways. It can also show you why you are stuck in your sins. It highlights where so many Christians fall short in their walk with Jesus. Jesus is not actually in charge of their life. He is just a name they call on to get things done.
The Sons of Sceva looked great as they set out to defeat evil. They were religious. They likely wore all the right “churchey” clothes. They attended synagogue all the time. They were leaders in their faith community. They were in ministry. They set out to do something good and spoke in the correct way. They even used the names of Jesus and Paul in doing what everyone agreed was a noble task – free a person from a demon. They looked like they were ready for the battle according to all human metrics. Were they?
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
Great question from the demon. Who are the Sons of Sceva to order him around? They have no power over the demonic realm. They have no inherent ability to conquer sin. Their flesh is corrupted by it. Humanity cannot conquer sin. That job belongs to Jesus alone. The evil spirit knew the power of Jesus. Demons tremble at His name. The name guaranteed the Sons of Sceva got the attention of the evil spirit. That is not a good thing. They have no relationship with Jesus so how can they call on Him?
No Jesus means no power.
This means they stand defenseless before the powers of darkness.
Applying will power or your force of personality just brings more of you to the equation. You are the problem to begin with, right? More of your flesh involved just opens the door to more attacks from the enemy.
The Backlash of Sin
What happens when you take on sin in your strength?
16 Then the man in whomthe evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The Sons of Sceva get the evil spirit’s attention with the name of Jesus. They want to defeat the demon. This is good. Yet, when the demon looks at them it is obvious it has nothing to fear. Jesus is not with them. They are relying solely on their own strength and planning. That is foolishness to this dark spirit.
Even worse, they spoke the name that always causes a reaction among the enemy. They suffered as a result. Evil pounced on them, stripped them naked, beat them up, and drove them away in shame and defeat.
Have you have been here before? I think we all have. This is what sin does to us all.
It occurs when you set out to conquer a stronghold of sin in your life. You set your heart on expelling the enemy from your home and heart and have great intentions. You think you have the solution this time – just add in a pinch more self control or motivation. You call yourself a follower of Jesus and you come against the forces of darkness. You get the attention of the enemy as a result.
You build up the courage and determination to face your sin. You tell yourself repeatedly this stronghold is gone from your life. You are done! Yet, a short time later you have been thrashed by it, have been completely exposed and flee in terror. What is the problem? Satan does not go down easily. He is not afraid of any simple man. You need to bring much more to the fight if you are expecting defeat evil.
I know Jesus, I know Paul who was filled with Jesus as he took on sin, who are you…all by yourself?
You can be a Christian and still take on sin on your own. You can go to church and fight sin on your own. You can be a deacon, minister, or pastor and still take on sin on your own. The result has been the same since the Sons of Sceva. Sin sees you are fighting alone, beats you up, strips you bare, and sends you running filled with shame and guilt. You are powerless on your own to fully defeat sin. The great news is you are not alone if you are in Jesus.
The Spirit is Willing but the Flesh is Weak
Jesus does not mean for you to fight this way. He has all the power in heaven and earth. He will gave you power to fight the battles you need to win in life. He sent the Holy Spirit – God Himself- to live in you and lead you in this life. The word used for the Holy Spirit’s power in the Bible is the one from which we get dynamite and dynamic. This is the type of strength you are given.
The Holy Spirit is the way to change your life. You must seek His power, His protection, and His deliverance from the evil that besieges you – just like the demon-possessed man 2000 years ago. Your good intentions and plans are just as worthless as those of the Sons of Sceva.
Are you struggling with sin? Are you defeated by addiction, pain, and lusts? The bad news is you cannot fight this battle alone. You will lose. The great news is this is exactly why Jesus died for you. Jesus promised to do it for you as a result. You just need to let down your weapons and submit to Him. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
Do you believe this promise?
Have you called upon the name of Jesus in submission to the power of God? Have you repented before the Most High God and let Him destroy your stronghold? Are you focusing on you, your miniscule strengths, and your failures or the power of the Holy Spirit who is in you to drive your life?
Today is the day of Salvation! Walk and be led by the Holy Spirit from this moment forth!