In our previous post, I started sharing about fighting sin. I went on to unpack the role that boundaries play in overcoming sin. In short, they are important in that they create opportunity and space for growth, but boundaries do not change the heart, so they are never the whole answer. That brings us to the second layer.
The second layer to overcoming sin is Gospel Application. What is that? Gospel Application is the heart work of asking, “why am I so attracted to that sin?” If I’m angry all of the time…why? If I’m filled with lust…why? What is the pay-off? And there’s always a pay-off. We don’t do things, as humans, unless we want to. This reflection is how the heart idol behind our sin is exposed.
Once I understand why I do what I do (and you might need help discerning that), I begin to look at that heart idol through the lens of the Gospel. What does the good news have to say about my idol. It may say, “you’re trying to save yourself with your chronic, idolatrous overworking.” It may, instead, say, “Your idolatrous desire to be loved and accepted by others is a sad, false, little copy of the huge love that Jesus offers you.” It has an answer to any guilt, shame, regret, longing, or need you believe you feel. It really does! At our church, we call the ability to apply the Gospel to specific needs, circumstances, etc. “Gospel Fluency.”
Of course, this is where the fight really begins. Satan and your flesh and the world do not want you to give up your sin for the One who truly loves you and can satisfy and heal your broken heart. So, we muster up Gospel knowledge to bring it to bear against ongoing temptation and desire. We commit time to meditate on God’s Gospel promises! We memorize scripture that will declare His truth to us.
CLARIFICATION: I haven’t said this yet, and I really should have from the very beginning. We cannot fight and win against sin alone. First, sin must be exposed before it can become light (Eph 5.13-14). Until sin is exposed, we can’t even start to fight it. And exposing sin means confessing it…it means telling another person, “I’m trapped and I need help.” Second, isolation is breeding ground for our own desires and lusts. Bringing someone else into the equation automatically means that I’m not alone anymore just to do whatever feels good in the moment. Three, others will have wisdom and encouragement for us. They will help us discern the heart idol, discern Gospel application, and remember the Lord’s benefits (Ps 103.2). Finally, we were never meant to live alone. God is community – Father, Son, and Spirit. He made us to reflect that, not by being alone, but by being in relationships that matter. Chances are that we are in the predicament because we isolated to begin with, we refused to share what was happening before things got so bad.
So, TOGETHER, we search our hearts and bring the Gospel to bear on our idols. In the next post, we’ll look at the the final layer of overcoming sin.