The following message was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Session Three, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Session Three. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Session three – Sin & Change:
• So this weekend we’ve been talking about how every Christian knows what it’s like to struggle with ongoing patterns and habits of sin. In session one I addressed that sinful behaviour always starts in our hearts, which means that change must also start in our hearts.
• Session two, a devotion we covered yesterday, emphasized two points: the truths we need to turn to and the desires we need to turn from. Now in order to wrap it all up, sinful behaviour can only be changed with
humility, and that humility can easily be destroyed. Therefore I believe if we effectively answer the following four questions, we’ll be on our way to constant change.

  1. What Stops You From Change:
    • Text – Romans 10:3, “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
    • Explanation – It comes down to one of two things: a love of self or a love of sin. These misplaced loves result in a number of sinful behaviours that hinder our growth in holiness:
    • The first is “Self-reliance.” Many times, people reflect on their struggle with sin and say something like ‘I can’t believe I did that again.’ This sentiment reveals a sort of proud self-reliance that assumes we should be able to stop sinning on our own power.

• Illustration – Another sinful behaviour is “Self-justification.” The root issue here is quite simple. We don’t like to think of ourselves as bad people. We don’t want to think of our hearts as evil. As a result, we try to justify ourselves to ourselves, to others, and even to God. Again, this is a clear manifestation of our pride and love of self.
• Then there is “Excusing Sin.” In our modern, therapeutic world, many people simply want to blame others for their struggles. People try to blame their sinful desires and sinful actions on their family background, economic situation, or even their biological make up. In all of these attempts they are simply excusing the sin they love.

• Application – What about “Minimizing Sin?” Folks try to minimize their sin. This is not a denial of sin itself, but it is a denial of the gravity of sin. People say things like, “It’s not that bad,” or “It was only a small
thing.” Do you know who else said it? Eve, and look where we are. Yet people compare themselves to others who have done worse things in an attempt to minimize sin.
• More severe than minimizing sin is “Hiding Sin.” Proverbs 28:13 warns about the temptation to hide and conceal our sin from others. Nevertheless, many people foolishly try to hide and conceal their sin from other people. This provides some measure of comfort. We know our sin but pridefully hide it from other people.

• Conclusion – And then there is the “Hating the Consequences of Sin but Not the Sin Itself.” Sin always has consequences, and many times people try to change their lives in an attempt to avoid the consequences of sin. Often, this reveals a level of selfishness and self-love. We want sin, and we want to minimize the consequences of sin.
• Bridge – We may admit that we need change, but we don’t want to admit that we are the problem. And so we run to these avoidance strategies which stops us from change.

  1. What Strategies Will Reinforce Your Faith and Repentance:
    • Text – Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
    • Explanation – This passage is not a call to moral self-reformation. Rather, this is a call to faith-fuelled repentance and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This requires: Avoiding Whatever Provokes Sinful Desires.” “Avoiding Whatever Strengthens Sinful Desires.” “Saying No to Sinful Desires.” and “Sowing to the Spirit.”

• Illustration – Now avoiding what provokes sinful desires seems impossible in our culture. The world around us celebrates sinful desires and spreads lies about God. But we can and should take steps to reduce its influence on us. 1 John 2:15-17 says we shouldn’t love the world or the things in the world. So we need to get into the habit of turning off the tv or radio, or our phones when there are enticing temptations.

• Application – now avoiding the things that provoke sin is easier than avoiding whatever strengthens sinful desires. Listen, we’re likely to feel loss, even grief, when we think about what we must do to starve our sinful desires. They can seem like old friends whom we’ve loved for any years, and nobody likes killing off their best friends!
• Conclusion – Therefore we need to say no to sinful desires. Jesus calls it amputation. We need to direct the desires that sin falsely satisfies toward that which truly satisfies and liberates—God himself. A renewed affection for God is the only thing that will banish sinful desires.

• Bridge – Which leads to sowing to the Spirit. Sowing to the Spirit is about cultivating a new affection for God with its expulsive power. The best way to avoid weeds is to sow other plants in their place. It’s the same in the spiritual life. The best way to keep down our sinful desires is to sow to the Spirit.
• When Paul tells Timothy to flee sinful desire, he always tells him to pursue righteousness in its place. Sowing to the Spirit means saying yes to whatever strengthens our Spirit-inspired desires. As we’ve seen, we sin when we believe lies about God. Sowing to the Spirit means filling our hearts with truth about God and how we reinforce our faith & repentance.

  1. How Can We Support One Another in Changing:
    • Text – Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
    • Explanation – God is in the business of change, and he’s placed us in a community of change. The church is one of God’s means of grace to reinforce our faith and repentance, but it’s also a channel for the other means of grace.

• Illustration – See, the Church is a:
• Community of truth.
• Community of repentance.
• Community of grace.
• Application – We are a community of truth meant to grow more like Christ. See maturity is being able to say, “No, that’s not the truth about God. I’m not going to think or behave that way.” So we grow toward maturity by “speaking the truth in love.” We build one another up through the words we say.
• We’re also a community of confession, accountability, encouragement, and rebuke. We’re to rebuke and confront one another. It’s not the only way we speak truth to one another, but it’s an important way. It’s also a neglected way. This may reflect a personal reluctance to put ourselves in unpleasant situations as well as a wider cultural disdain for directive interventions. But we must be proactive about offering accountability.

• Conclusion – Which brings us to a community of grace. We can be communities of repentance only if we’re communities of grace. And this means being honest, open, and transparent about our struggles. We can confess our sin to one another because there’s no longer any need to hide. Grace sets us free.
• Bridge – So here’s how we can support each other:
• Be at peace with one another, forgiving, agreeing, humble, accepting, forbearing, living in harmony, and greeting one another with a kiss.
• Do not judge, lie, or grumble to one another.
• Show hospitality to one another.
• Confess our sins to one another.
• Be kind, concerned, devoted, serving, and doing good to one another.
• Instruct and teach one another.
• Admonish, exhort, and stir up one another.
• Comfort and encourage one another.

  1. Are You Ready for Change:
    • Explanation – When we are given new life in Jesus, we are given the ability to obey God and serve God. This new ability to obey God and serve God must lead to a lifetime of change.
    • Application – Christians are called to a lifetime of change. Change is not a one-time event. Sanctification is progressive. It takes a lifetime. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Faith and repentance are daily disciplines. And turning from sinful desires in faith today doesn’t mean that the problem will be gone tomorrow. I may well find myself having to turn from my sinful desires in faith to God today, tomorrow, and day by day after that.

• Conclusion – So I can change because “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Christ has broken the hold of sin over my life. It’s not inevitable that I sin.
• The old sinful nature has been replaced by a new nature. God has given me his Spirit with new desires to shape my behaviour. Sin no longer defines me. Change is certain because of Christ’s work for me and the Spirit’s work in me.

• Bridge – This means that change is always possible. There’s no sin that I need be trapped in. There’s no area of life that I cannot change. You may have been committing the same sin over and over again for many years.
• Change will not be easy. Sin is habit-forming—not just habits of behaviour, but also habits of thinking. And every time you resist temptation, you weaken the influence of your sinful desires.