Study Materials


You Can’t Overpower Sin


By Robert Notgrass

What makes us think that we can overpower sin when no one else in history, with the exception of Jesus, was able to do it?  Even the apostle Paul knew all too well the power of sin.  He wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:18-19). 

The apostle, like us struggled with sin.  And like us, he tried to convict himself that he would never do certain sins again.  But, he did not succeed.  How is that possible seeing as how he was also filled with the Holy Spirit?  It is because he was still human.  Being in the physical means that Satan is constantly bombarding us with desires.  James said that, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (Jam. 1:14-16).  I particularly like vs. 16, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”  It is as if James is thinking of some Christians who feel that they can overcome all sin and never do it again.  That they are strong enough or faithful enough.  But, James says, “think again.”  So, what do we do?

We need to see that we all have desires and that some desires are good and others are not.  The Great Creator created the world because a great desire arose in Him, that is, a desire to create, to manifest, a desire to make many from one, to expand.  Even God is not separate from desires for, “The Lord is . . . not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9).  Desires means a longing, a great longing, to expand, to become as huge as the sky.  With man, our desires are limitless and when something or someone comes along and tries to limit our desires or crush them altogether, we come to the crossroad and we can either curb our desires one way or we can further be enticed by our desires in another way, which leads to sin.  So again, what do we do when we have a thirst for more while all at the same time, think we can overcome or own weaknesses?

God wants us to be free.  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1).  Ok.  But, if I can’t overpower sin, how can I stop being a slave to sin?  This is the hard part.  Since you can’t overcome sin, ask God for help.  Sometimes we are too ashamed to take this first step.  But, if you try to fight the battle of sin on your own, no matter what you do, no matter how faithful and strong you are, you will always loose.  So, go to God and ask Him for help (1 Pet. 5:7).  This is what humility is all about.  Second, we must remember that the, “one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Rom. 6:7).  How so?  We must remember that the person we use to be was nailed to the cross with Jesus (Rom. 6:5) and that our old life of sin is dead (Rom. 6:3-4).  Third, as Paul said, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16).  Oh, you will still have desires, just like Paul did but you cannot fight on your own.  Even though you may buffet your body and try to keep it under control from sin, you still cannot fight wrongful desires on your own.  Fourth, focus on God’s word and allow it to make you approved unto God by renewing your mind (2 Tim. 2:15; Rom. 12:2).  And fifth, if you can’t seem to overcome wrongful desires, run.  Run and go in the opposite direction!  This is not being a coward.  This is you submitting yourselves to God and resisting the devil by getting as far away the situations and influences that threaten to trap you (Jam. 4:7-8).  And, if you resist him, Satan and his desires for you, he will flee from you.

But, if you do have desires, which become after the enticement, you are still not able to break away and you give in to your desire, which becomes sin, there is still a way to overpower sin and John said it best, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins . . .” (1 Jn. 2:1-2).  So, while we cannot overpower sin, Christ can for us and Christ did for us.  Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).