Taking Care of the Basics

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INTRODUCTION: Today we are starting a new three-week series on “Overcoming Sin and Temptation.” We want to grow as Christians, but we often find ourselves falling into the same sins over and over again. We read about victory in the Bible, and we wonder if we will ever experience that victory in our own lives. We look at other Christians and wonder if they ever struggle with the same things. (Spoiler alert – they do!)

As Christians we all struggle with sin, and we will continue to struggle until Jesus comes back or the Lord brings us home. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress along the way. And that’s what this series is all about. How do we overcome sin and temptation in our own lives? How do you grow as a Christian and begin to experience victory instead of defeat?

We will be looking at this issue in three stages. (slide) This week we will talk about taking care of the basics. Next week we will talk about preparing for battle. And then in the third week we will talk about what you do in the moment of conflict. (Pray over series and ask God’s help.)

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So, today we are talking about taking care of the basics. If you want to overcome sin and temptation in your life, first you need to take care of the basics. This is an essential first step, because if you don’t take care of the basics in your Christian life first, then the rest of the steps won’t help you at all.

So, what are the basics when it comes to overcoming sin and temptation? We will look at three of them today. You need to get saved, you need to get the Spirit, and you need to get strong.

I. Get saved

First you need to get saved. You cannot overcome sin and temptation unless you are saved, because until you’re saved, you’re still a slave, and a slave is not free to overcome anything. Before we are saved, we are slaves to three areas – slaves to Satan, sin and self. Let’s look at all three of these together.

   A. Slaves to Satan
      – Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:1-2

First, before we are saved, we are slaves to Satan. In Acts 26:18 God told Paul he was sending him to those who do not believe: “… to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18) Before you were saved, you were under the power of Satan rather than God.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) Satan is the ruler of this world, and before you were saved you were under his domain. Before we are saved, we are slaves to Satan.

   B. Slaves to sin
      – Proverbs 5:22; Romans 6:16-18

But then we are also slaves to sin. We are born into this world with a sin nature that makes it natural for us to sin. Sin is our default mode, and until we are saved, we are slaves to sin’s power in our lives. Proverbs 5:22 says: “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.” (Proverbs 5:22) Sin is bondage, and our sinful deeds ensnare us and hold us fast in their grip.

Paul writes in Romans 6: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18)

We all struggle with sinful habits or patterns in our lives that we can’t seem to break free from. That’s part of what this whole series is about – to learn how to break free from those patterns. But before we’re saved, we cannot break away, because we are still slaves to sin.

   C. Slaves to self
      – Romans 7:24-25; Titus 3:3-5

And then we are also slaves to self. In Romans 7 Paul details his struggle with sin. He tells how he doesn’t do the things he wants to do, while he does do the things he doesn’t want to do. Finally, he cries out in Romans 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) Do you ever echo that cry in your life? Who will rescue me, who will save me from this body of death? Who will save me from myself?

We read in Titus 3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:3-5) That’s us before we were saved. We were enslaved by all sorts of foolish and harmful desires. We are slaves to ourselves until God saves us and sets us free.

So, that’s the first basic you need to take care of. You need to get saved, because until you are saved, you are still a slave. But when you put your trust in Jesus, he saves you and sets you free from the power of Satan, sin and self. You are a new person in Christ, and you have been given new freedom in Christ to overcome sin and temptation in your life. That’s the first step in overcoming sin and temptation. You need to get saved.

II. Get the Spirit

And then, secondly, you need to get the Spirit. It’s not that Jesus saves you and now you are on your own to battle sin and temptation. You can never have victory over sin and temptation on your own. You need the Holy Spirit in your life to overcome sin and temptation. And there are three things we need to look at here. You need to receive the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. Let’s look at all three of these together now.

   A. Receive the Spirit
      – John 3:5-7; Romans 8:9

First you need to receive the Spirit. This happens when you first put your trust in Jesus as Savior. This is how you become born again. You receive the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit makes you a new person in Christ. Jesus says in John 3: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

The good news is you automatically receive the Spirit when you are saved. We read in Romans 8:9: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) If you don’t have the Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ. If you do have the Spirit, you do belong to Christ.

In other words, you can’t get saved without getting the Spirit, and you can’t get the Spirit without getting saved. It’s like a two for one special. The two go together. You don’t get one without the other. Every person who believes in Jesus receives the Spirit.

   B. Be filled with the Spirit
      – Acts 13:52; Ephesians 5:18

However, if you want to overcome sin and temptation in your life, it is not enough simply to receive the Spirit. You also need to be filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit in Scripture relates to an increase in power, joy, boldness, zeal and love in your life.

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to you. You receive the Spirit by faith when you receive Jesus by faith. But unless you are filled with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is like an unopened gift. It may be a wonderful gift, but it doesn’t do you any good until you open it!

You receive the Spirit once, when you are saved, but you are filled with the Spirit multiple times throughout your life. For example, we read in Acts 13:52: “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52) Now, the disciples had already received the Spirit earlier, but now we learn there were times when they were filled with the Spirit as well.

Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Here being filled with the Spirit is contrasted with being filled with wine. When you are drunk on wine, you are controlled by the wine. When you are filled with the Spirit, you are controlled by the Spirit. The phrasing in the original language indicates that we should be continuously filled with the Spirit. You could translate it as, “Keep on being filled with the Spirit of God.” In other words, this is an ongoing process throughout your entire life as a Christian.

So, how are you filled with the Spirit? You ask! Ask God every day to fill you with his Spirit, to guide and control your life by his Spirit, to fill you with power, joy, boldness, zeal and love through the Holy Spirit as you seek to overcome sin and temptation in your life.

   C. Walk in the Spirit
      – Galatians 5:16-18, 25

You need to receive the Spirit in your life. You need to be filled with the Spirit. Finally, you also need to walk in the Spirit.

Sometimes people wonder what the difference is between being filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is passive. You yield yourself to God, and he fills you with the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is active. Being filled with the Spirit is something God does for you. Walking in the Spirit is something you do for God. You intentionally draw upon the Spirit’s power throughout the day to fight against sin and temptation. When faced with a choice, you choose to walk according to the Spirit rather than according to Satan, sin or self.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-18: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)

Remember how Paul struggled with sin and self – not doing what he wanted, doing what he didn’t want? The book of Galatians tells us the solution to this struggle is the Spirit. We find the same solution in the book of Romans. Romans 6 stalks about sin. Romans 7 talks about struggle. And then Romans 8 talks about the Spirit. The Spirit is the solution to the struggle with sin.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:25: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) I like that. Keep in step with the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit, depend on the Spirit, lean on the Spirit every step of the way.

You can’t fight sin without the Holy Spirit in your life. You need to receive the Spirit, you need to be filled with the Spirit, and you need to walk in the Spirit.

III. Get strong

How do you overcome sin and temptation in your life? First you need to get saved. Then you need to get the Spirit. Finally, you need to get strong.

When you first get saved, you are not only a new person in Christ. You are a baby in Christ! You are just getting started. And just like a new baby will never be able to stand up to the rigors of life unless they are strengthened and nurtured, you will never be able to overcome sin and temptation in your life unless you grow as a Christian.

So how do you grow strong? There are four main ways we will look at in closing: the Bible, prayer, fellowship and witnessing.

   A. The Bible (food and nourishment)
      – 1 Peter 2:2-3; Matthew 4:4

First, you need the Bible. You will never grow strong as a Christian without the word of God in your life.

The Bible is like food or nourishment for your soul. We read in 1 Peter 2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) The pure spiritual milk in this verse refers to God’s word. Just like a newborn baby needs milk to grow, you need the milk of God’s word to grow.

And then even as you continue to grow as a Christian, you still need to feed on God’s word every day. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to turn stones into bread, he responded: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

What happens to you physically if you skip a meal or two or three? You begin to get weak, right? Well, just like you need your daily food or bread to make it physically through the day, you need the solid bread and meat of God’s word to help you make it spiritually through your day. The Bible is like food and nourishment. You need to feed on God’s word every day if you are going to grow strong as a Christian.

   B. Prayer (oxygen)
      – Mark 1:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

And then you need prayer. If the Bible is like food, then prayer is like oxygen. You can’t go long in this world without eating, and you certainly can’t go very long without breathing. You need to pray every day to grow strong as a Christian.

We read about Jesus in Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) Prayer was Jesus’ lifeline to the Father. If Jesus felt he couldn’t start his day without prayer, why would we think we can start our day without prayer?

But then it’s not enough simply to start the day with prayer. That’s like taking a deep breath and trying to hold it for the rest of the day! We need to be praying throughout the day as well. 1 Thessalonians 5 tells us: “Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Like Jesus, begin your day with prayer. But don’t stop there! Keep praying throughout the day. Prayer should be as natural and continuous as breathing. Prayer is your lifeline to heaven. You no longer belong to this world. You are in the world, but not of the world. You are like a scuba diver deep under water with a breathing line running to the surface. The diver doesn’t belong there, and he knows it. But as long as he keeps his lifeline going, he will be safe. Prayer is like oxygen. You need to pray every day if you are going to grow strong as a Christian.

   C. Fellowship (shelter)
      – Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:25

And then thirdly, you need Christian fellowship. Fellowship is like shelter. A baby left on its own in the woods is not going to survive for long. We need each other in the body of Christ to stay strong and keep safe from the enemy.

Hebrews 3 tells us: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) Hebrews 10:25 says: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) We need each other to stay strong.

The story’s told of a pastor who went to visit a man in the village who had stopped coming to church. The man invited him in. It was a cold day, so the pastor took a seat by the fireplace. The pastor asked the man why he wasn’t coming to church anymore, and he responded by saying he didn’t really need church. He could worship God just fine by himself in his home.

Instead of arguing with the man, the pastor simply bent over to the fire in the fireplace and began separating the logs in the fire. The fire began to die down, and the house grew cold. Then the pastor pushed the logs back closer together, and the fire sprang to life again. The pastor didn’t say a word. The meaning was clear, and the man was back in church the following Sunday.

Fellowship is like shelter. You need regular Christian fellowship if you are going to grow strong as a Christian.

   D. Witness (exercise)
      – Philemon 6; 1 Peter 3:15

And then finally, you need to witness to other people about your faith. Witnessing is like exercise. Without exercise, we grow weak and flabby. It’s the same way with your Christian faith. When you are not active in sharing your faith, your faith grows weak and stale.

Paul writes in Philemon 6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6) When you actively share your faith with others, you grow in your understanding of all the good things God has given you in Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) Always be looking for an opportunity to share Christ with others. Always be ready to give an answer to those who ask you about your hope.

The person who never shares their faith is like a lake without an outlet. Do you know why we call the Dead Sea the Dead Sea? Because it doesn’t have an outlet. It has water pouring into it, but none pours out. The water escapes only by evaporation.

When you have spiritual things flowing into you, but you never share those things with others, you become like the Dead Sea. You become spiritually dry and sterile. But when you share your faith, you are strengthened in your faith, and you grow in your faith. Witnessing is like exercise. You need to be active in sharing your faith if you want to grow strong as a Christian.

CONCLUSION: So, those are the basics of the Christian life. And as with so many things in life, you need to take care of the basics before you can move onto maturity. If you are not saved, you are still a slave to Satan, sin and self. You cannot overcome sin and temptation on your own, so you need the Spirit’s help. And you need to get strong. A Christian who does not grow spiritually is like a baby who does not grow physically. You will never overcome sin and temptation if you remain a baby in Christ.

So, let me ask you this morning. Are you saved? Are you trusting Jesus as your Savior? If not, you need to get saved. That’s the very first step that comes before anything else.

Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? If not, you need to get the Spirit. If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have the Spirit. If you do have Jesus, then you do have the Spirit, but are you filled with the Spirit? Are you walking the Spirit? It’s not enough just to have the Spirit in your life, but you need to draw on the Spirit’s power day by day.

And then finally, are you reading the Bible, praying, engaging in Christian fellowship and sharing your faith on a regular basis? If not, then you are growing weaker as a Christian, not stronger. Perhaps you need to make some new commitments to God in each of these areas so you can grow strong in your faith and begin to gain the victory over sin and temptation in your life.

If you want to overcome sin and temptation, first you need to take care of the basics. You need to get saved, you need to get the Spirit and you need to get strong.

© Ray Fowler

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