Praying for Victory over Sin

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(2 Peter 1:3-4)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is on prayer and specifically on praying for various things. So far, we have looked at praying for forgiveness and praying for healing. Today we will look at praying for victory over sin. (Read 2 Peter 1:3-4 and pray.)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

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So today we are talking about praying for victory over sin. This is similar to praying for forgiveness but with a twist. They both have to do with sin but here’s the difference. When we pray for forgiveness, we pray after we sin. When we pray for victory, we pray before we sin.

Praying for forgiveness has to do with past sins. Praying for victory has to do with future sins. Praying for forgiveness has to do with actual sins that we have actually committed. Praying for victory has to do with potential sins that hopefully we will never commit. Praying for victory over sin is learning to pray before the sin rather than after.

It’s like the difference between defensive driving and filing an insurance claim. Defensive driving is meant to prevent the accident, so you won’t have to file the insurance claim. Sure, you could just keep filing claims, but wouldn’t life be easier if you could prevent the accident to begin with?

That’s what praying for victory over sin is all about. Because let’s face it. We are all an accident just waiting to happen. Everyday we wake up and face potential sin that will harm us, harm other people and dishonor the God we love. And a lot of times we know exactly what that potential sin is going to be. We know our own areas of repeated weakness and sin. And we desperately want victory.

The good news is you can have victory over sin. The Bible tells us that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life in Christ. Jesus not only died for your sin. He also died to give you victory over sin. If you want to experience victory over sin, then you also need to pray for victory over sin.

The more you learn to pray this way, the less you will need to pray for forgiveness. But it works the other way too. The less you pray this way, the more you will need to pray for forgiveness. Thank God we can always pray for forgiveness, but it’s so much better to pray for victory. So, let’s learn how.

I. Foundations for victory

First, let’s take a moment to explore the foundations for victory which are authority and grace. Both have to do with Jesus.

   A. Authority (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

First of all, authority. You have been given authority in Christ. In other words, you don’t overcome sin by your own strength or in your own authority but by Christ’s authority.

It is a spiritual battle. We read in 2 Corinthians 10: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

It is a spiritual battle, and your primary weapons in this battle are the word of God and prayer, along with the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of other believers. We will be focusing on the specific weapon of prayer this morning, but God has given you these other weapons as well.

You have been given authority in Christ, and with Christ as your commander you can experience victory over sin.

   B. Grace (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16)

And then the second foundation is the foundation of grace. In other words, we approach this from the standpoint of grace, not law or legalism, but grace in Christ.

We read in Hebrews 2:18: “Because Jesus himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) And again in Hebrews 4: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Jesus knows what you’re going through, because he’s been through it himself. Jesus also was tempted when he was on earth. Therefore, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us when we are being tempted.

So, those are two important foundations for praying for victory over sin. You have been given authority in Christ, and you can depend on God’s grace because Jesus knows what you are going through.

II. Understanding temptation

Next, we need to understand what the Bible tells us about temptation.

   A. Temptation is not sin (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15)

First of all, the Bible tells us that temptation is not sin. It is not a sin to be tempted. We know that temptation is not sin, because Jesus was tempted, and yet we also know that Jesus did not sin. We just read from Hebrews 4 which says that “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was tempted, but he never gave into temptation, and therefore he never sinned. Temptation is not sin, but rather a prompting to sin. So, that’s the first thing the Bible tells us about temptation. Temptation is not sin.

   B. Temptation does not come from God (James 1:13)

Secondly, the Bible tells us that temptation does not come from God. We see this in James 1:13: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) Temptation never has its origin in God. Anytime you experience temptation, that is, a prompting to sin, you know right away that God is not the one tempting you.

Now God does test your faith. He allows trials in your life. But he does not tempt. All the trials you experience in life are under God’s direct permission and control. But any prompting to sin which may accompany those trials does not come from God. God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.

   C. Know your enemy (the flesh, the world, and the devil)

So, this is where you need to know your enemy. If temptation doesn’t come from God, then where does it come from? The Bible tells us that temptation comes from three different sources: the flesh, the world, and the devil. All three play a part in temptation.

The flesh refers to my own sinful desires. It’s is something that comes from within me. The world refers to something outside of me. The world refers to the ungodly system around us which fuels my flesh. The devil refers not only to the devil himself but to all the personal, powerful, spiritual forces which mold the world system and directly appeal to my flesh.

Notice we have three main enemies, but that all three make use of my flesh or my sinful desires in temptation. This is where temptation was different for Jesus than for us. Jesus didn’t have any sinful desires. So how did the devil tempt Christ? He tempted him with things like food or proving his identity as the Son of God or receiving the authority over the world which he would gain through the cross anyways but by tempting him to avoid the cross.

That’s one of the reasons why Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert. Jesus did not have the desire to sin, but he certainly had the desire to eat. And he wanted to experience the desire of temptation the same way we do, so that he could help us in our temptations.

   D. Know how temptation works (James 1:14-15)
      – desire → temptation → sin → death

So, we know that temptation is not sin and that temptation does not come from God. We know that our three main enemies in this fight are the flesh, the world and the devil. Finally, the Bible tells us how temptation works.

Back to James 1, we read in verses 14-15: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)

The cycle begins with a wrong desire in our hearts. Desire then leads to temptation which leads to sin which leads to death. Death here certainly includes physical death, which is the ultimate result of all sin, but it refers primarily to the breaking of fellowship with God, the loss of spiritual life and flourishing, the loss which comes as a result of sin.

So, if you don’t want to die, if you don’t want to break fellowship with God, or experience loss of spiritual life and flourishing, there are several places where you can break the cycle. For example, you could break the cycle at the end of the cycle between sin and death. When you sin, you confess your sin and are restored to relationship with God. This is the praying for forgiveness that we looked at earlier in the series. Or you could break the cycle in the middle of the cycle between temptation and sin. As long as you don’t give in when you are tempted, you won’t sin and therefore you won’t die. Or you could break the cycle at the beginning of the cycle with desire itself. If you can change your desires, then temptation won’t work on you anyways.

This is where Jesus broke the cycle. Jesus never gave into temptation because he had no sinful desires. And so, if we really want to beat temptation, we need God to change our desires. We need to cultivate godly desires. And that’s where praying for victory over sin comes in.

III. How to pray for victory over sin

So, let’s move on to the heart of the message today. How do you pray for victory over sin? How do you practice defensive driving when it comes to prayer?

There are two types of prayers you should pray when it comes to victory over sin. There are everyday prayers which you pray …. every day before the temptations even arise. And then there are prayers you pray during the day when you are actually being tempted.

   A. Everyday prayers

Let’s look at the everyday prayers first.

      1) Pray against temptation (Matthew 6:13, 26:41)

First of all, and I guess this should be obvious, but you should pray against temptation. Jesus instructs us to pray against temptation twice in the gospels.

First, we read in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13) Now, most of us can find temptation just fine all by ourselves. We don’t need anyone leading us there. But this is really just a prayer asking God to protect you from temptation.

And then we read Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41)

Jesus obviously put a priority on prayer in fighting against temptation. And so, we need to as well. That’s your first everyday prayer. Pray against temptation.

      2) Pray for wisdom (Proverbs 13:14; James 1:5)

Secondly, pray for wisdom. Wisdom includes knowing right from wrong and knowing why the right is better than the wrong. Proverbs 13:14 says: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14) Well, we’ve already learned what the snares of death are, haven’t we? Sinful desire leads to temptation leads to sin leads to death. Wisdom will protect you from the cycle of temptation, so pray for wisdom.

James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) Ask, pray, cry out for wisdom from God. Wisdom will guard and protect you from sin.

      3) Offer yourself to God (Romans 6:13, 12:1)

Thirdly, offer yourself to God in prayer. Romans 6:13 says: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God.” (Romans 6:13) Romans 12:1 says: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Commit yourself to God for godliness. We have spent enough time offering these bodies of ours to sin. Offer your whole body, every part of yourself to God and for his glory. Make it an everyday prayer to offer yourself to God.

      4) Pray for God’s Spirit to lead you (Galatians 5:16-18)

And then, fourthly, pray for God’s Spirit to fill you and lead you. Remember, we said earlier that the Holy Spirit is one of your primary weapons against sin.

We read in Galatians 5: “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)

God says live by the Spirit, and you will not give into temptation. Why? Because the Holy Spirit changes your desires. Once again, desire is the key. It all comes down to desire. What do you really want? To sin or to obey God? We want to obey God, but sin gets in the way.

That’s the whole question of Romans 7, isn’t it, where Paul says, “I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I do want to do.” And what’s the solution to Paul’s problem in Romans 7? You find it in Romans 8. It’s the Holy Spirit! It’s the Holy Spirit that makes the difference.

The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for victory over sin. God gives you the Holy Spirit to make you holy. But you need to yield yourself to the Spirit and pray for God’s Spirit to guide you and lead you through life.

      5) Confess and forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

And then another part of everyday, defensive praying for victory over sin is to confess your previous sins and extend forgiveness to others. This is what we learned to do under praying for forgiveness. Praying for forgiveness will also help you in praying for victory. Why? Because when you don’t confess your sins, you are more likely to repeat them. And when you don’t forgive others when they sin against you, you give Satan a foothold in your life. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2: “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him … in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

   B. When you are being tempted

So, those are your everyday prayers that you pray every day, before you are tempted during the day. So now you’re up and rolling and going through your day, and before you know it you are already being hit with temptation. What do you do now? You pray! Your everyday prayers are you learning to be a good driver. Praying when you are actually being tempted is you responding to real-time driving conditions on the road.

So, what do you pray when you are being tempted?

      1) Pray for wisdom (see above)

First of all, pray for wisdom again. You already prayed for wisdom in general to guard against temptation in general. Now ask God for specific wisdom to make wise choices concerning this specific temptation.

      2) Pray for God to show you his way out (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Secondly, when you are being tempted, ask God to show you his way out of the temptation. We have this wonderful promise from God in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Notice you do not have to pray for a way out, because God has already promised that he will provide it. So, just ask God to show you the way out that he has already provided. And then when God shows you the off-ramp, make sure take it! When God’s GPS reroutes you around the problem, make sure you follow his directions! Don’t keep driving right into the sin.

      3) Pray against any power of Satan (James 4:7)

Thirdly, when you are being tempted, pray against any power of Satan. James 4:7 says: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Remember, you have three enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil. The fact that you are being tempted means your flesh is already involved. Something in the world around you may have set it off, but the devil could be involved too.

You can’t pray the world away, but you can pray the devil away. You have been given authority in Christ. Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

      4) Draw near to God in prayer (Psalm 25:15; James 4:8)

So, what do you pray when you are being tempted? Pray for wisdom. Pray for God to show you his way out. Pray against any power of Satan. And then finally, draw near to God in prayer. James 4:8 says: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

God lives within the praises of his people. Draw near to God in prayer and praise and thanksgiving. Drawing near to God will take care of all three of your enemies for you. Drawing near to God will lift your desires heavenward. Drawing near to God will make the world around you fade in power and influence. And drawing near to God will really make the devil flee. The devil doesn’t want to be anywhere near you when you are praising God.

Psalm 25:15 says, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:15) Only God can deliver you from sin. It’s not enough simply to know what is right. That’s why we have messed up psychologists and doctors who smoke. It’s not enough simply to know what’s right. We need the power to choose right. Only God can give you that. And it is available to you through Christ in prayer.

IV. Three more helps in prayer

Finally, let me share just three more helps for you in prayer.

   A. Act on your prayers (Exodus 34:12-13; Nehemiah 4:7-9; Proverbs 6:27-28)

First of all, make sure you act on your prayers. Never act without prayer, but never pray without action. When Nehemiah built the wall, he both prayed and posted a guard. (Nehemiah 4:7-9)
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God told them to take drastic measures when it came to possible temptations. He told them to break down the altars, smash the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. (Exodus 34:12-13)

Proverbs 6:27-28 says: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? 28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28) You can’t fight temptation if you keep putting yourself in temptation’s way. So, when God shows you a way out, take it. When God shows you changes you need to make in your lifestyle, activities or relationships, then take action and make the change if you really want victory.

Oswald Chambers once said, “See that you do not use the trick of prayer to cover up what you know you ought to do.” Make sure you act on your prayers.

   B. Pray with and for each other (Ephesians 6:18; James 5:16)

Secondly, pray with and for each other. Ephesians 6:18 says: “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) Praying for each other is part of the armor of God by which we take our stand against the enemy. James 5:16 says: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) Are you struggling with a persistent sin? Find a friend whom you love and trust, share it with them, and ask them to join you in prayer.

   C. Know that Jesus prays for you, too! (Luke 22:31-32)

And then, finally, know that Jesus prays for you, too. We read Jesus’ words to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Jesus prayed for Peter, and you know what? Jesus prays for you, too. Take comfort in that! God is on your side! Join with Christ in prayer for victory. Jesus is your ultimate prayer partner!

CONCLUSION: I don’t know about you, but when I look back on my life, I see so much wasted time and effort because of sin. So many lost opportunities because of sin. I hate sin. I hate what it does to the people around me. I hate what it does to me. I hate how it dishonors God.

And that’s why I love the Scriptures we have looked at today. Because God’s word paints a very different picture for us, a very hopeful picture. You and I can have victory over sin. The more we pray for victory, the more we will experience victory in our lives. And the more we experience victory, the closer we will walk with God and the more God will use us for his glory.

God loves it when we pray according to his will. God promises to answer when we pray according to his will. It is definitely God’s will for us to have victory over sin. There’s victory in Jesus! Let us go forth today with a fresh desire to life a life that is pleasing to God and with a new understanding of how we can pray for that victory.

© Ray Fowler

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