I found this post on Tim Challies’ blog recently, and thought I would repost it here. In the struggle against sin that all believers are engaged in, what we focus on – set our minds and determination on – is key. Tim Challies reminds us that we should focus on the things we want to become, and not what we are trying to leave behind.
People often ask me how they can stop committing a sin that they find especially offensive. The Holy Spirit has convicted them of a sin and they are looking for a little bit of guidance in how to approach putting that sin to death. These are good questions.
But here is something interesting I’ve noticed. While it is common for someone to ask how to put off a particular sin, it is rare for someone to ask for guidance in putting on a particular godly trait. We are ashamed of our sin and bothered by it. This is good. But we are less ashamed of our lack of Christian character and less bothered by it. This is not good.
I think this is where so many of us fail in our attempts to grow in godliness. The Christian life is one of continually putting off the old person with all its traits and putting on the new person. But our ultimate desire is not to be not-sinful but to be truly godly. We are not to aim at being not-sinful but to aim at being marked by Christian character.
We experience the greatest success in battling sin when our desire is not only to stop sinning but to have our lives marked by the opposite character trait. The thief needs to do more than stop stealing; he needs to learn to be generous. The porn-addicted young man needs to do more than stop looking at pornography; he needs to learn to honor women. The angry person needs to do more than stop lashing out; he or she needs to learn to display patience and kindness. In each case the aim is not to stop sinning, but to be a display of Christ-like character.
The challenge for each one of us who desires to be godly is not only to identify the sin in our lives, but to identify the better and holier trait. And this, this fruit of the Spirit, this evidence of God’s grace, is what we aim for in our desires, our prayers, and in our labors.
Tim Challies (www.challies.com)