In 1 John 2:1, the apostle declares, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” He is telling his readers — believers in a group of churches in Asia Minor who had been taught by a group of heretics that sin was irrelevant and that one could be in good standing with God even while living a blatantly, open life of sin (1:6) — that the believer should sin are rarely as possible, and stay as far away from sin as possible, and that it is possible to stay away from sin and it is possible not to sin.
And that then surfaces a question: how hard are you working against sin? How diligently and faithfully do you use the resources God has given you to resist sin and fight against it? How often are you aware of and how often do you meditate on — and act on — the reality that you don’t have to sin?
Jesus also affirmed the necessity of fighting against sin, as He warned the disciples on the night of His betrayal, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). On the night when Christ would be arrested and tried, they needed to prepare themselves to fight against the temptations to despair when Christ was crucified.
And we, too, need to constantly fight against temptations and stand rigorously against sin. Are you conscious of your need to fight against sin, and do you fight?
Others have sounded a similar warning. Consider the following exhortations:
“The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. I mean that to be read carefully. Let me say it again: The root of our sinfulness is the desire to be happy apart from God and apart from whether others find their eternal happiness in God. All sin comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others. Another name for this root of sinfulness is pride. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of our happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God.” [John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World]
“But the terrible part about crucifying the flesh is that the flesh is you. When the Lord says mortify the flesh, He doesn’t mean abuse your body by starving it or lying on beds of nails. He means put yourself on the cross. That is what people do not want to do. But I do say this: You had better mortify your flesh, or your flesh will do something terrible to you.” [A. W. Tozer, The Radical Cross]
“…all sin is found in secret atheism… Every sin is a kind of cursing God in the heart; an aim at the destruction of the being of God, not actually, but virtually … A man in every sin aims to set up his own will as his rule, and his own glory at the end of his actions….” [Stephen Charnock, Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 1]
“If you hate your sin only because of the pain it has caused you in this life, then your hatred stems from self-love and does not come from a burning love for God.” [Joe Thornton, Note to Self]
“One of the reasons that many Christians seem to have no thrill at being forgiven through the gospel is that they have not been brokenhearted over their sin. They have not despaired. They have not wrestled with warranted self-loathing. They have not grieved over their sin because of its moral repugnance, but have grieved only because of guilt feelings and threats of hell.” [John Piper, God is the Gospel]
“There must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin… It is of paramount concern for the Christian and for the interests of his sanctification that he should know that sin does not have the dominion over him, that the forces of redeeming, regenerative, and sanctifying grace have been brought to bear upon him in that which is central in his moral and spiritual being, that he is the habitation of God through the Spirit, and that Christ has been formed in him the hope of glory.” [John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied]
“Whenever Edwards saw sin in another person, he took inventory on his own soul to search for the same iniquity. He was deeply concerned that his observations of sins in others might produce pride in his heart. Thus, he pledged to regard himself as the most sinful person alive and as if he had committed all the sins, or faced the same temptations, as those whose transgressions he observed. When he saw sin in others, he wanted it to prompt him to feel shame over his own wrong-doings and to drive him to confess it to God.” [Steven Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards]
“Until man admits that he is a creature who is answerable to a Creator, he can never confess that he is a sinner who is in need of a Redeemer.” [Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship]