If you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
The important phrase here is “by the Spirit.” Many believers happily embrace the call to holiness but soon find that they continue to fall back into sin. We fall back into sin when we attempt to mend our sinful condition by our own power or cleverness. Saint Paul makes it clear that we can put to death the misdeeds of the body only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
Lord, I confess that I have been trying to live a holy life by my own power and have failed miserably. Teach me how to live by the power of your spirit at work within me.
Life Application: Pursue Holiness
Many people, even many Christians, have come to believe that holiness is unattainable. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! God would not have called us to a holy life if it were not possible. The reason we fail is that we are attempting to deal with sin by our own power. Perhaps you also have experienced the same powerlessness: that after being convicted of your sin by the Holy Spirit, you attempt to deal with your sin by your own strength. You think that if you just try a little harder or come up with some clever method, then you will overpower the sin in your life and become victorious in your own strength. But then you fail miserably, again, and again, and again. The problem is not that God’s call to holiness is impossible; the problem is that sin has corrupted our entire being. Employing more willpower will not work, because our will is corrupted. We would simply be feeding energy into the very thing that is broken. Getting all emotional won’t help because sin has corrupted our heart. More thinking about sin won’t work either, because sin has corrupted our minds. Instead, we must learn to abide in Christ.
To overcome sin, we must learn to live in perpetual communion with Christ, which is what he desires and has made possible by the gift of his Holy Spirit. When we are in union with Christ, we will share in his holiness. So the tactic is not to give more attention to our sin, but to disempower our sin by living in union with Christ. Only then can sin effectively be put to death.