Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States
serving from 1923-1929. He was a very intelligent person and was also known as
a man of few words. One Sunday Coolidge visited a church and when he came home
his wife asked him what the sermon was about. Coolidge responded with one
word, “Sin.” His wife pressed him for more information so she asked him,
“What did the minister say about sin?” Coolidge replied, “He was against
Now I’m sure everyone in this room would agree with that minister. We are
against sin. But the reality is everyone of us struggles with sin. And, truth
be told lots of us struggle with a chronic sin, a sin that continuously trips
us up in life, a sin that seemingly has us in its grasp. Some have called it
“besetting sin,” sin that we can’t seem to overcome.
For some of us our besetting sin is explosive anger that injures
those around us with hurtful words and cruel actions.
For others our besetting sin is envy . . . the desire to have what
others have . . . looks, talent, job, and it robs us of the ability to be
happy about others success..
For still others our besetting sin is lust, which is a perversion of
love. And so, we give in to immoral sexual desires and fantasies ignoring
the truth that lust never delivers what it promises, and the more one gives in
to lust, the less one is satisfied; sort of like the law of diminishing
For others, our besetting sin is sloth – laziness, not necessarily
in terms of a job, but in terms of relationships. We get lazy in doing
the work required to have a healthy marriage, the work required to nurture
children, and even the work required to do God’s will, what God wants us to
For others, our besetting sin is profanity and coarse language.
Profanity comes out regularly, sexual jokes are the norm until there is no
distinction in our language from the culture around us. We disobey God who
tells us “to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.”
So what can we do about overcoming chronic sin in our lives? How can
we gain victory over it? What can we do to stop stumbling over
sin? How can we escape the sin that so easily entangles us?
Fortunately, the Bible and the experience of Christians through the centuries
provide help and hope for us.
And the place for us to begin is to acknowledge the truth that sin is real.
Truth #1: Sin is real
It is amazing to me that some people and some religions deny
this truth. Whether they deny it because they simply choose not to accept it
or because they create a false belief, it is amazing that people deny the
reality of sin and evil today. Just think back to terrorist attacks of
September 11. If we were to make a list of the lessons, or outcomes of
September 11, right at the top would be, evil exits, sin is real.
But the truth is, pick any period of human history, read about the events
of the day and you will be confronted with the truth that sin is real,
that evil exists. Every era, every time period has its share of evil acts and
So, the Bible is completely true when it says, “For all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
And, for me, that raises a question, “Why?” Why do we sin? Why
do we continue on the destructive path of sin, knowing the path brings pain,
There are probably many answers to the question, Why? But when we
look at them all I think there are two fundamental reasons we sin: 1) We sin because
are imperfect, and 2) We sin because we choose to. As imperfect
people we “miss the mark”, not because we aren’t shooting at it, but
because we aren’t skilled enough to hit it. Our aim is poor so we miss.
Illustration: A couple years ago Kris and I were out to dinner
her birthday at Rudolph’s BBQ, our favorite place to eat out. I was
feeling quite proud of myself for arranging a special night together to
celebrate her birthday. During dinner, however, Kris told me that while she
enjoyed eating at Rudolph’s, it really wasn’t her favorite restaurant.
She told me that while she always enjoys the chance to be together for a
special evening, Rudolph’s wasn’t her first choice. I was surprised and
stunned . . . until I realized that I had allowed my enthusiasm for
Rudolph’s, - home of the world’s greatest potato skins, - to overwhelm her
choice. In my mind, my choice had become herchoice. So give me
an “A” for effort, but an “F” for execution. I tried, but I missed. I’m
imperfect! Do you want to know where we go now to celebrate Kris’s birthday?
That’s a future sermon!
We sin because we are imperfect. We also sin because we flat out choose
to. We seek personal pleasure, we want power, we desire things,
we dislike someone and as a result we sometimes act in a way that is
sinful, sometimes knowing full well what we are doing is wrong.
So, we sin because we are imperfect, we sin because we choose to.
By By now you’re probably a little depressed by this talk. You’re asking
yourself, “Isn’t there some good news this morning? I came here to be
encouraged, not discouraged. Tell me some good news!”
The good news, THE GREAT NEWS IS a second truth about sin . . . and that is
. . . forgiveness is available.
Truth #2: Forgiveness is available
C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christians of the 20th
century. His book, Mere Christianity, which has literally helped
millions of people understand Christian faith and believe in Jesus Christ.
During a conference on comparative religions Lewis attended, experts from
around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to theChristian
faith. They began eliminating possibilities. The incarnation? –
God becoming man? No! Other religions had versions of gods appearing in human
form. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Again, other religions
had accounts of return from death. The debate went on and on until C.S. Lewis
weighed in and said, “That’s easy. What is unique to Christianity is grace.”
Every world religion says you must be good enough to earn God’s
favor,-which really connects with our common belief – you get what
you earn. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma,
the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law, each of these offer
a way to earnGod’s approval, based on what you do. Only
Christianity teaches that God’s love is unconditional, that there is nothing
we can do to earn God’s favor, to be good enough for God, to be accepted by
That’s what makes God’s forgiveness so amazing, so wonderful. It is
offered to us freely, it is available to us unconditionally.
All we have to do is admit what our conscience already reveals to us, -
that we sin. The Bible says that if we simply admit, agree with God that we
sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, he will. It’s a promise God makes to
us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and
will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Forgiveness is available to sinners, to all of us. But to experience
forgiveness we need to ask for it. We need to acknowledge to God that we are
sinners in need of his grace, in need of his forgiveness, in need of his
mercy. The wonderful and amazing thing is that God will forgive us and
he will take our sins from us and do what the Bible says, “remove them as
far as the east is from the west,” which, last I heard, was a really long,
Several years ago I learned a song that speaks about this truth . . . “He
paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to
wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace all day
long, Christ Jesus paid a debt I could never pay.”
Sin is real. We all sin. Forgiveness is available. But we need to ask.
There is a third truth about sin . . . and that is victory is
possible. In other words, we can overcome the besetting sins that trip us
up in life; we can gain victory over chronic sin.
Truth #3: Victory is possible
So how do we? How do we gain victory in our battle against sin? How
can we experience true life change when it comes to sin? Fortunately,
the Bible and Christians from the past point the way. The way to change
includes several important commitments. The first is to decide you want
Decide you want to change
Educators know that ultimately, all learning is self-learning. We
learn when we decide we want to learn. No one can force us to learn.
The same is true when it comes to change and overcoming sin in our life. We
will begin to overcome chronic sin when we decide we really want to; when we really
want to stop being an angry person, being sexually immoral, or
greedy, or envious, or profane,lusting, or whatever. Change begins
when we decide its time to change and that our behavior is not leading us to
life but instead is a pathway to death.
IN the Bible, Romans 6 and 7 are some of the best passages that talk about
dealing with and overcoming sin. They are worth reading. Romans 6:11-
13 is especially helpful. Listen to them,
“ . . . count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its
evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of
wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been
brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as
instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you
are not under law, but under grace.”
In other words, we are to offer our minds, offer our lips,
offer our bodies to God as a place for his righteousness, his holiness
to grow. We are to tell Go we want to be more holy, to move more
decisively in the direction of obedience to him. We need to tell God we
are ready to give our 100% to do so, but we need his help, too . . . which is
another important commitment to make in overcoming chronic sin.
Depend on God for help
Because we are dealing with spiritual issues, overcoming sin and changing
our behavior we need God’s power to help us. Overcoming sin is a combination
of God’s power and our will. It’s a partnership. We must want
to change, we must choose to change . . . AND we must depend on
God for the power to bring about change. Overcoming sin is not 80% God, 20%
us, it’s not even 50% God, 50% us. Its 100% God, 100% us. God’s power and
our will need to be activated together to enable us to overcome sin.
Galatians 5:24, 25 are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. They
say, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful
nature along with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit let us
keep in step with the Spirit.”
I think these verses are quite clear in what they say about what is my
responsibility and what is God’s responsibility in overcoming sin. My
responsibility is to say “no”, N . . . O . . . to sin, and God commits his
Holy Spirit to help me when I say no. You see, God doesn’t deliver me
from temptation but he does enable me to overcome it, to stand against
it, to not give in. Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our
life we can beat overcome chronic sin.
Another commitment to make in overcoming sin is to renew the mind.
Renew your mind
It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Coaches of sports
teams say it, military leaders say it . . . and I think it’s also true
facing temptation. The best defense is a good offense. Perhaps the best
offense we have as Christians against sin and temptation is knowing theBible and prayer. The more we let the Bible into our lives and into our
minds the more strength we have to face temptation and overcome sin.
James 4:7,8 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash
your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
One of the best ways to draw near to God is to read his word, the Bible, to
allow its truth to saturate our mind and our heart. Some time ago I heard a
statement that is so true . . . some might call it a clichČ, I call it a
timeless truth, “Sin will keep you from this Book and this Book will keep
you from sin.” In the battle against sin the Bible is a great weapon. It was
for Jesus when he was tempted. It’s true for us, too.
Another commitment to consider in overcoming sin is to . . .
Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. And the truth is all
of us fail. When it comes to our battle with sin there will be failure.
We will not always succeed, - BUT THAT’S OK!! The goal of the Christian life
is not perfection, it is transformation; it is to be
transformed, to be changed to become more like Jesus Christ. So, when
we fail in temptation and we sin, it’s not over. God doesn’t love us any
less because we have disobeyed him. He loves us still the same. What we
need to do is acknowledge our sin and seek forgiveness even if it is the 100th
time, 1000th time, 10,000th time. God forgives because
he is rich in mercy and love for us.
But learn from your failures when it comes to sin. Take note of what
tripped you up and led you to disobey God. Learn the important lessons failure
teaches and avoid those things which create the environment and feed
the appetite for sin.
Last on this short list is to . . .
One of the joys of life is experiencing great moments with others.
So, we go to sporting events with others, we vacation with
others, we go out to eat with others, we golf with others, we watch
movies with others, we do most everything with others. That’s
because many of life’s greatest moments are meant to be with others.
Illustration: Some time ago I met a guy who had an unusual plan for
personal vacations. He lived in Michigan and his idea of going on vacation was
getting in a car by himself, all alone, and driving rural, back roads. When he
would come to highway intersections he would flip a coin for which direction
to go. Heads right, tails left. I never asked him what he did for going
straight ahead . . . if it came up the edge did he go straight? Anyway, the
guy was quite happy with his approach and bragged about all the interesting
places and people he had met on past vacations. Honestly, I didn’t know what
to say . . . other than, different strokes for different folks. You know, I
have to applaud this guys sense of adventure and willingness to take risks,
but, his idea of vacation certainly isn’t mine! When I go on vacation I want
to go with others because I want to share the moment, I want to share the
journey with them.
Shouldn’t that be true when it comes to dealing with sin in our lives,
too? Wouldn’t it be helpful to find partners in the pursuit of holiness?
Someone else, or a small group, to share our struggles and ask for prayer and
help? One of the greatest weapons against sinful behavior and for
holy behavior that we have is other people, partners who can join us in
the pursuit of holiness.
God encourages us to find partners for the pursuit in Hebrews 3:12,13, “See
to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns
away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is
called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
So, if nothing else in this list makes sense to you, or you don’t find
any of this helpful, at least consider this one suggestion. Find a
partner, or partners in the pursuit of Christlikeness, someone who can
encourage you in the battle against sin. Find partners in the pursuit of
overcoming sin, of living the kind of righteous life God intends all of us to
In a few moments you are going to leave this place and someone may ask you
the same question Coolidge was asked by his wife, “So, what did the guy talk
about?” And, in response, you should say, “Sin.” If they then say, “What
did he say about sin?” You should reply, “He was against it.” And that’s
true, this sermon has been against sin.
But you know what has also been about? It’s also been about being asaint, being a Christian, being someone who overcomes sin. Truth
is, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are BOTH a sinner and a
saint. Sinner and saint, that describes us well. As Christians we are
sinners, we are saints. May the saint that is within us grow and may the
sinner that is within us shrink, all for the glory of God. Amen.