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  • Paul Reich

The Life-Changing Power of God’s Word (Part 8)

God's Word teaches us how to overcome sin and grow in our relationship with God ("Training in Righteousness" continued)

 

Photo by by James Chan from Pixabay

 

One of my fond memories growing up in western Montana was fishing. Montana is a fisherman’s paradise filled with glacial lakes, fresh mountain brooks, cascading streams, and surging rivers. Our catch of choice was trout – rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout. They all tasted great fried in an egg and crumb batter or soaked in a brine and smoked with apple wood.


Bait fishing was especially rewarding during Salmonfly season. Salmonflies are the largest of the stonefly family and irresistible to trout. The lifecycle of a Salmonfly goes through four simple stages – egg, nymph, emergent, and adult. The nymph is called a hellgrammite. Fully grown, it is about two inches in length, resembling a creature from a science fiction movie that looks somewhat like a centipede with the head of an army ant. Though the origin of the term “hellgrammite” is unknown, some believe that the first syllable comes from the word “hell” due to the painful bite that its head pincers can inflict.

Photo of hellgrammite by DellaRay923, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Laid just under the water’s surface by an adult Salmonfly, the eggs hatch in a stream or river and early life for a hellgrammite takes place as an aquatic insect. Being carnivorous, hellgrammites feast on other aquatic insects and even small minnows as they grow from small larvae to full-grown hellgrammites, shedding their exoskeletons numerous times. Then at the right time, hellgrammites emerge from the water and attach themselves to rocks and shrubs, shedding their exoskeleton one last time, emerging as adult Salmonflies.


Mostly brown with large wings and deep orange highlights on its underside, the large Salmonfly is both an attractive and a sizeable meal for a hungry trout. In my youth, we collected Salmonflies by the dozens from riverside bushes and kept them in airhole punched containers until needed for luring a hungry trout. The stomachs of trout caught during Salmonfly season were filled with these delectable creatures. Of course, the fun part for us was fighting a sizeable trout and later eating it after it had been properly prepared. Such is the food cycle.


Image by Gary Eichin from Pixabay


While fishing, it is not uncommon to find dried hellgrammite exoskeletons plastering rocks and riverside vegetation. These hollow shells resemble the real thing, but they are lifeless and easily crushed with a pinch of the fingers. They serve as an apt illustration of the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy about men who have a “form of godliness” but deny the regenerating and transforming power of the Holy Spirit to truly make them godly in character and behavior (2 Timothy 3:5). Having a semblance of religion on the outside, they were empty shells void of spiritual life. As stated in previous blogs, God is not interested in religious externalism, but rather in having a family indwelt by His Spirt who genuinely reflect His righteous character in thought, word, and action.


In my past two posts, I examined the Bible’s role for training us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3;16). So far, we’ve looked at two types of righteousness – imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness. Imputed righteousness speaks of our position of right standing before God because of Christ’s atoning death. Imparted righteousness speaks of the practical outworking of the Holy Spirit’s transforming power making us more like Christ and enabling us to live righteously. The first is the result of justification, the latter is the result of sanctification.


Most recently, I explored the Bible’s role in training us to live righteously. God’s desire is that we learn to overcome sin and live in a way that pleases Him. Jesus did not die to forgive our sins only for us to continue living in sin. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24a NET – emphasis added). “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin (1 John 2:1a NASB – emphasis added).

Illustration by Jim Lamb, taken from Discussion Manual for Student Discipleship, Vol 1, written by Dawson McAllister and Dan Webster, pg. 72.


The Bible trains us in righteousness in at least three ways: 1) by teaching us what is right and wrong, 2) by teaching us how to overcome sin and live righteously, and 3) by teaching us how to grow in our relationship with God. Having covered the first of these in my last post, I will briefly cover the latter two in this post.


2) The Bible Teaches Us How to Overcome Sin and Live Righteously


In past blogs, I’ve already explored various biblical angles for overcoming sin, growing in Christlikeness, and living righteously. In particular, see my post “Transformed into Christ’s Image,” my four-part series “The Power for Transformation,” my four-part series on godliness (covering the power, progression, and profit of godliness), my post “Brainwashed,” my four-part series “Take Every Thought Captive,” and my two-part series “You Are What You Think.” Each of these posts provide insights and keys for experiencing transformation and living a righteous and victorious Christian life.


The Bible has much to teach regarding how to overcome sin and live righteously. Because this is an extensive topic, I’ve chosen to briefly outline some of the ways the Bible instructs us in this regard, listing several pertinent passages for each biblical truth. We can overcome sin and live righteously by understanding and applying the following biblical insights and strategies.


By Understanding and Resting in Christ's Victory over Evil Forces

  • Ephesians 1:18–22I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know . . . the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. . . . which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion [compare Ephesians 3:10; 6:12], and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

  • Ephesians 2:4–6 But God . . . made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

  • See also Colossians 2:13–15

By Recognizing and Reckoning We Have Died to Sin and Are Alive to God

  • Romans 6:6–7, 11knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. . . . Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

  • Colossians 3:5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

By Presenting Our Bodies to God as Instruments of Righteousness

  • Romans 6:12–13Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

  • Romans 12:1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

By Renewing Our Minds

  • Romans 8:6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

  • Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

  • Ephesians 4:23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

By Overcoming the Flesh in the Power of the Spirit

  • Galatians 5:16 - But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

  • Galatians 5:24–25 - Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

  • Romans 8:12–13So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

  • See also Romans 13:14

By Putting off Sin and Putting on Righteousness

  • Romans 13:12–14 – . . . Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

  • Ephesians 4:22–24that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

  • Colossians 3:8–10But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—

By Understanding and Overcoming Temptation

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

  • James 1:13–15Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

  • 2 Peter 2:9athen the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation,

By Praying

  • Matthew 6:13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

  • Matthew 26:41“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

By Overcoming the Devil and His Schemes

  • 2 Corinthians 2:11so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

  • Ephesians 6:11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

  • James 4:7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

  • 1 Peter 5:8–9aBe of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, . . . .

  • See also 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Revelation 12:11

In addition to numerous passages that provide powerful insights and strategies for overcoming sin and living righteously, the Bible also teaches about God-given resources for overcoming sin and walking righteously. The apostle Peter tells us, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3 NASB). Here are some of the things God has granted us so that we can experience a transformed life that is pleasing to Him.


His Spirit

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

  • Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

  • Galatians 5:22–23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

  • See also “Overcoming the Flesh by the Power of the Holy Spirit” above.

His Nature

  • 2 Peter 1:4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

  • 1 John 3:9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

  • See also 1 John 5:4, 18

His Word

  • Psalm 37:31 – The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.

  • Psalm 119:9, 11How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. . . . Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.

  • John 8:31–32So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” [the context refers to being free from sin]

  • John 17:17 – Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

  • See also Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12

His Discipline

  • Psalm 119:67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.

  • Hebrews 12:10–11For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

His Grace

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

  • Philippians 2:12b–13 – . . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

  • Titus 2:11–12For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

His Wisdom

  • Proverbs 2:6–13, 20For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; . . . .So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.

Many other Scriptural passages and insights could be presented, but these are plenty sufficient to show that the Bible not only teaches us what is right and wrong, but also teaches us how to overcome sin and live righteously. It would take a book to unpack the truths contained in the passages listed above, so they will provide much fodder for your own study and reflection.


3) The Bible Teaches Us How to Grow in Our Relationship with God


Thirdly, the Bible teaches us how to grow in our relationship with God. Biblically, a life of righteousness is far more than integrity and morality, it is a life of piety and devotion to God. It is daily walking in fellowship with God, pursuing relational intimacy with Him, and seeking to please Him. Righteous living is not possible apart from a growing experiential knowledge of God. Your relationship with God is the root of righteousness, and righteous living is the fruit of that relationship. This means that the primary key for overcoming sin and living righteously is to focus attention on pursuing God. Life-change will be a byproduct of true intimacy with Him.


The main purpose of the Scriptures is to help you know God and deepen your intimacy with Him. To gain all the other benefits from the Word of God and miss the God of the Word is to miss the main point (John 5:39-47). Through the Scriptures you will come to know who God is, what He is like, what is important to Him, what His will is, what He feels, what His ways are, what His plans are, and much more. Just as you come to know the heart and mind of another person by the words they speak, God’s Word is first and foremost a revelation of God’s heart and mind to you.

Illustration by Jim Lamb, taken from Discussion Manual for Student Discipleship, Vol 1, written by Dawson McAllister and Dan Webster, pg. 124.


Of utmost importance, the Bible shows you how to have a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6 NASB). Defining the primary purpose of salvation, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NASB). To help in this regard, God gives His Spirit to every believer so that we can know Him and the things freely given by Him (Romans 8:14-16; 1 Corinthians 2:11-14).


Moreover, God’s word instructs you on practices that help you grow in your relationship with Him. Practices such as prayer, worship, fasting, and the intake of God’s Word through hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, and meditating on it. These and other spiritual disciplines provide regular opportunities for you to encounter God, experience His presence, and deepen intimacy with Him. The true purpose of spiritual disciplines is relational intimacy, not religious duty. They also allow God opportunity to reveal your heart, deal with your attitudes, transform your thoughts, and shape your character.


At its most basic level, faith is believing that God exists and that He will reward you if you diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). As you daily step out in faith to seek Him, God will reward you with a deeper experience of Himself. The Bible promises, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a NASB). In addition, as you spend time in God’s Word, you will learn to hear His voice and make opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in your life. God will speak to you through His written Word, and the Holy Spirit will open your understanding to help you know God better, know His will, and know how to apply His Word to your life. As you obey, God will further reward you in numerous other ways.


Above all other benefits, the purpose of the Scriptures is to help you grow in your relationship with God. The other benefits discussed in this series – teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness – will all flow from a deepening relationship with God enabled through His Word.


Closing and Looking Forward


The Bible plays an important role for training us in righteousness. We have seen that it does this by teaching us what is right and wrong, how to overcome sin and live righteously, and how to grow in our relationship with God. Much more could be said in this regard since living righteously involves every area of our lives including our relationships (how we love and serve others), our stewardship (how we manage the responsibilities and possessions God has entrusted to us), and our work (how we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives and utilize the knowledge and skills He has given us). Each of these topics (plus others) merit their own treatment which I will reserve for future posts. Having now posted three blogs on how the Bible trains us in righteousness, we will move on. In my next post, I will wrap up this series by looking at how the Bible helps “the person dedicated to God [to] be capable and equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17 NET).



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