When Paul says to put to death the deeds of the body “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13), I take him to mean that we should use the one weapon in the Spirit’s armor that is used to kill. Namely, the sword. Which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
So when the body is about to be led into a sinful action by some fear or craving, we are to take the sword of the Spirit and kill that fear and that craving. In my experience that means mainly severing the root of sin’s promise by the power of a superior promise.
So, for example, when I begin to crave some illicit sexual pleasure, the sword-swing that has often severed the root of this promised pleasure is: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I recall the pleasures I have tasted of seeing God more clearly from an undefiled conscience; and I recall the brevity and superficiality and oppressive aftertaste of sin’s pleasures, and with that, God has killed the conquering power of sin.
It is a beautiful thing to be the instrument of God’s word-wielding power to kill sin.
Having promises at hand that suit the temptation of the hour is one key to successful warfare against sin. But there are times when we don’t have a perfectly suited word from God in our minds. And there is no time to look through the Bible for a tailor-made promise.
So we all need to have a small arsenal of general promises ready to use whenever fear or craving threaten to lead us astray.
Here are a few of my most proven weapons:
1. "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10)
I have slain more dragons in my soul with that sword than any other I think. It is a precious weapon to me.
2. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).
How many times I have been persuaded in the hour of trial by this verse that the reward of disobedience could never be greater than "all things."
3. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18).
How many times have I strengthened my sagging spirit with the assurance that the Lord of heaven and earth is just as much with me today as he was with the disciples on earth!
4. "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me" (Psalms 50:15).
What makes this weapon so compelling is that God’s helping me is made the occasion of my glorifying him. Amazing arrangement. I get the help, he gets the glory!
5. "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus"(Philippians 4:19).
The context is financial and material. But the principle is total. What we really need (not just want) will be granted. And what is need? Need is what we must have to do God’s will. What we must have to magnify our Savior. That is what we will be given as we trust him.
Be constantly adding to your arsenal of promises. But never lose sight of the chosen few that God has blessed in your life. Do both. Be ever-ready with the old. And every morning look for a new one to take with you through the day.
Our National Conference this September (2012) is about sanctification — "act the miracle: god's work and ours in the mystery of sanctification." We're thrilled with this theme and would love to have you join us. Plenary speakers include Kevin DeYoung, Ed Welch, Jarvis Williams, Russell Moore, and John Piper.
John Piper (@johnpiper) is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN) and the founder of Desiring God.