Practicing the Christ-Centered Life, Part 1: Battling Besetting Sins

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 ESV

This is the first post in a series seeking to apply the truths of the above verse to practical Christian living. The goal is to examine how one can practice Christ-centered living in specific situations.

Please understand that this is not intended to be formulaic. Life is messy. We encounter thousands of different scenarios in which we must incorporate biblical principles with great discernment. Following a rigid formula does not guarantee success. Hopefully the general biblical truths applied in the hypothetical scenario below will be a helpful encouragement to living a Christ-centered life in practical areas.

Scripture: Galatians 2:20 tells Christians four important truths. 1) I am a new person in Christ. My old self was crucified with Him when I was united to Him by faith. 2) Christ now lives in me. I have the power and presence of God in my life. 3) I live my life now by faith in Christ. I keep trusting in what He has done for me and what He has promised me and keep applying His Word to my life. 4) Christ loved me and died for me. What motivates me to live for Jesus is the great love and grace He showed me.

Scenario: A believer repeatedly succumbs to the sins of bitterness and anger. Knowing that these sins are inconsistent with a life that pleases Christ, the believer desires to put away these sins. How can a believer battle besetting sins like these with the truth of Galatians 2:20?

1) I am a new person in Christ. Since my old, unregenerate self was crucified with Christ when I came to Jesus by faith, the sins of the old self no longer rule in my life. So if I am the believer in the above scenario, I must realize that God has broken the power of bitterness and anger over me (Rom. 6:6). This is what God has already done for me through the gospel of Jesus Christ. United to Christ’s death and resurrection, I have likewise died and been raised to walk in the newness of life. Thus besetting sins do not have the power which I think they have because God has freed me from their power and changed me.

2) Christ now lives in me. A new power is present in my life. The Lord Jesus lives in me through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-10). The power of sin is replaced by the power of Christ. I don’t battle bitterness and anger alone. Christ is battling those sins in and through me (Phil. 2:13). He is producing fruit in me through His Spirit – fruit like kindness, gentleness, self-control which subdue and replace bitterness and anger in my life. Jesus is greater than my sin.

3) I live by faith in Christ. I must believe what the Bible is telling me about my sins. Because I am in Christ, I no longer have to yield to their power. Christ is empowering me to fight successfully against my bitterness and anger. Since I believe these things are true of me in Christ, I must now apply these to my life by faith. This means I battle my bitterness and anger by faith. I depend upon the Spirit to help me kill these sins (Rom. 8:13). Believing that Christ is working in me, I must and can obey commands of Scripture like this: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Therefore, by faith, I actively strive to put off bitterness and anger, and show kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness to others.

4) Christ loved me and died for me. The battle against besetting sins starts and ends with God’s great grace. The reason I can even begin to deal with bitterness and anger is because His grace in Christ has forgiven me, freed me, changed me and empowered me. And the motivating reason why I continue to battle my sin is the fact that Christ loved me and died for me. The more I remind myself of the great love and grace of Christ, the more I will desire to battle bitterness and anger. The more I center my mind on Christ and what He has done for me, the more I will center my life on Christ and what He is doing in me.

Christ is now the center of my life. Because of my union with Him, I can battle and win in the fight against besetting sins like bitterness and anger. I must prayerfully depend on His Spirit and actively obey His Word. And in all my doing I must keep believing that Christ is powerfully working in me.

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