How Does Jesus Christ Help Us Overcome Sin?

You might have heard the phrase somewhere about “gaining victory over sin” through “the power of Jesus Christ” or “through the blood of Jesus,” etc. But what does that mean exactly, and how does it all work…especially if we’re still having to live out our lives in a world that’s still full of sin?

It’s a process. And it’s not necessarily something we “win,” like a race with a trophy at the end. Rather, this kind of victory means that we belong to Jesus—so the “wages of sin” (death) will no longer keep us from eternal life with Him (Romans 6:23).

But we don’t have to wait until Judgment Day to experience this victory. With Jesus as our Savior, He promised us His Holy Spirit to help us learn, grow, and become stronger in our faith, which helps us become more and more resistant to the many temptations life throws at us.

And the more time we spend with Jesus through prayer and Bible study, the more empowered we’ll become to reflect His sinless character.

But even as we draw closer to Jesus, overcoming sin isn’t easy.

There are many people out there wondering if they can live a true, Christian life, without the desire to act in self-serving ways. How can we overcome that strong desire to do things our own way?

Let’s look to Scripture to find the answers to the following questions:

Let’s begin with definitions and background information.

What is sin and why do we need to overcome it?

According to the Bible, sin is anything that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).

When most people think of sin, they think about things they’ve done wrong. But sin doesn’t just lie in our actions—it comes from our nature or character (Luke 6:45).

Sure, we’re capable of doing good works, too. But because we’re born into a sinful word, we’re born with a sinful nature. We’re weak against temptation, and we often give in to the tendency to put ourselves over others.

Humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), which includes the power of free will. That’s how sin even came into existence on our earth—when Adam and Eve, the first humans, chose their own ambitions over God’s guidance (Genesis 3). By choosing to know both good and evil (Genesis 3:5, 22), constant decisions between the two became part of human life from then on.

And with the capacity to freely choose between something selfish or unselfish (or some mishmash in between), it’s all too common that we choose the path of least resistance—or the one that requires the least amount of willpower.

For example, it’s easier to keep a wallet you find instead of trying to track down its owner. It’s easier to avoid a person we find annoying instead of answering their many phone calls. It’s easier to goof off at work when the boss is gone than to stay on task—especially when you know you can get away with it.

And the more we cave in to our selfish tendencies, the more we feed them—and the more they grow.

But selfishness can never be satisfied. So in that way, sin keeps us from experiencing the blessings of living a life of love for God—such as peace, contentment, joy, etc.

And to make matters worse, sinning being “easy” isn’t the only complicating factor when it comes to our sinful nature. Satan, the Devil, is also trying to deceive us (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). He makes sinful things look satisfying and fun, when ultimately they leave us empty.

So it’s no wonder that sin can ruin relationships—with ourselves, with others, and ultimately, with God.

That’s how sin separates us from God—the only one who will truly, unconditionally love us.

Without Him, we can’t experience true happiness.

So in order to close the gap between us and God, we must obtain a new nature—one that reflects His just and merciful character.

But the thing is, we can’t obtain this nature on our own. We have to ask God to help us be more like Him.

This is the first step toward victory over sin.

What does it mean to gain victory over sin?

We can only experience victory over sin by accepting Jesus as our Savior.

This is because the first part of gaining a new nature is recognizing the problems with our “old nature.”

When we accept Jesus, it starts with acknowledgment. We acknowledge that we have a sinful nature and can’t become sinless and loving on our own. We need a savior.

We also acknowledge that Jesus is a loving Savior with the power to forgive our sins (Colossians 2:14). So we ask for forgiveness of the sins of our old ways and ask Jesus to help us become a new creation in Him. We allow Him to help us become the best version of ourselves.

And like all good things, it’s a gradual process. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Remember…sin isn’t all about our actions, it’s about our nature. And the change of our very nature is done through baby steps.

Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, works with us each day. And as we grow, we’ll slowly become less self-serving and more attuned to the needs of others.

Spending time with Him in prayer and Bible study facilitates this growth.

We’ll become more like Christ, who is our example, and we’ll desire more and more to follow God’s loving law (Hebrews 8:10).

One verse summarizes this new nature pretty well:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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 by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, NKJV).

Overall, the process of obtaining a new nature can be best understood by breaking it into two stages: Justification and sanctification.

Justification

A person before the Cross, accepting Jesus Christ's gift of eternal life

Photo by Daniel Joshua on Unsplash

This occurs when we sincerely accept Jesus as our Savior. This happens in our minds, and it’s a decision no one can make for us.

Often, once people accept Jesus’ justification, they decide to become baptized. It’s a way to formally demonstrate this decision; and the symbolism of dying to our “old self” and being resurrected through Jesus to a new life helps us internalize what this decision really means.

When we are justified, we believe Jesus’ perfect sacrifice makes atonement for our sins and takes them away. We step forward in faith, asking Jesus to renew our hearts daily.

In this way, He gives us victory over sin by forgiving our sins and giving us assurance that sin won’t win in the end. We will receive salvation (eternal life with Jesus) through the acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross.

Sanctification

This stage occurs after justification and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

Even after we’re justified through Christ and determined to live as a Christian, we’ll still experience the ups and downs of an imperfect life.

We may still struggle with selfishness, but now we know we have a Savior who can forgive us and lead us back to following Him and pursuing a life based on love.

And gradually, the more we follow Jesus, the more we’ll want to be like Him. While we may fall back into old habits at times, we can know that we don’t have to fight against these things alone. We know our willpower isn’t strong enough, so we rely on God.

In this way, Jesus continues to give us victory over sin by helping us put aside our selfish desires in favor of serving others. He inspires us to live perfectly through the example of His own sinless life that He lived among us. And while the process will be gradual, the results will be well worth it.

Sounds simple, right?

All you have to do is accept Jesus, and accept the new nature He gives you.

But many Christians wonder if adopting Jesus’ nature means adopting His sinless perfection (and if achieving such a state is even possible).

After all, we know the Bible says we can’t be perfect on our own (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

So how exactly does this work?

Let’s break this down in simple terms.

There are three things to know about obtaining victory over sin:

  • We can’t achieve perfection on our own. We can only be perfected through our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:14).
  • Sanctification is an ongoing process.
  • God provides us with ways to combat temptation, and overcome sin. And the more we follow His ways, the more we’ll be able to resist it.

And with that, let’s start with one of the most powerful ways to fight temptation—relying on the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit as our guide

Above all else, Jesus sends us His Holy Spirit to guide us through our fight against sin.

The Holy Spirit helps us by:

  • Acting as our conscience, helping us discern between right and wrong (1 Corinthians 2: 10-13; Galatians 5:16).
  • Showing us the will of God and helping us understand the spiritual truths of Scripture (John 16:13).
  • Helping us remember and apply Bible verses and concepts in everyday life (Luke 12:11-12; John 14:25, 26).
  • Reminding us to live like Jesus (Galatians 5:25).
  • Helping us desire a closer relationship with Jesus, making us stronger Christians (John 14: 25, 26).
  • Helping us pray (Romans 8:26).

When we sincerely pursue God and seek to understand His ways, our relationship with Him will be that much stronger. And it’ll become easier to discern His will for our lives.

On the other hand, if we neglect to spend time with Jesus, we’ll find that we have a harder time hearing and understanding the Holy Spirit. This is because our neglect demonstrates a choice to prioritize other things over the Holy Spirit.

And because the Holy Spirit would never force us to follow Him or listen to Him, He steps back—respecting our free will. And when that happens, it becomes much more difficult to discern His will as clearly as before.

This is why it’s so important to actively and continually invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. Our victory over sin comes from accepting Jesus’ sacrifice, and attuning ourselves to His Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Prayer

A woman with her hands folded over her Bible, praying to understand the will of God

Image by reenablack from Pixabay

Prayer is another essential in the Christian journey.

We can use prayer to tell Him about our worries, struggles, joys, and hopes. We can also use it to ask for forgiveness. Prayer can be a wonderful way to ask God to help us be more like Him.

And the more we pray, the better we’ll be able to discern God’s will for us and desire to live a more Christ-like life.

When you pray, you can even ask God to help you take advantage of other tools He’s given us—like the Bible.

Though Scripture may take some studying to fully comprehend its many helpful concepts, God promises that the Holy Spirit will also guide you in your understanding of it (John 16:13).

Reading the Bible

The Word of God also contains everything we need to know about Jesus.

Living a Christian life means modeling our characters after Christ’s. And the rest of Scripture gives us stories, letters, poems, and prophecies that show us God’s plan and the wonderful things that are in store for those who choose to follow Him.

Besides that, the Bible contains a record of how the Holy Spirit has led Bible heroes and prophets to accomplish great things, even though they started out as average people like us.

And the Bible’s wisdom also helps us in our day-to-day struggles. We can put on the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:17-20) to defend us against temptation, helping reinforce our victory over sin through Christ.

But one important lesson from Scripture that stands out here is that many people failed when they convinced themselves they could attain sinless perfection on their own.

In fact, this very mindset can lead people to fall deeper into sin.

If someone feels they’re doing a good job being perfect on their own, they can become prideful, and become blinded to their need for a savior.

On the other hand, if someone feels they need to achieve God’s standard of perfection on their own, they can become incredibly discouraged and depressed when it doesn’t work out.

The Bible shows us just how much God wants to help us. To love us. To guide us. It’s only by accepting Jesus that we are able to overcome sin. His power is the only thing that can help us resist temptation, and show us what living a sinless life is all about.

What does the Bible say about overcoming sin?

Let’s look at how the Bible can lay out a step-by-step process for finding victory over sin through Jesus Christ. You might want to note several of these passages of Scripture for further study.

  • The first step is accepting Jesus as your Savior: The Bible tells us we can only overcome sin by accepting Jesus (John 3:16; Hebrews 10:14; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 1:7-9).
  • Those who served as spiritual leaders in the Bible all had personal relationships with God: Some of them were even able to talk to God directly, seeking His guidance and wisdom for the challenges they faced. Others would pray all throughout the day, asking God for wisdom and direction. Here are some good stories to start with:
    • Noah (Genesis 5:30 – 9:29)
    • Joseph (Genesis 30-50)
    • Moses (Exodus 2 – 40)
    • Abraham (Genesis 11:27 – 25:11)
    • Ruth (Ruth 1-4)
    • Deborah (Judges 4-5)
    • David (1 Samuel 16 – 1 Kings 2:11)
    • Daniel (Daniel 1-12)
  • Baptism is a big part of the transformation process: Baptism ties into the whole concept of conquering sin because baptism is a way of announcing your choice to follow God’s wisdom instead of human wisdom. It’s making a commitment to live a new life, to no longer walk as nonbelievers do, “in the futility of their thoughts” (Ephesians 4:17, NKJV). It also plays a role in helping us formally accept the new nature Jesus will give us when we are “born again” (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 3:21).
  • Jesus guides Christians through the Holy Spirit: When Jesus left for heaven in His ascension, He promised Christians He would send the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God, to empower and guide them.

We saw this manifested in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Similarly, the Bible promises that any Christian can accept the Holy Spirit, who will guide them to a life of following Christ. (Acts 2:38; John 3:6; John14:17-18; John14:26;  Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:17).

  • How faith “works”: Many Christians get hung up on the subject of faith and works. What many of them fail to realize is that faith and works are equally important. That’s because our faith in Jesus saves us, and our works stand as evidence of our faith and transformation in Christ.

After all, someone who only works and never believes will not get to heaven because they don’t believe in Jesus. In contrast, someone who believes but acts contrary to how Jesus would act is not a true believer of Christ. So the real way we conquer sin is by believing in Jesus and stepping forward in active faith and service to Him (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:6; John 3:36; John 15:5;  Matthew 3:8; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:1-5, James 2:14-26; Romans 4).

  • We must strive towards obtaining a Christ-like character: While we can’t achieve a perfectly blameless character on our own, we won’t make any progress if we’re not actively pursuing Jesus. Paul describes this like a race we run for our entire lives (Philippians 3:12-15; 4:1; 1 Peter 1:14-15; 2 Chronicles 15: 7; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Colossians 3:1-4).
  • Even the strongest Christians fall sometimes: Remember the righteous Bible figures we just talked about? Well, even they messed up sometimes. Sometimes in very big ways.

Noah got drunk and embarrassed himself, Abraham lied to a king, Moses killed someone, and David murdered a man and stole his wife. Even the apostle Paul was guilty of murdering numerous Christians.

So what actually made these men righteous? The fact that they acknowledged their sins, approached God for forgiveness, and repented. And they would often praise God for His love and mercy. In the end, it was their relationship with God that kept them from being ensnared by their sins (Genesis 6:9; 9:18-28; 15:6; 20; Numbers 12:6-8; Exodus 2:12; 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:9-11; 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51).

  • It’s not a sin to be tempted: Temptation is inevitable. What’s not okay is to give into the temptation. After all, even Jesus was tempted. But He refused to listen to Satan. Because He had studied the Bible, He could see the ways Satan tried to twist Scripture and was able to refute him. In the same way, we should read our Bibles to prepare ourselves to resist temptation (Matthew 4; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:15-16).
  • God wants to free you from the power of sin because He loves you: Because God is all-knowing, He oftentimes sees what we can’t. He wants to free us from sin because He can see the way it ultimately hurts us. God wants us to live a prosperous, happy life (Romans 5:8; 6:23; John 3:16; 1 John 5:18; Galatians 2:20).
  • God wants you to choose freedom from sin today: God is patient and merciful. He knows that overcoming sin is the work of a lifetime. At the same time, He doesn’t want you to delay in making a firm decision to deny sin’s power over your life. Because until then, sin will guide your life, and the longer you live that way, the harder it will be for God to reach you.

God wants you to step forward today and claim His promise to deliver you from sin. It is only with this daily decision to choose Christ that we are able to move forward in victory over sin (1 Peter 3:9; Acts 22:16; Ezekiel 33:11; Psalm 40:11; Romans 5:10-11; Isaiah 55:6).

Do saved people still struggle with sin?

Once someone commits their life to Jesus, the issue of sin doesn’t entirely go away. This is because we still live in a sinful world where temptation exists. And until we’ve been wholly transformed at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15:53-55), we will still have to resist our selfish nature.

But that doesn’t mean justified Christians are left to fight the battle against sin on their own.

We know that Jesus has given us what we need to fight against temptation—like prayer, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit’s influence. And the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

But like any battle, the fight against sin can be challenging. We have to constantly turn to the tools Jesus gave us to stand a chance against temptation.

That’s why Christianity isn’t just a matter of getting baptized and going to church. It’s a daily choice to surrender your life to God’s will (Philippians 3:12-15).

It will take time. But Jesus understands that all good things take time. He doesn’t expect immediate perfection—He just expects us to grow.

Christian author, C.S. Lewis, phrases it this way:

“And yet—this is the other and equally important side of it—this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty.”1

We don’t have to stress over becoming sinless before Jesus comes again. We just have to accept that as long as we’re opening ourselves up to Jesus, He will transform us at our own pace.

It is true that the idea of surrendering to Jesus might seem difficult at first.

That may be because it sounds an awful lot like giving up, or like losing control.

Some people hold back from fully surrendering to God because they’ve been told that they have to give up everything they enjoy to serve God.

But that’s not true. And that kind of thinking paints an inaccurate picture of God as someone who restricts and deprives His people of any joy or pleasure.

But this isn’t how God intends us to view Christian living at all. God longs to give us every good thing (Psalm 34:8-11). The only times He keeps something from us is when He knows it will harm us in the end.

And that’s precisely why He wants to keep us from sin.

After all, when we choose sin, we give up the opportunity to experience the love and blessings of our creator, heavenly father, and friend. It also keeps us from loving those around us.

In short, sin is the opposite of love.

But Satan likes to hide what sin is by making it appeal to our tendency toward selfishness. He gives us temporary pleasure at the expense of long term satisfaction, or the happiness of others. And then he tries to make God seem cruel by convincing us He doesn’t want us to have any joy or peace.

But the Bible tells us the fruit of the Spirit, or the result of following Jesus, leads to joy and peace (and love, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, patience, generosity, and self-control) (Galatians 5:22-23). He offers to give us what our hearts most desire (Psalm 37:4), as well as peace (John 14:27). And these blessings in no way encourage selfishness because God then encourages us to share His blessing with others, as a means of multiplying the joy God has given us (1 Peter 3:9).

The truth is, gaining victory over sin doesn’t mean giving up everything we’ve ever loved or enjoyed. It’s not even about getting rid of anything that might potentially tempt us in the future.

It’s about allowing Jesus to transform our lives.

Want to deepen your relationship with Jesus or further your study of His Word?

A church pastor, elders, Bible workers, etc., can get you all the resources you need to better understand the different ways we can fight temptation and grow closer to Christ. 

 Even if you just need a listening ear, it can be a good idea to find someone who can sympathize with and help you overcome your struggles.

Want to know more about surrendering to Jesus, and claiming power over sin?

Above all, remember that the path to righteousness is a long one, but a fulfilling one. Keep striving, but be patient with yourself. Jesus will help you be more like Him one step at a time.

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  1.  Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, p. 202 []

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