Diehard Sins: A Brief Review

Diehard Sins: How to Fight Wisely against Destructive Daily Habits by [Witt, Rush] Here’s a newer and very good resource on fighting sin and growing in grace: Diehard Sins by Rush Witt.  I have to admit when I first got this book I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’ve read similar books on the topic – some good, some not so good.  This is one of the good ones!

There are three main parts: 1) Enter with Joy into Your Struggle against Daily Sin, 2) Understand the True Needs of Your Heart, and 3) Bring Christ and his Provisions to Your Fight.  The topics covered include a discussion of the nature of sin, what it means to struggle with sin, how to detect sin in your own life, and applying the gospel to the struggle with sin (among others).

I appreciate the book first because it is rooted in Scripture and very much grounded in the gospel.  Witt strikes a nice balance between resting in Christ and actively putting sin to death – you can only do the latter by doing the former.  A big picture summary of the book would probably be like this: How to fight sin by depending on Christ.  Since there is a proper law/gospel distinction, the book gives some helpful biblical lessons in fighting sin.

Another strength of the book is that Witt approaches the topic from a counseling perspective.  It’s not a counseling book specifically, but there are some counseling themes and, in my opinion, helpful wisdom on practical ways to put sin to death.  For example, one appendix is a brief outline to resisting temptation: Refuse, Replace, Pray, and Praise.

Finally, I appreciate how the author mentions that we fight sin best in the context of the body of Christ and the means of grace: the last chapter is called “Fighting Sin in the Community of Faith.”  This book isn’t a call to fight sin on our own, but to do it depending on grace while walking beside and with other believers.

If you want a good resource on fighting sin, I very much recommend this one: Diehard Sins.  There are a few reflection questions after each chapter, so it would make a good group study or book club resource.  I’m glad I own this book, and I’ve already used it in my own ministry!

Rush Witt, Diehard Sins, (P&R Publishing, 2018).

(Note: The author kindly sent me a copy to review, although I was not compelled in any way to write a positive review.  If I didn’t like the book, I would’ve said so!)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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A Long List of Sins

Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross... Every Day This is helpful in the area of sanctification, doubt, and the gospel:

“Accompanying our sincere desire to obey God will be a heightened sensitivity to our indwelling sin.  Often it is our increased awareness of sin that causes us to doubt our salvation or to give Satan an inroad into our minds to suggest that ‘a Christian wouldn’t sin like you do.’  But think about that accusation for a moment.  Satan would certainly not suggest such a thought to an unbeliever.  Rather, he wants unbelievers to be complacent about their sin.  So turn the tables on Satan and your own internal doubts.  Ask yourself if those accusations or doubts are not really a sign that you do trust Christ.”

“There is a story about Martin Luther, perhaps apocryphal, that in a dream he saw Satan standing before him with a long list of his sins.  Luther supposedly asked, ‘Is that all of them?’  to which Satan replied, ‘No, there are many more.’  Luther then said, ‘Put them all down and then write across the whole lot of them, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin.”’

“Whether this story is true or not, it teaches us how to deal with doubts caused by our sin.  We are not to deny or minimize them.  Instead, we should take them to the cross and see Jesus bearing those sins for us.  That very act will motivate us to deal with those sins that are causing our doubts.”

Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, p. 142.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

The Saint Struggling With Sin

[This is a repost from October, 2009.]  Yesterday I was contemplating Galatians 5.17  – For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want  (NRSV) – which brought me to Thomas Watson’s The Godly Man’s Picture.   Watson, in section 19 of the booklet, describes the saint who struggles with sin.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“Though sin lives in him [the godly person], yet he does not live in sin.”

“Though sin is in him, he is troubled at it and would gladly get rid of it. …Sin in a wicked man is delightful, being in its natural place, but sin in a child of God is burdensome and he uses all means to expel it.”

“If we would have peace in our souls, we must maintain a war against our favorite sin and never leave off till it is subdued.”

“Grace and sin may be together, but grace and the love of sin cannot.  Therefore parley [meet] with sin no longer, but with the spear of mortification, spill the heart-blood of every sin.”

“A godly man dare not travel for riches along the devil’s highway.”

So Luther said that the Christian life means a severe struggle which never abates until we leave this world.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

A Living Hell

  Fighting sin can be a living hell.  If a person is trying to renovate himself or become a better person without the gospel, the Word, the Spirit, and prayer, he is fighting Satan without any weapons.  Thomas Watson called a person like this “the old Adam dressed in new clothes.”  In reality, he is doomed at the outset of the battle; his life will either be a living hell of legalism, pride, or complete despair.  John Owen put it this way.

“I…bewail the endless foolish labor of poor souls who, being convinced of sin and not able to stand against the power of thir convictions, do set themselves by innumerable perpelxing ways and duties to keep down sin: but being strangers to the Spirit of God, all in vain.  They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days.  They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which profits not.”

He goes on.

“This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in.  A soul under the power of conviction from the law, is pressed to fight against sin, but has no strength for the combat.  They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of the enemies, in purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back.  Sometimes they think indeed that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust so that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered, when it is not touched.”

Rather than on our own, we need to put to sinful deeds to death by the Spirit (Rom 8.13), depending on Jesus’ work for us (Col 3.1-5), using the Word as our sword (Eph 6.17), and prayer as a great defense against sin (cf. Ps 51), always remembering that God’s grace sustains, motivates, and strengthens us for and in the battle (cf. 2 Cor 12.19).  Owen explains gospel-driven mortification like this.

“Mortification of any sin must be by a supply of grace.  Of ourselves we cannot do it.”

“Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ.”

“In one word, this whole work [of mortification] which I have described as our duty, is affected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit.”

This is a trustworthy saying: if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom 8.13).  Amen!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Comfort While Waging War Against Sin

 This book by Christopher Love on mortification (putting sin to death – Col. 3.5) has been a huge help to me personally and pastorally.  Here’s one emphasis of Love’s that I found especially helpful.  Often in the battle against sin in our lives, it is easy to despair when we realize how terribly dark and ugly our hearts are.  Sometimes, we even fall back into some sin we thought was long gone.  Christopher Love tells us not to despair in these things; he gives some comfort to weary sin-battling soldiers.

1) Mortification is for this life, glorification is for the life to come.  This is God’s way for the Christian.  “You must not expect the whole work of sanctification to be wrought in  a moment.”

2) God will never show you more of your sin than you can bear.  “You may be sure to have no more laid upon you than you have strength to grapple with.”

3) God will repay the devil for tormenting you.  Struggling against the devil’s temptations is not a sin charged to your account, but the devil will pay eternally in hell for trying to make you sin.  “These are the devil’s sins, and not yours.”

4) By Christ’s strength and grace we mortify sin. “Though he himself does all for us and we do nothing, yet he rewards us as if we had done it ourselves. … Oh what a comfort this is, that we have such a good God to fight for us and subdue our iniquities for us!”

5) Fighting sin helps us pray more frequently and fervently.  “When the suggestions of Satan and solicitations to sin increase, your hearty prayers to God and resolutions against these sins increase too.”

This is a summary of Christopher Love’s pastoral comfort to Christians struggling against sin.  These are awesome things to think about as we put on God’s armor to fight temptation and sin.  I encourage you to add more biblical comforts to that list as you battle the sins in your heart and life.  Love also said this, which I’ll end with: “Sin may be a combatant, but it shall never be a conqueror” of the Christian.

shane lems

Fighting Sin(ful Habits)

 Tim Chester’s You Can Change is a great help for the Christian battling sin and sinful habits.  For me, it was sort of like all of my favorite biblical counseling books in one.  It is theologically sound, biblical, and very practical for the daily struggle we call sanctification.  To be honest, as I think about it again, I really can’t recommend this book enough.  I was encouraged by the grace-centered approach to this subject; no doubt I’ll utilize this book for future sermons and pastoral counseling situations.  Here’s a glimpse:

“We don’t change so we can prove ourselves to God.  We’re accepted by God so we can change.  God gives us a new identity, and this new identity is the motive and basis for our change.”

“We become Christians by faith in Jesus, we stay Christians by faith in Jesus, and we grow as Christians by faith in Jesus.”

“God promises to meet our true needs, but we can’t expect him to satisfy our selfish desires.  God isn’t a divine waiter, ready to serve us whatever we want.  God isn’t the key to good life (however I choose to define it).  He defines the good life.  He is the good life.  God must be desired for his own sake, not as the purveyor of worldly success.”

“We need to be violent with sin. … We must always be on a war footing.”

In a word, You Can Change is a great resource to help train the Christian in his/her fight against sin.  Put this on your list for 2011! 

shane lems

Towards Spiritual Maturity (William Still)

Towards Spiritual Maturity William Still was an excellent Scottish preacher who died in 1997.  I only recently ran across this man’s work, so I can’t yet comment more than to say I enjoyed his book, Towards Spiritual Maturity (Ross-Shire: Christian Focus, 2010).  This book is brief, clear, to the point, and very affordable.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from it.

….It is not wrong to regard the death of Christ as the supreme example of sacrificial love; but his death is more than that.  Failure to see this accounts for the spiritual listlessness of many who hold a mere exemplary view as the whole truth.  For the death of Christ is no mere display of love in action.  It is the putting away of the sins which set up a barrier to the very possibility of love between God and man.  It is not only an exhibition, but a removal.  Indeed it is more a removal than an exhibition, for it is one thing to show sinners what they ought to do, and quite another to do it for them when they are helpless to do anything for themselves.  We need not only pictures, but power, not only diagrams, but dynamics.  This we have in the death of Christ, which is nothing if not an actual, factual, objective putting away of our sins.”

In case you’re interested – and you should be! – Still discusses how Christ on his cross removed sins, overthrew the reign of sin, and defeated Satan.  Then Still explains how to fight evil based on the gospel truth of Christ’s victory.  This book is written at a popular level; I’m guessing a mature high school student would benefit from it.  As I mentioned above, it is inexpensive (under $8 at the WTS bookstore).  Enjoy!

shane lems