Skip to comments.Charles Finney: “How to Overcome Sin”
Posted on 02/01/2014 9:41:58 AM PST by EscondidoSurfer
How exactly does one overcome sin? As one who has thought much about this, I always enjoy reading other perspectives.
Charles Finney (1792-1875)the famous revivalistwrote directly about this issue in an article called How to Overcome Sin (see link at the bottom of this page). His thoughts on this topic are spot on. Here are five points he makes:
1. There is much wrong teaching about overcoming sin.
And what is particularly saddening, and even agonizing, is that many ministers and leading Christians give perfectly false instruction upon the subject of how to overcome sin.
(Excerpt) Read more at overcoming-lust.com ...
Finney knew how to get to the heart of things.
HOW TO OVERCOME SIN
BY PRESIDENT CHARLES G. FINNEY.
NEW YORK, JANUARY 1, 1874
In every period of my ministerial life I have found many professed Christians in a miserable state of bondage either to the world, the flesh, or the Devil. But surely this is no Christian state, for the apostle has distinctly said: “Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace.” In all my Christian life I have been pained to find so many Christians living in the legal bondage described in the 7th chapter of Romans—a life of sinning, and resolving to reform and falling again. And what is particularly saddening, and even agonizing, is that many ministers and leading Christians give perfectly false instruction upon the subject of how to overcome sin. The directions that are generally given on this subject, I am sorry to say, amount to about this: “Take your sins in detail, resolve to abstain from them, and fight against them, if need be, with prayer and fasting, until you have overcome them. Set your will firmly against a relapse into sin, pray and struggle, and resolve that you will not fall, and persist in this, until you form the habit of obedience and break up all your sinful habits.” To be sure, it is generally added: “In this conflict you must not depend upon your own strength, but pray for the help of God.” In a word, much of the teaching, both of the pulpit and the press, really amounts to this: Sanctification is by works, and not by faith. I notice that Dr. Chalmers, in his lectures on Romans, expressly maintains that justification is by faith, but sanctification is by works. Some twenty-five years ago, I think, a prominent professor of theology in New England maintained in substance the same doctrine. In my early Christian life I was very nearly misled by one of President Edwards’s resolutions; which was, in substance, that when he had fallen into any sin he would trace it back to its source, and then fight and pray against it with all his might until he subdued it. This, it will be perceived, is directing the attention to the overt act of sin, its source or occasions. Resolving and fighting against it fastens the attention on the sin and its source, and diverts it entirely from Christ.
Now it is important to say right here that all such efforts are worse than useless, and not infrequently result in delusion. First, it is losing sight of what really constitutes sin, and, secondly, of the only practicable way to avoid it. In this way the outward act or habit may be overcome and avoided, while that which really constitutes the sin is left untouched. Sin is not external, but internal. It is not a muscular act, it is not the volition that causes muscular action, it is not an involuntary feeling or desire; it must be a voluntary act or state of mind. Sin is nothing else than that voluntary, ultimate preference or state of committal to self-pleasing out of which the volitions, the outward actions, purposes, intentions, and all the things that are commonly called sin proceed. Now, what is resolved against in this religion of resolutions and efforts to suppress sinful and form holy habits? “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” But do we produce love by resolution? Do we eradicate selfishness by resolution? No, indeed. We may suppress this or that expression or manifestation of selfishness by resolving not to do this or that, and praying and struggling against it. We may resolve upon an outward obedience, and work ourselves up to the letter of an obedience to God’s commandments. But to eradicate selfishness from the breast by resolution is an absurdity. So the effort to obey the commandments of God in spirit—in other words, to attempt to love as the law of God requires by force of resolution—is an absurdity. There are many who maintain that sin consists in the desires. Be it so. Do we control our desires by force of resolution? We may abstain from the gratification of a particular desire by the force of resolution. We may go further, and abstain from the gratification of desire generally in the outward life. But this is not to secure the love of God, which constitutes obedience. Should we become anchorites, immure ourselves in a cell, and crucify all our desires and appetites, so far as their indulgence is concerned; we have only avoided certain forms of sin; but the root that really constitutes sin is not touched. Our resolution has not secured love, which is the only real obedience to God. All our battling with sin in the outward life, by the force of resolution, only ends in making us whited sepulchers. All our battling with desire by the force of resolution is of no avail; for in all this, however successful the effort to suppress sin may be, in the outward life or in the inward desire it will only end in delusion, for by force of resolution we cannot love.
All such efforts to overcome sin are utterly futile, and as unscriptural as they are futile. The Bible expressly teaches us that sin is overcome by faith in Christ. “He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” “He is the way, the truth, and the life.” Christians are said to “purify their hearts by faith” —(Acts xv, 9). And in Acts xxvi, 18 it is affirmed that the saints are sanctified by faith in Christ. In Romans ix, 31,32 it is affirmed that the Jews attained not to righteousness “because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” The doctrine of the Bible is that Christ saves His people from sin through faith; that Christ’s Spirit is received by faith to dwell in the heart. It is faith that works by love. Love is wrought and sustained by faith. By faith Christians “overcome the world, the flesh, and the Devil.” It is by faith that they “quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” It is by faith that they “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and put off the old man, with his deeds.” It is by faith that we fight “the good fight,” and not by resolution. It is by faith that we “stand,” by resolution we fall. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. It is by faith that the flesh is kept under and carnal desires subdued. The fact is that it is simply by faith that we receive the Spirit of Christ to work in us, to will and to do, according to his good pleasure. He sheds abroad his own love in our hearts, and thereby enkindles ours. Every victory over sin is by faith in Christ; and whenever the mind is diverted from Christ, by resolving and fighting against sin, whether we are aware of it or not, we are acting in our own strength, rejecting the help of Christ, and are under a specious delusion. Nothing but the life and energy of the Spirit of Christ within us can save us from sin, and trust is the uniform and universal condition of the working of this saving energy within us. How long shall this fact be at least practically overlooked by the teachers of religion? How deeply rooted in the heart of man is self-righteousness and self-dependence? So deeply that one of the hardest lessons for the human heart to learn is to renounce self-dependence and trust wholly in Christ. When we open the door by implicit trust he enters in and takes up his abode with us and in us. By shedding abroad his love he quickens our whole souls into sympathy with himself, and in this way, and in this way alone, he purifies our hearts through faith. He sustains our will in the attitude of devotion. He quickens and regulates our affections, desires, appetites and passions, and becomes our sanctification. Very much of the teaching that we hear in prayer and conference meetings, from the pulpit and the press, is so misleading as to render the hearing or reading of such instruction almost too painful to be endured. Such instruction is calculated to beget delusion, discouragement, and a practical rejection of Christ as he is presented in the Gospel.
Alas! for the blindness that “leads to bewilder” the soul that is longing after deliverance from the power of sin. I have sometimes listened to legal teaching upon this subject until I felt as if I should scream. It is astonishing sometimes to hear Christian men object to the teaching which I have here inculcated that it leaves us in a passive state, to be saved without our own activity. What darkness is involved in this objection! The Bible teaches that by trusting in Christ we receive an inward influence that stimulates and directs our activity; that by faith we receive his purifying influence into the very center of our being; that through and by his truth revealed directly to the soul he quickens our whole inward being into the attitude of a loving obedience; and this is the way and the only practicable way to overcome sin. But someone may say: “Does not the Apostle exhort as follows: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure[’]”? “And is not this an exhortation to do what in this article you condemn?” By no means. In the 12th verse of the 2d chapter of Philippians Paul says: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” There is no exhortation to work by force of resolution, but through and by the inworking of God. Paul had taught them, while he was present with them; but now, in his absence, he exhorts them to work out their own salvation, not by resolution, but by the inward operation of God. This is precisely the doctrine of this article. Paul had too often taught the Church that Christ in the heart is our sanctification, and that this influence is to be received by faith, to be guilty, in this passage of teaching that our sanctification is to be wrought out by resolution and efforts to suppress sinful and form holy habits. This passage of Scripture happily recognizes both the Divine and human agency in the work of sanctification. God works in us, to will and to do; and we, accepting by faith his inworking, will and do according to his good pleasure. Faith itself is an active and not a passive state. A passive holiness is impossible and absurd. Let no one say that when we exhort people to trust wholly in Christ we teach that anyone should be or can be passive in receiving and co-operating with the Divine influence within. This influence is moral, and not physical. It is persuasion, and not force. It influences the free will, and consequently does this by truth, and not by force. Oh! that it could be understood that the whole of spiritual life that is in any man is received direct from the Spirit of Christ by faith, as the branch receives its life from the vine. Away with this religion of resolutions! It is a snare of death. Away with this effort to make the life holy while the heart has not in it the love of God. Oh! that men would learn to look directly at Christ through the Gospel, and so close in with him by an act of loving trust as to involve a universal sympathy with his state of mind. This and this alone is sanctification.
Thanks, PastorBooks. I would also heartily recommend the book “Abide In Christ” by Andrew Murray.
There is no need to “overcome sin.” This is nothing but Romanist “works righteousness.”
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.- Revelation 2:11
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. - Revelation 2:17
"And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations Revelation 2:26
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. - Revelation 3:5
"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. - Revelation 3:12
"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. - Revelation 3:21
In each case, Christ is referencing the need to overcome sins (which He names) in order to achieve the Reward He wants for us.
This only comes by following the command, to be discipled, not by self-bootstrapping into spiritual maturity.
Those who are living in Romans 7 and not in Romans 8 are probably not saved.
Where are those who live in Rom. 8 and not Rom. 9?
Ping for later
Well, while I disagree on how he got to this conclusion, I must say that I agree on his conclusion. But it would have been better not to have gone through Peoria.
It’s Christ who helps me overcome sin. Why go to a mere man?
“I would also heartily recommend the book Abide In Christ by Andrew Murray.”
Yep, love that book. In fact, I just googled and found a copy online:
ABIDE IN CHRIST By Andrew Murray
This page has links to more:
The New Life by Andrew Murray
With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray
The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray
Wow, I just scrolled down the page. There is a whole list of Andrew Murray’s books!
BOOKS BY ANDREW MURRAY
Abide in Christ
The Spirit of Christ
The Power of the Blood of Jesus
The Two Covenants
The Deeper Christian Life
The Lord’s Table
The True Vine
Abide In Christ
Working For God
The School of Obedience
Helps to Intercession
The Secret Of The Cross
The Master’s Indwelling
Daily Fellowship With God
Why Do You Not Believe?
Waiting on God
Wow, what a find! There are downloader programs for Firefox that can download all the chapter links for each book at one time. I’m going to have to get one going.
I love Murray’s writings.
Wow, what a great list! Thanks for sharing it.
The ones in Romans 9 who are not saved are those who have insulted The Most Holy God by trying to earn their way into His Kingdom.
How much did you read of it? Are you saying one need not, in faith, seek to crucify his flesh daily and put on Christ as one follows Him:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31)
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:2-4)
Careful with Finney. I believe (if my memory is correct) he denies sin nature and believes that it is possible for a Christian to cease sinning. Hence his little comment on Romans 7
"...Be not afraid, only believe." (Mark 5:36)
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:29)
“Careful with Finney. I believe (if my memory is correct) he denies sin nature.......”
That’s not all he denies.
http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Thanks for that link! It’s incredible how often I see this con-man mentioned by folks!
It was a joke.
What’s funny is that the article itself is almost as extreme as what I wrote in sarcasm.
I try to be careful with anyone, but i have not read to make judgments on the many things many have, but i do see where i think he is in error as he tries to form his reactionary theology (which is nothing new), though i have also seen charges made based on what Finney says or seems to say in one place but seems to contradict in another, besides trying to blame him for the "decisionism" and superficiality of today,while i think Finney made it hard to be saved due to his high standards. I was listening to Paul Washer again today, whose reactionary preaching there i recommend, but believe there is a place in calling convicted sinners to make a decision, but being an instrument of conviction so the lost become convicted is the main thing.
Check out that link the other poster provided. It appears his opinion only seems to get better when his work is sanitized. The originals are quite deadly.
Evidently, you have a different version of Romans 9 than I have. Mine reads, "...for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" Hmmm.
No, mine is the same Scripture. But it seems you are looking at it from a human viewpoint, whereas one should look at the context from The Omniscient God's point of view, standing outside of time.
Through foreknowledge, The Father of The Lord Jesus Christ knew that Esau was going to choose a life that would not involve repentance from dead works, nor committed trust in Him.
The God did not predestine Esau to Sheol. But Esau selected that destination for himself, and thus disappointed Elohim. Jacob did not. Jacob feared and trusted The God, a choice God also foreknew, before either twin was born, and for which His Son, The Lamb of Calvary, was predestined to be slain from the foundation of the world, because of Adam's and Eve's sinfulness (which was inherited by all their progeny).
In the text you quoted from Paul's letter to the Romans, the verb "to love" is ἀγαπάω (ah-gah-pah-oh), whose meaning is "to sovereignly prefer one above self and others." When The God said this, He clearly meant that He preferred fellowship with and was pleased with Jacob and not with Esau who disappointed Him, because of the choices they were going to make and behaviors they were going to exhibit, based on trusting or not trusting, of choosing to love or not love, The God, Whose Begotten Son was to died for both of these twins, but which Sacrifice accepted by only one of the twins.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" (Heb 12:14-17 AV).
In fact, the following chapter, Romans 10 deals exclusively with righteousmess and salvation through faith alone (sole fide) based on The Faith delivered by Jesus to His disciples, through His Word spoken to them, which they were to repeat, teach, and write without change (sola Scriptura) to others who would come after. So the Scripture to which you and I have access is the same, but our understanding of the meaning of it apparently is not.
Curious...since you claim to understand Scripture, please provide a passage supporting this claim because it certainly does not comport with the rest of Chap. 9. The passage says "...before they did anything good or bad so that God's choice might stand." And, Paul argues that many will find this "unfair".
"Jacob feared and trusted The God, a choice God also foreknew, before either twin was born, and for which His Son, The Lamb of Calvary, was predestined to be slain from the foundation of the world, because of Adam's and Eve's sinfulness (which was inherited by all their progeny)."
If the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (agreed) was known before Eden (after the foundation of the world), then did God foreknow the outcome of Eden? Thus, could there have been an alternate outcome? But, if there is no alternate outcome, then Eden was planned and executed exactly as intended. Otherwise your definitions of "predestination" and "foreknowledge" are so malleable as to have no substance...
"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Is. 46:10 AV)
Seems to me that He knew what the outcomes would be. Either (1) Adam would not eat of the "tree" of good and evil, or (2) eventually if/when Adam would eat of that "tree", he would die in spirit to The God right away; later physically when Sin/entropy took its toll. O course, Adam's soul was not designed to die, ever.
Is not that kind of obvious?
I understand some Scripture from other Scripture that describes and defines it.
"Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you" (Prov. 1:23 AV).
I do not understand all Scripture, for sure. Sometimes I just make educated guesses, but hold neither myself nor others to it. When that happens, I just try to make it clear that it is probable, not absolute.
However, The Omniscient God having foreknowledge, as claimed here, is absolute. You can't surprise The God.
. . . please provide a passage supporting this claim . . .
I did in another response to you--Isaiah 45:11.
. . . because it certainly does not comport with the rest of Chap. 9.
Oh, it most certainly does, but apparently it has not come to your attention that The God already knows which, in the end, ones eternal destination is. However, He does not make our choices.
As my friend, the reform school counselor teaches his recalcitrant youthful inmates: "Mind your ABCs. Actions arise from Beliefs, and have Consequences." His job was to help them reform their beliefs, not merely suppress their actions.
Satan wants humans, born into Sin as a master, to believe in him and in ourselves his subjects, rather than in The God and Christ as our Master; with The Holy Ghost as obeyed Counselor in our choices.
We, as Esau and Jacob, are/were in Adam's Reform School; and the big singular determining individual choice in this life is whether or not one acknowledges sinfulness, unreservedly and unfailingly commits trust in God to save him/her, and receives His power to abandon sin and cling to His Dear Son, the Promised Messiah.
"What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith" (Rom. 9:30 AV).
Faith that leads to salvation comes first, consistent actions demonstrating the faith comes afterward.
"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (Jas. 2:18 AV).
Esau failed to make the right choice while repentance was still available:
"And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Gen 6:3 AV).
Not that God didn't try.
Post 31: . . . please provide a passage supporting this claim . . . (Dutcboy88)
Post 33: I did in another response to you--Isaiah 45:11. (imardmd1)
That response was my Post 32 to your Post 31, and the verse quoted was:
"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Is. 46:10 AV)
The things to be done by The God in the future presumes omniscience, including a foreknowledge of things to be done by others in the future, or to be thought by others in the future (the others perhaps not having yet even been born), to which His counsel is, or will be (and is also foreknown) a fit response.
Of course, all Biblical prophesy inherently embodies this aspect of His omniscience and foreknowledge, as stated obviously in Isaiah 46:10. N'est ce pas--Is it not so?
Now, if this discussion is to proceed reasonably and carefully, we will not be able to address numerous topics in each post. Thus, I will focus on this particular point (recognizing I am bypassing other points for now, but we'll be back).
Your contention was that God did not drive Esau to his situation, but foresaw that Esau would choose it. And, you now claim that this passage in Is. supports your claim. That is, you find in this passage the concept that God is not managing the events of human history, but simply knows them. Man is doing them without any input from God's direction and evidently "free" from His control. Have I represented you correctly? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but the topics you are presenting are sufficiently broad as to warrant clarifying definitions.
Your contention was that God did not drive Esau to his situation, but foresaw that Esau would choose it.
I believe that is so, reading the passage Gen. 25:28-34. Do you think that The God prompted or interfered with the decisions made in that passage?
That is, you find in this passage the concept that God is not managing the events of human history, but simply knows them.
That is not at all what I said. Regarding His omnipotence, so far not much has been said. My remarks were directed toward his omniscience and foreknowledge. You have broadened the scope, attributing it to me, and in a direction I do not favor.
You might want to consider the role foreknowledge plays in the conduct of a chess move, or in the layout and writing of a fictional novel.
Absolutely. I believe that is precisely what the Scriptures teach. While this may not be explicit in this episode, continue to read the Book and you will find that is exactly what is happening. Exodus and the remarks from God hardening Pharaoh's heart before Moses speaks with him. Prov. 21:1, "The king's heart (notice that is Solomon speaking of himself) is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes."
There are probably 50 more passages which tell us that God is controlling hearts to believe and to go to destruction. These passages would obviously subsume any remark about a man being told to "choose". The outcome is "go ahead and choose, understand it is God causing that choice."
And, yes, I have considered the role of foreknowledge. It is intimately related to predestination and omnipotence. Notice, if God foreknows what is going to happen tomorrow at 4 pm, then just one thing is going to happen...the thing He knows. Can another thing happen? No. Thus, we are on the way to that thing happening. That you cannot feel yourself moved toward that is part of the genius of God, but He knows what is going to happen precisely because He is directing the outcome.
You may wish to read the Is. passage again. It speaks of this very concept rather than the one you mangled it into.
I fear you’ve only fashioned an automaton, not fearfully and wonderfully in the image of Him that created, made to fellowship by choice with Him, yet having the freedom to refuse. We are at an impasse; for in fact all born of fallen Adam are involuntarily under condemnation. Please do not tell me that Adam had no choice.
Finney is funny.
Finney didn’t believe in the imputation of righteousness to believers. He also held we lost our salvation whenever we sinned. He’s Pelagian.
No where does is say that Adam had free choice. But, it does say that the Lamb provided by God was slain before the foundation of the world. If Jesus' death was already in the plan, what do you think God knew at that time? And, if that one thing was already going to happen, do you actually believe Jesus' death, burial, resurrection was simply Plan B?
Who was created first, Satan, or Adam?
What does it mean to be fallible yet unfallen as created?
Show me where the Bible says that Adam did not have free choice.
And I think you meant "slain from," not slain before.
Try looking at things from The God's point of view.
Well, you are quite the clever person. I don’t recall a “Point A”, but perhaps you invented one, the way you invented “free will”. Let us know when you come upon the passage that says Adam had free will. We don’t prove negatives here.