Fight Your Sin: A Storyline for the Battle Lines

Fight Your Sin: A Storyline for the Battle Lines

Fight your sin with a storyline. I mean right now. Life is war, everyday. Submerged temptations lie waiting for you just out of sight. Insidious sirens are faintly wooing your way, beckoning you to cruise their waters. You will hear their calls soon enough. This is a plea to steer clear of them from the helm of a story — your story.

I say “your story,” but I mean God’s doing, as we see it in his Book.

All About Action

The Bible is no mere moral code or a set of principles, though it does include these. It’s neither a textbook, nor mainly a philosophy for life. Instead, the Bible is a “transcript” of God’s action in the world, all centered on Jesus Christ, who is the apex of his glory.

The Bible is the dramatic script of God’s doing. It tells God’s authoritative story, which we read as audience, and in which we participate as characters. God has been at work from the beginning, and he is at work today, in our day.

When we have this kind of vision — when we know what God is doing in Scripture and in the pages of our lives — it exposes the turmoil of temptation and the sinking-ship mess of sin. When we see what has really happened, and what is really happening, the storyline of our identity is put to work on the battle lines of our holiness. That is the tactic Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6.

See It Clear

The church in Corinth hadn’t been seeing things rightly. That’s the occasion of Paul’s writing. What we read in the sixth chapter is an inspired address to their problem, and oftentimes, our own. Paul hammers out one truth after another in the form of chiding questions — “Do you not know… Do you not know… Do you not know?” — all leading up to verse 9 where he gets very basic: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

That’s not rocket-science. Anyone with the smallest measure of biblical acumen knows this. Whether their background is corroded with paganism or saturated with the Hebrew Scriptures, they should know that unrighteous creatures are not awarded the nearness of a righteous God.

But Paul continues. He wants the Corinthian Christians to get this sure, to see through the fog. “Do not be deceived,” he tells them. In other words, let me spell this out. “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

Then he reminds them: “And such were some of you.”

Here’s Your Story

Paul has detailed what unrighteousness looks like. He has been explicit on who will be left out of the kingdom. And then he tells them: This is who you used to be. But not anymore. You were washed, he says — “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Do you see what Paul is doing?

He gives them a story — their story. Their story, but God’s doing. They hadn’t been living right. They were surrounded by temptation. They were waning in holiness. And the apostle Paul clears the clutter by appealing to their personal narrative. These divisions among you, the boasting, the sexual immorality, the compromise, the lawsuits — that’s not your story. God has rescued you. Now, you are clean. You are set apart. You are declared righteous.

He reminds them who they are — what God has done — and he tells them to live in this reality, which is precisely where he continues in verses 12–20 with three more “do you not know” statements (1 Corinthians 6:15, 16, 17).

Drawn into the Doing

God has acted in this world. In the fullness of time, he sent his Son to save a people for himself — a people he chose in the Son before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless. But they were a people lost and fallen, a people in need of redemption. And so Jesus came to walk the way they couldn’t. He persevered in faithfulness at every angle. He lived as the perfect, better Adam, to become a slaughtered, atoning Lamb. On the cross, Jesus took all the sins of his people upon himself. He absorbed the wrath his people deserved. He was dead and buried. And then on the third day, God raised him, conquering sin and the grave. God exalted him to his right hand where he reigns over all. And in his reign, by his Spirit whom he sent, the good news of his victory advances.

And as this news spread, it came to Corinth. And there, in that city, God acted to show the Corinthians how he had acted in the ultimate display of his love and grace. They heard the gospel and the Spirit gave them eyes to see. They believed. They turned from their sins and were united to Jesus by faith. They were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

God acted to draw them into his action. Their story became God’s doing. And the same is true for you, if your faith is in Jesus. God has been at work in the history of the world and he has made you part of it. So on the battle lines, when sin brings its tumult of temptations, when its force feels like an unassailable wind, remember: that’s not your story.

This is. God has rescued you. That’s his doing, your story. Now fight your sin.


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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God, and is the lead planter of Cities Church in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.