The Grip of Sin or The Grace of the Savior: Who Has Dominion?

“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”

Psalm 119:133

In Psalm 119, the Psalmist prays, “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.” (Psalm 119:133) defines “dominion” as:

  • the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority.
  • rule; control; domination.
  • a territory, usually of considerable size, in which a single rulership holds sway.

Power. Governing control. Sovereign authority. Rule. Domination. A single rulership holding sway.

That’s definitely not a very pleasant description if we’re talking about sin in someone’s life. But then again, there is no pleasant way to describe sin. In no way should we want these words to describe sin in our lives. It’s clear to see why the Psalmist prays to God for help in making sure that sin doesn’t get that position over him.

Breaking the Dominion of Sin

But what if it feels like sin is either gaining or already has dominion in our lives?

For some, that definition of dominion is how they might describe pornography’s grip on their life. For others, maybe it accurately depicts their gossip, greed, anger, or their need for control. And for even others yet, maybe it points to the silent killer – comfort, which gains rule over our lives by slowly lulling us to sleep spiritually.

If you’ve been fighting a controlling sin – and all sins aspire to be controlling sins – don’t despair. There’s hope.

Embrace God’s Grace

This may seem counterintuitive, but thank God for giving you an awareness that sin is getting a grip on you. Being aware of our need for God is evidence of God’s grace to us. If you are frustrated with sin’s place in your life, you can trust that God is calling you to himself for the help and the hope you need.

Embrace Your Inability

Understand and acknowledge that you can’t break the dominion of sin yourself. You have no power or ability within yourself to break sin’s grip on you.

My family took an introductory karate class a few years ago. The instructor taught us some moves that could help us break away from the grip of someone larger and more powerful than us. One move was actually this throat grab thing that my wife enjoyed practicing on me way too much. Trust me, it worked.

But when it comes to sin, there are no throat grabs or wrist twists that can break sin’s grip on you. Thinking that you have the strength to control a domineering sin in your life will actually lead you further into the grip of sin and further from the Help you need. Pastor J.D. Greear says in his study on the book of Judges that, “Ironically, what keeps most of us from the power of God is not our weaknesses, it’s our strengths.” The delusion of your own strength keeps you under the dominion of sin.

In the Christian life, dominion over sin isn’t accomplished through the demonstration of your own power and ability. You don’t somehow break sin’s dominion so you can have dominion over your own life instead. Thinking that at any moment you have dominion over your own life is just sin further exerting it’s dominion over you.

Instead, dominion over sin is found in surrendering to the dominion of Christ. We need to embrace our inability by embracing God’s ability in order to see him take dominion over sin on our behalf. Hebrews 2:14 tells us that Jesus became flesh and blood like us so that “through death, he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Christ has already defeated the devil’s dominion of death and sin. We don’t have to live in slavery to a defeated tyrant. We have a risen, merciful King who reigns.

Embrace the Light

Even though he’s already defeated, the enemy wants to take you down with him. So he wants you to keep your sins to yourself instead of finding help. He wants you to keep them hidden in darkness.

The dominion of sin grows in the darkness of isolation.

But God says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Christ crucified is the hope and the help we need to embrace to break the dominion of sin in our lives.

Confessing and repenting of our sin demonstrates that we believe Christ’s blood fully breaks the dominion of sin over us. Our willingness to confess and repent of our sins shows that we believe God to be “faithful and just” to forgive our sins and that we believe he is able to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Embrace His Help

Apart from the Spirit of God at work in our lives, we can do nothing but sin. Even good things we attempt will still be stained with sin if we seek to do them apart from faith in God. (Hebrews 11:6) Only by the indwelling power of the Spirit do we have power to turn from sin.

As a believers, we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” We have a new identity in Christ as adopted children of God.

Our identity as children of God gives us a new desire, motivation, and power to live our lives joyfully and obediently in the love and grace of our Father. When you live out of the love and grace of the Father, you live for his glory and entrust your life to his dominion.

Romans 6:12-14 says,

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

As we embrace the help God offers us by his Spirit because of our identity as his children, we can say no to what he wants us to say no to and say yes to what he wants us to say yes to.

To Him be Glory and Dominion

Instead of relying on our own strength and ability, we need to embrace our weakness and turn to the grace of the One who sits “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” (Eph 1:21)

As redeemed children of God, we can say, “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11)

Instead of describing sin’s grip on us, may the word “dominion” – power, governing control, sovereign authority, rule, domination, a single rulership holding sway – be an apt description of God’s reign in our lives instead.

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