Today's Reading: Romans 8:12-17
For 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. (Romans 8:13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. "Face your fears!" "Quit cold turkey." These are a couple of the ways that advice to change and improve gets boiled down to simple sayings. The world is all about changing yourself if you don't like what you are. St. Paul warns that living according to the flesh--denying God and living however we want--is going to get us killed! Sin brings everlasting death.
The solution? By the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body. So, a little self-help? Some motivational exercises? Some steps to change your behavior? Nope. You don't change the Old Adam. He has to die. That's why St. Paul says "by the Spirit." The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit kills off the Old Adam by burying him every day with Christ's death. Sin is finished off at the cross where the Son of God takes it and dies for it there.
Your Baptism into Jesus is a uniting with Him in His death. Therefore, when you drown the Old Adam every day in contrition and repentance, that's the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the body. You see, sin grows when it can spread its roots into your conscience and desires. When it can plague you with the notion that you cannot live without, sin grows and is fed like a cancer.
But the forgiveness of sins, delivered at the font, by your pastor and in Christ's Body and Blood, cuts off sin's roots. It starves sin of its power over you. It destroys sin by taking away its power and preventing it from condemning you before God.
What you need is not a self-help program but continual repentance and faith in Jesus who has taken care of your sin by His death and resurrection. You need to be continually reminded of your Baptism and fed with Jesus' Body and Blood. And in those gifts, the Spirit puts to death those deeds of the body and you live. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Christ the shoot that springs triumphant From the stump of Jesse's tree; Christ, true vine, You nurture branches To bear fruit abundantly. Graft us into You, O Savior; Prune our hearts so we remain Fruitful branches in Your vineyard Till eternal life we gain. (Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, LSB 540:3)