Continuing on with my notes from How To Say No to a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer:
Chapter 5: The Freedom of Living at the Cross
Often it is not until we try to break sinful habits that we realize just how strong they are.
"All sins originate from the corruption of our rebellious sinful nature" which NT writers refer to as "the flesh." Lutzer defines the flesh as "a compulsive inner force inhereited from man's fall which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God...often called self; the incurable desire to put our interests above God's."
He then goes through several "Traits of the Self-Life" which are quite convicting -- I have found several variations online: one is here.
He then discusses what in means to be "in Adam" -- a descendant of the human race which cannot help but sin -- and "in Christ" -- bought with the price of Christ's death, given "a new nature and the personal presence and power of the Holy Spirit so that we can say no to our old self-nature."
He compares it to being adopted into a new family with all its new rights and responsibilities, or moving into a new home with a new landlord: though the old landlord may still come around and demand payment, we don't owe him anything any more. Our "authority to say no [to sin] is God-given:" "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11.)
How can we apply this knowledge to our sinful habit?
1. Realize "in Christ you are already dead to your sinful passions." We don't have to become dead to it become crucified to our flesh. This is hard because it doesn't feel that way, but we must take it by faith. "Just because you get talked into obeying your old landlord doesn't change that fact of new management. It does mean that you forgot you could confidently say no to his extortion schemes."
2. Admit the need for faith in daily life. "When we shift our attention to the completed work of the cross and insist on our privileges, our old self surrenders to God's authority." Though we're positionally complete in Christ, freedom from sin and spiritual maturity aren't automatic: it's contested and requires time with God and Hos Word, faith, and obedience.
(Disclaimer: My purpose in jotting down these notes is not to post "the answer" so that people don't have to buy the book: on the contrary, I hope anyone struggling with persistent sin will buy the book. There is so much more there that is so rich. Rather, this is just an exercise for me to review what I have read and studied.)