As we discussed last time, the real ‘cure’ for sin is a transformed heart, not behavior modification. If we aren’t changing from the inside out, we aren’t really changing at all. We are simply becoming what Jesus would call whitewashed tombs that remain full of the decaying evidence of our broken and sinful natures. However, there are also some very practical things we can do to deal with the sin problem, remembering only God can fully eradicate sin through regeneration of the heart, but our flesh is still broken. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 tells us that the treasure of Christ exists in jars of clay. Our bodies are broken and present us with a constant battle of spirit and flesh that will only truly end when we are glorified at His coming.
While we remain in this life we can, and should, do all we can to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and free from sin. We may never be free from temptation in this life, but we can reduce its instance and power. Matthew says:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This passage tells us a couple of things. First, apparently we can actually be lead into temptation. Don’t forget our enemy walks around looking to devour us, to ruin us, to tempt us to evil. He will lay traps and pitfalls at every turn. Unfortunately, we are often far too willing to be prey. Our prayer life is so very important in ridding ourselves of the sin in our lives. We are instructed to rely totally and completely on the Father. Dealing with sin is not different. We should spend time each day, especially in seasons where we are struggling, asking Him to deliver us from the evil that would befall us, to take us in a direction that would lead to life, not to the death of sin.
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Our prayer must be fervent and frequent. Jesus encourages us to keep watch and pray. Temptation is out there, but He tells us to pray we not enter into it. Why should we pray often and fervently? It’s simple, we are weak.
One of the most common mistakes we make in battling sin is over estimating our ability to handle our sin. I like to fish from a kayak. It puts me right in the middle of nature and really close to the water and wildlife. I love it. What I don’t love, however, is being close to poisonous snakes. There are hundreds of stories about kayakers and boaters coming into contact with water moccasins. They fall from trees, try to climb in your kayak, all sorts of things. No one in their right mind picks it up and thinks, “Awe, he’s so cute, I think I’ll take him home. I’m sure I can tame him and make him love me.” It just doesn’t happen. You will die.
Handling sin is no different. It can’t be tamed, handled, or coddled. Sin has one goal: our destruction and death. Period. We have convinced ourselves we can handle a little sin and surely it wont grow into big sin. We are wrong. I once heard a preacher say, “Sin will take you farther than you ever thought you would go and cost you more than you ever thought you would pay.” Sin must be put to death, just like that water moccasin that falls in your boat.
One great way to do this in our lives is to simply limit our opportunities. Don’t go places that are a weakness for you. Don’t do things that stir your affections for self, sin, and the flesh. Guard your heart, guard your eyes, and guard your mind. It is fine to take measures to prevent exposure and falling into sin. It’s called maturity. Sure, we have liberty in Christ, but we also have prudence in the Spirit to live our lives in such a way to avoid those things God hates, and God hates sin. We must make decisions ahead of time, before the temptation comes.
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
Recovering addicts don’t go to old stomping grounds or stay around people associated with their addiction. In similar fashion we should avoid those things in this world that lead us to temptation. Like Job 31:1, let us make a covenant with our eyes to keep them pure.
In addition to guarding our eyes and our hearts, we must also guard our company.
1 Corinthians 15:33
Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.
We must be people defined by these passages surround ourselves with those who build us up and walk rightly before God so we may then be equipped to go out to shine light in a dark world and, as James says, remain unspotted it. The company we keep is extremely important in our battle with sin.
To deal with sin in our lives we must rely on God and our positional standing with Him. Then, in these earthen vessels of clay, we must seek to change our desires and limit our opportunities for temptation. Today, our pastor described this concept as living inside the guard rail. The next episode will discuss the role of self-control in the battle against the Development of Sin.