Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
On The Road to Emmaus
In my previous article on how to overcome sin, I mentioned that, when we are tempted to sin, we have a choice, and therefore we need to use godly wisdom and creativity to help our weak wills make the right choice: that we need to replace sinful habits with spiritual habits.
In this article, we need to talk yet about other biblical principles that will help us make better choices and overcome sin.
It's No Sin to Be Tempted, but...
You should know that it is no sin to be tempted, but it's really easy to move from being tempted to sinning.
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:14-15, ESV)
If a thought crossed your mind, if you felt the urge to say something you shouldn't say, and if you felt the pains of lust when you saw an attractive person, these things are not themselves sin—but they can easily lead to sin.
Temptation is the feeling you get because you are vulnerable, but temptation isn't sin until you decide to dwell in it or engage it. This realization can be a little helpful. Don't give up just because you're feelign tempted, don't feel discouraged—you can still avoid it.
Let's say, for example, that you were watching TV or a movie, when an indecent scene showed up and made you lust. Was that sin? Not necessarily—instead, your human nature is being tempted to sin, but you still haven't necessarily sinned. You haven't lost this round yet because the bell just rang, the battle just began.
However, you have to be careful about this—it is easy to sin. You would need to immediately stop that thought and to immediately do something about that feeling, because once you let your mind dwell on what you saw, you have sinned. In other words, it's very easy to sin—it can happen in an instant.
Going back to the exampel of coming accross an indexent scene, you should know that such example is naive. Why? Because you already know what TV and movies are like—you know that they are contaminated with sin, yet you chose to put yourself in harm's way. That in itself was sin (see James 4:17). You have to be very careful about the choices you make.
Make a Bubble and Clean Your Water
Consequenlty, the matter I discussed in my previous article, that matter of replacing sinful habits with spiritual habits, is crucial. In addition, you also need to put yourself into a bubble.
We often think that living in a bubble is a bad thing because it limits us and makes us narrow minded—well, that's not the kind of bubble I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the kind of bubble that is clean and transparent, that let's you see what's outside it. In other words, I'm not talking about a lack of knowledge, but about separation—about limiting how much you expose yourself to sin.
We need to recognize that we humans are like fish in a bowl. If we let the water in the bowl get dirty, our fish gets sick—if we let bad air into our bubble, we get sick.
For this reason, Christians need to build for themselves a spiritually healthy environment—an environment that reinforces the spiritual rather than the carnal.
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, ESV)
We need to be mindful of our conversations with those who are close to us. Do our conversations show an interest in spiritual things? Do our conversations edify others?
We need to be mindful about those things we wear, those things with which we identify ourselves. Do these things reflect reverence toward God?
We need to be mindful about those things we keep in our homes. Do these things remind us of God's word? Do these things facilitate godly activities?
There are conversations you should not engage because they are sinful. There are t-shirts, slogans, and tattoos you shouldn't wear because they represent evil. There are magazines, posters, DVD's, and CD's you sholdn't have at home because they facilitate sin.
Finally, there are also places you should avoid because they are conductive to sin.
You should regularly clean your fish bowl (fish tank) of all the filth that accumulates in it so your fish can stay healthy—that's what you should do with your life.
Dedicate Yourself to What Is Good
No, you don't want to be a child in regards to important matters. You should keep yourself informed about the news, the complex moral issues facing society, science, and things that can be beneficial to you and your family. In other words, don't be ignorant about life. However, the Bible also says the following:
"Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature." (1 Corinthians 14:20, ESV).
In other words, be like a child in regards to sin—be ingorant of it as much as possible. Limit your exposure to sin. There's no need for you to know and understand all the things that sinners do for their own pleasure. The more you know and learn about these things, the more you will be tempted and the more likely you will be to fall into sin. So be careful about what you watch and what you hear.
Instead, engage your mind and emotions in holy thoughts, for—in Christ Jesus—you were created for good works. For you were created, in Jesus Christ, for good works:
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).
Realize that, when you received Jesus Christ in your heart, you were created to have a new life, to do good works, and to live for God.
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4, KJV)
There are also two kinds of wisdom—one is devilish and sensual, the other is godly.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17, ESV)
"This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic." (James 3:15, ESV)
Therefore, dedicate yourself to good works, godly works, and spiritual works—for you were created to live according to the godly and heavenly wisdom of God in Christ, and flee the knowledge of evil—for the more you know about it, the easier you will fall into sin and wander from the paths of life.
In summary, in this article I have discussed a biblical strategy to overcome sin. The strategy takes in consideration that we easily fall into sin because we are fragile creatures, like fish in a fish tank. A simple way to summarize the strategy is as follows:
- Build a spiritual bubble around you: replace items, clothes, and conversations that conduct to a sinful mindset with items, clothes, and conversations that conduct to a spiritual mindset. Also, avoid atmospheres that are conductive to sin.
- Be a child in regards to sin—do not expose yourself to sin, do not seek to experience the sins that others practice. Mind what you hear and what you watch.
- Realize that you were created for good and spiritual works, and seek to invest your energy, mind, and feelings in such works.
- Seek to live according to spiritual and godly wisdom and shun sensual and devilish wisdom.
© 2021 Marcelo Carcach