Just before we began our Quarantine, we completed a 2-week study about how to Sanctify ourselves (set ourselves apart for serving God), recognizing many of the things we have accepted in our daily lives, which in actuality, are sin in God's Word. Hopefully you were honest with yourselves about some of the things in our lives which we never recognized as sin, or simply avoided dealing with as sin. But if you are like most, recognizing the sin is only the first, very small step. Many, many Christians have at least one thing in their lives which goes beyond a temptation to an outright constant battle. Even worse, sometimes a "full-blown, bags packed, moved into the house" habitual sin that is always with you. One you have become stuck in, maybe for months or years, surrendering to simply living with, constantly defeated by; that one you vow every other day to never fall into again, only to fall again, in deeper shame and estrangement from God! Well, take heart: even the Apostle Paul clearly understood your pain: Romans 7:15, 18-19.
So, how do we beat this kind of sin? Can we ever expect to beat this kind of sin? Yes you can!
Let Scripture answer the last question first: Romans 6:17, 22-23. Paul said we are no longer slaves to our sin; that we have been set free. Does that mean we will be sinless? Of course not, we are human; we will stumble. There will even be certain things we must battle more than others for extended periods—perhaps always—because we all have different personalities, backgrounds, experiences, abuses, weaknesses, and improper programming. But Scriptures promise we will not live in, be controlled by, led by, constantly influenced by, and fall to the power of sin in our lives. We will no longer be enslaved by living in our temptations: Romans 6:2-4, 11-13. It's not only a possibility, but a necessity. Not only a necessity, it is a repeated Command. But many of us who claim we have died to sin and been brought back life, have let our dead flesh crawl back out of the grave and we walk around in it—dead men walking, spiritual zombies—rather than rise as a new creature, serving in the passion and freedom of Christ.
How do we seem to get trapped in these cycles of slavery with sin? How do we go from loving and serving God, to distant and fallen? The cycle for habitual sin always go something like this: we allow ourselves one loose moment of tolerance for something we lust after, which we know is wrong in the eyes of God, and against everything in us, we do it anyway. We flirt with that person. We go a step further in passion than we should. We go ahead and click on that website. We entertain the idea of an alternate lifestyle. We allow ourselves a moment of indulgence in hatred and unforgiveness. We treat ourselves to this substance just this once. We tell the lie in a moment to cover our tracks or look good. We shift the blame to someone else in pride. We take part in bashing or dramatizing someone's actions behind their back with the group. We belittle or intimidate someone else to secure our position of control or superiority in their eyes and those around us. This is the founding moment when temptation becomes a sin; when we feel we deserve to do or experience something God is against; when we feel we have a right to something God disagrees with; when we feel we have more wisdom of how things should be than Him. [Sound like a familiar idea first presented by a serpent long ago?] And that moment of sin gives you new knowledge. You got away with it. You enjoyed yourself. Protected yourself. Lifted yourself up. Felt better about self. Came out on top. You got the satisfaction. But at the expense of that nagging guilt, reminding you that you went somewhere you shouldn't have. And you know God is displeased; that you were wrong. You even pray and ask forgiveness. But later, when the opportunity arises again, it becomes easier to tolerate the same choice because you now have a taste of new knowledge. And the only way to continue now is to begin to justify your conscience in why it will be OK to continue again. (Didn't hurt anyone. I deserve it. Well, my spouse doesn't treat me right. Others do it. They do the same thing to me. This is just my weakness, we all have one. This is the only thing I do, God will overlook it. It's only natural. I need to protect my reputation to be liked.) Whatever excuse you need to tolerate continuing one more time, and then in your cycle of guilt and indulgence, you no longer feel you can turn to God for comfort and peace. So, this new indulgence becomes your refuge of comfort in place of God. And in moments of guilt and sorrow, you turn to that very sin to console you; clinging to lust, bitterness, self-image, or indulgence as your release—as your new God. While the affects upon your heart and attitude grow (Object of focus changes. Coldness. Indifference. Selfishness. Entitlement to your desires. Critical of others to sooth guilt. Bitterness.) until the changes in your heart eventually allow you to freely (lust, gossip, chase your status or reputation, justify your bitterness or jealousy, lie, abuse substances, hold a grudge, live in sexual sin) in a lonely, self-preserving hell you have created, now feeling distant from God. It is easier to continue to make choices against Him, relying on your sin for comfort. This is the deadly cycle (tolerate sin. Justify sin. Comfort yourself in sin. Grow in intensity. Self-destruct), never realizing your new sin has enslaved you; become your main focus and need; has become God. God explains it all quite well in this one passage: James 1:14-15. If you recognize yourself in this vicious slavery of sin: How do you break out of the cycle? How do you beat sin once and for all?
Step One: Understanding why. The best place to start is by realizing the "why?" behind the expectation. First, we need to realize God doesn't want us to act a certain way just because He wants to ruin our fun. He loves us deeply. He created this world for us to enjoy, rule over, explore, and indulge. He created everything you and I are tempted by. He wants us to get out of our sinful acts and sinful thinking because of the motive behind the choice to sin. Every choice to sin comes from a heart that says: (I'm more important. I deserve better. I know more. I am all that matters), causing us to change the way we see life, people and God; causing us to choose love for self over anyone else; causing us to trust self more than anyone else; causing us to turn to something other than God, which will ultimately destroy us in our own unquenchable desire. Removing sin does not take away from our fun or joy in life. In absolute truth, it will make us happier; make those around us happier. It will turn our relationships and experiences into everything they were meant to be in life, rather than imbalanced, self-indulgent, hurtful, obsessive, “never- enough” traps. He wants us to learn and trust these Righteous ways of loving because they express His own character and wisdom. And He wants us to show our trust and love for Him; our belief in His goodness; our choice for Him over anything else in the world, just like the choice He gave to Adam and Eve in the beginning. Every time we choose between sin and God, we are showing our desire for Him, or self; we are showing our trust in His Character, Love and Wisdom or our own. He wants to know: will you trust His Character or be like Adam and Eve and believe He is somehow holding out on you? God often uses the most powerful and awesome act of sexual intimacy as a simile or metaphor to express our sin against Him (sometimes very graphically), because He doesn't see sin, simply as choosing to do a wrong thing, but as a choice to commit our hearts to something; to trust and want something more than Him. It's the rejection from our hearts, not our bad actions which destroys our closeness to God and hurts Him so.
Our first step to beating sin is to absolutely know and believe in that moment of temptation that sin will truly cause more pain than pleasure; that God does have a better Plan for love and happiness; that sin will change our hearts until they can't be truly satisfied with anything; and most of all...that we are not just choosing to do something we shouldn't—we are literally saying to Christ at that moment that we choose another beloved over Him because we don't trust or want Him. We are causing Him all the pain of a cheating spouse, in His Own Words; He conveys that kind of pain; in His Own Words, He describes loves that intimately: Ezekiel 16:30-32; Hosea 2:14-16. When we realize what is at stake; when we realize just how badly we do hurt Christ in our choice against Him, that alone should give us new strength to resist. So how do we resist? How do we handle that moment when temptation is about to become sin again? Understand that even in your moment of darkest temptation, He is still there with you; He hasn't left; He isn't hiding, and literally pray to Him in that moment, unashamed. He knows your heart anyway. Tell Him how desperately you want this sin and ask Him to help you to remove it. Remind yourself in that moment that you are literally changing your heart and mind to hurt yourself; that you are programming yourself to be miserable and unsatisfied later. Think beyond your own temporary desires and put those you love first. What would it do to their hearts if they knew? Does it make me love them and value them less? Am I hurting the self-esteem, image or faith of another for my own self-advancement? If so, no matter how it makes me feel or look to the world, how does it make me look to My God? Stop justifying your action in your mind. You are not judged according to where others are, or what they do, but by the Words of God alone. Anything done wrong to you or not done for you by another, does not give you special consideration to indulge sin. The old thought of, "It's not hurting anyone else” is a total lie. It is hurting God terribly, and the heart and mind changes in you from the sin greatly hurt others even if they do not know why. And it doesn't matter if this is your only weakness; only one lover is needed to steal your heart completely. And God will not understand your weaknesses and excuse it because He knows the damage that will occur; because He wants your heart. Read Scriptures directly related to your temptation to remind you of just how real and hurtful the sin is to God; of just how blatantly you have chosen something He openly speaks against; of the damages and pain He says it causes; to remind yourself He can take it away. Realize this moment of conflict is a literal battle against a literal enemy; an enemy who sees you as a disposable pawn and is trying to destroy you at that moment, and break the heart of God, so get a grip on reality and choose to help Christ beat him back in his attempt. Lastly, decide in that moment, this battle is important enough to win, no matter the Take any measure necessary to remove yourself; to protect yourself; to make amends, no matter the cost or view from the world. There is a wonderful discovery of freedom and peace in this action, and the greater the cost, the greater the effort, the greater the gift to God. The one key to making all of this work is this: you have to want it. You have to decide once and for all that not hurting Him; that being close to Him; that trusting His way and choosing the better way to love, are the most important things in your life, and do it for Him—do it through Him.
And lastly, one of the sweetest parts! Understand that when you have messed up again, He hasn't left you. He doesn't love conditionally like others do. He is willing and wanting to start right there, again, with love as though nothing happened—if you are wanting Him. Don't let Satan tell you otherwise. Trusting His acceptance after a fall is one of the most powerful ways to show you know and trust who He is and how He loves. [Why David was special.] Psalm 27:9-10;
Psalm 38:2-4, 8, 10-11, 15. He is ready, waiting; eager for your heart to turn back to Him. Why do we see Him as the first to leave? He will be the one who is always standing there when your sin has driven everyone else away. And He will give you all you need to beat sin. He just wants you to want Him; to trust His love. You have to decide today, no matter the cost: today I live for Christ.
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