| Overcoming Sin --- Based on an article by Lynnford Beachy with contributions from Martin Eldon
Sin is a problem that has plagued this world ever since Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. What made it a sin to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge?
Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree, so when they did they disobeyed God. Sin is disobedience.
1John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
What is the penalty for sin? God told Adam and Eve “Thou shalt surely die”.
The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
Why did Jesus come into the World? Of Jesus it was said, “he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Jesus came into this world to save His people from the penalty of sin and its power. Notice the verse does not say, “he shall save his people in their sins,” but “from their sins.” God is not only able to deliver us from the penalty of sin but He is also able to keep us from committing sin in the future.
Is GOD able to keep is from falling into sin? “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 1:24)
Some people claim that it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning. What Does Jesus say about this? “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
He also said, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)
What are Christians able to do through Christ Jesus?, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)
To make the claim that Christians cannot stop sinning is to say that Satan forces us to sin. But Satan can only tempt us. The bible teaches that is when we act upon these lusts that we actually sin. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) To be tempted is not sin. It is only when we allow that temptation to take root that it becomes a sin.
Satan is able to tempt us to do wrong, but never, under any circumstance, is he able to force us to sin. It is only when we exercise our will and make the decision to yield to that temptation that we commit sin.
With every temptation of Satan what has GOD provided us? “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God has made a way of escape out of every temptation. That means that no matter how severe the temptation, no matter how likely a person is to yield to sin, there has never been, nor ever will be, a time when Satan forces an individual to sin. Therefore it is altogether possible for God’s people to stop sinning.
What did John tell us not to do? “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” (1 John 2:1)
What did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery, “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
My friends, surely Jesus would not have instructed this lady not to sin anymore if it was impossible for her to do it. Certainly it could not have been done on her own, but with God’s help, “all things are possible.”
What did Jesus say to a man whom He had healed, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14) God often asks us to do difficult things, but be assured He never asks us to do the impossible.
Is it possible for a thief to quit stealing?
If it were true that it is not possible for Christians to stop sinning, then we must say that it is not possible for the thief to give up stealing, or the drunkard to give up alcohol, or the murderer to give up murdering. Yet we have abundant examples of people who have done just that. How can we explain this if it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning? Sin is, and always has been, a choice made of our own free will. And if it is an action of our own free will nobody can ever truthfully claim that it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning.
Some people wish to do only the least amount necessary in order to accomplish a particular goal. Some wish to enter heaven by the skin of their teeth. Is this the attitude a Christian should have? Have you ever had a child, or known someone else, who is determined to do the least amount possible to get by? Suppose you have this type of person as an employee and you ask them to mop a very dirty floor. They take out the mop, dip it in water, wring it out, and quickly run it across the floor. If you know anything about mopping you know that this is a very poor way of doing the job. Yet they did do just enough to be able to tell you “I mopped the floor.” This is the type of attitude I think of when I hear a Christian say, “We can never stop sinning anyway, so we might as well not even try.” Is this the type of attitude a Christian should have? Should we want to just barely make it into heaven? I don’t know about you, but I want to make my Father in heaven as happy as I possibly can. I want to serve Him and please Him to the best of my ability.
Now that we know that sin is a real problem in our lives and that God has provided a way in which we can overcome sin, let us take a closer look at what the Bible says about this vital subject.
How can sin be overcome?
Paul wrote, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13) God knows how much temptation we are able to bear, and promises that He will never allow us to be tempted above what we can bear. He will always make a way of escape. Shortly we will examine what that way of escape is that God has provided.
Can Satan force us to sin? No. Satan cannot force us to sin. We have to make the choice to yield ourselves to Satan before we sin. Rather than yielding to Satan we must learn to yield ourselves to God, and allow Him to give us the strength to overcome temptation.
What is temptation?
Let’s look at a plain Bible definition of temptation: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) To be tempted is to be drawn away of your own lust and enticed. Is it a sin to be tempted? No. It only becomes a sin when you allow lust to conceive in your mind.
For example, suppose a man is walking through the checkout line in a grocery store. Inevitably there are several magazines in the racks that have half naked women on the cover. The man glances around, and notices one of these magazines. There is something in him that is drawn to continue looking at this picture; however, he understands that it is wrong to continue looking at the picture, and immediately turns away. Realizing his own weakness, and the danger he is in, he calls upon the Lord to deliver him from this temptation. And immediately the Lord gives him the victory he so longs for, and draws his mind to focus on eternal things.
Was it a sin for the man to have glanced at the picture to begin with (in this case we will say he did it innocently), and had some longing to continue looking at it? No. He was tempted by being drawn to do that which was wrong to do, but this temptation was not a sin. It would have become a sin had he stared at the picture and allowed his mind to wonder on forbidden territory. This is “when lust hath conceived, and it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)
How temptation works
Understanding how temptation works is necessary for us to know how to overcome when we are tempted. There are three basic responses that the man in the previous example could have had.
1) He could have stared at the picture and allowed his mind to wander on forbidden territory. This would plainly be a sin. “But I—I say to you, that every one who is looking on a woman to desire her, did already commit adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 Young’s Literal Translation) It is not the looking at a woman that is a sin, or even the drawing that a man has within him toward a woman that is a sin, but when a man looks upon a woman for the purpose of lusting after her, this is a sin.
2) He could have decided that it was wrong to continue looking at the picture and chosen to look away, trying to force himself to think about something else, thus striving in his own strength.
3) He could have recognized the sin in continuing to look at the picture, and immediately turned away. Realizing his own weakness, and the danger he is in, he could call upon the Lord to deliver him from this temptation.
Which of these responses would be the correct response? Obviously number 3. When we are being tempted we must call upon the Lord and He will be right there to give us the help we so desperately need. The main point of this study is to emphasize the importance of immediately calling upon the Lord for strength when we are being tempted.
Call upon the Lord for help
When we are being tempted, we must call upon the Lord for deliverance. Will Jesus come to us? “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
What is Jesus able to do for us? Paul wrote, “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour [“to run to the cry of those in danger, to help”—Thayer’s Greek Lexicon] them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) Jesus Himself has suffered being tempted, therefore He knows exactly how to help us when we are being tempted, and will come when we cry unto Him.
We are continually assaulted with temptations, but praise God that we have a High Priest in heaven. Does Jesus know how it feels to be tempted and how to overcome those temptations? “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, 16) Christ was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, therefore let us come boldly to the throne when we are being tempted, and He will quickly come to our aid.
When we are in trouble, what does God want us to do? “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Psalm 91:15) The Lord will help us when we are being tempted if we call upon Him, and do not rely on our own strength. How can we expect to be victorious if we do not call upon the Lord? We are powerless before Satan’s attacks without God’s help.
What is our warfare against? 2Corinthians 10:3-4 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) We do not fight against Satan’s temptations with swords and spears. It is a spiritual warfare; and physical weapons are useless in our battle with sin. Our weapons are mighty only through God. If we do not call upon Him when we are tempted, we will not overcome.
But if we call upon GOD and trust in him what will happen? Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5)
We can even bring every thought of our minds into subjection, into obedience of Christ.
How can we be strong and overcome during these spiritual battles? “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might [not the power of your own might]. Ephesians 6:10
What are we to “put on” so we can stand against Satan? Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
What is the first piece of armour we should put on? Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Notice the first piece of armour we are to put on, “girt your loins about with truth.” Does this mean we are to put a belt on that has truth written on it? No. We are to have our minds filled and surrounded with truth. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) Study the Word of God, so you know of a certainty the words of truth. Another characteristic of God’s last day people is that they speak the truth, and only the truth. For this to happen they must be very familiar with the truth.
Analyze your own experience
Examine yourself to see if you are calling upon the Lord when you are tempted. When the Lord sees you call upon Him when you are being tempted, He sees that you do not want to yield to this sin, and He will honor your cry and give you the victory. If you do not call upon Him when you are being tempted, the Lord can see that you still have some desire to yield to that sin and He will not give you the
We need to despise sin so much that we would be willing to die rather than sin.
How did Jesus feel about Sin? Jesus “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” (Hebrews 1:9) We must have this same hatred for sin. Paul wrote, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4) But there will be a time when God’s people will be required to resist unto blood in striving against sin.
What good counsel did Paul give to help avoid sin? “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14) We are commanded not to make any provision for the flesh. Do not do anything that would make it easy to fall into sin. Never go out of the way to put yourself into a position that may cause you to fall into sin.
Burn bridges behind you
I heard of a man who used to be an alcoholic. He had given up drinking for quite some time and had discarded all of his bottles of alcohol—all except one. He would carry this bottle with him under the seat of his car. One of his friends stumbled across it while looking through his car one day. Shocked, his friend questioned him as to why he would have such a thing in his car. The man replied, “I carry it around just in case I need it some time.” This man had stopped drinking for quite some time, but was not sure he really wanted to give it up for good.
Are we like this man when it comes to sin in our lives? Are we making provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof?
I read of an army general who went out to fight a battle. Before he could face the enemy he had to march his army over a bridge spanning a deep chasm. After marching his army over the bridge, and going over himself, he burned the bridge behind them, thus making any retreat impossible. This gave the army the increased desire to win the battle, for they had no way of escape. Thus the enemy was defeated.
Are we burning the bridges behind us in our lives? Or do we have some reserve about giving our lives to the Lord completely?
Paul wrote, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:13, 14) Every decision we make, for good or evil, we are either standing for God, or for the Devil. Let us follow after the Spirit that we may live.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
I pray that the Lord will guide you as you study and follow Him. Again I must emphasize the importance of calling upon the Lord when you are being tempted, and He will help you and deliver you out of your troubles—not sometimes, but every time. This is the way of escape God has provided out of every temptation. Praise Him for His goodness.
"Come out of her My people" - Jesus Christ
OVER COMING SIN