I created a youtube video awhile back entitled, “Stop Sinning in 5 Seconds or Less.” Since making this video I’ve received lots of e-mails from people who say, “I’ve tried to stop committing this sin, but I just can’t stop.” I receive this question so often, I decided to write this as a follow up.
Here are some of the things I would like to say to those struggling with sin:
1. Temptation makes You Human
If you struggle with sin, if you’re tempted to do things God’s word says not to do, congratulations on being human. As long as you are “in the flesh” you will continue to be tempted (Galatians 5:16-23). As long as you have fleshly desires, you will always face temptation (James 1:14-15).
I think some people expect temptations to simply disappear. They think they must be doing something wrong if they’re tempted. Consider the fact that Jesus was even tempted “in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Temptation is simply a part of life. As long as you are alive you will be tempted.
2. Temptation is not from God
It is amazing how many people assume that their temptations are from God. They think God may be testing them by giving them this temptation. Or, on the other hand, they sometimes assume God is telling them it is okay since they have a desire to do it. Scripture is extremely clear, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 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 1:13-15).
Temptation does not come from God. It comes from you. Your desires are the root of your temptation. Even Satan’s role in temptation seems to be the fact that he simply plays on, and exploits, your own desires. Again, these desires are based on the fact that you are a human being, a fleshly being. Some desires are not necessarily sinful, in and of themselves, but they can be sinfully fulfilled. For instance, sexual desire is not sinful. But, if it is fulfilled in a way contrary to God’s plan, it is sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9, 18-20).
So, don’t assume that just because you’re tempted to do something, God is somehow behind it. He is neither behind it in a testing way, nor is He behind it in a permissive way. In fact, God is not to blame; He is the answer to your problem. You must transform your desires. You must work on fostering a desire to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9) and stop focusing on your desire to please yourself.
3. Temptation Can be Overcome
God’s word makes us this promise, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You NEVER have to give into temptation. Jesus was fully human and He NEVER gave into temptation (Hebrews 4:15). You don’t have to either.
There is always “a way of escape.” However, that way of escape seems to get more and more narrow, and harder to find, the closer we get to temptation. For instance, the best way to avoid sexual immorality is by never putting yourself into a situation where sexual immorality is even possible. When a couple puts themselves in an empty house with no accountability, the way of escape is still present, but it is getting harder and harder to find.
If you want to overcome a temptation you constantly face, STOP putting yourself into the same situation over and over again. Learn from your mistakes and change your strategy. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. Some of us tend to be spiritually insane! Stop the madness and stop putting yourself in those situations.
4. Temptation Loses its Appeal in Light of the Cross
Jesus came to set us free from sin. Not only from the consequences of sin, but from living a life of perpetual sin. He came to show us a better way. He came to be our example. Consider the words of 1 John 2:1-6:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Jesus came to be an example for us. He came to teach us how not to sin. But, unfortunately, we still occasionally sin (miss the mark) and He acts as our advocate. The problem comes when people treat God’s grace as a license for sin (Jude 4) and go on sinning deliberately. The Hebrew writer says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
The cross of Christ ought to give us hope, it ought to give us a desire to do better, it ought to give us self-control (Titus 2:11-12). So, when you’re tempted to sin, set your eyes on the cross. Consider the horrible consequences of sin and the great lengths to which Christ went to save you from sin. Most of all, assuming you are a Christian, consider the commitment you made to stop sinning when you were buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:1-7).
Hope this gives you something to think about. Question: What helps you when dealing with temptation (comment below)?
I love you and God loves you,