"Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”
Even young children can understand the following logical sequence:
- I shouldn’t do things that are bad.
- Sin is bad.
- Therefore, I should not sin.
But just how bad is sin, really? As Christians, we all give lip service to the “badness” of sin, but if someone looked at your life, do your actions track with your words?
This last Sunday, I preached from Ezra 9-10 about “authentic repentance.” About what is required to repent in a way that does not make excuses and takes sin seriously. This sermon was far from an abstract exercise. As I examine my own heart, I find that there is a great disconnect between what I say about my sin and what I do about my sin. I assume that I’m not the only person who feels this discrepancy in their life. My concern for my own heart and for yours is that we like our sin more than we are ready to admit. We don’t believe our sin is bad enough that we need to do something about it. We’re ready to talk the talk of repentance, but reluctant to walk the walk of repentance.
In the sermon, I highlighted 4 Requirements for Authentic Repentance.
- God-given recognition of sin
- Humble confession of sin
- Decisive action to deal with sin
- Specific remembrance of sin
For the rest of this post, I want to zoom in more on point #3.
Do you believe that sin is deadly, killing you from the inside out? Because it is. Sin can never breed life or joy. Sin can never be a neutral activity in which the positive and negatives balance each other out. Sin is always killing you. Slowly, but surely. And perhaps the most insidious part is that while it tears you apart, it convinces you that it’s only acting in your own best interests. Like a veteran salesman, the enemy knows how to get you in the door. He knows the right hook, the right promise to make, the right justification that will make it seem okay. Behind that façade, sin is a scam of eternal proportions. Sin simultaneously fails to bring true satisfaction to your temporal life and incurs the wrath of a holy and just God.
If you truly believe this about sin, it makes perfect sense that after God gives you eyes to see your sin and you confess it, you take concrete steps to deal with that sin and remove it from your life. Not let it fester or shrug it off, but say “I refuse to let this thing that is killing me have any place in my life. What do I need to do to begin to wage active warfare against this sin?” But what are those concrete steps? What can you and I do to deal with sin? Here are a couple of good practices and disciplines that you may incorporate into your life. The first 3 deal with some of the logistics and the final 2 deal with the heart behind the battle with sin. And speaking from personal experience, the first 3 mean nothing without the final 2 accompanying them.
1) Physically flee the scene of sin
Get out of the situation. Step out of the room. Change your surroundings and your environment. A change of scenery can help keep you from saying or doing something you regret.
2) Avoid your common traps
Sometimes, there’s a specific time or place where you are more vulnerable. Avoid putting yourself in the way of temptation to sin.
3) Get rid of the things that enable you to sin
Matthew 5:29 says that if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. While I’m not advocating for eye removal, I am advocating for enablement removal. There are specific things that make it easier to stumble into sin. My good friend in college did not own a laptop or smartphone because those things enabled him to sexual immorality. Sure, it made life in college a little more inconvenient, but that was well worth the price of personal purity.
Talk to God honestly about the temptation. Ask Him for strength to endure. Prayer will help you focus back on things above and off of the temptations of the moment.
5) Memorize Scripture
Commit to memorizing Bible passages that speak truth into your temptation. Something like Proverbs 15:1-2 for anger or 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 for sexual immorality. Whereas the first three strategies are good for in the moment, this one is preparing yourself for battle. Having Scripture on your mind and easily accessible will bear great fruit when you are tempted to sin.