Being ruthless with sin

bullOf course the basic starting point in dealing with sin in our lives is to make sure we are Christians. Jesus said in Mark 7 that it is “out of the heart comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder” and so on. In other words, the problem is not what we wear or whether we have a tattoo or not, but our hearts, our very selves. We need new hearts, we need to be converted, we need to be born again. That is the first step.

Secondly, we need to be disciplined. Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin.” (Job 31:1) Job did not presume he would automatically or magically grow in godliness, but made a covenant with himself to work on his holiness. The apostle Paul said, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Dealing with sin is a heart issue (you need to be converted) and a discipline issue (you need to practise self-control). You can’t have one without the other. So then here are my top tips in dealing sin:

a. Make a decision

At some point in his life Job made a decision to be holy, to walk in integrity, to deal with sin in his life and to honour God in obedience. Have you made that decision? Following Jesus means trusting him and obeying him, like the famous old hymn says.

You can’t have one or the other. As a young Christian I went on a youth camp. Until that time I was trying to life my live with one foot in the world and the other in the church. I was a compromising Christian and desperately unhappy. I was playing badly for both sides. On camp they taught us from the book of Deuteronomy about how loving God means obeying him. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” I, by God’s grace, made a decision to stop being lukewarm, to stop dabbling with sin and to stop being a Christian compromiser. You will find that it is not just a once-off decision, but a decision that we must constantly re-make and re-commit to. Have you made that decision?

b. Be ruthless

Be ruthless with sin, not with people. Jesus said in Mark 10 that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off better to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell. He said if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out for it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell. Jesus was not being literal being literal as you could steal with other hand or look at porn with other eye. Jesus was saying that his followers should deal decisively and radically and drastically with the causes of sin in their lives. Ongoing, habitual, unrepentant sin is not consistent with the Christian life.

If you have a problem with lust, don’t watch Survivor. If you have a problem with porn, don’t go on internet late at night. If you have a problem with gluttony, don’t get a job at MacDonald’s. If you have a problem with drunkenness, don’t meet your friends at the pub. If you are unmarried and seeking to be godly, don’t be alone with your girlfriend late at night on the couch with romantic music playing.

Ephesians 5: 3 says, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (ESV).  I like the NIV translation, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” What the standard for the Christian? Just a little lust, just a little porn, just a few lies, just a modest amount of gambling, just a few rude joke, just a tiny amount of unfaithfulness? No, the standard is not even a hint! Those things should not even be named among you – don’t even talk about it let alone do it.

What’s your standard? Sin always starts small, but it snowballs

c. Walk close to God

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Sin will keep you from the Bible and the Bible will keep you from sin. What do I mean? The times in my life that I have fallen into sin, I have felt too ashamed to come before God, too ashamed to read the Bible because I knew very well that the Bible will condemn my sin – so I stayed away. I had to swallow my pride, repent of my sin, ask God to forgive me, thank him for his complete forgiveness in Christ and then go back to the Bible! Reading, meditating and praying that I might know God deeper, better and more. You see, sin keeps you from the Bible. But walking close to God – characterised by regular, deep, meaningful bible devotions – will keep you from sin. If you are walking close to God you’ll have the resources to say not to sin and temptation because you’ll be asking yourself, “How can I honour God more?” rather than “How close can I get to sin?” And a close walk with God takes discipline, effort, perseverance and going to bed earlier.

d. Walk far from sin

Often Christians don’t ask, “How holy can I be?” or “How much can I honour God”, but rather, “How close can I get to sin before it’s technically a sin?” That’s the wrong question! Proverbs 5-7 is a father telling his son how to resist adultery and remain godly. Listen to one piece of advice about the seductive woman:

Now then, my sons, listen to me;

do not turn aside from what I say.

Keep to a path far from her,

do not go near the door of her house,

lest you lose your honour to others…(v7-9)

The father says, “You know where that seductive woman lives – don’t even go down her street!” Don’t put yourself near temptation; avoid tempting situations. Don’t walk near to sin; stay far away from it

I think this means:

• Not dating too young: If you’re not ready to get married, you’re not ready to date. Why are you dating? To find a godly marriage partner or to have a bit of fun?

• That there are no secrets from your spouse: Your cell phone, laptop and iPad should be open access to your spouse.

• That if you know someone from the opposite sex likes you (and you are already married to someone else) you do not go for coffee alone with that admirer.

• When your wife goes away for the weekend she takes the internet connection with her so you cannot be tempted to view pornography.

e. Take the exit strategy

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “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.” God promises to provide a way out. It may be a phone call from friend, a moment of clear thinking or even this blog. Take the escape route.

f. Have a safety net

Don’t trust yourself. Jesus said the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”. Even the Christian’s heart this side of heaven. Some guys argue, “Temptation is a heart issue and I don’t want to be a legalist, so I’m not going make rules and laws for myself. I’m not going to use internet porn blockers and adult website filters on my laptop!” You’re yourself up for failure. You don’t know how wicked your heart is. Every computer at home or at work should have adult content filters for your sake and your children’s sake. Have a safety net that you can fall back on, maybe a friend you can chat to about your issues. Whatever. But have a safety net.

g. It’s not too late

You’re probably thinking, like me, “It’s too late, I’ve already messed up! I should have heard this sermon last week, or last year, or 10 years ago!” The good news is that it’s never to late to start again, never too late to ask God for forgiveness and never to late to decide to be holy. Kind David, after he committed adultery, prayed Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight…

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (1-4, 7)

Why not start by praying the general prayer of confession as found in the REACH SA Prayer book:

Almighty God, heavenly Father

We confess that we have failed you in our thoughts and words and deeds. Because we are sinners by nature we have strayed from your ways and not only have we done wrong but we have failed to do right. Lord, you alone can forgive sin, have mercy on us, pardon our sins and help us to serve you not only with our lips, but with our lives, in holiness and godliness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.




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