Step 10: Hold Out Against Sin
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
A: Discovering the Truth
B. Exploring the Truth
Of course we have all heard the old saying that “it is easier said than done,” which seems to be the case when trying to put down our sin nature. We seem to be powerless to resist. But this is lie from the father of lies (“you will not die”). The truth is, the only power temptation has over us is the power we give to it. Handing over power is a process that begins when our own evil desires (our sin nature), are dragged away and enticed. These desires, once conceived, can give birth to sin, which when they are full-grown lead to death. Just like God told Adam and Eve. For them, and for all of their descendants who inherited the sin nature from them, spiritual death became a reality. But it need not be a certainty. God provided the remedy – Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. Those who believe in Him and receive this free gift are born again to experience eternal life.
But this does not stop Satan from trying to “kill” our fellowship with Christ (“Adam, where are you?”) and our witness to others. He tries to do this with more lies. His lies are not always easy to recognize as lies. They can be very subtle and are often packaged to look and sound like the truth. He will attempt to confuse us about God’s truth. He did this in the beginning with Adam and Eve (“did God really say?”). He will also try to distort God’s word by twisting it to suit his purpose. He did this when he tempted Jesus (“it is written.”). But we must remember, saying that a lie is the truth does not make it the truth any more than saying the truth is a lie makes it a lie.
We must also remember that temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin if we give in to the lies, when we submit (give power) to its rules. So, we must ask ourselves who or what we love more – “the basic rules of this world,” or the one who saved us from them? We show our love by which one we obey.
C. Knowing and Understanding the Truth
How do we keep temptation from becoming sin? Well, another popular saying is “knowledge is power.” So first, we need to know and understand our enemy, because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).” This is spiritual warfare, we have a spiritual adversary, but he is not all-powerful.
Second, we need be aware “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).” If we know his devises, tactics and schemes we will be better prepared to do battle. Third, we need to beware, to “be self-controlled and alert,” because, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” What were Adam and Eve doing at the tree anyway? If we do not want to eat the fruit, we need to stop hanging around the tree.
Fourth, we need to arm ourselves for battle. This is not a second amendment right, but a Biblical imperative. We need to “put on the full armor of God; so that when the day of evil comes, [we] may be able to stand [our] ground (Ephesians 6:13).” Spiritual battles call for spiritual weapons. You should not take a knife to a gunfight. Finally, we need to stand our ground, because if we “resist the devil he will flee from [us] (James 4:7).” Satan prefers unknowledgeable, unaware, unwary and unarmed “victims.” He knows he has no real power over us, so he must resort to lies, accusations, surprise, doubts, legalistic distortion of grace, and, tradition. All of these are subtle deceptions with no real power unless we concede it. So we combat his lies with the belt of truth. We confront his accusations with the breastplate of righteousness. We guard against surprise with feet fitted with readiness. We dispel doubt with the shield of faith. His legalistic distortion of the truth cannot penetrate the helmet of salvation – the Gospel of grace. We fight back against the “traditional” weapons he uses with the sword of the Spirit – God’s Holy Word.
D: Weighing the Truth
A line of dialogue from the motion picture Apollo 13, and attributed to mission control flight director Gene Krantz, is “failure is not an option.” When it comes to temptation, giving in is an option because we have free will. But it is a choice that we make that is avoidable. To obey is better. There is no the “devil made me do it” excuse that Eve used when she said “the serpent deceived me and I ate (Genesis 3:13).” We cannot blame others like Adam did when he said “the woman you put me here with – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Genesis 3:12).” No making excuses. No blaming others. Only confession and repentance can restore the fellowship that we failed to maintain when we chose to sin. Then, our moment (sometimes a season) of unfaithfulness will be met with God’s promise of His faithfulness. Not only will He forgive us, but He will also purify us. He does this because Jesus is at His right side advocating on our behalf. We died to sin. How can we choose to live in it any longer? To obey is better, but which way are the scales tipping in your life?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing On Your Own
1. Why is it that we have such strong desires to do what we know is wrong if we are dead to sin and have such a hard time doing what we know is right if we are alive to God?
2. At what stage is it easiest to keep temptation from turning into sin? Why?
3. Did God really not know where Adam was when he asked “where are you?” Explain.
4. Why do you think that Satan is intent on accusing us when there is “no condemnation” for believers?
5. How can we make sure that the truth is so firmly grounded in our lives that we are able to recognize and expose Satan’s lies and half-truths?
6. Why are the devil’s schemes so effective in breaking us down?
7. Why is it so important that we put on the full armor of God when fighting Satan’s temptations?
8. Is it inevitable that we will be disobedient? Why or why not?
9. Can a Christian (died to sin) permanently return to their sinful lifestyle (continue to live in it)? Explain.
10. What are some “preventive maintenance” things that we can do to help us to be obedient?
11. What is the difference between obeying God’s commands and being legalistic? Why is legalism merely a form of Godliness?
12. What are the limits on God’s capacity to forgive us when we do sin? Explain.