- Treat your sin seriously. It dishonors God. It abuses mercy. It despises grace. It presumes on forgiveness. It defiles worship, service and fellowship. It stains and taints and poisons and destroys everything good and holy.
- Take a solemn vow and say, “God, I do not want to sin. I don’t want to break Your law. I don’t want to grieve Your Spirit. I don’t want to dishonor the name of Your Son which I bear.”
- Be suspicious of your own spirituality. Paul said it this way, “Let the one who stands take heed lest he fall.” Job 31:1, Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes, how then can I gaze on a virgin?” He said I’ve got to be careful where I look because I don’t trust myself. I’ve got to start with what I see because I don’t trust myself.
- Resist the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures. Don’t try to stop the process near the end, stop it near the beginning. James notes for us a certain process, “People are tempted when they’re carried away and enticed by their own lust, then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin.” Well you want to stop it at the point of conception not try to stop it at the point of birth. You want to stop sin at conception after its been conceived and run through a certain period of pregnancy, if you will, and now is about to give birth to the sin. You don’t try to stop it at that point, you resist and oppose the first risings of the flesh and its pleasures. Sin comes to you promising pleasure. And you remember at the very outset, my goal is not to please myself but to please the Lord.
- Meditate on the Word. There’s a wonderful verse, verse 31 of Psalm 37, you probably should write this down…Psalm 37:31, it’s a bit more obscure than some but it really is very very important, listen to what it says. “The law of his God is in his heart. His steps do not slip.”
- Be immediately repentant over your lapses. It says in Matthew 26:75 that Peter having obviously been aware of his sin at the crowing of the cock went out and wept bitterly. Something very admirable in that. We castigate, and rightly so, Peter for his defection but we must also honor and respect him for his immediate remorse. Be immediately repentant over your lapses and go back to the place of confession. And repentance isn’t only saying, “I’m sorry, Lord, forgive me,” it is saying, “I’m sorry, Lord, forgive me and I don’t want to ever do that again.” That’s the stuff of real repentance. When you confess your sins and when you say “I’m sorry I did that, please forgive me, I don’t ever want to do it again,” name it…name it specifically. Let your own heart and even your own ears hear the naming of that sin so that you develop in your heart a high degree of accountability with God for having named the very sin for which He is holding you accountable not to commit again. That’s how you develop accountability. That’s how you develop the fear of God. If you hold back from naming your sin it’s because you want to do that again and it’s bad enough to sin without having to be responsible for telling God you didn’t want to do it and defying what you told Him so you’d rather sin only once rather than twice, that’s why you don’t want to name your sin. Then you’re guilty not only of sinning again but of being hypocritical before God. True repentance will name the sin, specifically name the sin.
- Continually pray for divine help. Ephesians 6:18, after all the armor is put on and the battle against Satan and demons, after all of the warfare has been said and the battle is engaged against Satan and all of his forces he says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication.” Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray for you know not when you’re going to enter into the hour of temptation.” Devote yourselves to prayer, Colossians 4:2, being alert in it. Don’t fight the enemy on your own. When you engage the enemy, pray…plead with help. But even in a preliminary sense, I really think anticipatory prayer is the most effective. You need to start your day, “Lord, this is the way you taught us to pray, lead us not into…what?…temptation…and deliver us from evil, Lord, please today lead me away from temptation, please today, Lord, deliver me from evil.” You need to set the course of your prayers before the tempter arrives, before the flesh begins to rise and entice.
- Establish relationships with other believers that hold you accountable. “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” says Paul in Galatians 6, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We are all in the same boat, folks, we all struggle the same way and we need each other.
In closing, Mr. MacArthur summarizes these 8 principals to help us get it:
First of all, realize sin is powerful, it is near, even in you, and it is intertwined with everything in your being. And in order to deal with it you must understand its seriousness. You must promise God not to sin. You must watch carefully for your own spiritual weaknesses. Don’t trust your spirituality. You must resist the first risings of sin in the flesh. You must meditate on the Word. You must be repentant immediately for the lapses that come. You much continue in prayer and dependence on God’s power and establish intimate relationships of spiritual accountability.
This article stirred an excellent conversation between Tom and me.
We have been married for 37.5 years and our besetting sins have changed as we’ve matured in Christ. But until we take our last breath in this life, we will have to deal with this important aspect of growing together in love. If we are serious about our relationship to God and how it impacts our marriage, we cannot neglect this practice. No one can confess my sin and temptations but me. It is a responsibility I must own!
The hard part is this–in the busyness of life we forget to be intentional and go after the sin that so easily entangles us. In my next post I’ll share how God revealed to me the danger of neglecting this discipline.
Please don’t leave without taking a moment to worship the Savior with this song by Meredith Andrews. When we take a look at our sin, we must follow it by taking a long look at the Cross for what Christ has done. This is the power of the Gospel at work in you and and in me.