Overcoming Sin

prayer overcoming sinSin is a problem that has plagued this world ever since Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Jesus came into this world to save His people from the penalty of sin and its power. Of Jesus it was said, “he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Notice the verse does not say, “he shall save his people in their sins,” but “from their sins.” God is not only able to deliver us from the penalty of sin but He is also able to keep us from committing sin in the future. Jude wrote, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 1:2
4) God is able to keep us from falling into sin.

Some people claim that it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning, but Jesus said, “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) He also said, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23) And Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) This language is all inclusive. To make the claim that Christians cannot stop sinning is to say that Satan forces us to sin. Sin is a result of being tempted to do wrong. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) To be tempted is not sin. It is only when we allow that temptation to take root that it becomes a sin.

Satan is able to tempt us to do wrong, but never, under any circumstance, is he able to force us to sin. It is only when we exercise our will and make the decision to yield to that temptation that we commit sin. God has informed us, through the apostle Paul, that He makes a way of escape out of every temptation. Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) God has made a way of escape out of every temptation. That means that no matter how severe the temptation, no matter how likely a person is to yield to sin, there has never been, nor ever will be, a time when Satan forces an individual to sin.

Therefore it is altogether possible for God’s people to stop sinning. In fact John wrote, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) My friends, surely Jesus would not have instructed this lady not to sin anymore if it was impossible for her to do it. Certainly it could not have been done on her own, but with God’s help, “all things are possible.” Jesus said to a man whom He had healed, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14) God often asks us to do difficult things, but be assured He never asks us to do the impossible.

Is it possible for a thief to quit stealing?

If it were true that it is not possible for Christians to stop sinning, then we must say that it is not possible for the thief to give up stealing, or the drunkard to give up alcohol, or the murderer to give up murdering. Yet we have abundant examples of people who have done just that. How can we explain this if it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning? Sin is, and always has been, a choice made of our own free will. And if it is an action of our own free will nobody can ever truthfully claim that it is not possible for a Christian to stop sinning.

Some people wish to do only the least amount necessary in order to accomplish a particular goal. Some wish to enter heaven by the skin of their teeth. Is this the attitude a Christian should have? Have you ever had a child, or known someone else, who is determined to do the least amount possible to get by? Suppose you have this type of person as an employee and you ask them to mop a very dirty floor. They take out the mop, dip it in water, wring it out, and quickly run it across the floor. If you know anything about mopping you know that this is a very poor way of doing the job. Yet they did do just enough to be able to tell you “I mopped the floor.” This is the type of attitude I think of when I hear a Christian say, “We can never stop sinning anyway, so we might as well not even try.” Is this the type of attitude a Christian should have? Should we want to just barely make it into heaven? I don’t know about you, but I want to make my Father in heaven as happy as I possibly can. I want to serve Him and please Him to the best of my ability.

Now that we know that sin is a real problem in our lives and that God has provided a way in which we can overcome sin, let us take a closer look at what the Bible says about this vital subject. Will anyone ever overcome sin?

The seal of God

The book of Revelation informs us of some of the events that will take place just prior to the second coming of Christ. John wrote, “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” (Revelation 7:1-4)

Right before the second coming of Christ God will send an angel to seal the servants of God in their foreheads. Once this seal has been given nothing is able to harm those who have been sealed. John wrote, “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” (Revelation 9:3, 4)

It is obvious that those people who receive the seal of God are alive during the last moments of this earth’s history when the mark of the beast has been instituted, for they are protected from the last plagues. There will be seven last plagues poured out on all those who receive the mark of the beast, but those who receive the seal of God will be protected. John wrote of the pouring out of the first plague,“there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.”(Revelation 16:2)

It is imperative therefore that we are among the group of people who receive the seal of God, and not among the group of people who receive the mark of the beast.

The Father’s name in their foreheads

Concerning those who receive the seal of God, John wrote, “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads…. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” (Revelation 14:1, 5) The 144,000 who receive the seal of God are said to have the Father’s name written in their foreheads. They are also said to be without fault and without any guile, or deceit, in their mouths. Do you suppose they had a big tattoo of God’s name on their foreheads? I certainly doubt it. The verse says that the Father’s name is written in their foreheads, not on them. This seal is not given as a visible mark for men to behold, but as a sign to the angels that they are not to be hurt by the seven last plagues. The word name in the Bible often has the meaning of a person’s character. The name Jacob means supplanter, or deceiver. God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob to Israel because his character had changed. Israel means “one who as a prince prevails with God” (John Gill’s Expositor on Genesis 32:28)

For a person to have the Father’s name in their forehead means to have the Father’s character reproduced in their lives as Revelation 14:5 reveals. These people who receive the seal of God are said to be without fault and without any deceit in their mouth. The very same description is given of the remnant of God’s people. Notice what Zephaniah wrote about them. “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” (Zephaniah 3:13) God’s last-day people are often referred to as the remnant. John wrote, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17) He also wrote, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)

God’s last-day people, known as the remnant, or the 144,000 (whether that is a literal number or symbolic, I cannot say), will keep the commandments of God and they will not do iniquity or sin. Certainly you can see that God will have no problem putting His seal of approval upon people like that.

This group of people will be prepared to meet their God. They will triumphantly proclaim, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9) The proclamation in Revelation 22:11 will have already been given. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11) Each person’s case will have been settled at this point.

One group of people will have overcome sin. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21) Another group of people will have chosen to cling to their sins, and they will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming. “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9) If you are still sinning when the Lord returns, you will be destroyed. Do you remember what Jesus said when He spoke of His coming? He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”(Matthew 7:21-23)

Christ comes for a pure church

As you can see, it is very clear that in the last days, when Christ comes for His people, He will be coming for those who have overcome sin; those who “keep the commandments of God.” I want to be in that number, how about you? You can be one of them, brothers and sisters. The biggest obstacle that keeps people from overcoming sin is the idea that it is not required of them. My friends, this is a sad delusion. Jesus said, through the prophet John, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14) Keeping God’s commandments is not only possible, but necessary, to be part of God’s remnant people who are prepared to meet Christ when He comes the second time.

With this brief presentation of the necessity of overcoming sin before the Lord returns, we can now enter into the study of how to overcome sin.

How can sin be overcome?

Paul wrote, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12, 13) God knows how much temptation we are able to bear, and promises that He will never allow us to be tempted above what we can bear. He will always make a way of escape. Shortly we will examine what that way of escape is that God has provided.

Can Satan force us to sin? No. Satan cannot force us to sin. We have to make the choice to yield ourselves to Satan before we sin. Rather than yielding to Satan we must learn to yield ourselves to God, and allow Him to give us the strength to overcome temptation.

What is temptation?

Let’s look at a plain Bible definition of temptation: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) To be tempted is to be drawn away of your own lust and enticed. Is it a sin to be tempted? No. It only becomes a sin when you allow lust to conceive in your mind.

nailFor example, suppose a man is walking through the checkout line in a grocery store. Inevitably there are several magazines in the racks that have half naked women on the cover. The man glances around, and notices one of these magazines. There is something in him that is drawn to continue looking at this picture; however, he understands that it is wrong to continue looking at the picture, and immediately turns away. Realizing his own weakness, and the danger he is in, he calls upon the Lord to deliver him from this temptation. And immediately the Lord gives him the victory he so longs for, and draws his mind to focus on eternal things.

Was it a sin for the man to have glanced at the picture to begin with (in this case we will say he did it innocently), and had some longing to continue looking at it? No. He was tempted by being drawn to do that which was wrong to do, but this temptation was not a sin. It would have become a sin had he stared at the picture and allowed his mind to wonder on forbidden territory. This is “when lust hath conceived, and it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)

How temptation works

Understanding how temptation works is necessary for us to know how to overcome when we are tempted. There are three basic responses that the man in the previous example could have had.

1) He could have stared at the picture and allowed his mind to wander on forbidden territory. This would plainly be a sin. “But I—I say to you, that every one who is looking on a woman to desire her, did already commit adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 Young’s Literal Translation) It is not the looking at a woman that is a sin, or even the drawing that a man has within him toward a woman that is a sin, but when a man looks upon a woman for the purpose of lusting after her, this is a sin.

2) He could have decided that it was wrong to continue looking at the picture and chosen to look away, trying to force himself to think about something else, thus striving in his own strength.

3) He could have recognized the sin in continuing to look at the picture, and immediately turned away. Realizing his own weakness, and the danger he is in, he could call upon the Lord to deliver him from this temptation.

Which of these responses would be the correct response? Obviously number 3. When we are being tempted we must call upon the Lord and He will be right there to give us the help we so desperately need. The main point of this study is to emphasize the importance of immediately calling upon the Lord for strength when we are being tempted.

Call upon the Lord for help

When we are being tempted, we must call upon the Lord for deliverance, and He will come and help us. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18) Paul wrote, “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour [“to run to the cry of those in danger, to help”—Thayer’s Greek Lexicon] them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) Jesus Himself has suffered being tempted, therefore He knows exactly how to help us when we are being tempted, and will come when we cry unto Him. For “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

We are continually assaulted with temptations, but praise God that we have a High Priest in heaven, interceding in our behalf, who knows what we are going through. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, 16) Christ was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, therefore let us come boldly to the throne when we are being tempted, and He will quickly come to our aid.

God says to each of us now, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15) “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Psalm 91:15) David wrote, “Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.” (Psalm 94:17, 18) The Lord will help us when we are being tempted if we call upon Him, and do not rely on our own strength. How can we expect to be victorious if we do not call upon the Lord? We are powerless before Satan’s attacks without God’s help.

“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) We do not fight against Satan’s temptations with swords and spears. These are useless in our battle with sin. Our weapons are mighty only through God. If we do not call upon Him when we are tempted, we will not overcome. It would be as pointless as facing an entire army alone, with a sword made of paper.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might [not the power of your own might]. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” (Ephesians 6:10-14)

Notice the first piece of armour we are to put on, “girt your loins about with truth.” Does this mean we are to put a belt on that has truth written on it? No. We are to have our minds filled and surrounded with truth. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) Study the Word of God, so you know of a certainty the words of truth.“Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?” (Proverbs 22:20, 21) Another characteristic of God’s last day people is that they speak the truth, and only the truth. For this to happen they must be very familiar with the truth.

Analyze your own experience

Examine yourself to see if you are calling upon the Lord when you are tempted. When the Lord sees you call upon Him when you are being tempted, He sees that you do not want to yield to this sin, and He will honor your cry and give you the victory. If you do not call upon Him when you are being tempted, the Lord can see that you still have some desire to yield to that sin and He will not give you the victory.

We need to despise sin so much that we would be willing to die rather than sin. Jesus had this experience, and He was put to death. He would not yield in any point to the temptations of the Devil. Jesus “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” (Hebrews 1:9) We must have this same hatred for sin. Paul wrote, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4) But there will be a time when God’s people will be required to resist unto blood in striving against sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Romans 6:14)

Sin is a choice

We are never forced to sin. Sin begins in our thoughts, therefore in our thoughts we must fight the battle immediately when temptation comes. We must choose to serve God with all our hearts. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;… I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19) God gives us the choice of who we will serve, but He strongly encourages us to choose the good. God loves us so much that he wants each one of us to be saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Paul gave us good counsel when he wrote, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14) We are commanded not to make any provision for the flesh. Do not do anything that would make it easy to fall into sin. Never go out of the way to put yourself into a position that may cause you to fall into sin.

Burn bridges behind you

I heard of a man who used to be an alcoholic. He had given up drinking for quite some time and had discarded all of his bottles of alcohol—all except one. He would carry this bottle with him under the seat of his car. One of his friends stumbled across it while looking through his car one day. Shocked, his friend questioned him as to why he would have such a thing in his car. The man replied, “I carry it around just in case I need it some time.” This man had stopped drinking for quite some time, but was not sure he really wanted to give it up for good.

Are we like this man when it comes to sin in our lives? Are we making provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof?

I read of an army general who went out to fight a battle. Before he could face the enemy he had to march his army over a bridge spanning a deep chasm. After marching his army over the bridge, and going over himself, he burned the bridge behind them, thus making any retreat impossible. This gave the army the increased desire to win the battle, for they had no way of escape. Thus the enemy was defeated.

Are we burning the bridges behind us in our lives? Or do we have some reserve about giving our lives to the Lord completely? God says, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Paul wrote, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:13, 14) Every decision we make, for good or evil, we are either standing for God, or for the Devil. Let us follow after the Spirit that we may live. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

I pray that the Lord will guide you as you study and follow Him. Again I must emphasize the importance of calling upon the Lord when you are being tempted, and He will help you and deliver you out of your troubles—not sometimes, but every time. This is the way of escape God has provided out of every temptation. Praise Him for His goodness.