No matter who we are, where we live or what we do for a living, temptation is all around us, but that does not mean we need to give into any of it. However, sadly, it is not very common for Christians to know the amazing feeling that comes when we resist powerful temptations, as many Christians continue to live in slavery, feeling as though they can never overcome difficult areas of sin in their lives–so how do we explore our God-given power to resist temptation, mature to new levels of righteousness, and enjoy a completely guilt free conscience?
If We Cannot Be Honest With Ourselves, We Will Remain Slaves To Sin
In my journey towards maturity, I battled against a number of long-standing problem areas in my life, and no matter how hard I tried, or how guilty I felt, it seemed like I could not break free
Sure, I cried out to God, did spiritual warfare, held myself accountable by sharing my difficulties with other Christians, etc…, but the one thing I was not doing, was honestly admitting how I was choosing to give into temptation because I wanted to
but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD
This type of honesty, and personal accountability, is so important if we want to see true growth, as God gave us an amazing amount of power to overcome sin, but we have to choose to do so, otherwise we will continue on in slavery to whatever sins have mastered us, no matter how many times we ask God for strength
2 Peter 2:19
…for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him
What I came to understand, is that many Christians seek help from God, but do little to nothing when it comes to actually resisting temptation itself, which is something most Christians do not want to admit
Overcoming Sin Involves Receiving God’s Power, And Actually Choosing To Follow Its Guidance
Just like we covered in a previous article (http://www.godandstuff.com/?p=7486), there is no shortage of guidance when it comes to living righteously, we just lack the desire to obey it
Of course, letting go of some sins can be more difficult than others, but that does not mean we do not have the power to overcome them, or that letting go of them has to take longer, it just means we need to work harder to overcome them by consistently, actively, and often forcefully, choosing to resist their temptation with more determination
Without sincere, consistent effort, many Christians get stuck on particular sins for months, years, and sometimes their entire lives
What is shocking about this, is that most Christians know what they are holding onto is wrong, but still say things like “God has been working on me over this” or “I will struggle with this for the rest of my life”, but that is not how God wants us to lead our lives–he called us to be holy just as he is holy!
There is no sin we are incapable of overcoming if we set our minds to conform to God’s righteousness, and embrace his power to do so, but it does require fierce determination in some cases–overcoming temptation is not easy, but it is not impossible!
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood
1 Peter 1:15
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do
This is probably one of the most uncovered subjects in Christianity, as our choices to resist sin are incredibly powerful when fighting temptation, and can render God’s influence on our hearts completely powerless if we do not choose to live according to his guidance
Part of being a Christian is inheriting the same spirit of God Jesus was filled with, which allowed him to be so self-disciplined, he lived a life that was completely without sin!
2 Corinthians 6:1
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain
(In Greek, “grace” means “God’s influence on the heart”)
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline
It is no secret we are told to obey God’s influence, but, the reality is we pray for strength, read our Bibles, listen to inspiring messages, and have the very spirit of God within us, but we make all these things useless when we, out of preference for sin, choose to follow after temptation rather than resist and pursue God’s righteousness
The saddest part of this equation, is that, without fail, when we choose sin, we feel guilty, and, hopefully, get filled with remorse, which leads us to humbly pray to God, asking for his forgiveness
However, despite these all too common feelings, they rarely do anything to stop many Christians from sinning when they are faced with temptation, and in the worst cases, many continue on without ever having a guilty conscience over their sinful behavior in the first place
Many Christians Live Sinfully, Without Remorse Or Repentance, But Are Deceived Into Having Clear Consciences
Due to the high volume of false doctrine around perpetual, unconditional forgiveness that requires no repentance, and a general lack of spiritual maturity, many Christians develop a self-centered “God will forgive me no matter what I do” type of clear conscience that revolves around a distorted image of God’s forgiveness, and shows no love or appreciation for his sacrifice
This type of clear conscience, however comfortable, has nothing to do with the kind of clear conscience that comes through consistently resisting sin, and living according to God’s standard of righteousness, they are entirely separate
1 Corinthians 4:4
My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me
(Even Paul warned us that having a clear conscience does not make us innocent, as we are going to be judged by God according to his righteous standards, not according to our standards or the standards of anyone around us!)
2 Corinthians 1:12
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace
(Again, “grace” means “God’s influence on the heart”)
The truth, is many Christians go around with clear consciences, yet live in ways that contradict God’s righteousness, not realizing their consciences have not yet conformed to God’s will, and are in fact corrupted due to their preference for sin above God’s holiness
To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good
(It is humbling to note how non-Christians often have clean consciences yet stand condemned before God, and until we are spiritually mature, we can be just as ignorant to God’s standards as the verse above states)
Since this verse seems harsh, in order to understand it, I looked at the Greek meanings for the words in the passage above, as the word “corrupted” means “defiled by sin”, and “not believe” means “not trust in God”
Based on these meanings, we see Paul’s message is very clear, as those who are “defiled by sin” and do “not trust in God” can claim to know God, but deny him through their actions in a way that is detestable to him–tragically, these people do all of this while having a completely clear conscience about their lifestyles
We do not exactly hear teachings like this today, however life changing, as many pastors and authors incorrectly focus on God’s endless mercy, forgiveness, patience, etc… without saying honestly, and directly, that we can be extremely deceived when it comes to living acceptably in the eyes of God, as we are all capable of denying him in our lives through our actions, which makes us “detestable, disobedient, and unfit for anything good”
You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them”
It is important to understand God is, of course, loving, patient, and embraces us when we truly turn to him, but we have to do just that, truly turn to him, not just constantly pray for forgiveness because we willingly, and repeatedly, choose sin and death over God’s righteous commands–what kind of relationship with God can we seriously expect to have when we live like this?
Even though it sounds impossible for Christians to live sinfully without a guilty conscience, we see this all the time when we date/marry non-Christians regardless of what the Bible teaches, when we say porn is okay because it does not hurt anyone, when we act selfishly thinking someone else will help the poor, when we spend more time living for the world rather than for God, etc…
But the absolute worst part about all of this, is many Christians do these things without having a guilty conscience due to their lack of spiritual maturity, and even go so far as to defend their actions when confronted about their ways rather than humbly acknowledge they may not know God’s will on a particular subject
Having A Clear Conscience Through Righteous Living Is One Of The Most Amazing Things A Christian Can Experience
Now, this is really why I wanted to write this article, as one of the most amazing feelings we can ever experience as Christians is the intimacy with God, and clear conscience that comes when we live righteously
This is such a difficult thing to describe, and as much as I thought I had known what it felt like to be close to God, I just could not have imagined what it was like to live in a manner where I was actually on top of my willful sins to the point where they were not an issue–resisting sin feels awesome, as we witness firsthand the power of God’s work in our lives!
The intimacy we enjoy with God when we are obedient is not even remotely similar to what we experience while living sinfully
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly
Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God
If you love me, you will obey what I command
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him
This teaching is incredibly important, as many Christians talk about how their walk is unfulfilling, and are often discouraged because God does not feel close to them, but the biggest reason is because they do not understand how our sin separates us from him–despite all the false doctrine people teach to the contrary, this is true even in the NT!
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil
An example of this from my life, is how the enemy came against me with temptations of all kinds when I was feeling particularly down a few days ago, but I rejoiced knowing God had overcome all of those things, and that despite whatever pull I felt, I knew my heart and mind had resolved to not sin out of preference for my relationship with God
I was overwhelmed with happiness knowing my growth was at a point that delighted God, and I was so proud of myself knowing I had spent decades as a slave, but had now overcome out of love, and respect for God–my heart’s preference is truly for righteousness, not death!
It makes me cry just writing that, as I love living with a clean conscience before God–feeling guilty all the time is awful!
1 John 4:17
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him
Loving God is not an easy place to get to, and it is often completely misunderstood how our obedience, and righteous lifestyles, are reflections of how much we truly love God, as all the worship songs, charity work, and Bible studies are pointless if we deny him through our actions because we constantly choose sin out of preference for it–acting like this shows we do not love God enough to honor him above the sins we are slaves to
As I have grown, I understand more and more that trusting God’s will is incredibly rewarding, as even though something might seem desirable at the time, God knows best, as he is perfect love, righteous, wisdom, and power itself–what decision could we ever make in disobedience that is better for us than following after God’s loving character?