The Spiritual Life: Taking the Bait – Part 1: Insights on Temptation and Sin You May Never Knew About

 

The Root not the Fruit is the Real Problem:

When most people think of sin, they think of things like lying or stealing, pornography, sex outside of marriage, abortion, homosexuality, and murder and so on. In reality these things are actually the fruit of sin and if left undealt with, the ultimate outcome is, according to the Bible, death. But where does it all start? Sin actually has a root, or you could say a root system where things get started. Like a tree, or any plant, the root is something that is not seen, it is underground and it all starts with a seed.

Before a person is spiritually regenerated or born again, they live under the complete control of sin. It is in their nature. They can’t stop it, they can only decide where and when they will sin. When a dog chases a cat or squirrel or digs a hole in your garden we say “that’s what dogs do – its their nature,” and the same is true for every human who has not been born again. Sin comes naturally and easily to us because it is our nature to sin. However when we are born again God removes the supreme power and absolute control of our sinful nature and gives us a new nature. A born again Christian most definitely can sin but they don’t have to because the sin nature has been dealt a death blow and no longer holds the power and sway over us that it once did.

This fact that a Christian can and does sin causes some confusion among many believers and non believers alike, unbelievers will scoff and say well I thought you were a Christian until you did x, y and z. A new believer’s faith can be shaken when after being born again they find themselves falling into sin, and this can even cause them to question their own salvation. What people don’t understand is that a true Christian is a work in progress and the final work of redemption will be completed at a future time after a Christian has died or has been raptured. Even the apostle Paul said toward the end of his ministry and life  that he hadn’t achieved a sinless state but what he did was forget the past and press on toward the high calling in Christ.

The Seat of Sin:

In the hee and now the power to sin lies in the physical body. This part of the Christian is still unregenerated and is subject to the sway and temptation to sin. In fact the bible says that the seat of sin resides in the flesh, Paul says in Romans 7:20, “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in mymembers.” The soul is in the process of being renewed and although much progress can be made in this realm here on earth it is not yet fully complete and thus also subject to the sway of sin. This is why the bible says in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Despite the reality that a true born again Christian can and does sin we do have help. One of the ways God helps his children is through the Holy Spirit, who lives in us in our spirit. Because the Holy Spirit lives in our spirit the Christian’s spirit cannot sin. This part of us is sealed by the Holy Spirit, He is here there to help us with our weakness and failings and to conform us to the image of Jesus. But before we get into how God helps us with our sin, let’s talk about the process sin takes starting from the root up.

Temptation opens an Opportunity for Sin

Sin always starts with our desires. Something grabs our attention and it is presented as something both attractive and desirable. When we see it is attractive and desirable our desire kicks in and we want it. This phase is what we can call temptation. No action has been taken yet, therefore no sin has yet been committed, which is why you shouldn’t feel guilty for being tempted – even Jesus was tempted! But the desire to act is there and the choice is completely ours to make.

One of the big mistakes we can make when we are being tempted is in not paying attention to what is really going on because temptation to sin is often very subtle. Maybe we are busy with other things and it shows up in the background or maybe we don’t see the trap that is being laid for us for what it is. Or maybe we minimize it and think it’s not that big of a deal. We may also rationalize it away as something other than what it is. All the while our desire is growing and we are not dealing with it. In this scenario the outcome is always bad. And once we give into sin we can follow these same patterns we use when being tempted to ignore, minimize, rationalize, excuse or justify our sin.

However if we do realize we are being tempted and tell our desires when they are small NO and are diligent to keep telling them no until the desire fades and passes then we will not take the bait and act on our sinful desires. Now this is only true when our desire is small and weak and we have no prior history with a particular sin we can resist it with willpower. Usually saying no just once or twice is sufficient to avoid the temptation. For example if someone offers you a joint and you’ve never smoked pot before and you have no desire to do so, then saying no is rather easy. Even an unsaved person can do that.

When Temptation Gets Real

However serious temptation comes when we experience a tremendous amount of pressure, which happens when a desire is derived from a base need, like for food, water, clothing, shelter, safety, preventing our death or of those we love, wanting to be loved, comfort for pain, sexual urges or avoiding rejection and belonging, then resisting the temptation to give into our desires becomes much more difficult. When there is great pressure to give into a temptation, it is fruitless to try to resist by sheer willpower alone. Human willpower can only go so far then it will fail us when it reaches the breaking point, then the battle is lost and we take the bait. However if we turn to the Lord in our temptation and tell him what’s going on and not hiding anything and asking for help, he can empower us to stay strong even when it feels like we are at our wits end. If we would do this for each and every temptation that came our way, we wouldn’t sin but we don’t because we are all quite weak, not only in seeking the Lord as we should but because our desires are many, therefore our temptations are many and powerful and they can hit when we least expect and when we are least prepared for them. There are four major things which put us at a great disadvantage when dealing with sin, a lack of understanding regarding our sinful nature so that we remain unguarded against its influence, a lack of understanding of what the bible says that can help arm and defend us when facing temptation, that there is a real devil that schemes against us and tries to tempt us and a world system we live in and interact with that broadcasts sinful messages to us all the time.

On the other hand if we have given into a specific sin before, we know the pleasure, thrill and satisfaction it brings, and that knowledge makes the temptation that much stronger. What we tend to forget in the moment of our new temptation is those pleasures, thrills and satisfaction are so very fleeting and short lived. Because we forget this reality as well as the hurt and damage following this path creates in both our lives and the lives of others our willpower to resist and our earnest seeking the Lord for help is weakened and once again we take the bait and hate ourselves for it.

Sin’s Path is Always Leads us to Addiction and Slavery

What we fail to realize is this pattern is setting us up for an addiction to sin. We take the path of seeking the promise of sin. That promise is if we keep pursuing it we will eventually find that ultimate satisfaction we so long for. We know it’s wrong. We know it’s sin. We know its hurting us and others around us. We know there will be consequences and we won’t like them. We fear our sin being found out so we make every effort to hide it in the dark hoping it won’t be discovered. We feel the Lord convicting us and the devil condemning us. And despite all these alarm bells, warnings and growing guilt and regret we continue on because we have allowed our desire for the ultimate satisfaction we seek trump all. And now we are soundly addicted to this sin.

The problem with sin is that enough is never enough because the promise it offers is an illusion that never delivers on its promise at least on a lasting basis. We have to keep committing the sin to experience the satisfaction we want. Then there is also the problem of diminishing returns. The first time we commit a given sin the return is great, the pleasure and thrill is amazing and the satisfaction is sweet. The problem is each subsequent time we commit that sin the less we get in return, therefore to keep the thrill ride going we have to commit it more often to get the results we seek. That is until one day we wake up to the reality that this sin is not all that we thought it cracked up to be. We’re not getting the results we once did, we are suffering the consequences and our guilt has become unbearable and we know we have to stop completely to get any real relief. Then we face a new horrible reality: we want to stop but we can’t. Now we find ourselves enslaved and as much as we, strain against our handcuffs and yank on the bars of our prison we cannot escape. Did you know that once someone is sentenced to federal prison the odds of a prisoner is less than one percent and for the very few that do escape the odds of staying free are less than one quarter of one percent.

IF you are in bondage to sin you may have tried many ways at many times using some very ingenious methods to escape and perhaps you for a time happen to get free you eventually find yourself recaptured and back in the same restraints in the same prison cell. And that is a very depressing reality for everyone who has followed the path of sin. The looming problem we face if we do not get out of this jail we are locked up in is that at the end of the line the gallows are waiting for us. Staying in the bondage of and slavery to sin is a death sentence. For the non Christian and Christian alike the only hope we have is for someone to rescue us and set us free from our incarceration and slavery to sin so that we don’t have to face that looming death sentence.

Proven Methods to Get Free from Addiction to Sin

God is not unaware of our problem and has sent Jesus to not only pay our fine which we could never pay in a million years,  but to keep us from the death sentence of eternal damnation in hell. As a Christian you probably already know this so what I want to focus on is 1 How to effectively resist temptation in the first place 2 How to deal with sin once you’ve fallen into it and 3 how to get free when you’ve gone too far down the path sin has set out for you and find yourself in bondage to it. You must understand that these steps take practice and patience and there will be many failures along the way, it is a lifelong practice but in time you can become quite proficient in doing them and see growing success in your fight against sin.

However….

Don’t Miss Out, the Info to Come is Vitally Important!! Please Go to Part to of Taking The Bait

Part Two can be found here:

The Spiritual Life: Taking The Bait Part 2: Spiritual and Practical Advice for Temptation and Sin You May Never Knew

Tom Brown

Elder of Spiritual Life

Sebring Friends Church