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Monday, March 28, 2011

A Suggested Method for Tackling Sin

(Here is an excerpt from yesterday's message containing a suggested method for tackling sin.  Again, if any of you would like some help with your specific situation, the elders would be glad to come alongside you.  For the ladies, we can set you up with a godly woman to help you.)

This is just a suggested method.  This is a way, not necessarily the way, to bring the Word to bear on your sin.
If you’ve become convicted of a particular sin, that sin has most likely become a strong habit.  So, following the biblical model for change (Eph 4:22-24), you have to put off the sin and put on something in its place.  Kill the sinful habit and replace it with a godly one.  As an example, let’s say you are being habitually impatient with your children.  If you don’t have children, take note of the principles and just apply them to your situation. 
The first thing to do is to determine how that sin is manifesting itself in your life.  Maybe you raise your voice at them.  Maybe you simmer without exploding.  Maybe you say critical, hurtful things to them when they don’t do what you want.  Write those things down.
Second, determine what you are thinking each time you are tempted to that sin.  Sin doesn’t begin as an outward act.  It starts in the mind and heart.  Your thought may be, “Can’t I get some quiet around here.”  It may be, “I deserve respect.”  It may be, “settle down.”  Write those things down.
Third, determine what you are wanting in those moments.  It may be peace and quiet, when they are being loud.  It may be respect, when they are disobeying.  It may be a clean house, when they are messing everything up.  It may be leisure and rest, when they are dragging their feet getting ready for bed.  It may be punctuality when they are preventing you from leaving for church on time.  Write down what it is that you are wanting. 
Fourth, determine when that sin is manifesting itself.  When do you find yourself getting impatient with the kids and even sinfully angry with them?  You might want to keep a journal for a few days and write down the time and circumstances each time you are tempted to sin in this way.  Write it all down. 
Fifth, go to the Word and find out what the Bible teaches about that sin and the opposite Godly virtue.  Bible Gateway is a great online resource for doing topical searches.  Write that down.  It will be important to commit some of these passages to memory.
Now you’ve got all that information written down. What do you do with it?  The how tells us the specific actions we need to put off.  If that specific action is yelling at the kids, the godly action that I can seek to put in its place is praying for the kids, and thanking the Lord for them.  So when I am tempted to raise my voice, I stop and pray instead.  
 The thinking tells me what thoughts I need to replace.  So if the thought I’m putting of is, “why can’t everyone be quiet,” I need to construct a biblical thought to replace it, like: “God is using all things, including this noise, to conform me to the image of Christ.”  That new thought needs to be written down and memorized.
The wanting tells me what I’m worshiping that needs to be replaced with worship of Christ.  If I want quiet so much that I will sin to get it or sin if I don’t get it, it’s an idol.  I need to recognize it as such and determine that in that moment I will focus on worshiping and pleasing Christ alone. This particular part of the plan relies heavily on my having preached the gospel to myself as a habit of life.
 The when tells me the specific times when I need to prepare myself for temptation, so that I can take a few minutes beforehand to go somewhere where I can be alone and go over all this information… 
…the sin that I am avoiding and the godly behavior I want to exhibit in its place…the thoughts I am going to resist and the godly thoughts I will strive to think instead…the idol that will be calling my name in that moment of temptation and the excellencies of pleasing Christ that I will focus on instead.  I review the relevant Scriptures that I have gathered.  I pray for God’s assistance in the moment of temptation, acknowledging before God I can’t do this in my own power.  Only His grace and strength will enable me to obey and I will trust in Him.  And I commit to the Lord that I will strive to be faithful. 
And I go through that every time I am about to go into a situation where I know temptation will be waiting for me.  If those times for you are super predictable, set an alarm to remind you to do that.  And one crucial part of preparation is having started my day rehearsing the gospel to myself, pondering all the glorious truths of what God has done in Christ on my behalf for His glory.  Remember that looking intently at the gospel is what fuels the fire of our devotion to the Lord giving us the very desire to obey.
Again, this is just one way you can take a systematic sledgehammer to your sin.  You can do some other kind of method, that’s fine.  But you have to do something.  Taking copious sermon notes won’t cut it.  You’ve got to put it into practice where the rubber meets the road.  That means actually sitting down and coming up with a plan for how to obey.
You may say, “that sure is a lot of work.”  Yep.  That’s why Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:5 make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.  Expend energy on this.  That’s why Paul commanded Timothy in 1Tim 4:7, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.  In v10 of that chapter, he says to toil and strive.  That’s why Paul writes in Philippians 2:12 to work out your own salvation as God works in you.   
We do this trusting in the Lord’s strength, not our own, and focusing on the gospel, but we do have to do something.  Isn’t that the spirit of James 1:19-27?  Be doers of the law, not hearers who deceive themselves.  Look at the perfect law of liberty and persevere.  Stay there.

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