I grew up with every opportunity to live a Christian life. I often heard about overcoming sin and that I didn’t need to be a “slave” to the desires that came from my sinful human nature. But instead, I wasted most of my youth time.
I didn’t live a bad life outwardly, I lived according to what I understood to be right and wrong. For the most part this helped me not to make a lot of stupid mistakes, but I had no power at all to resist the lusts and desires that live inside me. In fact, temptations became something that I feared because of how much control they had over me. I felt that the sin that lived in me was too strong to overcome – that I had no choice but to give in. This feeling was so strong that at times, when I did try to resist my temptations, I even felt physically sick.
When I think back on it now, I know it is only by God’s grace that I didn’t drift away into a world of emptiness and unhappiness, because that was certainly the direction I was heading.
Paying even more attention
“We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.” Hebrews 2:1 (CSB). I hadn’t done this in my life. I hadn’t made any effort to “pay close attention”. Even though I knew the answer to how I could break free from the sin I could see in me, I was not really interested. As a result, I was quickly drifting away from the life that I needed to live. There were times when I wondered why God’s Word never seemed clear and “alive” for me, but in my heart I also knew I had never really admitted the truth about myself – that I was a slave to sin.
The testing of your faith
Things started to change for me when I finally began to understand that a temptation is not something to fear, but it is an opportunity to see the sin that is in me, and to get rid of it. The verse from James 1:2 (WEB) suddenly became clear for me: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
From this verse, I began to understand that temptations didn’t need to have power over me. Instead, it was clear that each temptation becomes a perfect opportunity for me where I can see my own sinful nature and say No to the thoughts that come up from it. When I do this every single time, I can one day be totally finished with this sin.
Over time, I began to realise that the pleasures of sin, which had always looked very attractive and inviting to me, meant nothing and had no value at all. I soon realised that the things that I was tempted by and that I was chasing after were completely empty.
Getting rid of “I” and “Me”
But even with this new way of thinking, it took a long time for me to begin to see that “I” - my opinions, my wants, my pride - was still a problem in my life. I still had to get rid of all the pride, stubbornness and trust in my own reasoning that lived so deep in me. I tried to overcome these sins on my own by doing what I thought was best or what I felt was right, but I just failed again and again and again.
When I finally began to admit that it was not possible to do it on my own, it became clear to me that I needed to trust God in all situations, not just when it suited me. Yes, for a long time I had admitted that God had a place in my life and, yes, I had always felt sorrow after I had sinned, but I hadn’t been properly fighting against these temptations beforehand. – And it hadn’t been the most important thing for me to prepare myself for the daily situations that I knew would be coming. As a result, when the temptations came, I was completely powerless to resist them.
An active Christian life
Trial by trial, I have learned the importance of using God’s Word as a weapon against sin – a weapon that has more power than my own thoughts and reasoning ever could. I can find strength whenever I open my Bible, in verses such as 1 Corinthians 10:13 (CEB): “No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.”
Though I can be troubled by many temptations night and day, I will not be tempted more than I can bear. That is a promise that has been given to me!
When I am faithful and keep myself close to God, He will help me to be watchful when the temptations begin to rise up inside me. A Christian life should be active, not passive. I should know that the devil will be coming as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) as I go through my day, and it’s my job to be ready.
There were many years that I wasted before making the decision that I wanted to be finished with the sin that lives in me. But when Satan comes to remind me about my past, I tell him about my future. Every temptation that comes is an opportunity to show what I have decided and what I am fighting for. If I go forward day-by-day, arming myself with God’s Word for the situations I will face, I know it is possible for me to change completely.