Tag Archives: sin

Fighting Temptation with 3″ x 5″ Cards

download (1)Do you ever experience those moments of intense temptation to sin (whether it’s worry, anger, lust, etc.) and find that, although you know you need to set your mind on Christ, you cannot think of the biblical truths necessary to do battle in your heart?  In those moments you need God’s concrete promises, the specifics of the gospel, but for one reason or another everything that enters your mind is like a cloud coming of the coast that dissipates in the summer sun.

I have found that the best way to handle those moments is not to waste valuable fighting-time wandering around in your mind until you find something solid and pertinent to your struggle, but rather to create a stack of  3″ x 5″ cards that help you make war with your sin.  I know this is old school (I’m sure you can do this with an app of some kind if you’d like), but I find that I need to act fast when I’m being tempted and these pre-written truths help me cut through the ambiguity.  In order to do this it would, first, be helpful to know what sins you struggle with most, so you can better tailor the cards to your precise needs.

Here are the categories of cards that I am using currently:

  • Bible verses – Remember, these verses do not have to use the name of the sin you struggle with in order to help you.  So, don’t just look in the concordance in the back of your Bible and copy down the verses under “fear” or “bitterness”.  Use texts that remind you who God is and what Jesus has done for you.
  • Wise words – These are pithy statements of wisdom in reference to my sin struggles that I have collected from Christian books or blogs.
  • Instructions – These are simple, direct instructions to myself (based on Scripture), telling me to do something specific in service to Christ.  Often times, battling temptation keeps us so focused on the fight that we are hindered from practicing active obedience to God, when that may be just what we need to draw near to him in faithfulness.  Tip: make sure that if your heart is not in the “doing” that you ask God’s forgiveness and prayer that he would bring it in line with your actions.
  • Prayers for others – Since sin is ultimately proud and selfish, praying for others can helps direct our focus away from ourselves.

Everyone is a Sinner, and that Should Not Comfort Us

images (50)Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reality that I can’t see Christ as the great savior that he is until I see my sin as the deep-seated rebellion that it is.  So, at a specific moment in the car as I was driving to the office last week, I asked myself the question, “Why don’t you see your sin as heinous and awful right now?”  After thinking for a few moments, I realized the answer: because everyone in this world is a sinner, and so is everyone who has ever lived in this world.

The fact that sin is in every single heart (save Christ’s) somehow causes me to feel as if my sin is not that bad.  There’s comfort in numbers, right?  Apparently, this thinking is not uncommon either, because I have heard it used to justify sin in believers and unbelievers alike.  Can you empathize?

If you can, imagine with me for a moment that a deadly airborne virus begins to move through some of the major U.S. cities.  The infection spreads  at a ferocious pace and yet the virus kills slowly and painfully.  Before a week is over the virus has spread to most of the U.S. and Canada and by the end of the month it has traveled to every continent.  Eventually, everyone on earth has been infected. As you imagine this, what are your thoughts in relation to this virus?  In its spread to every person on earth, has the virus become less savage, less cruel, less violent in your thinking?  Or does the spread of this virus to every person show you just how abominable it truly is and how desperate the earth is for a cure? In thinking of sin this way, suddenly, the fact that “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10) stops being a way for me to justify my rebellion against God and it propels me, instead, to the  Great Physician who has the cure (actually, who is the cure) (Mark 2:17).  Praise God… he has given the cure!

We Need to Know More than the Vileness of Sin If We’re Going to Change

This Saturday our church is hosting a seminar for men on the issue of battling sexual lust, and so, as I prepare to teach one of the sessions I’ve been doing some concentrated reading on the subject.  One book I’m reading in particular is Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn-Free by Tim Chester.  In the introduction, Chester makes a suggestion that I  think is especially helpful for men struggling with lust:

Whenever you put the book down, spend a few moments in prayer and praise.  Make sure when you finish reading that you’re thinking about Christ and not about porn.

The reality is that when we are striving to fight the sin of lust, we need to grow in our hatred of it and understand what lies we are believing when we give in to it.  This requires probing our hearts to see what idols are at the root of our lust, doing some reading on the subject (both in the Word and in Christian books), and receiving accountability from believing brothers.  And even as we are thinking about lust and porn as evil, wicked, and abominable, because our hearts are deceitful, we can be tempted to lust in the midst of our assault against it.

This is exactly why every thought of the vileness of sin must never be without a thought of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  Yes, sin is sick, but Jesus died to pay for that sin and transfer his righteousness to your account so that God treats you as if you lived Christ’s perfect life.  Yes, sin is sick, but Jesus rose from the dead conquering that sin so that you are no longer a slave to it.  Yes sin is sick, but your Father in heaven loved you with a love so great that he sent his only son to die for the forgiveness of that sin.

In Ephesians 5:1-2, right before Paul says “sexual immorality… must not even be named among you”, he writes, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Chester understands the same thing Paul did… the motivation for change is in the gospel.  The condemnation of sin is only part of the equation.  Even if we describe lust in the most horrific terms possible, our hearts will still be able to find something desirable in it.  But when we remember the love with which Christ loved us and all the resources for change that he gave us through his sacrifice, we will begin to find the fight being won more often.


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What Does “The Knowledge of Good and Evil” Mean?

In Genesis 3:5, as Satan is enticing Eve to disbelieve God and eat the forbidden fruit, he tells her if she eats the fruit she will be like God, “knowing good and evil”.  For many of us, growing up hearing this account retold and taught, we made wrong assumptions about what these words actually mean.  Tim Chester, in his book, From Creation to New Creation, dispels two of these assumptions: 1) He explains that this phrase does not mean “knowing about good and evil” because Adam and Eve “already knew that they should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; 2) it also does not mean “experiencing good and evil”, since Genesis 3:22 has God himself saying that he possesses the knowledge of good and evil, and we know that God cannot experience evil (James 1:13).

So, my ideas have now been exhausted, what does this phrase mean, then?  Chester sets things straight:

“What it means is determining for oneself what is good and what is evil.  It means deciding what is right – creating our own morality.  Adam and Eve decided to live their lives their own way, without God.  This is what defines sin.  Sin is doubting the word of God and choosing to live our lives without God.  In effect we knock God off His throne and put ourselves in His place.  We decide to be gods for ourselves (p. 22).”

This helps us understand the nature of every sin that is committed.  It was not just that Adam and Eve wanted to have the mind of God (knowing about good and evil) nor was it just that they thought God was holding out on them and they wanted the last bit he had not yet given.  Rather, what they actually wanted was to become their own moral authorities.  Their choice and the choice we all make when we decide to sin is a choice to replace God with ourselves.  When we choose sin, we are, in effect, saying, “God, I don’t need you, I don’t trust you, and I don’t want you… I’ll take it from here”  Church, let us use this truth, today, to whet our appetites for Jesus the Savior.  Sin is worse than we think and so we need Christ more than we think.


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Learning from Losers

If you turn to the first four chapters of First Samuel, you’ll be introduced to a priest named Eli.  At first glance, Eli seems like a good enough guy, serving the Lord faithfully in the ministry and keeping his nose clean, but as the paragraphs roll on, we see that the author wants us to know something else about Eli.  He has two sons who are blasphemous, disobedient to God, and sexually promiscuous…. and it just so happens that they are priests as well.  Eli has neglected his duties as a father and as a result God speaks to Samuel and reveals that judgment is going to come on Eli’s household because of the sins of his sons.  Eli is also included in this judgment because he did not step in and judge the sins of his sons himself.  After Samuel receives this news, Eli approaches him and urges him to relay what the Lord said, so Samuel tells Eli everything.

Now, most of us look at Eli and we don’t see the integrity of Daniel, the heroics of David, or the resolve of Josiah.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot there to emulate, and if we’re honest, it’s pretty easy to imagine the word “loser” being stamped on Eli’s forehead.  But I want to point one verse in 1 Samuel 3 that displays a godly response on the part of Eli that I think we can all learn from.  Right after Samuel tells Eli the staggering news that God is going to pour out judgment on his household, Eli replies by saying, “It is the Lord.  Let him do what seems good to him” (v. 18).  He doesn’t start with the justifications and rationalizations, he doesn’t blow up out of anger, and he doesn’t melt into a puddle of self-loathing.  Instead, Eli surrenders himself to God’s authority and sovereignty without even blinking first.

My point in bringing up this small part of Eli’s story is to remind us all that we can and should learn from losers.  We should never dismiss what God could be telling us in His Word simply because the person he is using to communicate doesn’t have an exemplary character.  Actually, if we’re being real, the Bible is full of losers.  There really aren’t losers and winners in the Bible, there are just losers and then there’s Jesus.  Guys like Daniel, David, and Josiah were losers too because they too were rebels to the will of God, even if it isn’t as obvious as Eli.  The Bible is God’s story and he uses all manner of losers to communicate his truth inside that story.  And he is still telling a story today, and I believe he is using losers like you and me to unfold that story for his fame!

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