Sin is committed after a prolonged unchecked thought process and to prevent falling is to resist temptation through focusing on Scriptures, confession and forgiveness.
“I may hide anywhere but drugs always find me and I fail in stopping this abuse”, is the oft repeated line given by almost all the addicts that I have witnessed to in various prisons in Punjab. Another fact is that most of the addicts desire to change and abstain from their addiction, whatever it may be. Rampant proliferation of drugs, crime and other ill effects of this are clearly evident in the society today. In some circles it is deemed as a “cool thing” to be part of such “elite corps” of the school/college or university. Virginity, a physical as well as mental/emotional, a treasured state in both sexes is considered an oddity in today’s youth. Why is it that we hold religious and social values of no importance today and consider such matters trivial?
Sin is not committed as a momentary decision but the seed is planted much in advance through prolonged thinking about it and the key to stop also lies therein. To blame Satan for every sin committed by humanity is to give too much credit to one who is not capable of the same. The erosion has been gradual and is attributed to the materialistic attitude that has seeped into our society and this is drilled into the child from the very first day of his/her acquiring the sense of understanding in infancy itself. A child who is brought up with the daily dose of success being compared to financial well being is not likely to discern any other way of being successful. Our Lord Jesus asserted “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). Mammon is derived from the Greek word ‘mammonas’ and means “wealth and material possessions” and serving mammon is to make these as the basic aim of life. Envying others for their prosperity and a complaining attitude towards God for not providing such wealth is serving mammon and takes us away from God. Sin in itself leads to isolation from God, from peer support and from spiritual support from fellow believers. This isolation causes an inward regression with none available to share the pain/shame of sin thereby making one more vulnerable to sin.
How do we fall prey to sin? – Any sinful activity never gets committed in isolation and is always a result of a sequence of events in one’s life. These steps are progressive in nature leading from thought to actual commission.
- Temptation– The first step is the thought or the idea getting implanted in our mind by the devil and this may be from external stimuli- like TV or associates talk or from internal thought process initiated due to unexpressed desires/emotions. For Eve the easiest and the best option was to seek out her partner, Adam, before starting a dialogue with ‘the serpent’. At this stage it is always easy to stop further slide into sin. Lord Jesus placed a sinful thought at the same footing as the actual commission of sin “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Saint James, the brother of our Lord lists out the same stages of sin as “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The innocent looking offer of a friend to try a sip, a smoke, a night out with friends for drinks are all the first steps to the commission of sin. The thought process needs to be shifted to the Word of God and seeking advice of friends or confiding in parents is the alternative.
- Desire/imagination– The germ of an idea having been implanted in the mind, the second stage is the process of justification for the act. This is to break our resolve and mental barriers. Eve “looked at the fruit” and this is when we start the process of evaluating the affect of the act- the pain versus gain evaluation. At this stage the devil plants the idea of our deserving this denied pleasure, finding faults in what is available and justifying the sinful activity. This stage is still a time of evaluation and a fight between light and darkness. A strong family unit and/or a strong peer group provides necessary guidance to lead one away from such thoughts and to regain balance.
- Delight in imagery– The resolve is weakening and the actual act looks more and more attractive with least evil consequences. The normal justification is on the basis of- ‘no one will come to know; all are doing it; I can stop when I want’. The desire has already taken root and the details of the act and its “pleasures” are being imagined. The usual walls are broken and like Eve the forbidden fruit looks “good to eat” and the taste of the same is being envisaged in the mind. The idea is examined from all angles of the act- not about stopping but about enjoying the same.
- Weakening of the will– If one has not taken action to nip this evil so far, then by now the mind has already started playing the action video of the expected event and taking pleasure in it. The alluring and seductive images further weaken the will to resist and submission to the call is just around. At this stage, though the actual act has not taken place but the details are already being formed in the mind. It is like watching a movie trailer where part of the details is visible and one is giving in to the desires.
- Yielding to temptation- The restraining walls are crumpled at this stage and s strong desire to commit the sin has emerged. The consent is almost given and the final shove is the only stop.
- Commitments to go ahead- The plans are ready, the excuses have been made and the date and time is fixed. As per the definition of sin given by pour Savior the sin has already been committed many times over though the actual act is about to be executed.
- Act committed-The final plunge is taken and the feeling of emptiness commences for all the pictorial images of sin turn out to be empty. Darkness in itself has nothing to give for it is the absence of light and presence of nothing. The shame and hiding are the outcome and the cycle again starts for repetition of the act. Once the cycle has started sin in itself attracts in the hope of something better the next time. Isolation and lack of guidance causes deeper and deeper sinking into the never ending sinfulness.
Eve had tasted the fruit and realized the futility of it but urged Adam also to eat the same to cover her guilt- in sin it is always ‘more the merrier’. During Noah’s time only eight persons of his family were found to be living a holy life and all his advice to the others fell on deaf ears to their destruction by the flood. The glitter or the shine of sin is only to attract the gullible and the serpent of Eden was called ‘nachash’ translated ‘the shining one’ for it had created an attractive shine around it to draw the attention of Eve. In a similar manner all matter of sin has a misleading attractiveness around itself. After having seen the way sinful acts get committed, we shall understand the way of escape and why we fail.
Attempting Without God- “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) and those who dwell in His light have no fellowship with darkness. Fellowship with God is being in His light and getting away from evil and the more we stay there, the less is the chance of the fall. Being in the Divine light fills us with His light and the same then shines through, like Moses reflected God’s glory on his face. The aim should not be to ask for power to fight evil but more of God Himself, for His presence provides supernatural power. There are two aspects of the closeness to God- firstly to be and secondly to realize and feel His presence. Lord Jesus has promised to “never leave nor abandon us” and His promises are true and He “has been given all authority over everything on the earth and the heavens”. He is seated at the right hand of the Father in full authority and power and His presence in us equips us to resist any temptation. The key is to feel His presence always and remain in His light to avoid darkness. The next aspect is to seek earnestly His power to fight the devil and temptations. That is the reason Lord Jesus included this part in the ‘sample prayer’ that He gave us to say “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).
Trying Without His Word- Scriptures are replete with various promises that God has made with mankind to provide a way of escape from sin, to return to Him and to worship/ fellowship with Him. Once we try to get out of the clutches of the devil without claiming the rights given through God’s Word, we are bound to fail. Lord Jesus promised “the Counselor” for us through the indwelling Holy Spirit “who will convict you of sin” (John 16:8) and this is not to hold us guilty but to lead us away from sin through regular warnings before the act and to lead to repentance afterwards. Word of God also helps us to channelize our thoughts in the right direction during the initial stages or rather throughout our lives. The Lord countered all temptations of Satan through the Word of God and so should we.
Living without faith- The enticer turns accuser once we fall prey to his designs and this accusing is many forms- one, before God to paint us outright unreliable as sinners; second to break our resolve to desist in future through planting thoughts of guilt and shame and third through isolation by keeping others away from us. Satan leads us on initially that God will still love us despite our sins but once we fall the accusations “God will never love you now; you are a loser and can never stop; there is forgiveness for such heinous act”. Our Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself for our redemption and this is not for certain sins only. The blood of Jesus “washes us white as snow” and our sins are forgiven never to be remembered ever. Satan is well aware of the power of God’s forgiveness through our confession and makes all efforts to dissuade us from the same.
The parable of the prodigal son and everything else is not written in the Holy Bible for any other purpose but for education and edification. The promise is “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21). Once we come before the Lord’s throne of grace we become useful for Him to be used for His glory. Saint Augustine rightfully declares “God wants to give us something, but cannot, for our hands are so full and there is nowhere for Him to put it”. Surrender to His power, seek forgiveness “casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7) and He is mighty to save.
Seeking prayer support- “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Apostle Paul leads us to seek help of fellow believers in this fight but in today’s world where we relish the thought of talking about others, even a prayer request can turn into a slander opportunity. It is better to be wise and seek help from someone who is dependable and can be trusted with a confession.
Dependable strategy to fight sin- The easiest option is to deny the seed to grow into a tree and nip evil thoughts in the initial stage itself through shifting focus to the Word of God. Usually we tend to hide for fear of embarrassment, shame and likely pain and we are neither trained to fight this battle nor is guidance from others easily forthcoming. It thus becomes a lonely battle and eventually immunity to guilt develops and one starts loving and enjoying the act to ho back again and again. Invariably the feeling sets in that this is something unique to us only and we isolate ourselves, sometimes even underestimating the gravity of the situation or lose hope and give up on all relationships, even with God. C.S.Lewis has well defined the mode of operation of Satan in his booklet “The Screwtape Letters” and he declares emphatically “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pains”. The moment we hear what He says and return, God is ever willing to embrace us. Usually we do not hear since we are too much drowned in our pleasures or guilt. When things become too much to handle, it is evident that God’s part in our life has decreased and His huge hands extended towards us to grab our loads are not being used by us to let go and receive Divine help.
God did not leave Adam and Eve in the lurch after their sin but came looking for them. Even today He is always ready to help us get rid of the evil and step into His light and blessings. Seek Him and He will always help us to overcome. The messages to seven churches in Revelation carry a reward for “the victorious” and the Almighty All knowing God is ready to lead us into victory to bless us.
Get rid of the shame, confess and get forgiven to lead a guilt free life!!