I grew up with every opportunity to live a Christian life. I often heard about victory over sin and that I didn’t need to be a slave to the desires that came from my flesh. But instead, I squandered away most of my youth.
I was asleep to my heavenly calling because I relied on myself and what I understood to be right and wrong. For the most part this helped me avoid making a lot of mistakes, but I made no progress on my inner battle – the battle in my hidden life against the lusts and desires that dwell in me. I had absolutely no power over these things. 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 was so strong that in the moments when I did try to confront my temptations, I could even feel physically sick.
When I think back on it now, I know it is only by God’s grace that I didn’t spiral away into a world of emptiness and misery, because that was certainly the track I was on.
A more earnest heed
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” Hebrews 2:1. This was very true in my life. The fact of the matter was that I hadn’t bothered to give an “earnest heed.” Even though I had the answer to how I could break free from my indwelling sin right in front of me, I was disinterested and complacent. As a result, I was rapidly drifting away from the life that I needed to live. There were times when I wondered why God’s Word never seemed clear and living for me, but in my heart I also knew I had never properly acknowledged the truth about myself – that I was a slave to sin.
The testing of your faith
A huge turning point came when I finally began to understand that every temptation is an opportunity for me to recognize and put to death my own sin. The verse from James 1:2 dropped into my life right when I needed it: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 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, each temptation becomes a custom-made opportunity for me where I can recognize my flesh exactly for what it is and deny the thoughts that come up from it. When I do this each and every single time, I begin to pull that sin up at the root, so I can one day be finished with it entirely.
In time, the deception of this world with its lusts and desires began to become more and more clear to me. I began to realize that the passing pleasures of sin, which had always seemed to offer so much appeal and attraction, held absolutely nothing of value. I could recognize that the things that my temptations had me chasing were completely empty.
Getting rid of “I” and “Me”
But even with this new mindset, it took a long time for me to begin to see that “I” continued to be a problem in my life: my opinions, my wants. I still had to root out the pride, stubbornness and reliance on my own reasoning that lived so incredibly deep in me. I tried to come to victory over sin in my own strength, by doing what I thought was best or what I felt was right. But instead I just failed again and again and again.
When I finally came to the place where I began to acknowledge that it was not possible in my own strength, I received the revelation that I needed to trust God in all situations, not just when it was convenient for me. Yes, I had acknowledged that God had a place in my life and yes I had felt sorrow after I had sinned, but I hadn’t been properly taking up the battle beforehand. It hadn’t been convenient – it hadn’t been a priority for me to prepare myself for daily situations that I knew would be coming. As a result, I was steamrolled when temptations came.
An active Christian life
Trial by trial, I have learned the value of using God’s Word as a weapon – a weapon that holds 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: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Though I can be plagued by a torrent of temptations night and day, I will not be tempted beyond what I am able. That is a promise that has been given to me!
When I am faithful and awake to God, He will keep me on guard when my temptations begin to swirl up inside me. A Christian life should be active, not passive. It doesn’t help to act surprised when the devil appears as a roaring lion as I go through my day – I know he is coming 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 can tell him about his future. Every temptation that comes is an opportunity to take a stand; an opportunity to show which side 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 there to be an incredible transformation in my life.