“All have sinned.” says the Scripture.
What is sin, anyway?
Satan ought to know – he is the invisible influence that sways the course of this world. There is one worldly definition of sin – perhaps the definition of the very Devil who devotes his time to enticing people into sin. The definition is expressive, and not far from the truth: “Sin is thinking thoughts you ought not to be thinking about things you ought not to be doing while you are thinking those kinds of thoughts”.
God’s definition of sin is: “—sin is lawlessness (transgression of the law)” (1 John 3:4). [Breaking the law of love, as defined by the Ten Commandments.] Jesus said: “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart (mind) of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness (violations of the law – the Ten Commandments) —“ (Mark 7:20-22).
“All have sinned,” says the Scripture. And what man – what Christian – is there who has not time and again experienced the struggle against sin described by the Apostle Paul? “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). Who is there who has not lost that struggle, perhaps many times?
Of course no man, of himself, can live above sin. “With men it is impossible,” said Jesus, “but with God all things are possible.” And Paul continues (in Romans 8) to show that the only deliverance from this body of death is through Jesus Christ, and the indwelling power of God’s Holy Spirit – “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
Yes, but we have our part in it too. And it all centers in the mind.
Repentance of sin means, literally, to change one’s mind in respect to sin. If we repent and accept Jesus as Savior, the promise is that we shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, “–and be renewed in the Spirit of your mind–” (Ephesians 4:23). The presence of the Holy Spirit is the renewing of the mind.
How does sin actually happen? “—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 temptation is in the mind. When you think about the thing that tempts you – let your mind dwell on it – turn it over in your mind – whether it be a desire to go someplace, to do something, or to have something you know is wrong – that thinking finally conceives, leads to action and breeds sin. You finally do the thing you kept thinking about and wanting to do. If you keep thinking about it, after a while you’ll be unable to resist it. That is why you’ve lost so many of these struggles against sin; you kept thinking about it, desiring and wanting it.
The way to prevent sin is to let God’s Spirit fill the mind. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the Earth” (Colossians 3:2).
The way to put a thought out of the mind is to put an opposite thought in the mind. Parents of babies strive so hard to “shush” their baby when it is crying in church. There is something in the baby’s mind that is causing its crying or fretting; just saying “shush” or commanding the baby to stop fussing doesn’t tend to produce good results. It’s best to quiet the baby by getting its mind on something else. Instead of commanding it to stop crying, distract the child’s attention with some new object and get it interested in playing with that object. Before you know it, the baby will forget all about why he or she was crying.
Try using this same method on yourself. However, instead of material things, a mature person should use self-discipline to set his or her mind on spiritual things. The next time you are tempted, open the Bible and put the study of some spiritual subject in your mind. Pray about it; ask God to help you. You will see how rapidly you are able to triumph over temptation and sin with His help, and how marvelous your spiritual and character growth will be.