Most Christians sin willingly. There are times when we sin out of ignorance, or through a slip of the mind. When you work twelve hours in a day and then come home to the craziness of family life, you may snap at them. It is sin, but it slipped. This is not an excuse, of course. One of the marks of a Christian is self-control (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Aside from the times of weary tongue lashing and other such sins, there are the sins in which Christians contemplate before they commit. They are tempted before they sink.
For many Christian men, for example, there is the temptation of lust, which leads to numerous sins. The most notable sin in our culture is pornography. I am certain I do not need to regurgitate the statistics to you, because that is what it would feel like…throwing up.
So, let’s take this particular prominent sin as a case study and then we can apply the principles here in other areas. Before you sin, what should you do? Well, the first thing to do is recognize that you are being tempted. This may seem silly, but the recognition of sin is the first step in repenting of it and, by the grace of God, conquering it. So, say what is going on: “I am being tempted to look at porn.” Also, remember what a Christian heart ought to say “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3).
Next, remember that God is with you. I don’t mean this in some sense of encouragement, like, “You can overcome! God is with you!” This is true, of course, but what I mean is rather different: do you really think you can bring God in there with you? He is with you, right next to you, and you are about to enter sin. Interesting.
Think of it this way. Husbands, would you click that link if your wife were in the room? If she were sitting right next to you, would you look at porn? Or, maybe you are not married. Maybe you have a girlfriend. Maybe you are in high school. Would you seriously view porn if your mother was looking over your shoulder? And yet, the links get clicked knowing the God of the universe is right there with you. Simply insane.
Ok, so maybe you are a lady and you don’t have the struggle of lust like all men do. Maybe you can’t control your tongue. Maybe you love gossip, the slightest hint of it makes you eager to want more, like a drug. First, recognize you are being tempted to sin. Then consider if you would speak such language, or enjoy listening to such garbage, if the person being stabbed in the back was in the room. If you are backbiting Jane with some lady friends of yours, would you be doing such things if Jane were present? Remember again, not only is God present, which should cool your jets and shut your mouth, but Jane is an image bearer of God. To slander an image bearer is to slander the One whose image she bears. Not only that, if she is a Christian, she is your sister and God’s daughter. Now, you’ve got some heavy trouble on your hands. Killing with the tongue is a serious sin (Matthew 5:22; James 3:2-12) and we often kill our brothers and sisters.
In either scenario, our calling is to endure the temptation. We are to recognize the sin and realize just Who it is we live and move and have our being in (Acts 17:28). The final thing we need to comprehend is that in Christ, we are dead to sin. The only reason we can conquer sin is because Christ already has (Romans 6). This aspect of overcoming is another mark of the faithful (Romans 8:37; Revelation 2-3; 21:7).
A helpful book on overcoming sin is Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin by Brian G. Hedges.