Do you have a problem with procrastination? Or laziness? Overeating? Do you have to battle selfishness? Or an inferiority complex? Do you fight anger, impatience or losing control of your emotions? Do you struggle with lust? Do you suffer discouragement or even depression? Are you addicted to a harmful behavior or substance? Maybe all of the above?
Life is a struggle. If you are like most people, you have weaknesses, shortcomings, bad habits and destructive tendencies that you would like to overcome. You have probably tried to rid yourself of these flaws and failed, perhaps repeatedly.
Here is one of the main reasons people can work so hard yet still fail to overcome: They are not correctly identifying the problem.
The path to victory begins with recognizing your enemy.
Nobody is perfect—just accept your imperfections, people say. Deep down, you’ve got a good heart. It has gotten to the point that society wants to avoid saying anything is bad! Even serious problems like fornication and pornography have become so common, many people see nothing wrong with them. Dark, perverted thinking that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago has grown mainstream.
The world doesn’t know what sin is.
More and more people think the concept of sin is old-fashioned and irrelevant. Many say sin doesn’t exist.
Even religious people have come to accept these ideas. For example, one book revered by many New Age Christians, A Course in Miracles, says sin is not real, and every person is perfectly innocent and guiltless. “The Holy Spirit will never teach you that you are sinful,” it says. “When you are tempted to believe that sin is real, remember this: If sin is real, both God and you are not.”
Ideas such as that are terribly wrong, and terribly destructive.
If you don’t understand what sin is—if you don’t even believe it is real—you are going to become more and more enslaved by sin! And the problems in your life will never go away.
What Is Sin?
We can eliminate a lot of confusion by going to the one true Source on this subject: the Bible. It tells us plainly what sin is, if we are willing to listen. Here is a clear, direct Bible definition:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). “[S]in is lawlessness,” the New King James Version says.
What “law” is it talking about? We find the answer in Romans 7.
There, in verse 7, the Apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law.” This is even plainer in the Moffatt translation: “Why, had it not been for the Law, I would never have known what sin meant!” The law defines sin. Breaking the law is sin. But what law? Verse 7 continues: “… for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
So this is talking about the law that says “Thou shalt not covet.” What law is that? You can find it in Exodus 20. “Thou shalt not covet” is in verse 17, the last of the Ten Commandments! It is a sin to break the Ten Commandments.
Romans 7 goes on to say, “[T]he law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” and that it is “spiritual”—a law of spiritual principles of living (verses 12, 14). Jesus Christ summarized the whole law in two broad principles: love toward God and love toward neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The first four of the Ten Commandments explain how to love God; the last six show how to love neighbor. The whole Bible expands on these basic points, showing how the principles of law should be applied to govern every aspect of right living.
God is the Lawgiver. Just as He set in motion physical laws that govern matter, He also set in motion spiritual laws that govern human relationships. “It is the prerogative of God alone to determine what is right and what is sin—what is good and what is evil,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong. “God has not delegated to man the right or power to decide what is sin—but He compels us to decide whether to sin, or to obey His law” (Why Were You Born?).
When we obey God’s laws, we are blessed. An individual who follows God’s command not to covet, for example, will spare himself discontentment, heartache, financial problems, strained relationships and other suffering.
When we disobey God’s laws, we are cursed. All the problems in your life are the result of sin—whether your own, knowingly or unknowingly, or someone else’s sin whose ripple effects hit you. In fact, every shred of human suffering in all the world in all of history has come from sin—from disobeying God’s law! The ultimate penalty for sin is death—eternal death (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
God Loves Sinners
As plain as the Bible is about what sin is, it is just as plain about this fact: God loves sinners.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son …” (John 3:16). This was the greatest act of love ever in the universe. Jesus Christ died for you, to pay the death penalty for your sins. He sacrificed His life for you while you were yet a sinner (Romans 5:6-8).
Many people have heard of that sacrifice. But they fail to understand what it means and what its deep implications are. They don’t realize what it reveals about God and His plan.
Forgiveness of sin is a free gift. We cannot earn the grace of God. However, God does give us a spiritual formula to follow in order to receive it. Many people are willing to accept the blood of Jesus to cover their sins, but they don’t follow what God says in the Bible—so they are not forgiven. Is it possible that you are among those who have made this mistake?
Once God extends forgiveness, He gives responsibilities to the one He forgives. Like Christ said to the adulteress whom He forgave, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). This is essential to ultimately receiving eternal life.
God loves sinners—so much so that He wants to free us from sin and all its terrible effects. Sin enslaves us. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (verse 34; nkjv; see also Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19). God wants to bring you out of sin, just as He delivered the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. He wants to purge sin from your life completely, to remove it as far as east is from west (Psalm 103:12).
God wants to empower you to live sin-free—a totally different, God-centered way, walking in newness of life (Romans 6:4). A way free of greed, lust, dissipation, anger, hatred, depression, addiction and selfishness.
This is the life of a Christian. It is a life of blessings—of understanding, peace, fulfillment and joy. But it is not the broad, easy way. Jesus said that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14; nkjv). This way is full of challenges and trials. It requires learning God’s will and following it, even against temptation and self-desire.
It demands struggle and sacrifice. But it is not the struggle of slavery in Egypt—the bitterness of bondage. Rather, it is the struggle of journeying to the Promised Land.
The Christian life is a life of overcoming and conquering sin. The Bible backs this up from the first chapters of Genesis to the final chapters of Revelation. Scripture frequently describes it as a struggle, a fight, a battle. Anyone who has ever stepped through that narrow gate and undertaken a journey on the difficult path to the Promised Land can identify with that description: It is a war.
A Field Manual for Christian Soldiery
I have just published a new booklet that I believe will be an invaluable help to every Trumpet reader: How to Be an Overcomer: Win Your War Against Sin.
This is a type of field manual for spiritual warfare. This booklet contains abundant practical instruction and provides a clear guide for effective Christian soldiery. It helps orient you on the battlefield, equip you for the struggle, and guide you through every hardship, all the way to victory.
To conquer the enemy, you first must identify it. Our most relentless foe is our own human nature. This booklet will help you better recognize that enemy inside you. It shows how to see yourself the way you are, as God sees you. It reveals how to escape self-deception and self-righteousness. It shows how to search out the sin in your life—and how to destroy it.
Jesus Christ clearly said we must repent in order to be saved (e.g., Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). The Apostle Peter said repentance is required in order to be forgiven of sin and to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:19; 2:38). But what does it mean to repent? Very few understand this lifesaving process as they should. This booklet gives you the right biblical perspective.
How to Be an Overcomer shows you how to properly understand and appreciate the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sins. Shallow or flawed thinking on this subject makes it impossible for you to conquer sin. Right thinking gives you the focus you need for victory.
This booklet explains how to strategize spiritually. It shows you how you can win the ultimate victory: by taking the battle to the enemy. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:12, “[T]he kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This booklet explains, from your Bible, how to become a victorious Christian soldier.
We are all sinners. God loves us and wants to help us eradicate our sin so that we can be close to Him and so He can give us eternal life. The war on sin is the noblest war you will ever wage. If you overcome, then in the end you will be able to say, like Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”