When someone confides that they’re having an issue with one sin or another, it’s easy to throw a few Bible verses at them, recommend a book to read on dealing with that sin, send them to a Bible study — or throw the Book at them, condemning them for what they have just bared their soul about. Unfortunately, those things rarely work.
Paul gives us a very practical lesson in today’s Bible reading on how to avoid sin. I borrowed today’s title from Erik Raymond, though Paul’s theology of dealing with sin is the same regardless of if the sin is lust, gossip, gluttony, or any other: fight the desire to sin with a better desire.
CS Lewis remarked that our problem isn’t that we desire pleasure; our problem is that we are “far too easily satisfied.”
Paul says that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are against each other (Galatians 5:17) and that if we will only walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Note: When Paul uses the word “flesh”, he’s referring to the part of us that has not yet been fully redeemed (and it won’t be until we cross over to the other side of eternity).
Paul says we are free, but he cautions us to not use that freedom as an opportunity to sin. Elsewhere (1 Corinthians 8:4–13) he says that there is nothing wrong with eating meat that’s been sacrificed to an idol, but that if eating idol-sacrificed meat causes a weaker believer to stumble, he’ll never eat idol-sacrificed meat again. That closely parallel’s Galatians 5:13’s statement that we should be motivated by love and not cause someone else to fall into temptation.
Believer, you are free! You have been freed from slavery to sin’s pleasures. Now, living out that freedom may be difficult. Paul recommends fighting sin’s pleasures with
John Piper calls it Christian Hedonism. The idea behind this seeming oxymoron is that only Jesus can truly satisfy our deepest pleasures.
The next time you are tempted to fall into a sinful behavior, ask God to show you how He can satisfy you more than that behavior. And realize that the behavior only reveals that there’s something wrong with your relationship with Him.
Fall in love with Jesus.
Walk in the Spirit’s power, and you won’t fall into sin.