Living in Florida, you get used to violent weather. Tornadoes are an occasional problem, but our biggest worries are massive thunderstorms full of torrential rain and lightning or the huge, devastating hurricanes that can wreak havoc on our state. My family and I experienced one such storm when our house was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew during the summer of 1992. The only good thing that goes along with these storms is that we usually have ample warning before they hit. Our weather technology enables us to forecast when a storm will arrive so people can evacuate out of harm’s way.
Sin is a lot like that. We usually have plenty of warning when we are allowing a temptation to take hold of our heart. James 1:14-15 says, “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” And as Genesis 4:7 reminds us, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
It’s not that God wants to deny us by commanding that we stay away from certain things. He knows how we are prone to sin; to do it our way. He loves us enough to warn of impending danger. He wants the best for his children and he knows about the consequences of our foolish actions.
But when do we heed the warning? When will we listen to the alarm that we’re headed down the path of sin? Most often the warnings occur well before sin takes place. God gives us hints, situations where we can see how our actions would lead to something bad, but ultimately we tend to heed the warning in hindsight. Many times, hindsight is simply too late. I’m sure you can visit any prison and find plenty of inmates who wished they heeded the warning before it was too late. Now, in hindsight, they can look back with regret on their decisions.
But it doesn’t have to be so. We can take steps to help us overcome sin. We can listen to the warnings that God puts in our way to keep us from stumbling. First we must have the knowledge that God can help us resist. 1 John 5:18 says, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” He will protect us if we are willing to heed the warnings. We should also surround ourselves with people who will hold us accountable. Don’t associate with people who allow you to succumb to temptation. Be around those who want to help sanctify you. Learn from their past mistakes lest you make them yourself. Most importantly, allow the Holy Spirit to live and work within you, cleansing you from the inside.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”