It is an unfortunate truth that as long as we live, we will continue to do things which are not pleasing to God. One of the biggest differences between a disciple of Jesus and those who are not is that disciples do not want to sin! Furthermore, when a Christian sins, he or she will feel remorse and sorrow at their spiritual failing and endeavor not to repeat it. What should a Christian do when he or she gives in to temptation?
God is merciful
The prophet Jonah said, "You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm" (Jonah 4:2). Although God hates sin, He is willing to extend mercy to those who demonstrate the desire to please Him. When disciples do wrong, we mustn't deny it but rather we must admit to God that we have sinned. The Bible says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When you stumble, go to God in prayer and acknowledge your guilt and admit that what you did was wrong. If we do this is in sincerity, He forgives us of our wrong doing.
In addition, we must resolve to do our best to not repeat our wrong doing. God requires "repentance" on our part. Repentance is a change of heart which causes us to think and behave in ways that please God. While repentance is partly a decision to no longer do wrong, it is also an act of "re-training" our minds to conform to God's expectations. This spiritual re-training or renewing of our minds is brought about by prayer, Bible study and learning from the good examples of other disciples.
We all have temptations that we struggle with and some of these temptations can be exceedingly difficult to overcome. In fact, we may stumble over one temptation or another for a long time before our heart and mind is sufficiently changed to alter our patterns of past behavior. It is also true that what does not tempt us today, may become a temptation later in life. As long as we live, we will face spiritual obstacles which we must overcome.
No condemnation if we walk in the light
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Those who are in Jesus are not condemned even though we occasionally think thoughts or commit deeds which are sinful. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). If we keep in close fellowship with our Heavenly Father we have no reason to worry about our spiritual condition.
However, notice that we must "walk in the light" to be in fellowship with God. Do not be deceived into thinking that because God has erased our sins that we can now go on living any way we choose. The prophet Ezekiel offers this word of warning for those who would turn back to a life of willful sin, "But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die" (Ezekiel 18:24).
Some erroneously teach that once a person becomes a Christian, that he or she can never fall from God's good graces. The Christian who willfully sins will be held accountable by God! Consider these passages:
- If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (1 Peter 2:20-22)
- Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
- For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
- ...God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
If it is not possible for a Christian to lose his or her salvation by turning back to a life of sin, why such stern warnings from the Bible?
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace
A true disciple of Jesus cannot live in sin and be comfortable in it. A Christian will commit sin from time to time, but if he lives in sin and is comfortable in it something is radically wrong! If we have experienced a spiritual re-birth (John 3:1-7) we are the children of God, our Spiritual Father. If we have our Father's nature, sin is something that we just won't feel good about doing.
Since we are human and far from perfect, we'll give into temptation sometimes. But, one who longs to please God will hate it when they sin. When sin happens, talk to God and admit your error. Do your best to avoid situations and circumstances which will create temptations for you. Do your best to change your mind and heart in order to cultivate the behaviors God desires.
A way of escape
God has promised that He will not allow us to be confronted with more temptation than we are able to handle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." God will provide a way of escape when you face temptation. Look for it!