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                        "A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD"
             
                             Overcoming Sin

INTRODUCTION

1. A wonderful blessing we receive when we become Christians is the
   forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ
   a. At our BAPTISM, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all PAST
      sins
   b. Compare Ac 22:16 with Re 1:5

2. This does not mean that our problem with sin is over...
   a. We still sin at times - 1Jn 1:8,10
   b. Satan does his best to cause us to sin - 1Pe 5:8

3. If we are to maintain a close walk with God, and ultimately receive
   the riches of glory He has prepared for us, we must overcome the
   problem of sin in two ways:
   a. By sinning less and less - 1Jn 2:1a
   b. By knowing what to do when we do sin - 1Jn 2:1b-2

4. This lesson is concerned with helping us see how sin develops, and
   how to overcome sin with its terrible consequences

[To overcome sin, we need to understand how it develops.  The Bible
outlines the development of sin in Jm 1:12-15...]

I. HOW SIN DEVELOPS

   A. THE FIRST STAGE IS "TEMPTATION"...
      1. In Jm 1:14, we see that "temptation" includes two things:
         a. DESIRE (some translations say "lust", suggesting a strong
            desire for something)
         b. ENTICEMENT (an opportunity and encouragement to satisfy the
            desire)
      2. Putting it in the form of a simple equation:
                       TEMPTATION = DESIRE + OPPORTUNITY
      3. To illustrate:
         a. A small boy is TEMPTED to steal some cookies when he WANTS
            (desire) them and has an OCCASION (opportunity) to take
            them 
         b. The temptation becomes stronger if he wants them badly, and
            has a good chance of getting them without being seen
      4. PLEASE NOTE:  At this stage in the development of sin, actual
         sin has not yet been committed
         a. It is not a sin to be "tempted"
         b. For Jesus Himself was "tempted as we are, yet without sin"
            - He 4:15; 2:18

   B. THE SECOND STAGE IS "SIN" ITSELF...
      1. "When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin" - Jm 1:15
      2. It becomes sin when we ACT and YIELD to the temptation
      3. Thus sin involves the added step of some sort of action on our
         part
      4. Again, in the form of a simple equation:
                     SIN = DESIRE + OPPORTUNITY + ACTION

   C. THE THIRD STAGE INVOLVES THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNREPENTED AND
      UNFORGIVEN SIN:  "DEATH"
      1. "And sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" 
         - Jm 1:15
      2. The "death" spoken here refers to spiritual separation from
         God
         a. This separation occurs first in this life - cf. Is 59:2
         b. If we die physically in this state, then we will experience
            the "second death", which involves eternal punishment!
            - Re 21:8
      3. Putting all this into a final equation:
          DESIRE + OPPORTUNITY + ACTION + NO FORGIVENESS = DEATH

   D. OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT OF SIN...
      1. Sin will have overcome us if we receive the "final punishment"
         of Re 21:8
      2. But we will have overcome sin if we can avoid this punishment
         and experience the glories God has prepared for His children!
      3. How can we be sure to overcome sin?  BY STOPPING ITS DEVELOP-
         MENT AT ANY ONE OF THE FOUR POINTS LEADING TO THE FINAL
         PUNISHMENT!

[Now let's examine how this may be done...]

II. HOW TO OVERCOME SIN

   A. CHANGE OUR "DESIRES"...
      1. Since this is where the process of sin begins, it is the best
         place for us to begin
      2. Bear in mind that it is a part of Christian growth to change
         our desires - Ro 12:1-2; Ga 5:24
      3. How do we change our desires?
         a. Notice that the WORD OF GOD has always been instrumental in
            helping people overcome sin - Ps 119:11; Mt 4:3-10
         b. To see how the Word of God can change our desires...
            1) As we read of God's love, longsuffering and mercy, we
               desire to serve Him - Ps 116:12-14
            2) As we read of sin and its damnable consequences, we come
               to hate it! - Ps 119:104
      4. So the more we study God's Word, the less likely we will have
         the DESIRE to sin, thereby beginning to overcome sin by
         "nipping it in the bud"!

   [But changing our desires takes time; while engaged in the process 
   of changing our desires, what else can we do?]

   B. LIMIT OUR "OPPORTUNITIES"...
      1. Remember, we are tempted only when there is BOTH desire and
         opportunity
      2. So while we work on changing our desires, we should limit the
         opportunities to fulfill wrongful desires
      3. This can be done by ASKING FOR GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL HELP, as
         Jesus taught - Mt 6:13; 26:41
      4. We can cooperate with God by:
         a. Purposely avoiding situations that might excite wrongful
            desires
            1) Following the example of David - Ps 101:3-4
            2) And the example of Job - Job 31:1
         b. Avoiding those whose evil behavior encourages us to sin
            with them
            1) Again, David sets a good example - Ps 101:6-7
            2) Paul also adds his warning - 1Co 15:33

   [But we will unlikely remove EVERY desire and opportunity to sin in 
   this life, what then?]

   C. EXERCISE "SELF-CONTROL"...
      1. Remember, it becomes sin when we yield to ACTION in fulfilling
         our sinful desires
      2. If we can control ourselves so as to not yield, then we can
         overcome sin!
      3. How does the Christian exercise self-control?
         a. Self-control is but one aspect of the "fruit of the Spirit"
            - Ga 5:22-23
         b. When we become Christians, we receive the gift of the Holy
            Spirit in our lives - Ac 2:38; 5:32
         c. The Spirit is God's instrumental agent by which He imparts
            strength to us - Ep 3:16
         d. Strengthened by the Spirit, we are able to "put to death
            the deeds of the body" - Ro 8:12-13
         e. As Paul said:  "I can do all things through Him who
            strengthens me." - Php 4:13
      4. It is through faith in God's Word that the Christian believes
         that he has this divine help - Ep 3:20
         a. It is certainly proper to pray for it, as Paul did in
            behalf of the Ephesians - Ep 3:16
         b. But equally important, to act upon it, trusting that you
            are not alone as you try to do God's will - Php 2:12-13
         c. As an exercise commercial once said:  JUST DO IT!
      5. The Christian, then, has no excuse for yielding to a
         temptation - 1Co 10:13

   [But there may be times when we don't take advantage of the
   strength God provides through His Spirit, and we sin; what then?]

   D. OBTAIN "FORGIVENESS"...
      1. Remember that sin is victorious when it results in punishment
      2. But if we obtain forgiveness through the blood of Christ, we
         can avoid that punishment and thereby still overcome sin! 
         - 1Jn 2:1-2
      3. Yes, Christ is truly the "propitiation" for our sins!
         a. By His blood, we were forgiven of past sins when united
            with Him in BAPTISM - Ac 2:38; 22:16; Re 1:5
         b. By His blood, we can be forgiven of present sins when we
            REPENT, PRAY, and CONFESS our sins to God - Ac 8:22;
            1Jn 1:9
      4. At any time the Christian can overcome sins that were
         committed, by repenting and confessing them to God!
 
   E. SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT OVERCOMING SIN...
      1. If you noticed carefully, you should have seen that at each of
         the four points in the development of sin, God is able and
         willing to help us overcome sin!
         a. God helps us to "control our desires" by providing His WORD
            to renew our minds
         b. God helps us to "limit the opportunities" through His
            PROVIDENCE as we pray for such
         c. God helps us to "exercise self-control" over our actions
            through His SPIRIT strengthening the inner man
         d. God helps us to "obtain forgiveness" through the BLOOD OF
            HIS SON as we repent and pray
         -- Isn't the grace of God wonderful? - 2Th 3:3; 1Co 10:13
      2. In this discussion we have concentrated on "sins of commission"
         a. That is, sins we commit by overt action on our part
         b. There are also "sins of omission"
            1) Sins which come from failing to do what is right 
               - Jm 4:17
            2) Overcoming these sins is similar...
               a) Change our desires so we want to do what is right
               b) Exercise self-control so we act the way we should
                  when we have the opportunity
               c) When guilty of sins of omission, obtain forgiveness
                  in the same way
      3. In learning the four points at which we may overcome sin,
         don't think that we can simply wait until we reach the fourth
         point to act...
         a. That is, to just go ahead and sin, then ask God for
            forgiveness
         b. There are several reasons why we should not do this:
            1) In baptism, we were freed from the power of sin, and
               should now present ourselves to God as servants of
               righteousness - Ro 6:1-23
            2) Though we can receive forgiveness for sin, we might
               still suffer the "temporal" consequences of sins 
               - Ga 6:7-9
            3) If we allow sin to deceive us so as to become
               "hardened",we may get to the point of sinning
               "willfully" and lose our salvation! - He 3:12-14;
               10:26-31
         c. So don't take the grace of God lightly and attempt to
            abuse it!

CONCLUSION

1. How much better it would be to praise God for His grace, and use it
   to overcome sin in our lives!

2. May the promise found in Jm 1:12 help motivate us to do so:

   "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been
   proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has
   promised to those who love Him."

SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING...

1. Are you engaged in a daily Bible study program which will help you
   develop the proper kind of desires?

2. Do you "watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation"?

3. Do you avoid circumstances and companions that you know would entice
   you to sin?

4. Do you pray that God will strengthen you "by His Spirit in the inner
   man"?

5. Do you ask God daily to forgive your sins, and to help you overcome
   sin in your life?
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