1 – Take Time to See the Ugliness of Sin
Sin is deceptive. Like a prostitute, sin puts on expensive clothing and bright makeup to make itself attractive. Case in point – if the forbidden fruit had not looked nice to Eve, she never would have eaten it. This is the perennial problem of sin. We get duped into thinking sin is good, only to discover – the morning after – the painful reality of short-lived pleasure.
How does one avoid this trap? A good place to start is to meditate on the danger and evil of sin. If Eve could have seen the deadly consequences of a bite of fruit, she might have told the serpent to get lost.
2 – Take Time to Feel the Burden of Guilt
Guilt sucks. We know this, which is why we do everything we can to avoid it. However, often our strategy for avoiding guilt ends up further entrenching it. How do we do this? We try to excuse our behaviour; we try to demonstrate to our conscience that our case is an exception; we self-medicate with any number of pet addictions. But sadly, like a dirty bandage, these efforts only aggravate the problem. Therefore, instead of avoiding guilt, we ought to allow the Spirit to use guilt for its only proper ends – (1) to make us own personal responsibility for sin and (2) to lead us back to the cross where we receive pardon and grace. No Christian wants to linger any longer than necessary in a state of guilt. However, to shirk guilt altogether is to avoid the ‘godly sorrow’ that Paul endorses.
3 – Work Up a Fervent Prayer for Deliverance
Our emotions authenticate our prayers. After all, how can one calmly request salvation or apathetically ask for forgiveness. So then, if we want deliverance from the power of sin, we ought to sit before the Spirit long enough for the Holy Ghost to blow the faint embers of desire into a burning plea for deliverance from sin. Need help? Read Psalm 38.
4 – Stamp Out the First Spark of Lust
It’s a lot easier to blow out a match than to put out a fire. Do you want to overcome sin? Kill it before the kindling takes and the lust crackles.
5 – Avoiding Window Shopping for Sin
It’s amazing how watching a MacDonald’s advertisement can make you feel hungry. It’s fascinating how a walk through a shopping centre can convince you that you need a new pair of shoes. The heart is more delicate than the needle of a compass. Be mindful of your surroundings. If you set yourself in the middle of temptation (beware: spoiler alert!), you will be tempted.
6 – Know Yourself
Each of us has personal weaknesses. Some are genetic, some are rooted in our family heritage, some depend on the culture and time in which we live. Such weaknesses do not mitigate the guilt of sin. Instead, they call for additional watchfulness. If you want to avoid sin, be self-aware of personal struggles and past failures. Sin feeds on habit. Know your triggers and scripted action. Overcoming deeply rooted sin requires an earnest willingness to put grace into practice.
All thoughts derived from John Owen’s classic work on mortification.