The truth is – sins are called TEMPTING because there is something about sin that is attractive to us. It TEMPTS us.
Some sins are enjoyable, or self-satisfying, or seemingly harmless.
In fact, most temptations appear to offer us something. The world (and all of its messiness) feels romantic, especially in regard to sin. Whether this temptation is despair, or lust, or lying, or cursing, or getting drunk or high, the drama of it seems inviting.
Or at least it does to me.
I crave understanding all life experiences- I crave doing what I shouldn’t do…in a way.
Paul wrote about something similar in Romans 7. He says he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t dowhat he should do. I reread the verses and investigated. I identified with his despair in his division. He had a sinful nature, and he also had the Spirit.
For years, I struggled with a specific temptation. It became heartbreaking. I wondered if I would ever see the other side of this struggle. After so many failures, I questioned myself. I questioned whether God actually DID give freedom from sin. I questioned if His Spirit was in me because I kept struggling. I felt as if I only had a sinful nature because the sinful nature was winning constantly. Soon enough, I heard “I gave you freedom, now walk in it.”
I read through Romans 6-8 multiple times, I was reminded I am not alone.
There is a sinful nature inside of us, but we also have the Spirit. The sinful nature in us will try and convince us to sin, and the Holy Spirit will teach us to live righteously. And we are these souls, listening to both, and making our choices. The fact that we HAVE a sinful nature should not defeat us. We have a choice to follow the Spirit or our sinful nature. In following the Spirit, there is freedom, we just have to “walk in it.” So, for example: our sinful nature will tell us to gossip about another, the Spirit will tell us to love her, and we have the choice of who to obey.
So, in every decision, we have to realize our separateness from the sinful nature. (Please read Romans 6-8 for yourselves to see how Paul writes about this). We have a sinful nature, but we ARE not sinful nature. Just as we have a sinful nature, we also have the Spirit, and in every decision we make in regards to temptation, we are listening to one. In Romans 6-8, Paul says that we choose to be “dictated” by one of them. Dictation refers to an allegiance. Who do we put our allegiance in – our selfish desires or in God? Therefore, even when we make mistakes, we can confidently declare that we will not be dictated by sinful nature. Even after we mess up and sin (as we all will at times), we can refuse to be DICTATED by that sin. We can look at our sin and say, “that sin was a mistake…and I obeyed the wrong influencer for a moment, but I decide to not permanently obey sin (be dictated by sin, as Paul talks about). I decide to capture my thoughts and actions and serve God, not my sinful nature. I will not be dictated by sin for my life, I messed up, but my life is still dedicated to God… This is my choice.” Our actions will be dictated by the Spirit.
And why would we choose to be dictated by the Spirit when some sins are so fun and pleasurable? Why would we refuse to be governed, commanded, and at the whim of our sinful nature? Because our sinful nature is not serving us or anyone. All of the pleasure that comes from sin is the biggest deceit… it is temporary happiness which then leads to a world of pain.
In all of this, we get to demonstrate trust that God knows best. He says sin is bad for us; He tells us that certain things are not good. BUT the reason he says this is because he knows what is best for us. I have full faith in this. Despite the romanticism of sin, I know his way provides more LIFE. I trust in that, even when I’m tempted…and I DECIDE to walk in freedom. I will not be controlled by sin, my mistakes, or my flesh. What terrible things to be controlled by.
I do not regret DECIDING to be dictated by the Spirit instead of by my sinful nature…because I know God knows more than me. I also know He takes better care of me than I can for myself (though sometimes it doesn’t feel true). I know He is a good Father, ruler, and I know He wants best for me. (This is MUCH more than I can say about sin).
Our temptations don’t surprise God. He created us with the desire for intimacy and adventure and purpose and depth. But in deciding to sacrifice living by what my sinful nature wants, I am assisting God in protecting me from all the badness. He tells us “keep away” from hurtful and destructive sin. He wanted to give me so much more: a life full of meaningful and FULL adventure, purpose, and intimacy.
I don’t see sacrificing as a burden, but as a delight. I am sacrificing certain sins (even the most tempting of acts) because He cares for me…and I get to act on that. I decide what I will be governed by, and it is NOT my sinful nature.
For me, after viewing my sinful nature as an influencer in my life, instead of seeing it AS ME… I started resisting temptation with ease. I decided I will not obey such a horrible leader (sin). When my actions became a decision of who I am following, the decision was easy. When I felt tempted, I no longer got discouraged that I WAS tempted. Instead, I used the opportunity to show my power…to defy the odds and DECIDE to be governed by the Spirit, even when listening to my sinful nature was attractive. Now, when I do mess up, I know I am not defeated, because sinning once does not equal being a slave to sin. I choose who to give my life to. Even in my mistakes, I offer my life to God. I put my sins behind me and keep going.
Published for Grafted Magazine