Here are 3 truths that can help you overcome temptation and resist sin.
- You Become What You Believe You Are
When someone becomes a Christian by repenting of sin, placing their faith in Jesus Christ, and depending on God’s grace alone for salvation, at the moment of their conversion God justifies them. He literally transfers the righteousness of Jesus Christ onto that person, the Holy Spirit enters into them, and they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
However, while they are completely transformed in an instant, they then enter into the process of sanctification. Unlike justification which occurs instantly and lasts forever, sanctification is an ongoing process that involves ups and downs. Sanctification is the training phase where we learn to live from all the gifts God has given us in full (Ephesians 1:3).
So how does sanctification occur? How do we learn to live more and more from the new identity we have in Christ? Throughout the Bible we are consistently taught that sanctification happens through faith, for as Romans 1:17 states, “For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
In other words, you become what you believe you are. If you believe you are just a sinner who loves to sin, you will become that type of person. But if you believe instead that you are actually a new creation in Christ who hates sin and loves to obey God, you will become that type of person. The more you believe that you are able to resist temptation through Christ the more you will actually do this. The more faith you have in the gospel’s effect on your life, the more the gospel will actually affect your life.
So if you want to resist temptation and stop sin in your life, you must first become a Christian by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. But then you must also continue on the road of sanctification by deeply believing that Jesus truly has transformed you into an obedient Christian who loves God more than sin.
- Sin Occurs When We Doubt God Can Satisfy Our Desires
As Christians, there is perhaps nothing more confusing than when we sin in ways that we hate. Why do we keep doing what we hate to do? Why do we break the promises we made to God that we would never do that certain sin again? Over and over again we find ourselves making the same errors. Why?
To truly understand why we make the internal choice to turn from God and choose sin, we must first understand how God made our hearts. Our hearts are the source of our desires. What we crave, what we long for, and what we choose to chase flows from our hearts. If you had to summarize the overarching desire of every human heart, I believe you could do that with one word – joy.
Every choice we make is motivated by our desire for joy. Joy to the heart is like air to the lungs. You can’t live without air and your heart can’t live without joy. And so our hearts are always in search of joy. There are many differences between someone who loves God and someone who hates God, between someone who follows Jesus and someone who despises Jesus, and between someone who obeys God and someone who disobeys God. But what every human has in common is that their choices are simply a manifestation of what they believe will bring them the most joy and happiness.
If you truly believe hating God will bring you more joy, you will choose to hate God because your heart is designed to pursue joy. So the difference between a Bible-believing Christian and someone who hates God is not that one person wants to be happy and the other person does not. The true difference between them is their belief in what will make them most joyful. Everyone wants pleasure, we just disagree on what will truly bring us the most happiness in life.
So the key to overcoming sin is not to just resist temptation but rather to pursue joy. The truth explained in the Bible is not that the Christian will need to love pain and make more sacrifices on earth to get into heaven. Rather, the truth is that Christians are required to have the faith to believe that if they give up quick sinful pleasures, they will receive eternal and unfailing pleasures in God. Jesus said in Mark 10:30 that anyone who gives something up for God will actually receive a hundred times as much than what they sacrificed.
The Christian’s call is not to simply hate sin but rather the call is to love God more than anything. According to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, all of the Bible can be summarized in the commands to love God and love people. Is there anything that brings the heart more joy than to love someone else? As Acts 20:35 states, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The command to love God and people is actually a call to pursue joy.
So what’s the point? The point is that if you truly want to resist temptation and overcome sin, you must believe the truth that God himself is able to satisfy you with more joy than anything else ever could. Sin occurs when we begin to doubt God’s ability to satisfy our deepest desires. When you doubt that God is the greatest source of joy, your heart will begin to wander away to pursue other lovers. But when you deeply believe the truth that God is truly the best in every way imaginable, then your heart will stay faithful to God even when tempted.
So the fight to resist sin is really a fight to resist the lie that something else can satisfy you more than God. As Psalm 16:2, 11 state, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. . . . in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- The Health of Your Relationship with God and People Influences Your Behavior
There’s so much more the Bible says about overcoming sin and resisting temptation, but one truth that often gets neglected is that humans are not created to live isolated lives. Oftentimes our ability to resist sin is weak because our relationships with others are weak.
As we discussed in point 2, our heart’s greatest desire is for God because God has made us for himself. God has made us to enjoy him most of all because he is the greatest source of joy. But God has not just made us for himself; he has also made us to love and be loved by other people as well.
We are usually the most susceptible to sin when our relationships with others are at their weakest. When you get into a fight with your friends, with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or with your spouse, these are some of the moments that your heart is most vulnerable to temptation.
So to overcome temptation and resist sin, we must work to have healthy relationships first with God and then with other people. When a root of bitterness grows between you and the people who love you, your desire for love will lead you to pursue false lovers. But when you know that God loves you and when you know that there are other people in this world that love you, you will be strengthened to resist sin and temptation. As Galatians 6:2 states, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”