1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan is a roaring lion, so in a sense trying to ward off the desire to sin is like running from a lion. You might survive for a while, but there’s a sense of inevitability from the very start. Then the cycle starts over again, trying to run from that sin but knowing it will catch up with you again eventually.
In studying the nature of sin, though, I’m reminded of the simple key truth that we often forget: sin comes from within. It’s not that we’re trying to outrun temptations. Those are always going to be there. We’re trying to outrun our own desire to turn and be devoured by whatever sin might be plaguing us. James 1:14 makes it clear that both being carried away (making ourselves vulnerable to temptation) and being enticed (letting ourselves take the bait and get caught on the hook of sin) come from within our own hearts.
The answer, then, is to change our desires. We have to want something more. We’re not just trying to outrun a lion; we’re running to safety in the arms of our Savior. After reminding us of all the people who persevered in faith in Hebrews 11, the Hebrew writer begins chapter 12 by telling us to run the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus. But holiness, that desire to be like Christ, is an acquired taste. Because that sin is within us, we have to slowly root it out and replace it with new desires. How do we do that? By implementing these 5 steps each day.
1. Set aside alone time with God. No matter what the nature of each relationship might be, it’s impossible to develop any relationship without spending time together. The more time we spend talking to God in prayer and listening to Him through the Word, the more we’ll get to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we’ll know our unholiness. The more we know our unholiness, the more we realize what great love He had for us in sending Jesus to the cross. The more we realize the depth of His love, the more we’ll want to respond with love. Wake up a little earlier, cut some time out of your lunch break, or find whatever time you can (not the last 2 minutes as you doze off to sleep) and spend some time with the Father.
2. Take a Scripture with you. It doesn’t do us much good to read the Bible, close it, and not think about it again until the next time we open it. Out of every encounter with the Scriptures we should be taking away some principle to work on, some piece of hope for the day, or some reminder of who God is. It’s that meditation throughout the day that helps us defeat sin, keep God on our hearts, and share Him with others.
3. Pray in a variety of ways. I’ve had the privilege of learning from teachers that not every prayer has to be a big event, filled with all of the days requests. Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to say a quick, 10 second prayer. On the other hand, that’s not a replacement for the longer prayers, where we have more time to focus and express our praise and gratitude along with all of our requests for ourselves and others. Prayers of thanks at meal times or other times where we are blessed throughout the day are another type of prayer we can add to our day. The call to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is one we should keep in mind as we go throughout the day, talking to God as we go and taking time to really pour out our hearts when we set aside that time.
4. Cut out the junk. In trying to developed a new sense of taste, eliminating the desire for sin and the things of this world and training ourselves to desire closer fellowship with God instead, consuming spiritual junk is as much of a hindrance as junk food is to someone on a physical diet. Television, movies, social media, and all of the things that are available for endless consumption every day can quickly make us content with the unfulfilling, mindless entertainment of this world, keeping us from desiring God. A little entertainment here and there isn’t always a bad thing, but we have to have our limits.
5. Connect with another Christian. Most days we don’t get a chance to see our entire church family, but it’s still necessary to keep a connection to someone who is in the battle with us. God gave us the church family to keep each other from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13). He knew that we can all be tricked into thinking that sin is more desirable than Christ, and so He provided us the support we need to win that fight. Having an accountability partner, someone to pray with, or just someone to discuss the day with is an invaluable tool that prevents spiritual stagnation.
Most of us live lives of great comfort, peace, and (relative) wealth, making it remarkably easy to forget that we are in the middle of a war every single day. Those desires that come from within our hearts are going to keep leading us astray until we take command of them and turn them over the Jesus. Every day we make the choices that will determine which way we’re going to go. Having the right habits makes all the difference in learning to taste and see that the Lord is good, so we can take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8).