Discerning Sin

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Satan is not the boogyman or villain from a horror movie. He’s real. He’s a smooth talker. And he’s working full time to win you over. We live in a fallen creation ruled by the prince of all rebellion. He’s constantly at work battling for each and every one of our minds.

It’s high time we pay attention to what Paul wrote the believers in Corinth, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3). The pull and false allure of a degraded humanity is a constant in our day-to-day lives.

I realized there was a struggle in my own life that needed to be dealt with when I began to cry for no apparent reason on my drive home from a gathering. My struggle had been creeping up for months previous to that occasion.

Around groups of people, I was often dealing with feelings of attack and battling defensive thoughts. I can remember lies being planted in my mind – It really looks like you’re doing a terrible job. Everyone thinks you’re being lazy. They all think you’re dumb and can’t decide anything for yourself.

I’m generally not overly affected by other people’s thoughts towards me – but I am a chronic people pleaser. Satan knows that field of my mind could potentially have prime soil for him to deceitfully plant his lies.

The devil knows our weaknesses and takes advantage of them. But we have a Lord who not only knows us intimately, but also created us. He has so much more power! However, they both have the ability to observe and take note of our repeated sinful tendencies. They can read our weaknesses as easily as a person out to dinner can read the longing in a dieting woman’s eyes as the brownie she just turned down gets slowly walked away from her table.

Let us not be like that woman. Constantly battling whether or not to gratify our sinful desires gives Satan way too much of an opportunity. And it also disappoints our Lord by not focusing solely in the ways He directs us. Remember Lot’s wife? (Genesis 19:26).

I became aware that I was holding myself back from a life 100% surrendered to God. Without actually being aware of it, my thoughts were seeking to glorify myself. As a follower of Jesus, my goal should be a life of Him being glorified through me. Now, realizing that my battle was with pride, I’ve been able to deal with those emotions immensely easier. I can recite to myself Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall“. Immediately confess and turn from it!

Making an effort to recognize our sin is imperative in order to possess lives purely devoted to Christ. Proverbs 28:13 says, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” How can we expect to triumph over a struggle if we don’t acknowledge our sins and repent from them?

In order to notice the presence of sin, it’s important to remember that we are to live by the standards given in the Bible. We cannot conduct our lives and make decisions based on the moral code we’ve been spoon-fed by our culture. God desires followers who pursue clean minds.

That is not easy with a media who immerses us in everything our Father hates – arrogance, lying, hatred, murder, lust, wicked schemes, dissention, idolatry, et cetera. The battle in this fallen world is for our thoughts. “…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But have hope! James 4:7 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. As believers, we have power over the evil one. Discernment through the Holy Spirit within us can turn us from darkness towards light. It can direct us to the power of God’s rule in our lives instead of the power of Satan, who is the father of lies. Then we can receive forgiveness and become sanctified through our faith in Christ.

I’ve experienced God’s power to take away a repeated sinful tendency. I used to constantly worry about finances. Even when my family’s bank account was sitting just fine and our bills were easily being paid, I would find one way or another to worry about money. I hated my lack of trust and it took a toll on my husband. As of late, we make less money together than any other time in our marriage. And I honestly do not stress about money!

I did nothing different except for begging God to take that worry away from me. And He did! Focusing with too much emotion and obsession on our finances is an important sin to run away from. “You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24). It’s that simple. By putting any amount of faith in money, we strip away any trust put in God.

There are a multitude of sins that can creep into our lives. And they first become acquainted with us by being allowed into our minds. Isn’t it awesome when we recognize a sin early and give it the boot? A teacher I know told me a statement that showed me the importance of stopping a sin early: a slow drift leads to a quick turn. No human lives a perfect life. However, it’s important to be aware of the fact that every seemingly small, but wrong behavior that we justify will eventually have consequences.

Discerning sin requires the Holy Spirit to work within us. If we ask for discernment He will give it to us. We simply need to be willing to let God lead and follow in the way we’re directed. Many times He will speak and direct through His Word. Seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit and reading God’s Word need to go hand in hand.

God’s Word and His Spirit are full of might. Authority over all of this world is possessed by the Lord. His kingdom is not an affair of mere talk but of power. And we’ve been given the invitation to have the mighty and righteous Holy Spirit live within us. So, who’s power are you allowing to rule in your daily life?

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