The Book of Isaiah is a book that generates fascination, fixing readers’ gazes upon a wondrous Savior who has the capacity to transform lives. Previously, we discussed Isaiah’s opening indictment against Judah in 1:2-9 (to read the previous devotional, click here). It takes Isaiah only a few phrases to make known the irrationality of sin. To persist in it defies logic, but a lack of logic fails to compel many people to leave it behind. With that conclusion there is a goal that we must achieve: why is it so difficult to overcome sin and by answering that question, what can we learn about our own path to victory over it?
As part of a learning project, I recently read a book that discussed the difficulty in changing certain emotional characteristics as we interact with others. Interestingly, this book contradicts the claim that everything is about DNA and instead suggested with documented research that change could happen. Because it is a secular book, even with ‘research’ I am hesitant to blindly accept a premise simply because it finds a presence in the book. Yet, there was a tremendous discussion about the brain, stipulating that certain aspects resonate within the prefrontal cortex of the brain, especially things that are emotionally driven. The researchers went further to explain how that interacts with a central part of the brain to create emotional reflexes when presented with certain situations simply based upon habits that formed from previous experience. Yet, with intentionality those responses could be retrained. This is an important point when it comes to the irrationality of sin.
Sin is pleasurable; it adds no long-term value to life (in fact it is quite the opposite) but there is an aspect that is gratifying because it relieves a personal desire. The pleasure drives sin, even when it is irrational in the face of severe consequences. Without the conviction to turn from sin many will engage it to the point that it becomes habitual.
Having been stimulated by the pleasure the individual receives, the brain becomes trained to respond as he/she has always responded, by indulging in the pleasure. The result of such training of the brain is that it makes it very hard to overcome the entrenches of the sinful activity.
While difficult to overcome, the Lord is merciful. Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ die for the forgiveness of sins, but we have been given help so that we may not be slaves to it. While not wanting to reduce the struggle with sin to a ‘how-to’ process, there are five graces that the Lord has given us to help us overcome sin, including the following:
- Self-Awareness: Know who you are apart from Christ and in Christ and use that to examine your own life in an honest way. This means calling your sin, “Sin” and being willing to confront it.
- Confession: Confess the sin to God first and then to others.
- Situational Awareness: Note the circumstances you are in and notice the cues that ‘trigger’ the sin so that you may learn to avoid those situations. Furthermore, be aware of the Holy Spirit’s conviction and respond to it.
- Help: We live in the body of Christ and the Lord has granted us one another to maintain accountability.
- Persistence and Patience: Finally, it requires one to patiently persist. Trying to change a response to sin does not merely happen because a person learned from a book or study that it is wrong. Instead, it is a constant battle in which one must continually engage and confront.
This list simply serves as a survey of what God has given us to overcome our sin.
The battle with sin threatens to create a discord and depression in our lives. Yet, it should be a great encouragement to us all to know that sin does not have to overtake us. Even secular research proves that sin can be overcome. It requires the intentional evaluation, acknowledgement, and confrontation and cannot be dealt with passively, but it is possible.