I don’t know about you, but I struggle with sin. Every morning when I have my quiet time, I never fail to have something to confess. I want Him to examine me, search my heart, show me those things in my life that are not pleasing to Him.
And I write them down. Sometimes it’s the same thing, day after day. I struggle in certain areas–things in my heart and mind that eventually come out of my mouth and are seen in my attitude when I don’t deal with them.
But I want to be blameless. I want to be a spotless bride waiting for my Groom. I want my life to show Jesus how much I love Him.
Before we come to know Jesus, we are like Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden. We are dead in our sins, full of a sinful nature, and separated from God. When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He fills us with His Spirit. So now the sinful nature in us is at war with the Spirit of Christ in us.
We are to be controlled, not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit within us. Easier said than done. How do we win this battle that rages within?
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”2 Peter 2:11, NIV
We know what those sinful desires are–the appetites of the flesh–those things that comfort our flesh and make us feel good or better about ourselves. We may struggle with addictions, gossip, pride, lying, lust, criticism, blame, unforgiveness, jealousy, complaining, or judgment. Either way, these sins feel good, and we continue in them to feed our flesh.
So how do we abstain from these desires which war against our soul?
I looked up the Greek word for abstain and found something interesting. The Greek word is apecho which means “to be distant, avoid, a way off, about seven miles.” The Strong’s Concordance actually says that. I laughed out loud. If we could stay seven miles away from all the things that tempt us, we would be in business.
For some things, we can. If the television or internet is causing me to stumble, I can turn it off. I can delete an app. I can throw out books and magazines. I can remove myself from certain relationships and situations that lead me away from God.
I can also refuse to allow my mind to dwell on negative or judgmental or lustful thoughts. I may not be able to control the thoughts that pop up, but I can determine if I let them stay.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5
But let me share another definition of abstain. It also means to receive in full, like a payment. That one I didn’t understand, until I did some more digging. What it actually means is “to have one thing in full by separating oneself from something else” (Helps Word Studies).
Isn’t that beautiful! When we deny the flesh and its desires, separating ourselves from those things that cause us to sin, then we open our arms to receive all the fullness that God has for us–joy, peace, and grace. When we hold on to the comforts of the flesh, we are choosing to forfeit all the fullness He has for us.
We have to allow God to empty us of ourselves so we can open our hands to receive what He wants for us. The emptying is often painful, but growth requires cutting away the things that aren’t bearing fruit.
I think the very fact that these sinful desires war against our soul should be our incentive to abstain. War means death–death to the dreams, visions, and hopes that God has for us. We can be saved and yet not be experiencing God’s best if we continue to hold on to sin.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with sin.
Yet I also want all that God has for me. I’m not content to just accept that I am a sinner and that God will forgive me. I know He will. But I want more. I want to “find out what pleases the Lord” and do it (Ephesians 5:10).
I want Him to teach me and grow me and show me new things about Himself every day. I want to walk in the Spirit so I can be a witness of His goodness and grace to those around me.
So with His help and by His grace, I am learning to abstain from those things that cause me to stumble. I’m asking Jesus to help me let go of these areas of sin so that I can receive what He has for me.
It’s not easy, but I’m learning to put some distance between me and the obstacles that cause me to sin. Even seven miles, if necessary.