This past Sunday, Tyler Giesel preached through Romans 8, and ultimately encouraged us to avoid sin. Sin is terrible. It tears apart lives by ruining marriages, splitting families, causes suffering, and reaffirms our need of salvation. The big question we are facing in light of the sermon is this:

How do we avoid sin?

Let's be honest... there isn't one surefire way that works each time we struggle. One person's sinful struggles and desires are not the same as another. A teenager may have different challenges and sin to overcome compared to someone about to retire, but not in every case. Pride, greed, selfishness, unkind speech and even lust are all common and anyone could fall into them. However, because we believe the Bible is sufficient, we trust that God has given us the resources to answer this question, no matter the stage of life.

A few notables before we jump in, based on James 1:

-       We know that our sinful desires are not from God because they are sinful (vs 13)

-       These sinful desires are born in our heart, and a fight breaks out as we struggle against them (vs 14, 15)

-       The struggles we face and the trials we go through will bring us closer to Christ. Our faith will be tested and we must endure (vs 12)

EVERY DAY IS PIE DAY

Think about a nice fresh slice of French Silk pie for a moment. Does your mouth begin to salivate thinking about tasting its deliciousness? Think about the smooth whipped cream on top, mixed together with the perfect amount of chocolate pie and a touch of crust on the end of your fork. It's almost heavenly, isn't it? Perhaps you can even pick up the delicate scent in the air. Your thoughts begin to turn solely to the pie and where the nearest Village Inn or Baker's Square is on the way home from work. It's just a slice of pie, after all. There's no harm in getting some, right? So, on the way home, you buy a whole pie, even though you know you’ve already had lots of delicious sweets that week. You’ll just have one slice...

Because our sinful desires are rooted in our heart, our actions are not far behind. Where was the self-control in this scenario? What about prayer, or seeking wisdom from Scripture? The justifications for the thoughts that lead to actions in our example are endless. No, liking French Silk pie is not sinful, but it’s when that desire turns into something more, something covetous, gluttonous, or greedy, is when it becomes sinful. Acting on that desire only solidifies it as such.

THOUGHTS, ACTIONS, PLANS, OH MY!

In our delicious scenario, our pie-obsessed Christian not only gave into his desires but also didn't seek wisdom and clearly didn't exhibit self-control. Instead, he followed his stomach and fulfilled the desires of his heart. Again, simply wanting silk pie wasn’t the problem, but the desires and the actions that were taken resulted in getting pie led to sinful actions. How could he have avoided sinning in this specific instance?

One way our friend could have avoided sinning is by placing his thoughts on biblical principles, as Paul suggests in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Instead of letting his mind wander on the pie, he could have this particular verse memorized for such an occasion, recalling this verse and others as he dips into a short prayer. He thanks God for his health and confesses his weakness. He asks for continued strength to fight the temptations and to have self-control. As he finishes his prayer, he immediately plans on taking an alternate route home that doesn't even come close to pie-selling joints. He shoots a message to his small group asking for prayer because he knows without accountability he'll easily justify getting pie. Finally, (but no less important), he calls and tells his wife that he'll be a few minutes late because he was struggling with his pie addiction and will be taking an alternate road home.

Now, instead of giving into his dark chocolate secret, our pie-addicted friend was not only prepared for the battle but fought valiantly, avoiding sin like the plague it is. Our lives should be the same!

STAND AND FIGHT

Stand up and fight for your faith and your life. Don't drift in and out of sin because you don’t take action against it, but avoid it altogether. If you are struggling with a particular sin, you must find the root of that sin in your heart and tear it out. If you know pie is your absolute weakness, do not drive by a pie place every day after work. Do not let your mind rest on thoughts of its taste or smell. Avoid it as if it were the plague.

Here are some quick thoughts about ways you can fight sin right now:

- Pray admitting to God your weaknesses. Ask God for strength to pursue righteousness even in thoughts that haven’t developed into actions.

- Read and understand sin and its terrible effects in light of God's Word. Know that sin is the cause of so much suffering in this world, but you have received a gift far greater than anything else this world has to offer, salvation through Jesus Christ. Don’t take it lightly.

- Be accountable to your small group and ask them to pray for you. Be vulnerable and honest with them because they are fighting similar battles.

- Avoid sin that so easily destroys lives, even if that means going out of your way or doing something unusual.

Friends, we must find practical ways to avoid sin as we each progress through our journey of faith to become more like Christ. If your desire is to truly honor God with your thoughts and actions, you must take sin seriously, you must fight, and you must avoid sin as if it were the plague. As we fight sin, avoiding it wherever possible, meditate on what James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”