Christians throughout the ages have fought against sin and human nature. What are the keys to overcoming sin and living a Christian life?
Overcome sin by staying close to God in prayer and Bible study.
Many have struggled with committing sins that they had repented of and for which they had asked God's forgiveness. In order to understand what's happening, we have to understand the process of successful overcoming.
God promises to forgive those who repent, confess their sins, turn from those sins and turn toward a life of obedience. Most people stop at just feeling sorry when they get caught, but that is not enough. We also have to exercise the will to stop doing what's wrong and put forth effort again to do what is right. The process of conversion and living the Christian life requires work. We need to know what we've done wrong and what God calls right or righteous. While most assume they know these matters, the truth is, most do not! People who truly want God's help must become educated about His will.
What happens after repentance and God's forgiveness? Because we still live in this present evil world and still have human nature, we will sin again. The apostle Paul candidly spoke of his ongoing struggle against human nature in Romans 7:14-25. The necessity to fight this battle should not discourage us, for, as Paul brings out, we can count on victory through Jesus Christ.
Many people do not realize that God's forgiveness does not remove our human nature, the negative tendency within all people to commit sin. Our human nature is a product of sins that we committed in the past and the effect on our lives of the sins committed by others as a result of the influence of Satan over the entire world.
Using the strength of God's Spirit to struggle against negative pulls helps us to develop godly character. By way of analogy, pulling against resistance is the only way to strengthen muscle tissue. On the other hand, muscle tissues atrophy and weaken if they have no weight to pull against. The human spirit is similar in that a struggle to do what is right strengthens one's character. But a person who never encounters struggles in life will be weak. Further, having to do spiritual battle motivates us to continuously seek God and His help. That's healthy, lest we become proud and independent. When Christians sin, we need to repeat the initial repentance process: acknowledge the sin before God and ask for His forgiveness and help to change (1 John 1:8-10).
Christ inspired Paul to write: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). Of course, this refers to our own inner struggle.
Christ is telling us plainly that the battlefield on which we win or lose against temptations is the battlefield of thought. We have to learn to recognize wrong thoughts, whether generated by our own natures or inserted into our minds through any one of numerous aspects of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4).
Many believe that all they need to do is pledge their lives to Christ, expecting Him to simply take over for them. However, this is far from what the Bible teaches about conversion.
In conclusion, here are four simple but effective things that all Christians need to do in order to be able to overcome:
(1) Pray to God instantly when you find yourself tempted—before you actually sin.
(2) Pray regularly in order to maintain a relationship with your heavenly Father.
(3) Study the Bible every day to learn and be reminded of His will.
(4) Meditate often, focusing your thoughts on a specific subject for several minutes, thinking about mistakes and picturing yourself doing better.
For more insight, please read our Bible study aid booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion .